§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, in moving the second reading of this Bill I will not waste your Lordships' time by attempting to impress on your minds the absolute necessity of again passing it. I make the Motion with a feeling of great reluctance, and yet at the same time under a paramount sense of duty. I believe that under the present circumstances of Ireland none of your Lordships will have the slightest hesitation in agreeing to this Motion. If the other House of Parliament, which is regarded as the peculiar 1115 guardian of the liberties of the people, has without a single dissentient voice felt this measure, which under different circumstances might have been an improper abridgment of those liberties, to be absolutely necessary, I think your Lordships will readily deem it one which is indispensable to the protection of the loyal and well-disposed population of Ireland. It is absolutely essential for that purpose that the Government should be armed with the powers given them by this Bill; still I am bound to say that, in my opinion, if we had only the resident Irish population to deal with there would be no necessity for the introduction of this measure. It is rendered necessary by reason of the evil-disposed persons who, resident in other countries, have for a long time past been carrying on their organization and preparing their schemes for the purpose of exciting disturbances in Ireland, who keep that country in a perpetual state of ferment, and prevent the restoration of peace and tranquillity there. And in order to obtain protection against those persons, who come over to Ireland for such mischievous purposes, I believe all the well-disposed people of that country will gladly make a temporary sacrifice of the valued liberties secured by the Habeas Corpus Act.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Derby.)
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, I have no doubt as to the vote I ought to give on this question. I have no doubt that, as the noble Earl states, it is necessary, in order to check this conspiracy, that the powers conferred by this Bill should be continued to the Government for a further period. I also think that the manner in which the Act of a similar character passed at the beginning of this Session has been carried into effect does the greatest credit to the moderation as well as to the vigilance of Her Majesty's Government in Ireland, and I have no doubt that what has been done has prevented the Fenian conspiracy from growing to a greater height. I was glad to hear at an earlier hour this evening that the noble Earl and his Colleagues have advised Her Majesty to spare the life of the convict Burke. I think that, after the exercise of clemency towards those persons who were lately found guilty of high treason in Canada, it would have been quite impossible, consistently with principle or with policy, to have executed the 1116 extreme penalty of the law against the convict Burke in Ireland. I regret only that the noble Earl should, as appears in the newspapers, have stated to a deputation the strong opinion entertained by the Cabinet, and more especially that he should have mentioned the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland as having given an opinion in favour of carrying out the extreme sentence of the law on Burke. I think it would have been better if the noble Earl had refrained from giving any opinion in regard to what had been already decided on by the Cabinet. I cannot leave this question, however, without saying that I entirely concur in the opinions that were expressed last Session by my noble Friend the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, that the nature of this conspiracy, the extensive discontent which prevailed, and the sympathy which is shown for the offenders, make it incumbent upon Parliament to consider, as soon as time and opportunity shall serve, whether, at this time, sixty-six years since the Union, we cannot find some measures by which the mind and heart of the people of Ireland can be conciliated by us and brought in unison with this country. There are two great questions to be considered. With reference to the question of landlord and tenant in Ireland, with regard to which a passage in the Queen's Speech laid down the true principle for a settlement, I would suggest that, as it is not a party question, the late and present Chief Secretaries of Ireland might come to some agreement upon the subject, and secure the enactment of a satisfactory measure. There is also another and perhaps a graver question, and that is the question of the Church in Ireland. It excites feelings of the deepest animosity, and I am persuaded you can never expect the Roman Catholic population to be really attached to their Government unless what they deem justice is done to them in that respect. I speak merely of the general fact; I am sure there are no better clergy in the world than the clergy of Ireland; but, although they attend in the most exemplary manner to their duties, their position is one of peculiar difficulty, inasmuch as the whole of the endowments collected for the clergy of the country go to support the clergy of 700,000 people, while the Roman Catholic priests, the clergy of 4,500,000, receive none of those emoluments. That is a state of things which does not exist in any country in Europe—I may say in the world. It is a 1117 state of things which promotes discontent, and naturally so; and is calculated to excite the wonder of every Government in Europe. I will, on some future day, bring forward the question of the application of the revenues of the Established Church in Ireland; but at present I will content myself with giving my cordial assent to the Bill now before the House.