HL Deb 24 July 1848 vol 100 cc743-56

My Lords, before the House proceeds further with the ordinary business, I beg leave to call the attention of your Lordships to a Bill which has just been sent up from the other House of Parliament, the title of which is, "An Act to empower the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors in Ireland, to apprehend and detain, until the 1st day of March, 1849, such Persons as he or they shall suspect of conspiring against Her Majesty's Person or Government;" and I beg leave, as a matter of course, to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Bill read 1a.


It now becomes my duty to call the attention of the House to the further proceedings which it may be induced to adopt with respect to this Bill; and I feel it to be more particularly my duty to call the attention of the House deliberately to the subject, because I am conscious that the course which I am about to recommend for your Lordships' adoption is a very unusual—but, as I shall he able to convince your Lordships, not an unprecedented—one to take with respect to such a Bill as is now before you. In doing so, I think it will save your Lordships' time if I should, at one and the same time, make some observations to your Lordships both with respect to the course of proceeding that I am about to propose, and with respect to the nature and object of the Bill itself. I have decided on taking this course because I think it is most desirable that the time of your Lordships should be saved, and because the observations I shall have to offer are, in point of opinion and of fact, identical with regard to both. I have, in the first instance, to state that which I am afraid must, through the ordinary mediums of communication, be necessarily known already to your Lordships, namely, that though only three days have elapsed since the subject had incidentally, and on the Motion of the noble Earl opposite, formed the subject of discussion in this House, these three days have not elapsed without bringing to your Lordships and to the public additional, and I may say overwhelming, proof, as to the nature, the character, and the amount of that exigency, under the pressure—the unmistakable pressure—of which your Lordships are called upon to legislate. I have to state what your Lordships will perhaps expect to hear, what in the course of that time has been, not the stationary, but the progressive state of Ireland, in reference to the urgent, the imminent danger that we have to meet. I hold in my hand a short report on that subject, which I will not trouble your Lordships by reading, but which contains a summary of the facts connected with the state of Ireland up to Saturday evening last; and the result of this statement is, that the system of clubs in Ireland—the machinery out of which rebellion is intended to grow—is advancing with an accelerated pace through all, or a great many at least, of the central counties of Ireland—I mean more particularly the counties of Meath, Cork, Water-ford, Tipperary, and Kilkenny. During the short interval that has elapsed since the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in the exercise of the important duties committed to his charge, and availing himself of the power confided to him by your Lordships and the other House of parliament, proclaimed, under the Act of the present Session, the cities of Dublin, Cork, and Waterford—during that time the acknowledged leaders of this conspiracy have been moving to and fro, from town to town, and from county to county, for the avowed purpose of reviewing their forces, and of ascertaining the extent of aid on which they might immediately rely. My Lords, these proceedings have been, as I need not tell any of your Lordships who have read the newspapers of this day, adopted without disguise to an extent that would make it appear as if the object of these persons was to make out a case for that particular mode of legislation to which your Lordships have been asked by Her Majesty's Government to have recourse. But that no doubt may be entertained on this subject—in order that no question may arise as to the specific object that they have in view—I wish, without troubling your Lordships by reading in detail that mass of bombast, of sedition, and of treason, with which numerous papers have come laden into this country—not to do mischief here, but as evidence of the mischief that they are doing on the other side of the Channel—without troubling your Lordships by reading the whole of this mass, I wish to point your attention for a few moments to a few pithy and significant paragraphs which proclaim, in terms not to be mistaken, the mode of action and the designs which these parties entertain; and for fear that the writers of these paragraphs should not be sufficiently connected in your Lordships minds with the clubs and associations, the paragraphs have come to us with the acknowledged and well-known initials annexed to them of the persons who are known to be the most active among the leaders in this conspiracy. I find in one of these papers a paper signed by a well-known person of the name of Joseph Brennan. [Here the noble Lord read an extract from the Felon, to the effect that, after all the efforts of age, wisdom, and experience to achieve their object, they found themselves fairly advanced in a war from which there was no retreat but death; and then the writer wont on—in language somewhat singular for the occasion certainly, but which he must have considered adapted to awaken the spirit he wished to see prevailing in that country—to say, "Young men of Ireland, on you I principally rely. My reliance is based on this, that you are very rash, and rather inclined to be violent, and to have exceedingly little prudence. Brothers, let your watchword be, 'Now or never—now and for ever.'"] Another of these persons, who signed with the initials of "J. F. L," meaning a Mr. Lalor, states— In the case of Ireland now, there is but one fact to deal with, and one question to be considered, The fact is this—that there are at present in occupation of our country some 40,000 armed men in the livery and. Service of England These are, it is to be recollected, men placed there for the defence of its shores, and for the protection of its industrious inhabitants, But how does he say that this force is to be dealt with? He proceeds to say— And the question is—how best and soonest to kill and capture those 40,000 men. If required to state my own individual opinion, and allowed to choose my own time, I certainly would take the time when the full harvest of Ireland shall be stacked in the haggards. But not unfrequently God selects and sends his own seasons and occasions; and oftentimes, too, an enemy is able to foresee the necessity of either fighting or failing. In the one case we ought not, in the other we surely cannot, attempt waiting for our harvest home. If opportunity offers, we must dash at that opportunity—if driven to the wall we must wheel for resistance. Wherefore, let us fight in September, if we may—but sooner, if we must, I say, that this proves clearly the designs of this party. But if there were any further proof wanting of the spirit in which it is sought to direct the whole mind and industry, if it can be so called, of that part of the united kingdom, it will be afforded by another of these papers, which is also one of their organs, and which I now hold in my