§ Mr. Henry Lytton Bulwer
presented a Petition from Coventry, against the proposed coercive measures for Ireland, which they considered were intended to perpetuate the exaction of tithes.
§ Petition laid upon the Table. The hon. Member moved the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate.
§ Mr. Henry Lytton Bulwer
should not have felt it necessary to trouble the House with any observations, were it not that of the very various statements of opinions which he had heard during the debate, not one of them had expressed the sentiments which he entertained with regard to the measure under consideration. Not a Member had addressed the House during 27 the discussion whom he did not differ from. He dissented from a great part of the observations of the hon. and learned members for Tipperary and Leeds; and when he recollected the indefatigable and unremitting exertions of the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—during a season of great trouble and difficulty—to carry a measure which they believed to be for the advantage of the country, more especially for the consolidation and extension of its liberties, he felt a desire to express his dissent from the censure,—he might almost say the aspersions—which an hon. and learned Member had cast upon his Majesty's Ministers. To the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets who addressed the House last night, he had listened attentively without being able to understand what the hon. Member really meant—unless, indeed, with a desire to conciliate, the hon. Member wished to throw his speech to one side, as a compensation for the vote which he intended to give to the other. The hon. Member declared, that the present measure was either wrong in principle, and therefore ought not to be agreed to at all, or right in principle, and therefore ought to be carried immediately. Did the hon. Member mean, that the House should be called upon to express an opinion as to whether the measure was founded upon a principle in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution?—whether or not it was a constitutional proceeding to suspend the Trial by Jury, and to abrogate the right of petitioning Parliament? If the hon. Member meant to put that question of abstract principle to the House, there would be little difficulty in coming to a decision upon it. Surely, however, the hon. Member could not mean to contend that extraordinary cases would not sanction extraordinary measures. He could not mean, that the Legislature was to be gagged and bound by the letter of the Constitution, so as never to attend to its end and spirit; or that life, property and liberty were to be sacrificed, in order to preserve the law. It was indispensable on some occasions, that the conduct of Government should be regulated by State necessity; and upon that ground the present question was to be decided. He did not vote for the amendment which was proposed on the Address, because he thought it fair to give Ministers credit for intending to bring forward beneficial measures 28 for Ireland; but he was of opinion that no amendment could be more reasonable than that of his right hon. friend the member for Lambeth. It embraced everything that could be desired. If the House had been called upon to vote, that the first reading of the Bill should be postponed for six months, he would not have consented; for he was not prepared to say whether the disturbances of which they had heard so much, were of such a nature as to render the application of the present Bill indispensable for the protection of life and property. Such being the case he would not wish the House to come to a vote which would make the existing Government, or any other Government, feel that, if additional powers were requisite to preserve the tranquillity of the empire, the House of Commons would refuse to grant them. If there were conspirators in Ireland (a circumstance which had not been proved) he should not wish to encourage them by a vote of this House against intrusting the Government with extraordinary powers. The effect of the amendment proposed by his right hon. friend would be this;—not to defeat the Bill altogether, but, by postponing it for a short time, to afford an opportunity of satisfying the House, by evidence, whether the state of Ireland were really such as to justify the application of a measure of this description. The delay would give time for them to become better acquainted with the state of Ireland, In three weeks they would know the result of the Assizes; in the mean time they would also see the effect of those conciliatory measures they had all along contended would be sufficient for the pacification of the country. He did not mean to say they should see this in two or three weeks, but by suspending it from time to time, if no further necessity occurred for its enactment they would be able to ascertain, while, if that further necessity did occur, they would be then in a situation to pass the Bill. Those who thought the postponement too short, were by no means pledged not to insist upon its longer postponement. Those who would not leave the Government unprepared for any emergency, would also have their object secured. The agitators would know, that the Government held a sword over their heads; the peaceful people would feel that their liberties were safe in the hands of their Representatives. His vote would not be given in any spirit of hostility to the Government, between, 29 which and every other Government that had brought forward such measures he saw no difference. The right hon. Gentleman said, that in order to introduce any permanent tranquillity into Ireland, all abuses must be removed. The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that all this must be done—but he asked, "till it is done will yon have life and property destroyed; or will you have life and property secure?" There was but one answer to be given to a question thus put to us. No person could feel more deeply than he did the grievances of Ireland; at the same time he did acknowledge, that neither those grievances nor any grievances could justify the commission of crime. What grievances could justify the crimes of robbery, arson, and assassination? Were not those crimes grievances? And was not Ireland to be delivered from such enormities? If the powers demanded were necessary in order to put down such atrocious acts or if these acts were connected with any conspiracy which those powers were called for to put down, he would not hesitate in granting them. He would vote for the present measures, if they were the only ones—but he must first know that they were the only ones, because it was natural to sanction such measures with extreme reluctance. The three objects which the noble Lord and right hon. Gentleman had to prove, were—1. A great increase of crime, and a continued perpetration of outrage. 