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My noble Friend who has last spoken did not advert to one point, which should not, I think, pass unnoticed. Although I agree that the conduct of the Government, in dealing with the Fenian conspiracy, merits the entire approval of Parliament, and their general conduct in respect of the government of Ireland is one which your Lordships will not condemn, still I think there is one point upon which they have not exercised the same discretion as in other matters. It was natural that the Government should desire to terminate the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, and no doubt they announced their intention not to ask Parliament for a renewal of the Act, by the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, with the very best of motives. At the time that announcement was made to us, I could not venture, from want of information as a private Member of your Lordships' House, to express an opinion as to the expediency of the course pursued by the Government; but since that time we have become possessed of information which was in the hands of the Government at the time Parliament was opened, and which, in my opinion, should have led them to see that it was not safe or expedient to declare that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act could not be continued. For, if I am rightly informed, not only were they aware that a conspiracy was being carried on in Ireland, but that persons from Belgium, as well as the United States, were engaged in it; they were also aware that the conspiracy was widespread and far from at an end. It was said that the Government had been enabled to place under control almost all those from whom danger was to be apprehended; but the obvious answer to that is that the Government, by not continuing the suspension of the Act, were depriving themselves of the very weapon that had produced that good result. If the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act had been discontinued, not only would those who had been imprisoned under its provisions have been liberated, but many of the chief promoters 1118 of the conspiracy, who had placed themselves in security in England—Liverpool being the head-quarters and the place where the conspiracy was carried on—it was obvious that if the suspension should be discontinued these persons would have returned to Ireland and continued their dangerous proceedings. That, indeed, is exactly what occurred. Many of the Fenian conspirators were under the impression that the Suspension Act had actually expired, and, returning to Ireland, commenced operations; with what deplorable results we are all acquainted. The course the Government pursued is the more to be regretted as, soon after their announcement was made, the Government found themselves obliged to ask Parliament to re-enact the measure. I also feel constrained to refer again to the imprudence of the late Attorney General for Ireland. I must say that the speech he made to his constituents had far too much the character of a popularity-hunting speech, made for the purpose of gaining the applause of the moment; but it led me to think that the course the Government then pursued was not as well considered as it should have been. I cannot but think it was a matter of great satisfaction to the noble Earl, when he was able to find a place for the right hon, and learned Gentleman in a calmer sphere, where popular speeches are not necessary. With regard to the conspiracy, I must say that I see no cause for modifying the opinion which I expressed last year. I am perfectly ready to admit, however, that to some extent the rural population have shown that they are not easily led away; and that is a cause of great satisfaction to me; although many sympathize with the malcontents, yet it is obvious, from the events which have taken place, that unless the conspirators meet with greater success than they are likely to obtain they will not probably be joined by any large number of the country people. I agree, however, with the noble Earl who preceded me (Earl Russell) that what is now occurring in Ireland should make us seriously reflect upon the future of that country. The state of Ireland is not merely one of difficulty; it has become one of danger to us. I in no way do-sire that Parliament should act under an impression of fear: happily the position of this country is such that we need not act under any such emotion; but, at the same time, it is but wise and prudent to prepare for possible dangers, for there is 1119 no doubt that if danger should become imminent Ireland will be a source of very serious embarrassment to us. I find no fault with the Government for not having brought forward a comprehensive measure with regard to Ireland this Session; they have already in their hands a measure of the first magnitude in this Reform Bill; but I trust that if they continue to hold the reins of power, they will, in some future Session, look the difficulty of the situation fairly in the face and meet it completely, We may rely upon it that we look too much upon Ireland with English eyes; we naturally have our own feelings, opinions, and principles, and we cannot persuade ourselves that it is impossible to induce the people of Ireland to look upon questions from our point of view. That seems to me to be to some extent the key of our difficulty, and to have been the great evil in our legislation during a long course of years. We must endeavour to deal with Ireland from the same point of view as the people of Ireland themselves look at it. My noble Friend (Earl Russell) has referred to some other points. I shall not on this occasion enter into either of those questions; but I am thoroughly convinced that it is necessary Parliament should by legislation endeavour to remove the irritation which, rightly or wrongly, pervades a large portion of the people of Ireland, and until that is done, we shall never be able to dispense with measures of this kind—measures which I am sure every one of your Lordships deeply regrets.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