hand. This paper, availing itself of a measure which was one of the most useful, one of the most beneficent, and one of the most effectual measures that my noble Friend the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has devised for the improvement of that country, and for the purpose of guarding against and mitigating the recurrence of famine, of which there existed, and still continues to exist, but too much ground for apprehension—the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland having sent round persons through the country, who have been by all loyal, by all peaceable, and by all industrious subjects cordially received and welcomed, and who, under the name of "practical instructors," apply the improvements of husbandry to the new exigencies which the recent misfortunes which fell upon the country have produced—these persons, availing themselves of that term, have in sarcasm headed one of the columns of this paper, "The Practical Instructor," and under this title they send forth their own "practical instructions;" instructions intended, not for the purpose of increasing the produce of the land—not for the purpose of promoting or inciting the industry of the inhabitants—not for the purpose of guarding against famine—but of extending in every direction such recommendations and advice as the most perverted imagination could supply. What do I find in the present paper under this heading, sent forth through the land for the information of the people? They are a species of receipts, which I will not trouble your Lordships by reading at length, but I will read the titles of a few of them. The first prescribes a mode by which flour of sulphur can be mixed with lead in a fused state to be cast into bullets. Another of these recipes is entitled "The Pike Auxiliary," which is an instrument in the form of a clasped knife, with a blade six or seven inches long, and tapered near the end—one of the most fatal instruments that man can use against man. I find also various receipts for preserving polished arms in a damp or underground position, and for making window grenades, to be used should Her Majesty's forces be engaged in attempting to suppress their disloyal violence. I say, then, that I need not go farther in search of proof as to what the views of these persons are. But then the question arises, how we, being in possession of these facts, and seeing these matters that are thus laid before us, ought to act, not only for the purpose of applying the only remedy that the nature of the circumstances admit, and which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has imperatively called for, but also to what extent have we precedents as to how we can best give to that remedy the most prompt and efficacious action. And, my Lords, I have to state that there are—and I confess I was glad to find that there are—many precedents from which it appears that your Lordships have been induced in times of emergency to proceed in one day to carry a Bill of this importance through all its stages. I say that I was glad to find these precedents, because, from the moment I saw that that precedent existed, I had not one minute's hesitation as to the course that I should propose to press upon your Lordships for adoption. Without troubling your Lordships with other precedents, though I have many of them near me, I will refer to one which appears to me to be the most positive and the most immediately applicable to the subject, because it arose after every one of the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House had been passed, to which your Lordships have recourse for the regulation of your ordinary business. I find that in the year 1803, without any previous notice for the suspension of the Standing Orders, two Bills were brought up from the other House of Parliament, for the suppression of rebellion in Ireland, and to enable the Lord Lieutenant to detain in custody persons suspected of disloyal intentions; and the Minister of the day moved at once, and without any previous notice, the suspension of the Standing Orders, Nos. 26 and 155. By these orders the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack was prohibited from putting the question for reading a Bill more than once at one sitting, without a specific order from the House; and it was then moved— That it is the opinion of this House, that it is essentially necessary for the public safety that a Bill of the nature of the Bill this day brought up from the House of Commons, entitled, &c., should be forthwith proceeded with with all possible despatch; and that, therefore, notwithstanding such orders, the Lord Chancellor ought to put the question on every stage of proceeding on said Bill which this House may think necessary. I have no hesitation in recommending your Lordships to adopt this course. I feel that the question now is, whether those who have put themselves out of the pale of the constitution—whether those who have formally announced their hostility, and who have actually proclaimed war against the authorities, without having up to this moment submitted themselves to any of the dangers of war—are unjustly treated by this mode of proceeding. I, for one, have not the least doubt that these are not persons entitled in any way to receive the benefit of those wise precautions and those mild regulations which the laws of this country and the laws of this House have prescribed for the protection, not of rebellious but of loyal subjects. I find that in one of those papers an article ends with this singular admission, somewhat, I am glad to say, characterised by a doubt as to the determination of those to whom it is addressed:— Meanwhile, however, remember this—that somewhere and somehow, and by Somebody, a beginning must be made. Who strikes the first blow for Ireland? Who draws first blood for Ireland Who wins a wreath that will be green for ever? Now, I do believe that if we wish to confirm that doubt, that no person will be found to strike the first blow, and to shed the first blood for Ireland, we shall best do so by your Lordships passing this Bill without delay, and which I undertake to say will without delay receive Her Majesty's sanction. With these remarks, and as I do not wish unnecessarily to occupy your Lordships' time, I beg to move the resolution which I have already read, for giving power to my noble Friend on the woolsack to put the question, notwithstanding the Standing Orders to the contrary. I have, therefore, first, to move that those Standing Orders, Nos. 104, 26, and 155 be read with a view of moving this resolution. The noble Marquess then moved to resolve— That it is the opinion of this House that it is essentially necessary for the public safety that the Bill this day brought up from the House of Commons, intituled 'An Act to empower the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland to apprehend, and detain until first March, one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, such Persons as he or they shall suspect of conspiring against Her Majesty's Person and Government,' should forthwith be proceeded in with all possible despatch; and that, notwithstanding the Standing Orders Nos. 104, 26, and 155, the Lord Chancellor ought on this day to put the question upon every stage of the proceedings upon the said Bill in which this House shall think it necessary for the public safety to proceed therein on this day.