2. The connection of such crime and outrage with a conspiracy. And, lastly, the most important point of all—that the measures they called upon the House to sanction were necessary for the suppression of such disorders. But it did not so necessarily follow, that the means which they proposed were the best or the only ones, for effecting their object. But as to this conspiracy and design to resist the authority of the Legislature by force of arms—what evidence was there? A friend of the member for Dublin had declared that he was willing, if the Government committed any atrocious act, to take up arms to resist such act, if desired to do so by the great Agitator and Pacificator of Ireland. He must confess, when he read this rhodomontade, that he felt great surprise that it should have occasioned alarm any where out of the hon. Gentleman's own family. If Gentlemen were alarmed at this, the ears of the House were getting very timorous indeed. He remembered an hon. friend of his, during 30 the debates on Reform, declaring, that if that measure were not carried, and the people rose up in arms to carry it, he had a sword at their service. Did any one tremble at his hon. friend's visionary sword? Was it upon vapouring of this kind that men were to consent to resign all the rights and privileges of a free Constitution? Then, after having stated the opinions of the Pacificating Agitator, the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded to pull forth from his bundle of papers on the Table a document which he had supposed to be the solemn opinion of the Judges of Ireland respecting the disturbances of that country, and the impossibility under which they found themselves to perform their duties; but which was a ballad, and which he pronounced to be very bad poetry—very wretched doggrel, indeed, and this certainly nobody could dispute. But when he finished the perusal of this poetry, and when he (Mr. B.) had seen the right hon. Gentleman turn first to one side of him, and then to the other, he did think that he was about to say:—"Now, is it not the opinion of this House, that the learned Lord Advocate of Scotland, and the hon. member for Leeds, shall be sent off immediately with a bountiful provision of quires of paper and bundles of pens, and all the necessary implements which may be found in London and Edinburgh, for the purpose of teaching these doggrel-writing Irish a better style of composition?" He did think, that the right hon. Gentleman might be inclined to use the pop-gun of the critic—but he never for one moment dreamed that he meant to break this poetical butterfly upon the wheel of a Court-martial. But the right hon. Gentleman at last turned to the opinions of a Committee that sat about six months ago, and read from the Report of that Committee, and from the evidence of Mr. Barrington, a statement of the associations which existed, and of the outrages which attended upon those associations in Ireland. And he then turned round convincingly and said: "What will you say to this? Here are no anonymous letters—no testimony which you might be inclined to doubt or to dispute—there is the testimony of Mr. Barrington—of a gentleman whose word no one can dispute—whose evidence must bring conviction to the minds of every person—here is Mr. Barrington, who tells you that associations of 31 the most terrible nature exists." But, on the first page of Mr. Barrington's evidence, it was stated, that those associations which now exist under the name of Whiteboys, were associations which had existed under the name of Peep-o'-day-boys, Thrashers, &c., for the last sixty years. So that Mr. Barrington declared, at the same time that he stated the existence of those troubles, that they only existed now as they had always existed. But then the right hon. Gentleman stopped short, and after stating what Mr. Barrington said respecting these associations, he did not say anything of the course of proceeding which Mr. Barrington proposed for putting them down. Was it fair not to state, that Mr. Barrington, when expressly asked what he would recommend for the purpose of suppressing such associations, declared that he could recommend only the ordinary laws vigorously administered according to the ordinary forms. Then the right hon. Gentleman opened the Report of the Committee before which Mr. Barrington had been called—he read part of the Report from that Committee, and said, that that Report ought to be sufficient to convince the House of the necessity of his measures. The Committee certainly did say, that nocturnal meetings, against which part of the present law was levelled, ought to be provided against—but in what words did they express this desire?—" That they wish that whatever authority shall be given to prevent these meetings should be placed under such regulations as shall effectually prevent the abuse of it, and shall carry it as little as possible beyond the strict principles of the Constitution." But, Sir, did Mr. Barrington, so important an evidence, to whom the right hon. Gentleman had done right to call the attention of the House—did he bear out the right hon. Gentleman's assertions, that there was a conspiracy against the Government of the country?