§ On the Motion that the House he put in Committee,
The EARL of SHREWSBURY
My Lords, as the observations I have to make in accordance with the notice which I gave, apply most particularly to the principle of this Bill, and to the circumstances which it regards, I trust your Lordships will now bear with me for a few moments whilst I very briefly state my impressions on the past and present policy towards Ireland. No one will rejoice more than I shall, if, in some respects, those impressions may be shown to be erroneous.
In the first place, my Lords, allow me to add my tribute of respect and admiration for the conduct of the Lord Lieutenant throughout the whole course of his arduous administration—a conduct, I think, the best that could have been pursued, since it was a course of beneficence, peace, and conciliation, deserving of a very different reward. My Lords, if ever a doubt crossed my mind upon the subject, certainly it was not as to the just and liberal views and kindly disposition of Lord Clarendon—quite the contrary; it was whether his forbearance were not excessive, and whether those same measures of repression which were at length resorted to might not have been still more advantageously employed at a still earlier period. Concurring, then, as I did, in the necessity of a system of immediate and determined repression—a 102 system of which this present Bill seems to form so appropriate a part, without, however, I hope, the necessity for the noble Earl's (the Earl of Glengall's) Amendment, seeing that the Repeal Association may be considered as virtually extinct, and not likely to be revived—concurring, then, in the necessity of repression when the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was proposed, still, whilst we were fulminating our anathemas, and very justly so, against the treason and the traitor, yet I felt that we were bound to exhibit at least an equal degree of alacrity in searching out the causes of that awful mischief with which we were about to grapple, and with which we have still to grapple—for though the rebellion be subdued, the disaffection and excitement remains—and at the same time to begin to apply a sound and permanent remedy to the evil; for, my Lords, I will not believe that these things can exist without a cause, or that that cause is beyond the reach of legislation. My Lords, if others have the power to hurt, we have the power to heal; or we are worthless. When one comes, then, to consider why it is that these unusual and restrictive measures are for ever necessary in Ireland, one cannot but attribute it to that same pervading and perpetual cause of all the miseries of that afflicted country—to that very cause itself—namely, that in Ireland there ever has been, and still is, a government of force instead of a government of opinion. Such, my Lords, was the deliberate opinion of the present Prime Minister of the Crown, and solemnly delivered as such, on the 13th of February 1844. Can any one in his senses form any other judgment now? We have now precisely—almost precisely—the same state of things as we had then; can any one wonder we have the same results? Yes, my Lords, Ireland is still occupied, not governed. Nay, since that period, the number of Coercion Bills has been gradually increased, the number of troops has been greatly augmented, the law has all along been still more frequently enforced at the point of the bayonet, till now, the whole country is a garrison, the last remnant of her liberties has been struck down, and that terrible outbreak which was then only foreshadowed in the distance, has actually come to pass; that is, terrible it would have been had it not prematurely exploded, and been crushed in the outset. Her municipal rights, her elective franchise, her Parliamentary representation, that baneful 103 competition for land on the part of the poor, that temptation to and facility for eviction on the part of the landlord—those prolific sources of crime and misery—that enormous amount of waste and unprofitable land within reach of an idle, teeming, and famishing population—the state of her grand jury laws, by which much of that evil might be remedied—the comparatively neglected condition of mines and fisheries—in fine, every grievance, both social and political, remains almost precisely where it was. We have had, too, the same system of Government prosecutions, quite necessary under the circumstances. I am not complaining of it, I only state it as a fact; but we have had the same system of Government prosecutions backed by the same system of jury packing, quite necessary also, if a conviction were to be expected, and as is again proved by the news of this very morning. Neither do I complain of that; but of this I do complain, that upon all these questions the feelings, and desires, and interests, and opinions of the people, have produced no effect; but one and all they remain almost precisely where they were when they were brought forward by the present Premier and his Colleagues, as so many proofs that in Ireland there was only a government of force; from which no good could come, instead of a government of opinion, from which all might be expected.
The only change—the only material change—that has taken place, has been by the passing of the new poor-law. That, my Lords, was a well-intentioned and beneficent measure, as were all the temporary measures which accompanied it, which did infinite credit to the Government and the Parliament, and merited a much better return. But the law itself, I think, in many cases inflicts a cruel injustice on the landlords, and a still more cruel injustice on the poor. In many cases, the poor-rates absorb, or very nearly absorb, the whole of the rental: can it then be just thus to confiscate any man's property for the fulfilment of an obligation which, under the circumstances—and I do not stand singly in this opinion—ought, I think, to fall on the community in general? for the consequence of the present state of things is, that war is made upon the poor; for either the landlord must be ruined, or the poor must be exterminated.