said, that he was fully aware that this was a dangerous power for them to invest in any person, but it was one that it was absolutely necessary for them to exercise He agreed with his noble Friend in his views of the dangers which pressed upon them, as appeared from the extracts which he had produced, and with which he had shocked. as well as astonished, the House by reading. He (Lord Brougham) had stated some months ago his willingness to tender his support to the Government on this subject; and he now seconded this Motion, because he conceived that, to be effectual, this remedy must be speedily applied; and he trusted that nothing would prevent their Lordships from adopting with one voice the proposition of his noble Friend. He should not trespass on the time of their Lordships. But when he saw what was passing in France—when he looked to the accounts he had received that morning of the delight with which some despicable and factious friends of disturbance regarded the prospect of insurrection in Ireland—when he saw the joy which the present state of Ireland gave to that wretched crew—he could not call them anything else, for they were not the people of France—he felt the more anxious that this measure should be speedily carried. Though it would protect the peace of Ireland, save many lives, and prevent much misery, he must protest against its being understood that the country wanted this measure, or any measure, to protect the integrity of the empire, or save them from losing the kingdom of Ireland. It was a fallacy to suppose that the existence of the British Government in Ireland was in any danger, or that the present measure was wanted to preserve that existence; but he would tell their Lordships what it was wanted to preserve. It was not wanted to prevent the disseverance of the empire, but to prevent attempts at that disseverance, which, although they would fail in their object, would not fail to involve that portion of the kingdom in which they were made in all the horrors of bloodshed and confusion. It was to prevent rebellion, although he (Lord Brougham) believed that rebellion must end in the misery and discomfiture of the rebels themselves. Nevertheless, it was the duty of their Lordships to prevent such attempts from being made. It was their duty to prevent them from being made, lost, as was usually the case, the innocent should suffer with the guilty. He had an additional reason for supporting the measure—a reason which he had derived from having seen in the documents which his noble Friend had read, not only that men who were at large were going about, sowing broadcast over the land the seeds of rebellion, and, as his noble Friend had said, openly proclaiming their want of allegiance to the Crown, but that persons who were actually within the walls of a prison were also inciting the people to the same course. One of the very worst of the papers which had been read by his noble Friend was the production of one of the persons now in prison for sedition. He (Lord Brougham) hoped that there was in Ireland a regulation, such as existed in England, to prevent such a grievous outrage on all common decency. He trusted that there was a prison discipline in Ireland, as well as in England, that would make it impossible for men to do such things—that would prevent them from converting their prisons into places from whence they could issue new declarations of treasons, reviving and aggravating their offence. There was a power given to the Judges in England when a man was sentenced to confinement for a misdemeanour, not only to award the term of imprisonment, but to appoint the prison in which he should be confined. There was one case in which a highly respectable individual was sentenced to imprisonment for a libel, which would be deemed loyal and praiseworthy as compared with those extracts which his noble Friend had been reading, and that scholar and gentleman was sent to Dorchester gaol for eighteen months. If a similar law did not exist in Ireland, it ought. He hoped that this Act would have the effect of weaning away from their leaders the honest but misguided people of Ireland. As to the leaders, he had very considerable doubts whether they would greatly object to the enactment of this measure which would secure their own persons. He believed that in Ireland they had been lately infested with two sorts of political leaders. One sort was formed of those who preached rebellion, but in a mitigated form—who preached everything short of that which would involve the inconvenience of themselves being prosecuted for treason; men who said, "Do this and do that," in order to prepare for rebellion, but who took especial care not to go beyond a certain limit. The object of those men was sordid to the last degree—they confined their objects to a design upon the pockets of the poor people who had placed themselves unhappily under the bad guidance of such leaders; and they thought that by saying, "Go this length or that length—but do nothing unlawful," that they could prevent other bad counsels from being taken from some rash and imprudent young men. Those were the agitators of the sordid, crafty, money-getting school. They, at all events, thought to save themselves from prosecution, which they were in great dread of, by recommending all things short of actual rebellion, and by continually saying, "Pray don't be guilty of any insurrection." It was as if one were to bring gunpowder to a place where they had kindled a fire, and then ran away, saying, "Pray don't explode." Their object was to get all they could out of the people, and to do no more. They were the sordid traitors. But of late there had arisen another set, less despicable, who were traitors, not from sordid motives, but from motives of mere contemptible vanity—men who made treasonable speeches; who, in seeking the bad and despicable object of the gratification of mere personal vanity, had been guilty of sedition and treason. He believed they had no other object. He believed that actual rebellion and actual war was the last thing they wished for or thought of. But it did not follow that they could stop the dupes they had been leading on; and that when they were in the very act of hatching a rebellion which they did not wish to see come into existence, that rebellion would not come into existence if the Government did not take possession of the persons of the leaders. It was out of affection for those misguided people, out of love for those unhappy persons whom those leaders were conducting to their ruin, and to prevent the peace of the country from being broken, that he (Lord Brougham) gave his reluctant but complete support to that salutary, because necessary, measure.