—No. Mr. Barrington stated "that he has never known a single instance of hostility or combination against the Government for the last seventeen years." But Mr. Barrington's evidence went even deeper than that—he was asked to what causes he attributed the outrages he had been describing: and he said "the cause was, that the people of Ireland were not attached to the law, and that the great object was, to make Irishmen attached to the law." Was it then likely to make the people more attached to 32 the law by stripping it of all its just forms and solemn decencies? Was it likely that the people of Ireland would believe justice more fairly administered when those who sat in judgment upon them were swords. Mr. Barrington said, moreover, that those persons who act as Jurors under the Insurrection Act are frequently maltreated, but that he never knew the slightest act of hostility against ordinary Jurors. While the Irish people, then, were not attached to the law, it was evident that it would be the more odious to them the more violent and harsh it was made. They would only be rendered still more furious, and still more ungovernable by these new and more severe measures. And then, said the witness, after stating that the unhappy miscreants were goaded to madness by measures of severity—then, said he—and the words seem to drop unconsciously from his lips—" The Irish peasant is very much attached to any one who treats him kindly." Was not this picture an affecting one? There was exasperation following upon violence, and docility attending upon conciliation. Was not the whole code of policy, past and future, contained in this sentence? And observe! The Ministers brought in these laws to prevent intimidation to Jurors; and it appeared that it was only when such laws existed that intimidation was to be dreaded. Here then was evidence as to the outrages which exist—as to the conspiracy supposed to exist—as to the causes of violence—as to the intimidation of Jurors, and as to the necessity for extraordinary measures—all in direct opposition to the Bill before the House. There was all this evidence against the present measure; he must repeat, against—not the unconstitutionality, but the inefficiency of the present measure; and he would, therefore, re-echo one phrase of the hon. and learned member for Leeds—namely, "that he could imagine nothing worse than the enactment of a measure, which, being unconstitutional, should also be ineffectual; "and now, having again had occasion to take notice of that hon. and learned Member, he would address himself to one or two parts of his speech, and to which he was the more disposed to reply, since the hon. and learned Member brought against a relative of his a charge of inconsistency, which he did not very clearly establish. His hon. relative voted against the Address, on the grounds that it was impossi 33 ble to pass a vote of approval on measues of coercion, without knowing what measures of conciliation were to attend upon it. And now, said the hon. and learned Member, was it not inconsistent, that, having given you measures of conciliation as well as measures of coercion, you still vote against us? His hon. relative might have been anxious to know two things—whether the measures of conciliation would have preceded the measures of coercion, and whether, if they did so, they would have been of that large and ample kind, that would have rendered others of a different description unnecessary. In that case there would have been no "coaxing with the hand and spurring with the heel;" the coaxing might have rendered the spurring unnecessary. But how was it, that the hon. Gentleman was for once, so singularly infelicitous in his allusions? Was there no inconsistency in the enemy to persecution supporting the suppression of petitions, and the eulogist of Hampden arguing against the legality of pacific resistance? The misfortune of distinguished ability was, that the words it made use of had a weight which rendered the impression indelible; and hardly had the hon. Gentleman's words of last night passed his lips, when his (Mr. Bulwer's) memory recurred to other words, which were the usual characteristics of the hon. Gentleman's genius. "The dissenting party increased, and became strong under every kind of discouragement and oppression. They were a sect. The Government persecuted them, and they became an Opposition. The old Constitution of England furnished to them the means of resisting the Sovereign without breaking the laws." Now, he had as much fear and horror at this quiet and legal resistance, where he saw it, as any man could have; because he looked upon it with a shudder, as a possible prelude to more terrible things. He feared it; but where it once had taken root, he feared that it could not be crushed by force; since the law under ordinary circumstances, was so powerful a law, that he knew but few instances of its being successfully resisted in this manner, except where—as the hon. member for Calne once said—it had ceased to be law, by wanting that which was the spirit of all law—the sanction of the people. Did the hon. Gentleman not remember this; and when he spoke of the volunteer body as only wanting responsibility to be a Go- 34 vernment, did it never occur to him, that a Government which wanted popularity wanted everything; and though it might be called a Government, yet it could not possess power? The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Jacobin Club; did he forget the contempt with which the term once applied was formerly treated by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government? He wished to say nothing-harsh of the hon. and learned Gentleman, whose great talents no one more admired than himself, but he could not help—as he saw the hon. Gentleman, and as certain recollections, in spite of himself, rose up about him, he could not help thinking of some of those illustrious literary men, known to the times of which he spoke, who, members of the Jacobin Club one year, were on the bench of the melancholy Administration of the Gironde the year following. But these kind of historical allusions, if they were not perfectly wrought out, were worse than useless; and when the hon. Gentleman was speaking of the Jacobin Club, and voting in favour of military law, he should remember, that the power of the Jacobins commenced from the unfortunate charge of the dragoons of the Prince de Lsmbesc. He heard the hon. Gentleman speak; he heard the cheers with which he sat down; and when he contrasted the