But, singular inconsistency in a law which professes to be an assimilation to the law of England!—the poor of Ireland 104 are by law debarred from the enjoyment of the right which is undoubtedly by law conferred upon the poor of England—the right to subsistence. And it is notorious that very many of the poor of Ireland have perished miserably of absolute want; that they still continue so to perish, and with another potato famine staring them in the face. Many too have perished, and still continue to perish, by slow degrees, from insufficiency of food. Why, my Lords, one of the poor creatures killed the other day, near Ballingarry, was an ablebodied man, hired to break stones along the roadside for only one pound of meal per day for himself and his wife! No wonder, then, that he was so readily turned into a rebel. But most of all do they seem to have perished who were so barbarously and inhumanly evicted—evicted under sanction of the law, and often at the point of the bayonet, and driven helpless on a world in which they had no legal right to relief, and in which no preparation had been made to receive them in their distress! My Lords, it is in this state of things, and not in the preaching and teaching of sedition, that the danger lies; because justice has not been done; because those remedial measures recommended by some twenty different Parliamentary Committees, and Royal Commissions; recommended by every statistical and political writer for the last fifty years; many of them solicited, and still solicited by almost every grand jury in Ireland—measures so strenuously insisted on by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the 13th of February, 1844; so earnestly re-insisted upon on the 15th of June, 1846; and promised—many of them promised—on the 16th of July of the same year; because these remedial measures have never yet been carried into execution, therefore the discontent, therefore the agitation, therefore the rebellion: because of the agitation want of confidence, want of capital, want of employment. In fine, the whole question resolves itself into this, and for this also I have the authority of the Prime Minister of the Crown, that up to this very day the promises and conditions of the Union have never yet been fulfilled, but there still is in Ireland a Government of force instead of a Government of opinion. Hence the disaffection, hence the rebellion.
But, my Lords, there is still another and a master grievance behind, and for this too I have the authority of the noble Lord at the head of the Government—and 105 more especially, indeed, of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies—a grievance incomparably greater than the rest, yet far more difficult, for me at least, to approach even in argument.
For, my Lords, I well remember when a noble Friend of mine, not now in his place, a Catholic Member of this House, now holding an honourable situation in Her Majesty's household—I well remember when that noble Lord ventured to express it as his opinion, that for the peace and security of the empire there should be a redistribution of the property of the Established Church in Ireland. I well remember with what vehemence a noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), whom I have not now the pleasure of seeing in his place—though sitting on the same side of the House as my noble Friend, and, as I would fain believe, holding the same opinions with him—I well remember with what vehemence the noble and learned Lord fell upon my noble Friend, and taunted him with the oath he had taken at your Lordships' table. My Lords, I am quite willing to admit that they who impose the oath have a right to its interpretation; but till that interpretation be formally defined in a contrary sense, I contend that we have a right to the largest interpretation it will bear—an interpretation fully recognised by the Lower House—to that in which we take it, namely that it nowise disqualifies us from any act or opinion which any one of your Lordships has a right to do or to hold as a member of the Legislature. Still, to enable us fully and freely to discuss that most vital of all questions, the Irish Church, without let or hindrance, my opinion is that the oath should either be altered or abrogated; so that no one's religious professions should, by any possibility, prove a disqualification to the full and free expression of his sentiments.
Whilst I am on this point, allow me, my Lords, one word more; for there are others also interested in this matter; and, if report speak truly, we are at this moment deprived of the presence of at least one Irish Peer in consequence, therefore is it especially applicable to this present case. My Lords, there is a portion of the Protestant oath to which Protestants object, and which, I think, ought to be expunged. It is also objectionable to Catholics. The noble Lord below me swears that the Pope neither hath nor ought to have spiritual jurisdiction within these realms. Now, my 106 Lords, I am quite willing to swear precisely the contrary; I am quite willing to swear the affirmative of the noble Lord's negative; I am quite willing to swear it, not only as an article of faith, but as a matter of fact—as a great, palpable, and notorious fact. Can any thing, then, be more preposterous than to make such a test as this the qualification for the exercise of the same functions?
My Lords, so far from considering these religious differences and distinctions as a benefit either civil or religious, every day's experience convinces me more and more of the fallacy of that notion. My Lords, religion and liberty, in the words of a very celebrated political character of the day, are sisters who ought to live well and happily together, leaning on each other for support. Yes, my Lords, these religious differences and distinctions, and inequalities, are the bane and curse of this empire; they are the primary cause of all the miseries and of all the misgovernment of Ireland, and the sooner we get rid of them the better.
To take but one, but a very remarkable and a very apt illustration—an illustration of a state of things which, if it had not existed, there had been no occasion for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—I allude to the trial of Mr. Meagher. My Lords, on the jury which tried Mr. Meagher there was but one Catholic; but because he was a member of a religion which for centuries had been persecuted with fire and sword, and which was still degraded and insulted, oppressed and tormented, that one individual rendered your law a nullity; he set the whole power of the Government at defiance, and impeded the whole course of your administrative policy in Ireland. To prevent a similar result in the case of Mitchel, you were compelled to exclude every Catholic from the panel, so that his conviction instead of good only produced evil; it only earned an additional meed of odium to the Government, and of hatred to the antagonistic and ascendant Church. My Lords, you may occupy, but you cannot govern, a country upon such a system.
My Lords, I verily believe there is nothing which has so provoked the cry for repeal in Ireland, and so militated against the social improvement of that country, as the continued refusal to reduce that Church within her fair and legitimate proportions. My Lords, I have no hostility to the Establishment as such—none whatever; but I am bound to regard it as a matter of justice 107 and policy: yet even in that point of view, I am sure its destruction is by no means to be desired; its reconstruction would be a benefit to itself and others. Nor can I see any other means—any legitimate means—by which this question can be settled; for, there being property enough for both, it would be manifestly unjust to levy a tax for the purpose on England, Scotland, or even Ireland.