said, that it was with great reluctance he took any part in the debate. But there was one matter to which he could not avoid directing attention, and upon which he desired to have some information. Some of the letters which the noble Marquess had read, appeared to be addressed from within the prison walls in Dublin. He therefore bogged to ask Her Majesty's Government whether there was not some measure adapted to prevent the issue of such productions from the prisons? His noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Brougham) said that the law prohibited such proceedings. He (the Earl of Wicklow) hoped it did; but if so, how, he asked, could the Government account for such latitude having been given to those prisoners in Dublin? They found a letter in one of the papers quoted by the noble Marquess, from Mr. Duffy, a person who was exciting the people to actual re- bellion, and that letter coming from within the walls of Newgate. He trusted that if the law were not sufficient, provisions would be introduced into the Bill before the House, if necessary; or that at all events the Government would give a pledge that they would not allow such things to be done again. He trusted that some explanation would be given by Her Majesty's Government.


was understood to explain that the fact of those papers having appeared signed by persons who were actually confined in prison, had been a subject of inquiry; and it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take steps to prevent the possibility of such occurrences happening again. But there was every reason to suppose that these letters were not written by the prisoners whose signatures were attached, but by persons who were out of prison, und who, probably by the authority of the prisoners, affixed the signatures which appeared. But as to the remarks made by the noble, and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) about the selection of prisons and prison discipline, he begged to say that during the time prisoners were confined previously to their trials, it was impossible to confine them in any particular prison. But, however, with regard to the cases alluded to, no letter whatever had been allowed to be sent out of the prison in Dublin without being examined.