regarded the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in this instance as a melancholy necessity, which he for one would not take the responsibility of opposing. He should have been well content to have remained silent this evening but for the remarks of his noble Friend (Earl Russell), who had coupled with the subject of the Fenians questions which ought to be dealt with separately, and with which the Fenians had nothing whatever to do. Indeed, the questions to which his noble Friend had alluded were just the very ones which, in his opinion, the Fenian leaders least of all desired to see settled. Nobody knowing anything of Ireland could pretend that discontent did not exist in that country; but that discontent had nothing whatever to do with any of the treasonable attempts which had been made to overthrow the Queen's authority, and to set up, not a republican, 1120 or, indeed, any other form of government, but simply to create anarchy and confusion. The noble Earl had truly said that these disturbances were entirely organized abroad, and his noble Friend had gone even further in stating that they were fostered not only by persons in the United States, but by the revolutionists of other countries also. Why, then, should Fenianism be so frequently associated with questions in which persons living in Ireland were the only ones interested? He had read with pleasure the paragraph in the Queen's Speech in which a hope of being able to dispense with the measure they were now engaged in discussing was held out. He could not, however, see that blame was to be attached to any one because those hopes had not been realized. Any calculations as to the probable conduct of the Fenians must, of course, have been based on the presumption that the leaders were sane; and, whatever might be the case now, some few months since an attempt such as had been made by the Fenians would not have been thought possible except from madmen. There could be no doubt that much discontent existed in Ireland because many believed that not sufficient distinction was made between the loyal and the disloyal, and that not sufficient protection was afforded to those who deserved it. To prevent the renewal of these disturbances it was not enough to have ample constabulary supervision and the services of stipendiary magistrates. It was also necessary that a better feeling should be cultivated between the people and the Government, and that more encouragement should be given to the loyal and well disposed, than had hitherto been the case. At present it was a matter of reasonable complaint that where arms were taken away from the inhabitants all were treated alike; and this want of discrimination naturally left the loyal and peaceable inhabitants at the mercy of, or, at all events, exposed to the disloyal, whose arms were secreted, and who might attack the lives and property of their better disposed neighbours at times and at seasons when little or no defence could be offered. No doubt the questions to which his noble Friend had referred ought to receive attention; but, when considered, they ought to be dealt with, not as affecting disturbances engaged in by rebels, filibusters, and freebooters, but with a view of giving satisfaction and contentment to the people of the whole country.
§ THE EARL OF BANDON
entirely agreed with the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) that the questions of land tenure and the Irish Church had nothing whatever to do with Fenianism. Of ninety persons apprehended in his county last under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act there were not five who were connected with agricultural pursuits; and, in fact, the outbreak had taken place in the most prosperous parts of the county of Cork. If ever the noble Earl opposite brought forward the Church question, he (the Earl of Bandon) should be prepared to defend that Church. But he would ask, why had the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) never attempted to deal with the question during the many years he had been in power? The noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had blamed the present Government for want of firmness and discretion; but having had ample opportunity of watching the manner in which the Government of that country had been conducted during the late disturbances, he could bear testimony to the ability and forbearance which had been exhibited by the noble Marquess at the head of the Government in Ireland, and by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he would be sorry were it supposed that he had intended to impute any want of firmness or discretion to the Irish Government. On the contrary, what he had said was that they had acted with great wisdom and firmness, except upon one point.
§ THE EARL OF BANDON
said, he had not intended to do more than to point out that the noble Earl had found fault with the Government of Ireland for having stated in the Speech from the Throne that they did not intend to continue the Habeas Corpus Act. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland explained the other night that the Government, when they inserted that paragraph in the Queen's Speech, were under the impression that the conspiracy had been crushed, and that they had not intended to apply for a renewal of the suspension of that Act until their eyes had been opened as to the true state of affairs by what had transpired at certain meetings held at New York. If the noble Earl were to consult the feelings of the great majority of the people of Ireland he would find that they were in favour, not of the measures to which he had pointed, and which were likely to stir up discord 1122 between class and class, but of measures which were calculated to develop the resources and promote the prosperity of the country.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not follow the opinions or the advice of the two noble Lords who had just spoken, or would believe that Fenianism had nothing to do with the discontent which existed in Ireland. He quite agreed with the opinion expressed by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) that Fenianism had no wish to re-model the Irish Church, and was equally opposed to the Protestant and Catholic Churches; and it was also true that it had no care for the land tenure question. What he contended for was, that it was the latent discontent which existed in Ireland — and which the noble Earl had admitted—that attracted the attention of the leaders of those abominable proceedings, and it was therefore the bounden duty of the Irish Government to use their best energies to do away with the grievances from which that discontent arose.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH
hoped the Government would not take the advice which the noble Earl had just given them. The noble Earl had attributed the discontent which existed in Ireland to the questions of the Established Church and the land tenure. The fact was that Ireland was in an almost chronic state of discontent, but that discontent owed its origin to the existence of an alien Government which was not always a good Government. The repeated confiscations that had taken place under Oliver Cromwell and King William III., had created an irritation in the minds of the people which was not yet allayed. The idea of the Irish people was that the land was held by aliens who had deprived the rightful owners of it; and, in consequence, both the proprietorship of land by Protestant landlords and the Protestant Church were believed by them to be the ties which bound Ireland to England, and that if those ties could be broken the separation of the two countries could easily be effected. The feeling on the part of the Irish people was not one of dissatisfaction with the Church or the land question but of hostility to this country. He therefore trusted that the Government would bear in mind that any concession upon these points would not only not remove discontent but would lead to renewed demands and fresh agitation.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, while I willingly acknowledge the testimony that has been borne by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) and by the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as to the lenient manner in which the powers vested in the Irish Government by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act have been exercised, there are one or two points made by both the noble Earls to which, out of respect to them, I feel bound to advert. The only point upon which the noble Earl at the head of the late Government expressed an opinion did not refer to the conduct of the Government with regard to the Fenian conspiracy, but to the statement I am supposed to have made a few days ago in reference to the convict Burke. The noble Earl appears to think that I stated upon that occasion that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the learned Judge who tried the case—
§ EARL RUSSELL
I beg the noble Earl's pardon—I did not refer to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. I said the name of the Lord Chancellor was mentioned unnecessarily.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
If I mentioned the name of the Lord Chancellor, I referred to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland—not of England. Of course, it was unnecessary to name my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, he being a prominent Member of Her Majesty's Government, and of necessity consulted on such a question. What I did say was, that we had not come to this conclusion without the utmost care and deliberation; but after consultation with the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, after hearing the opinion of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and after referring the matter to the Judges by whom Burke was tried. I did not refer in the slightest degree to any personal opinion expressed, or supposed to have been expressed, by any one of these as to the propriety of carrying out the sentence. I only stated that we came to the conclusion after hearing all that was said by the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor, and the Judges. Further than that I did not go; and I think, when the Cabinet was in favour of carrying out the sentence, your Lordships will, I am sure, agree with me that under the circumstances it would have been most imprudent in me to hold out any expectation that the sentence would be commuted, or throw any doubt on the question of the sentence being car- 1124 ried out until I had a further opportunity of consulting my Colleagues on the point, because that would have raised hopes which might not have been justified by the result. My Lords, the only point, I think, on which the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland found fault with us was that we had entertained a hope at the commencement of the Session that we should be enabled to dispense with the renewal of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. He says that at the time we inserted that paragraph in the Queen's Speech we had information in our possession, and must have had for months, which proved that the conspiracy was still going on, and he added that the conspiracy was not headed by Irishmen, but was fostered by American, Belgian, and Italian leaders.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
The fact is that long subsequent to the renewal of the Act in February we received information that there were one Belgian and one Italian engaged in the conspiracy; but at the time of the Queen's Speech, to the best of my belief, we had no knowledge of any European foreigners having taken part in the conspiracy, the only parties known being citizens of the United States. But when the noble Earl says we made a very hasty announcement in the Queen's Speech, I have this to say—that we had certainly obtained information during the months of September, October, and November which enabled us to arrest a considerable number of the leading conspirators—and those only did we arrest—and the result of the measures we had taken and the experience and the information we possessed was that the conspiracy had completely collapsed. Many of those who had been connected with it, but had not been placed under arrest, and the whole thing had apparently so entirely collapsed, that we entertained a very sanguine and, we considered, a very well-founded expectation that we should be enabled to dispense with any exceptional legislation. The noble Earl says that all our success was attributable to the arrest of a considerable number of the leaders. Does he know the comparison between the number of those in confinement when the Queen's Speech was made and the number when he himself was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? When we succeeded to office there were no less than 330 Fenians in confinement, and notwithstanding that we 1125 had succeeded in putting a large number of persons under arrest, there were at the time the Queen's Speech was delivered only seventy in all in confinement. We had therefore every reason to believe that the conspiracy had altogether collapsed: and so it had; but it received new life and vigour from fresh movements of Stephens in America towards the close of the year, the results of which were not known when we advised the Queen's Speech. The arrival of Fenians from the United States, and the proceedings of Stephens acting on the minds of credulous dupes in Ireland, led them to conceive fresh hopes, and led to a revival of the conspiracy, which compelled us to resort again to extraordinary and exceptional legislation. We had hoped to dispense with its renewal; that hope was disappointed; the Act was passed and the conspiracy was again arrested. I do not, however, say that if it had been the prorogation instead of the meeting of Parliament we should have been justified in placing a statement in the Queen's Speech, because we had in the latter case what we should not have had in the former—namely, if we had allowed the Act to expire, and there had been a renewal of the conspiracy and a return of any of those persons to their treasonable practices, and bad consequences followed from the revival of the conspiracy, we knew that we had Parliament at our back, and Parliament would be ready to pass exceptional legislation only justified by absolute necessity, and would readily arm us with fresh powers, and enable us to resume those powers which they—I am sure which we—were most anxious to dispense with, if possible. My Lords, I do not think this a fitting opportunity for entering into a discussion of remedial measures for Ireland. Of this I am convinced, that there never was a time when Parliament was more disposed than at present to listen to any well-grounded complaints of substantial grievances, and apply, so far as it can, a remedy for those grievances. But, as the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) said, the grievances specified by the noble Earl (Earl Russell) certainly are not in the slightest degree connected with the Fenian conspiracy. They are grievances, if grievances at all, of very long standing. Parliament has laboured year after year with regard to the land question to place it on a more satisfactory footing; and the noble Earl will admit that the Government are not 1126 wanting either in bringing forward remedial measures on their part with respect to the tenure of land, or on the other in availing themselves of the exertions of the noble Marquess, who, with great care, is endeavouring to frame a code of laws to regulate the relations of landlord and tenant on this subject. But the noble Earl very fairly says that he cannot complain of attention being occupied in the other House by the great and formidable question of Parliamentary Reform which creates an obstacle to the carrying of these important measures. I will not, my Lords, enter on the discussion of what may be called the Church grievance. For my own part, I do not believe that is a grievance at all. I do not believe that it affects in the slightest degree the discontent said to prevail in Ireland. But if the noble Earl (Earl Russell) is so strongly of opinion as he now appears to be, that the Irish Church is a great grievance, I wish to know how it happens that during the eighteen years out of twenty he has been in office, and twice at the head of the Government, he never brought forward those remedial measures with regard to the Irish Church, which, for the first time, he thinks it necessary to urge during this, the first year he finds himself in opposition. Last year, when the noble Earl occupied the responsible position of Prime Minister, my noble Friend (Viscount Lifford) brought forward the question of the Irish Church; but the noble Earl, with that true Conservative feeling which I hope will always animate every Minister who sits on this Bench, remonstrated with the noble Viscount who had given notice of a Motion relative to the endowments of the Irish Church for raising so serious a question, and he deprecated in the strongest manner any discussion with regard to the endowments of the Irish Church. Cœlum non animum mutant — but I am sorry that change of place has brought about considerable change of opinion on this subject with the noble Earl. I will not enter into the general state of Ireland. We are dealing with what all will admit an absolute, though lamentable necessity, and I think it very unwise to couple with a measure essential to the restoration of peace and prosperity, the discussion of complaints which, if there be real and substantial grievances, there is every disposition on the part of Parliament to remove. I therefore hope, my Lords, you will confine your attention to the immediate sub- 1127 ject under consideration—namely, the absolutely necessary continuance of the Act for the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus in Ireland.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I may venture to say a very few words after what the noble Earl has said personal to me. I am rather surprised that he accuses me of not earlier raising the question of the Irish Church, because I raised it, in concert with others, many years ago, for four or five years together. [The Earl of DERBY: Yes; about thirty years ago."] But I found, after going on four or five years, that I had no chance of carrying the question. My impression, however, is, that although it is quite right that the question should not be raised this year, for the same reason that I did not like to see it raised last year—namely, that the Reform Bill was under discussion—yet I do believe that a change of opinion has taken place on the subject with the people of England; and if the noble Earl carries this measure I should expect that we shall be prepared next year to remedy this grievance also.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that the noble Earl had failed to explain how it was that, during the eighteen years he had been in office out of the last twenty, he had proposed no measure with regard to the Irish Church.
§ EARL RUSSELL
was understood to say that he had not raised the question because it did not appear that he should have received general support.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly; Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a To-morrow, at Five o'clock.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.