The noble Earl's proposition—the noble Earl's opposite, who some ten days since made some very pertinent and excellent remarks on this subject—the noble Earl's (Earl of Ellenborough) proposition would certainly form a very desirable accessory. Four millions and a half devoted to glebes would be a very nice arrangement, and some small compensation for past delinquencies. The plan, too, has the merit, I think, of being very feasible, and probably the only method of recovering the amount. For, the money being already settled upon the land, the value might be taken in kind, and thus prevent all further trouble and dispute. At all events, somehow or other, this question must be settled; for, in respect to the Catholics of Ireland, emancipation, without the settlement of the Church question, was only toleration, and a toleration which does not satisfy is of little worth.
Having said thus much, I will only trouble your Lordships with a very few concluding observations. My Lords, I do not accuse the Government of a breach of faith—I accuse them of a want of courage; I accuse them of a want of confidence in their own views. If those views were sound, as they must have believed them to be, they should long since have been reduced to practice. If they were sound in 1844, they were still sounder in 1848. If the late Government justly deserved reproach at their hands for having so long neglected to carry those views into execution, surely that same reproach must attach still more strongly to themselves; for they, at least, have ever been their most strenuous advocates. My Lords, I am sure it is their duty to make the attempt even at the risk of failing; for, if they failed now in attempting that which was absolutely necessary for the peace and security and prosperity of the empire, other means would very speedily be given them for the accomplishment of that great necessity. Of that necessity neither they nor any man can doubt—it is a necessity once more written in characters of blood, and with 108 the victims of our misgovernment crying to heaven for vengeance. If failure it was to be, that failure would impart fresh life and vigour to the resuscitated spirit of Parliamentary reform, and a truer representation of the desires, and feelings, and opinions of the people would come forth to carry them on to a triumphant issue. But the course now pursued only drives liberty into licentiousness, and hope into despair; and if we are to credit statements said to have been made in another place, that same course is to be pursued still; that is, bit by bit ameliorations, far too tardy in their operation, and none of them of sufficient efficacy for the case.
My Lords, no doubt there have been faults, and very great faults, upon the other side too. Had the Irish, more particularly the clergy—of course I speak only of those who had joined the repeal movement, for there were always many, great, and honourable exceptions, and even many honourable exceptions amongst the repealers themselves—had they known when to desist; had they striven against the evil principle in its germ, as they have now striven against it in its maturity; had they abandoned that wretched system of political agitation, and had confined themselves to safe and wholesome methods of seeking the social improvement of the country, it seems morally impossible they should not have attained it. But a moral force agitation for repeal was a solecism in politics; it was a contradiction in terms; for repeal was a question which never could enlist the sympathies of those on whom that agitation was to take effect. It was sure to result in physical force—to delude the people, to excite the worst passions of the multitude, and to arouse the worst principles that ever were propounded. Of this, my Lords, I ever felt sure and certain, nor did I ever shrink from the open avowal of my opinions; but hence the danger and the misery of so long delaying those remedial measures for want of which that agitation was maintained. For their want of sense and prudence was no excuse for our folly and injustice; and surely the greater the evils arising from past misgovernment, the greater the obligation of applying a remedy now; but that remedy cannot be—it is impossible it can be—it is not in the nature of things that it can be—in mere coercion and restraint, in the continuance of a government of force, instead of the establishment of a government of opinion.
109 My Lords, it is painful to me to speak thus; but feeling so strongly as I do upon these questions—feeling as an Irish Peer, as one intimately connected with that country both by descent and alliance, though not possessing any landed property there—feeling as a Catholic, and also as an Englishman; for, if rightly understood, this is to the full as much an English as an Irish question—feeling all this, I could not rest satisfied that I was doing my duty without thus publicly protesting against the continuance of a system of government which has made Ireland our weakness instead of our strength—an outrage upon humanity, and a scandal to the world.