hoped that the sanguine expectations of the noble Marquess with respect to the effects of the measure before the House, would not be disappointed. The noble Marquess hoped that it would prevent rebellion. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) believed that if Her Majesty's Government had proposed it six or eight weeks ago, it might have prevented rebellion. It might have prevented that organisation which Her Majesty's Government had seen growing up under their hands from day to day. The noble Marquesss had read extracts from papers threatening rebellion; but writings and speeches in the same sense were not new to their Lordships. It was more than three months since he (the Earl of Ellenborough) had read to the House extracts from a paper (the writer of which had since undergone the penalty of having written them), and had called attention to them. His noble Friend (Lord Stanley), whose absence upon the present occasion he regretted, had also called attention to the character of these writings, and yet no proceedings were then taken; on the contrary, no notice was taken of them. But it was three months since he (the Earl of Ellenborough) had called attention to the state of Ireland. He asked them did the Government intend to proclaim Dublin? or had they sufficient power under the Bill they had obtained this Session? or did they intend to ask for any further measures? He was told, in reply, that the Lord Lieutenant did not ask for any further powers; but that if he should ask for other powers, they would be applied for in Parliament. Were they, then, to understand that it was only on the 18th of July that the Lord Lieutenant saw the necessity of asking for that Act—that it was only then that he saw necessity for asking for further powers? Had he seen these clubs growing up before him daily, and was he not aware of the danger? Did Her Majesty's Government not see the danger? And did they postpone seeking for further powers until the danger was so great that they could get a measure passed through all its stages in one night? It might be very convenient to the Government; but was it convenient to the country when it led to raising the hopes of those persons that they would be successful? But whilst the noble Marquess had spoken of the organisation for rebellion, what was the organisation of the Government? He (the Earl of Ellenborough) had no doubt that as to the preparations made by the proper disposal of the military and constabulary throughout the country, everything that should have been done had been. But had everything been done in the way of organising the well-affected portion of the population? Had arms been given to the well-affected? Had any steps been taken to organise those persons in Ireland who were ready, heart and hand, to support the Government? He (the Earl of Ellenborough) believed that this measure would not prevent rebellion in Ireland. He believed it would precipitate it. It should have been passed before. He had said three months ago that no man ought to be allowed to have arms in Ireland without the consent of the Government. What he now said was, that it was not by the measure before the House they could prevent rebellion, although they might embarrass the rebels by means of it; but nothing which they could do would prevent a rebellion in the south of Ireland but their arming of the north. And if they went into the struggle without organisation of the well-affected, and without the arming of their friends, they would have placed the country in the condition of having to undergo a long and bloody contest, whilst they had the means of rendering it short, if not of preventing its possibility.


I will not be tempted—I had almost said provoked—by the speech of the noble Earl to go into any detailed reply to his speech. It is the only one of its character that in either House of Parliament has been pronounced upon this measure. I will not go into the topics which he has chosen this opportunity, upon an occasion so urgent, to introduce. All I will assure the noble Earl of is this—that upon every one of those faults which he has charged upon Her Majesty's Government with respect to the measures, with respect to the time, with respect to the necessity, with respect to the reasons for and against—the noble Earl having considered only the reasons for, and omitted all consideration of the reasons against—but upon every one of those subjects, at a fitting opportunity, on a day which the noble Earl will choose for that purpose, I will meet him—meet him on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, between whom and Her Majesty's Government at homo there has been a perfect concert on the measures adopted. I shall say no more because the opening of a debate now will only have the effect, which I do not think it was the object of the noble Earl it should have, of preventing this Bill from passing immediately into a law, which it is essential it should be within a very few hours.


merely begged to allude to a point to which he had referred upon a previous occasion. It was the part which the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland might choose to take in the present momentous crisis. That was one of the most important points of all; and he was happy to be able to say that the accounts he had received from Ireland on that point were very satisfactory. It gave him great pleasure to rise in his place and declare it. But although there was a great body of the Roman Catholic clergy opposed to insurrection, he regretted to say that there were several young Roman Catholic priests who were urging the people on to join the clubs. He had that information on undoubted authority. There was one Roman Catholic priest, who, at a meeting held in Dublin on the day after the Privy Council had resolved upon proclaiming Dublin and other places, seconded a resolution to the effect that the British Government ought to be laid low in Ireland. But he (the Earl of Glengall) recommended that portion of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland who desired the people to organise those clubs, to pause and read the pages of history, and they would find that every revolution had been fatal to the Roman Catholic religion. It was so in Ireland and in this country after the Reformation; and in 1688, and in the revolutions of Spanish America, in Spain itself, and in the French Revolution of 1830, the Roman Catholic religion had suffered. In the very last revolution in France, had not the Roman Catholic Archbishop been murdered? and was not the Pope himself at this moment critically situated in consequence of revolutions? The Roman Catholic priests, therefore, should take warning from these facts, as they must see that, if they stirred up the people to rebellion, it would prove injurious to their religion.

On question. Motion agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente.

Then it was moved, That the Bill be now read 2a: On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative, Nemine Dissentiente: Bill read 2a accordingly. Then it was moved, That the Bill be now committed to a Committee of the whole House: On Question, Resolved in the Negative, Nemine Dissentiente. Then it was moved, That the Bill be now read 3a: On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative, Nemine Dissentiente: Bill read 3a accordingly. Then it was moved, That the Bill do pass: On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative, Nemine Dissentiente: Bill passed, accordingly; and a Message sent to the Commons, to acquaint them therewith.

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