feeble and half-doubtful cry with which he was attended then, with those reiterated thrice-repeated plaudits he remembered on former occasions, he could not help applying to him the words he had addressed to his hon. friend, the member for Tipperary—" Your eloquence is unquestioned; we must believe that your conviction is strong; and the natural inference to draw is, that your cause is bad." Now there were many Gentlemen in this House, who would never vote for placing the great powers conferred by this Bill in the hands of any but the hon. Gentlemen at present in office; nor would they now consent to pass these measures of coercion if they were not to be accompanied by measures of conciliation. He would not quote what had been perpetually repeated on this subject—namely, that the character of individuals, however exalted and excellent that character might be, ought never to be an argument for confiding extraordinary power in their hands, the propriety of granting which must be decided by the character of men in general. He would not repeat this; 35 for he knew that persons who had thus reasoned respecting others, might not be able to look at the case in the same light when it affected themselves. He knew how susceptible high and generous natures were of reproach or suspicion. He could perfectly understand how likely a noble person was to say: "What, can you think that I, whose hair has grown grey in defending the liberties of my country, would throw dirt into the last dregs of my life, by any attempt to destroy those liberties? What, do you choose to charge me, who am at this moment labouring to appease and conciliate, as if I never brought forward any measures but to irritate and coerce? "That noble person's character was fully before the House. They did ample justice to him and to his intentions; but they had a solemn public duty to perform to their constituents, to their country, and to posterity; and when that noble person spoke of his being in office, and of the measures he meant to carry, they were compelled to ask him: "Was he certain to remain in office? Was he certain that his conciliatory measures would be carried?"
§ Sir George Grey
said, that he trusted the House would indulge him for a few moments while he stated the reasons on which he should give his support to the present measure. It was with the greatest regret that he should give his support to this measure—a regret, not that it had been introduced, nor that it had been so introduced by the present Administration, who had justly acquired the confidence of the country by their attention to its best interests, but a regret occasioned by the paramount necessity for it which had been proved to exist. After he had heard the speech of the noble Lord who introduced the measure, and that of the right hon. Secretary, who had so forcibly and eloquently supported it, he felt that the blood shed in Ireland would rest on their heads, if they re fused to strengthen the hands of the Government, ordelay, even for the fortnight that was now asked, to pass the Bill. He denied, that he should support this Bill, as it was imputed to English Members, because it was a Bill to be applied to Ireland, about which they were reckless, but that they would not venture to support such a Bill for England. He did not regard Ireland as a province, but as an integral part of the Empire, and would deal with it under that feeling; and should the same paramount necessity for such a 36 measure exist in England, he should be ready to vote for a similar measure. If he were not ready to do so, he should deserve the imputation which had been cast, as he believed, most improperly, upon English Members. When he said, that he should, under similar circumstances of paramount necessity, be ready to vote for a similar measure, did he wish it to be supposed possible that this Bill could ever be drawn into a precedent for a bill of the same kind with respect to England? Certainly not. He denied the possibility of such an event. He knew that he should never be called on to vole for such a measure for this country, and he could therefore easily make such a promise without the slightest fear of ever being called on to perform it. He knew that there were causes which produced these outrages in Ireland—that that country had long suffered under grievances of no common kind—no one was more ready than himself to admit this. Feeling convinced of this, and feeling convinced, at the same time, that these causes did not exist in either England or Scotland, and that such causes never would exist, he should say, at once, that no Minister would ever be justified in coming down to that House, and asking for such a measure as this for England or Scotland. If, however, such an event were possible, he should be guilty of gross injustice in voting for this Bill, if he were not ready on a similar occasion to vote for a Bill of the same kind for England. He should support the measure, because he thought that a part of the empire imperiously required it. So disastrous had been the outrages, that he believed them to be the result of a conspiracy; in the language of the preamble—" So deeply rooted against the rights of property and the administration of the law,"—a conspiracy that had made the law a by-word, rendering it a protection to the guilty instead of the innocent, which prevented the Government of the day from bringing the offenders to justice, and who made the offender himself the sole Executive and Legislature of the country, and the administrator of his own law, which he administered with a severity unparalleled in the history of past or present times. The facts which had been stated by the noble Lord, and by the right hon. Gentleman, had not been denied, [Yes they have, from. Mr. O Connell and others.] A general statement had indeed been made, that Ireland was not in such a con- 37 dition as had been described; but the statements of the hon. Members who made that assertion were accompanied with accounts of a most aggravated state of things, which they attributed to what they called the accursed tithe-system. What was said last night by the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, but that all these