I have now only to express the most fervent hope that we shall hear from the Government some consolatory announcement.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
Although, my Lords, my noble Friend the noble Earl who has just sat down has not opposed your Lordships' going into Committee upon this Bill, or intimated his intention of offering opposition to any part of it, he has made some observations connected with the general state of Ireland which require that I should offer some general remarks. In the outset, I must state to my noble Friend that I protest against this Bill not being considered in the strictest as well as in the largest sense a remedial measure. I think I could prove to your Lordships, if I were to follow my noble Friend into detail, that as to every one of those measures to which he has called the attention of this House, and which he implored your Lordships to pass without delay for the benefit of Ireland, that I have a right to turn round upon my noble Friend, and say, that the delay originates in Ireland, and not in this House. My noble Friend has adverted to particular remedies, not as remedies to which this or the other House of Parliament have been inattentive; but, on the contrary, to remedies which, being difficult in their nature, have engaged the perpetual attention of both branches of the Legislature. One of them, for instance, was an attempt extremely difficult in its nature, because it was an interference with the relations between man and man, to alter relations as between landlord and tenant. I am not prepared to pronounce here an opinion upon a question not now before the House—the question of the degree in which such interference is advisable or practicable without affecting the existing 110 relations of property; but, assuming that it is not only advisable but practicable, what, I ask, is the object of this Bill? It is to create inducements to improvement; to invite capital to enter the country; to give not merely to the landlord, but to the lowest tenant, a confidence that he will reap the fruits of his industry, and become, if that industry continues, rich in the possession of his improvements. But how can that Bill be carried into operation without the capital which is introduced into the country being placed under the protection of law? My noble Friend, referring to another question which is surrounded with difficulties, and which has engaged the attention of many able minds, says, "Cultivate the waste lands, and the bogs of Ireland, which you have neglected." Here, again, I ask, how can you do this without capital? And how can capital come into the country without the protection of the law? Then my noble Friend says, "Improve the franchise and the municipal corporations." These municipal rights are to be highly estimated; but if they are to he exercised under a tyranny, of what value are they? They are to be created, my noble Friend will recollect, in a country where faction is enabled to rule, and to declare to almost every individual, "You shall not vote as you like, but as we like." They are functions of the highest value when duly employed; but when abused they become obstacles to the attainment of the very objects which it is their aim to establish. I need not tell your Lordships it is not by conferring mere paper rights that the happiness of the people of Ireland can be advanced. You have seen throughout Europe enough of paper constitutions, professing to be founded upon the principles of individual freedom; but I will ask your Lordships what benefit has, in many instances, been derived from them? None to the individuals composing the community, none to that independence which is the greatest blessing men can enjoy, because in those countries factions were enabled to deprive the people of the whole benefit of the constitution so conferred upon them; and while they hung out the flag of public freedom, they were in fact an organised tyranny, depriving the people of the benefit of the constitution. I say, then, before you move in any one of those questions, and to confer the franchise on men who have hitherto not possessed it, you must take care to provide that the public law which protects the due exercise 111 of that franchise shall he maintained. But my noble Friend says, "Do not govern by force, but by opinion." I admit you must consult opinion; but I say no Government can be carried on without the fear of the use of force, and that what there is of force must be upon the side of the Government. If there is a conflict between the forces of Government and any other, before you proceed further you must determine which force shall put down the other. I, therefore, again submit to my noble Friend that this is a remedial measure, inasmuch as it removes that which is a bar to improvement, that which resists the progress of those other remedial measures which are not withdrawn, but which were necessarily suspended during the period of such an agitation as that which has been unfortunately allowed to prevail in Ireland. I cannot agree with my noble Friend that there has not been more or less of success in proceeding with remedial measures. They have certainly encountered more or less of difficulty; but there has been a disposition in Parliament, above all in late years, to examine all those remedies, with a view to their adoption, and to the correction of evils which have been pretty generally admitted upon all sides of the House, but which, let me remind my noble Friend, are also admitted to be subject to great differences of opinion as to the mode in which they ought to be remedied. Even upon those very questions to which my noble Friend adverted, I have seen very little of harmony and uniformity among the representatives from Ireland, for whenever any of these measures have been brought forward, immediately there has been a difference of opinion among them. I am not surprised at it, from the difficulties that arise in all cases where you come to interfere with the existing relations of society. The moment you propose to interfere with them, difficulties arise, which might have been anticipated, perhaps, but which Gentlemen do not anticipate in the first instance. They show the difficulty of legislation upon these subjects, and in none more than in those to which my noble Friend has adverted even among the representatives from Ireland—differences which do not lead me to anticipate the greatest unanimity in a Parliament sitting in College-green. These, therefore, are difficulties which it requires time to subdue and time to remedy. But, my Lords, I need only appeal to the proceedings of your Lordships and the other House under different 112 Governments—I may say during the whole of the last century—to show that there has prevailed one constant, though not always successful endeavour to improve the condition of Ireland. Look at the measure relative to the eviction of tenants. I need not remind my noble Friend that within the last few weeks, and amidst all the existing difficulties, a Bill has been passed, after being altered in this House and in the other, the effect of which will be to prevent these evictions being attended with those fearful consequences to which my noble Friend alluded.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
And, as I am truly reminded by my noble Friend the gallant Duke at the table, this Bill received the Royal Assent this day. I need not remind my noble Friend, relative to the improved condition of property of which he has spoken as so desirable for Ireland, that we have taken the most practicable measures for promoting it by passing the Encumbered Estates Bill, which has also received the Royal Assent. I believe, in the opinion of my noble Friend himself, this measure is one of the most practically beneficial that could be produced, without injustice, for the due arrangement of property founded upon legal bases, and the introduction of capital and improvement. On the subject of Catholic disabilities, I need not state to your Lordships how different is the state of the Catholic in Ireland, now, from that which it was formerly. Have we not for a series of years been endeavouring to improve the condition of the Roman Catholics in that country? My noble Friend may perhaps think we might have carried our efforts still further. I may be disposed to think that in some respects they might; but because I think they might in some respects, I do not shut my eyes to the improvements which have been made in the condition of the Roman Catholics, to the condition of independence which enables them to participate in, and to influence, the counsels of this country—a condition which is as much at variance with what it was half a century ago, as the condition of the negro slave in the West Indies before emancipation, and the condition of an English freeman. Only within the last twenty-four hours I happened to meet with a newspaper of the year 1773, which showed to me the condition of the Roman Catholics of Ireland at that time under an Irish Parliament. In 113 1773 the Roman Catholics of Ireland, not being at that time able to hold any property whatever either in fee-simple or under lease, some bold and liberal spirits conceived the idea of enabling them to hold a little, not in fee-simple, but under lease only. They were not, however, bold enough to suggest an unlimited lease; it must therefore be for a limited period, a term of years, and only be for fifty acres; and even then it was stated fifty acres were too much in the neighbourhood of towns. It was consequently inserted in the Bill that in the neighbourhood of towns the Roman Catholics might be enabled, without danger to the constitution, to hold forty perches of land. Such was the limit to the liberality of the Irish Parliament at that time towards the Roman Catholics. When I first took up the paper I expected to have seen that this, at least, would have been carried. But no—Member after Member, orator after orator, got up on the point of the extreme danger of forty perches of land being held by Catholics near towns; and the result was, that Bill, leases, and perches of land were thrown out altogether. Thus it was thought right in Ireland that three-fourths of the people should remain prohibited from holding land by lease or purchase. Yet we are told we have neglected remedial measures, in first admitting, as we did, Roman Catholics to the benefits of the social system of Ireland; and, finally, under the auspices of the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), practically to all the political benefits of the constitution. But although these great steps have been taken, I will not draw from thence the conclusion that nothing remains to be done; but I do draw the conclusion that, in the judgment of every candid mind, it is impossible to assert that there has not been a disposition on the part of Parliament to improve the condition of Ireland. Why, we are actually engaged in that process now. We have been, in this very Session, pursuing that course; and the only main difficulty and bar that has arisen beyond the difficulties arising out of the complication of each particular case, has been the unfortunate disposition to rebel in Ireland against all law, which, till the empire of law be established, cannot be otherwise than ruinous to all the best interests of the country. I am, therefore, confident that my noble Friend will not only show no disposition to oppose this Bill, but attached, as I know him to be to the cause of law and order, I submit to him 114 that the best mode of advancing that cause would be to establish law and establish order, and then resume, as I trust we shall, the consideration of all those great questions which will engage the attention of Parliament as well as the Irish part of Her Majesty's subjects.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
I have been anxious, my Lords, to give ray support to the Bill introduced by the noble and learned Lord upon the woolsack; and I should have given that support before, if I had been in the House. I rose with my noble Friend the noble Marquess to support it; but as he is a Member of Her Majesty's Government, I felt it to be my duty to give way. I rose, my Lords, also to make some observations upon the speech of the noble Earl, which was to the effect that previous to this measure, which is the complement of those introduced by Her Majesty's Government, in order to put down open rebellion, remedial measures should be adopted. That the noble Earl should have stated a list of Irish grievances, and of remedial measures that ought to be adopted previous to such a Bill as this which is proposed by Her Majesty's Government, is perhaps perfectly natural; but the question before your Lordships is neither more nor less than this—whether this measure is not necessary in the first instance. This Bill is a Bill to amend and continue different Acts of Parliament, having for their object to put down secret societies in Ireland—secret societies which were known to prevail, and to have been the means of arming, promoting, and carrying on the open rebellion which took place in that country fifty years ago—secret societies which again prevailed in that country forty years ago, and were the grounds and causes of that Act of Parliament which is now proposed to be continued—secret societies which again prevailed at different subsequent periods, and required an Act of Parliament, having for its object to put them down. And now, my Lords, in the reign of the existing Sovereign, laws have to be passed to put down these same societies. We have them now in a new form—in the form of clubs—prevailing all over the country, which clubs, it is very obvious, my Lords, are or may be the moans of bringing in invaders, and of carrying on war against Her Majesty's Government in that country. These clubs can only be put down by means of the Bill proposed by the noble and learned Lord upon the woolsack; which Bill will enable Her Majesty's 115 Government effectually to put down this rebellion. I, who know what is the nature of military operations, tell your Lordships that a measure of this kind is necessary to prevent military operations being carried into execution with the greatest activity, in order to put down the state of things which now exists in Ireland, without enormous disturbance and enormous bloodshed. The noble Earl has stated, that hitherto coercive and not remedial measures have been adopted. Why, my Lords, this very day a remedial measure has received the assent of Her Majesty; and, as the noble Marquess has stated, much of the time of Parliament for the last forty years has been passed in passing or improving remedial measures for Ireland. There is not a Session, my Lords, in which many measures of that description have not been adopted by all Governments. The noble Earl has been pleased to review some of them. I feel very unwilling to follow him through that review; but he referred to some upon which I will make one or two observations. He has complained of the oaths administered to your Lordships upon taking your seats in this House; and the noble Earl seemed to think that those oaths were very unjustly imposed. I beg the noble Earl's pardon upon that subject. Having been in Parliament, either in this or the other House for a very considerable number of years, I have some recollection of the origin of the imposition of those oaths; and if I am not mistaken, my Lords, every one of those oaths was founded upon propositions in a petition presented by those who are now unwilling to take them. They demanded certain concessions on the part of Parliament—concessions with regard to objects which it was considered easential to maintain for the support and protection of that which this and the other House of Parliament—the Legislature of this country—can never cease to support. They assured us, "We are suffering because we cannot adopt the tests, and take oaths which we are required to take; but we are ready to swear—as we have stated in our petitions—that we have no desire to injure the Church—that we have no desire otherwise than to support the existing state of property in this country." It was on these petitions—on the model of these petitions—on the contents of these petitions—as I can prove by the very words of these petitions themselves—by their contents, and the assurances 116 which they contain—that these oaths were framed. Now, I would recommend to the noble Earl to read and reflect on this matter, and he will see that there are no grounds for complaining of these oaths, and still less grounds to complain of the provisions of the different Acts of Parliament by which these different concessions and arrangements were made for the benefit of the Roman Catholics and of the people of Ireland. But I say it does not signify what has been done, nor what remains to be done, nor what it may suit Parliament to do—I contend—and the object for which I now venture to address your Lordships is to show—that this measure which is now under discussion before you, is absolutely necessary in order to maintain any Government or any society whatever in Ireland. My Lords, you have the whole country occupied by clubs, organised—secretly organised—for the purposes of military organisation and operations. It is obvious that the Legislature, for the last forty years at least, has been attending to this matter, and that up to this moment, with all the attention it has given to it—it has not been able to put this system down. I have ever heard it said, and I am convinced that on inquiry it will be found to be the fact, that in the system of agitation which prevailed in Ireland for some years, the mobs—the enormous mobs which we saw collected and travelling about the country in all directions, though with comparatively little mischief—were occasioned mainly by the influence and the existence at that time of a secret society. I have proof of it, that secret organisation existed in Ireland at that moment, and that these movements were directed by a system of secret operations carried on in that country. But at the present time let any one read the accounts which have been given of the parade at a review before one gentleman in Cork, when to the numbers of not less than 2,000 or 3,000 men were assembled, and their movements regulated by signals; and will any man attempt to say that this was not a proceeding regulated by secret communications—that these persons were not trained to obedience to those commands by signals—and that they were not brought together for the purpose of this review by the operation of secret communications from Dublin? And, my Lords, if all this took place, I ask, is not this measure necessary at the present moment to put down such mischief as that is I If your Lordships 117 will read the Acts of Parliament I which are proposed to be continued, you will see that they are already very strong, and you would be inclined to suppose that the magistrates have it already in their power to put down these mischievous clubs; but, my Lords, when you come to consider that these clubs are acting in cooperation one with another—that the magistrate who attempts to put down one of them under the provisions of any one of these Acts of Parliament, may find that he has eight or ten of them in reality to deal with—your Lordships will see that these clubs are an evil which it is necessary for the Government itself to take in hand; that it will not be sufficient for the Government to proclaim the existence of these Acts of Parliament, and to call upon the magistrates to carry them into execution; but that the Government must combine the measures that must be adopted, in order effectually to put down the existence of these clubs; and I hope that that is the object which Her Majesty's Government have in view, and that that is the course which they are determined to adopt and to carry into execution. My opinion is, that the amendment of these Acts of Parliament will enable the Government to adopt the measures necessary to effect this object, and that it is obvious that none but the Government can adopt such measures effectually. And yet it is when your Lordships are called upon by the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack to go into Committee on this Bill, in order to enable Her Majesty's Ministers to adopt this complement to all that has been done hitherto for putting down rebellion in Ireland, that the noble Earl asks them to propose remedial measures. Let the noble Earl come down to the House to-morrow, and propose remedial measures, and he will find the House ready and inclined, as it always has been, to listen to him in favour of any measure that may be of a remedial nature towards Ireland. But let us not be interrupted in carrying into effect this measure, which is necessary in order to enable you to preserve any Government whatever in Ireland, and then the noble Earl can be allowed to propose any measures of relief for that country which he may think advisable.
The EARL of DESART
said, he wished to allude to one remark which had fallen from the noble Earl. The noble Earl, in alluding to the grievances affecting the Roman Catholics of Ireland, had stated 118 there was church property In Ireland sufficient to endow both Churches. Now, he could understand such an opinion coming from those who advocate the principles of communism, that one man who had too much should be despoiled to supply his poorer neighbour; he could understand such persons stating that because one Church had too much, therefore it should be robbed of its property for the sake of another Church; but he thought that the noble Earl should be the last to advocate those principles. The Established Church in Ireland was as much entitled to the property which it possessed, as was the noble Earl to the property held by him; and until they sanctioned the principle of every man being allowed to decide whether his neighbour had enough or too much property, they should not speak of dividing the income of the Establishment with any other persuasion. He begged, in addition, to express his thanks to the noble Marquess and Her Majesty's Government for this measure, which had been most justly styled by the noble Marquess as a remedial measure. But in order to render it so, they should begin by putting down all agitation, whether moral or physical, in the germ. He could tell the noble Earl that Ireland had been too long governed on the mistaken principles of conciliation. What Ireland wanted was government, and not conciliation—government which would ensure protection of life and property, and thus ensure that feeling of security which would enable capital to flow into the country, so as to develop her resources, and make her the strength instead of being the weakness of England.
The EARL of GLENGALL
also begged to thank the noble Marquess for the admirable speech he had addressed to their Lordships. He had never heard a speech which had given him more satisfaction. With respect to the measure then under consideration, he still feared it would not be found sufficient, as it stood, to put down societies which were not bound together by illegal oaths, although they might have a system of passports and secret signs, and be leagued together for the purpose of purchasing arms. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Campbell) thought that the common law, in conjunction with the statute law, would be quite effective for that purpose; still, while he hoped that the noble and learned Lord was right in the view which he had expressed, he could not forget that when parties were tried under 119 these Acts, the lawyers by whom they were defended would display great ingenuity in impressing the jurors with a belief of differences between the common law and the statute law, and in persuading them that the written and defined law was that which they were alone to follow. He could tell their Lordships that there would be found jurors who would gladly seize on such distinctions in order not to find verdicts. They had an instance of the widely different views that might be taken of matters of law, in the State Trial of 1844, when, on an appeal to their Lordships' House, three noble and learned Lords voted one way, and two noble and learned Lords voted the other way. He agreed that the Bill before their Lordships was a step in the right direction; but he regretted that Government had not thought it right to go a step further. If he were told by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Campbell) that this Bill, coupled with the common law of the land, would enable Her Majesty's Government to put down the Repeal Association, he would be satisfied; but without such an assurance, he could not be content; for he was firmly persuaded that unless Government did put down that association, they would do nothing except an infinite deal of mischief. It would be equivalent to telling the Government that the Repeal Association was again to flourish—that it was to be brought into active operation, and was to be perpetual. He attributed almost all the grievances under which Ireland laboured to that very association; he attributed all the misfortunes of Ireland to the agitation that had been carried on there for the last twenty years. He attributed the poverty and wretchedness of the people to the mischievous and seditious doctrines that had issued from that quarter; for how was it possible for a country to prosper, or for a people to be industrious, when their whole thoughts and their whole lives had been devoted to the perusal of the seditious trash published in the repeal newspapers, and to frequenting these repeal clubs? It was impossible, as long as that association was allowed to exist in Ireland, for them to expect any amelioration in the social state of the country. They had sent over millions of money, not merely on accent of the famine, but for the improvement of the country; and yet they saw that the great mass of the people were turbulent and disaffected, and ready to listen to the treason that was addressed to them. He conceived that the whole question which 120 they had to settle with the people of Ireland was, whether or not this Repeal Association should continue. They should bear in mind that all the young men who were engaged in the recent insurrection had been trained up in that association; and while they permitted it to exist, they would, by any other measure, be merely lopping off a branch, while they allowed the tree to flourish and to send out new foliage. He felt convinced to a stronger degree than he could find words to express, that if they could put down agitation in Ireland for five or seven years, they would behold that country making the most rapid strides towards prosperity. Speaking on behalf of the agricultural classes, he could assure their Lordships that there was no class in the community who felt the evil results arising from the system of intimidation which prevailed in Ireland more strongly than the farmers, as their interests were affected by it more than those of any other class. When their Lordships got into Committee on the Bill, he would propose the adoption of a clause which he found in the Act passed during Earl Grey's Administration in 1833 (3 and 4 Will. IV., c. 4), and which would be effectual in putting down the Repeal Association. And he would remind their Lordships that if such a stringent enactment were necessary at that time, it was much more so at the present moment, when they had a seditious conspiracy organised throughout the entire country. He admitted that that conspiracy had been put down wherever it had dared to show itself in actual outbreak, principally through the exertions of the police force, whose admirable discipline and efficiency he attributed in a great measure to the able superintendence of Captain M'Gregor. The noble Lord seemed to think that the Repeal Association was at present defunct; but those who knew more of Ireland than what was to be found in the newspapers of the day, could tell the noble Lord that measures were in progress for renewing the Association in all its strength. There were demagogues in all directions—at the altars, as well as elsewhere; but if the Association were put down, these demagogues could do no harm. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would adopt measures to put down this Association at once. They could do so, as on a former occasion, by rendering it illegal for any political body to adjourn from day to day; and he thought that the Government were called upon to explain 121 why they would not re-enact a similar provision now. There were many persons in Ireland who attributed the unwillingness of the Government to adopt such a measure to their dread of losing certain votes in the other House of Parliament. There was also in the Bill of 1833 a clause which he thought would require to be re-enacted before very long. He referred to the clause authorising the Lord Lieutenant to commission any officer or officers of Her Majesty's regular forces, not being under the degree of a field-officer, to hold courts-martial for the trial of offences. They had recently four parties tried in Dublin. In one of these cases only, that of Mitchel, a verdict was returned. In two of the other cases, those of O'Brien and Meagher, the jury disagreed; and this very day, intelligence had arrived that in the fourth case, that of O'Doherty, the jury had also disagreed. This was a very serious matter indeed; and if they could not get jurors to do their duty, he did not know what was the use of all their Acts of Parliament. In the Act of 1833 there was a clause which provided that military men, not under the rank of field-officers, should alone be nominated on courts-martial. When it was recollected that in the case of Mitchel the names of the jury who had convicted him had been printed on lists that were distributed through all the Confederate clubs in the country, in order that the persons should be marked for destruction if the insurrection had been successful, what hope, he would ask, could they entertain of having verdicts returned on the trials of any of the chief leaders of the conspiracy? There was also another circumstance to which he felt compelled to allude. The noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and the noble Marquess the President of the Council, had both made strong declarations against repeal of the Union; but there was a wide difference between saying and doing, and there was a strong feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of those who were determined to support the Government in Ireland at the manner in which the Government avoided following up these declarations by acts. They could not forget that at the last general election those who generally managed the affairs of the nation had sent over instructions to Ireland, that in all cases where a contest was pending between a Conservative and a Repealer, that the Repealer should be supported. When the election for Dublin took place, 122 the very first person who recorded his vote for the repeal candidate was Her Majesty's Attorney General, Mr. Monahan. It was said that he voted in his private capacity only; but he (the Earl of Glengall) did not see how, in such a ease, so important a functionary as the Attorney General could separate his private from his public capacity. The shopkeepers of Dublin did not draw such distinctions. They did not think the Government was against the repealers. They believed the Government supported the repeal candidate. He entreated the Government not to allow their subordinate officers to follow such a course. He disapproved very much, too, of the course that had been adopted in the case of Mr. Doheny, who was, without doubt, the cause of the late attempt at insurrection. It was immediately after he was bailed that he went to Slievenamon, and induced Mr. S. O'Brien to put himself at the head of the insurgents. Had Mr. Doheny not been admitted to bail at Nenagh, he (the Earl of Glengall) was satisfied there would not have been the late attempt at insurrection in Ireland at all. However, that person (Mr. Doheney) had since undoubtedly committed acts of high treason, and for that offence he no doubt would be tried. But all trials would fail of their proper effect, unless the Government adopted the system of placing military men upon the juries.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, a few expressions had fallen from the noble Earl (Earl of Shrewsbury) which he wished to notice—he had heard them with regret. The noble Earl had spoken of the Roman Catholics of Ireland as a degraded, insulted, oppressed, and tormented class. He denied the correctness of this description; and he challenged the noble Lord to justify the use of one of those epithets. It was said that the Roman Catholics were excluded from the office of jurymen; and he granted that they had been so excluded in certain cases. But, if the Roman Catholic population of Ireland were taken as a body, it would be found that at least four-fifths were disaffected to the Government.
The EARL of SHREWSBURY
said, in explanation: My Lords, I must most solemnly protest against all idea of an ascendancy for the Catholic religion in Ireland. I only desire to see it in a situation in which the Prime Minister has repeatedly declared it should be—upon a perfect equality with Presbyterianism and Anglicanism.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
felt called upon to deny the accuracy of the statement made by the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) that four-fifths at least of the Roman Catholics of Ireland were disloyal. He knew no language too strong in which to express his entire dissent from such an assertion. He would say that he knew of his own knowledge that such was not the fact. He would say that, on the contrary, although there were of course exceptions amongst them, most of them were as loyal as any of Her Majesty's subjects in any part of the country. There were many of them who had suffered in property, and many who had shed their blood in defence of the laws and the constitution. The noble Earl (Earl of Glengall) had paid a well-deserved compliment to the loyalty, fidelity, and bravery of the Irish constabulary, most of whom were Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic soldiers, police, and constabulary, were as true and loyal men as any in the service of Her Majesty, or in that of any Sovereign in the world. To return to the question really before their Lordships, there was no opposition to the Bill, and he therefore trusted the House would at once go into Committee upon it.
§ House in Committee.
The EARL of GLENGALL
moved the clause for the suppression of the Repeal Association, of which he had given notice. It was framed to give power to the Lord Lieutenant, or other chief governor of Ireland for the time being, by order in writing to prohibit or suppress the meeting of any association, assembly, or body of persons in Ireland, which he or they should deem to be dangerous to the public peace or safety, or inconsistent with the due administration of the law; and in like manner by order to prohibit any adjourned or other meeting of the same or any part thereof, under any name, title, or device whatsoever. And if any meeting, association, assembly, or body of persons, whose meeting should be so prohibited, should assemble in despite thereof, under any pretext, title, device, or shift whatsoever, the persons composing it should be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour, and be treated accordingly.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
opposed the introduction of the clause. The Repeal Association no longer existed, and it remained to be seen whether any attempt would be made to resuscitate it. By the Act recently passed for the suspension 124 of the Habeas Corpus Act, the Irish Government was armed, and would remain armed until the next Session of Parliament, with an extraordinary power which would itself enable the Lord Lieutenant to check and control any such association; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) wished the people of Ireland to know that that law not only existed, but would be applied, if they rendered it necessary to call its powers into use. And all persons attempting to hold such meetings would be amenable. He therefore, without however pledging himself that at some future time further powers might not be required, thought that for the present matters might be safely left in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said, that no man could wish more than he that those associations should be put down and discontinued. But, considering the answer made by the noble Marquess, and considering that the Government was satisfied with the Bill before the House, he thought it was not expedient that the House should proceed to adopt the clause proposed by the noble Earl. That clause was a complete measure in itself, and might be brought forward by the noble Earl on any future day should it appear necessary. He therefore recommended him not to press it.
The EARL of GLENGALL
was not satisfied with the noble Marquess's explanation. So long as the Act for the supension of the Habeas Corpus Act was in force, the demagogues would be quiet; but that Act would last only until March. To put down the Repeal Association, an Act for its suppression should last for several years. He now placed the clause in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, to do as they pleased with it. He would not press it.
§ Bill reported without amendment.
§ Amendments made.