disturbances were owing to the legislation of the Government, and to the measure introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, and that the state of Ireland was worse now than it had ever been? These statements were in themselves an admission of the truth of the facts disclosed by the speeches of the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman; and the question was, how this fearful state of things was to be remedied? He believed that it must be remedied by a measure like the present—that this measure must be adopted till the confidence of the people in that House was restored. That confidence had been destroyed in a great measure by the continued agitation that had been excited in Ireland. Far be it from him to impute motives, but he had a right to speak of tendencies, and he at once declared his belief, that whatever might be the motives of the speaker, the tendency of the speeches was to excite this dangerous agitation. It was not merely political nor predial agitation, but, according to the expression used by some hon. Members, agrarian ruffianism, that now existed. He would not say positively that the speeches he had mentioned had caused this, but he could not but remark that the two things existed together. If agitation was to be the remedy for the evils of Ireland, surely the hon. member for Dublin had had opportunity of applying the remedy to the full; and yet the evils still existed; nay, they were actually increased, and increased to a most alarming extent by its application. He repeated, that he did not wish to impute motives to the speakers, but he had a right to refer to the tendency of the speeches; and if he were inclined to go further, he thought he should be able to find ample justification for doing so. He should find it, not even in the speeches themselves, but in the explanation afterwards given. That explanation which had been drawn reluctantly—most reluctantly—from the hon. and learned member for Dublin, when he was dragged to that Table by the indignant cry of that House, who felt that their privileges were 38 insulted if the report of that hon. and learned Member's speech was correct—that very explanation was a strong argument and confirmation of the inference furnished by the speech itself. What was that explanation? Was it, that the report was false—that it was a misrepresentation of what had been uttered? No such thing. But that what had been written might easily get into the paper—that the reporter was guiltless, and the hon. Member at once accounted for the report. The hon. Member admitted, that the reporter, hearing the words, and writing them as they had been written, occasioned him no surprise; for he knew that what he had said might be easily misunderstood. He admitted, indeed, that what he had then said, was not what he should have said in his cooler moments; but that he spoke under the warmth of feeling, that one thought followed another with great rapidity, and that his meaning might easily be mistaken. But were there no such mistakes made in Ireland? Were there no speeches made there under similar feelings? If so, why were they not, too, contradicted? Because he who uttered them could not at once be arraigned at that Table for their utterance. He had no doubt that if the speeches uttered in Ireland were to be examined, they would be found to tend to anything but the maintenance of the peace of the country, or encouragement to the people to place their confidence in that assembly of their Representatives. He was impelled to entertain this belief of the object and tendency of these speeches, when he recollected the time chosen for their utterance. When was it, that the subject of the Repeal of the Union was brought forward? It was the very time when it was known that the constitution of the House was to be changed. He certainly could not divine the thoughts that passed in the breast of the hon. and learned Member, or state when it was that he first found out, that Repeal was the specific, and the only specific, for the evils of Ireland; but he re-asserted, that the great agitation of the Repeal of the Union was since the Reform Bill had been introduced by the present Government, and that it had been scarcely heard of before. He was satisfied the Government was friendly to the people of Ireland, and that it was their anxious wish to grant a full redress of grievances. He was inclined to think, that people in general were" of that opinion, 39 with particular exceptions, when they had been roused to resistance by agitation and angry speeches. If it were necessary to point out instances, he had only to appeal to statements which had been made at some of the meetings in Kilkenny. The people then were told, that no redress would be given by the Government, and that it was therefore necessary for them to obtain redress by their own means. That agitation had now been going on for three years—it had every day been increasing in violence, and had now arrived at such a pitch that the law in that part of the country was no protection to the peaceable inhabitants. Confidence, he was convinced, still was reposed in a Reformed Government, and some additional measures were absolutely necessary to restrain evil-doers, and protect the peaceably-inclined. He could not conscientiously refuse Ministers some additional power for the putting down of existing outrages, and to allow time for the operation of the remedial measures. When he said, that he would give them some additional power, he did not mean, that he would give them all that was contained in the Bill. His mind revolted from that clause which related to Courts-martial; but nobody, excepting the member for Tipperary, had proposed a substitute, and his substitute was still more objectionable. The hon. and learned Member proposed, that Special Juries should be appointed to try the cases. To such a proposition, he never could agree, because he saw that, on account of the outrages, many of the Gentlemen in the county might be actuated by strong feelings, from the prejudices which they had imbibed. It was argued that officers would not do their duty conscientiously, because they might be tempted to deviate from it by offers of promotion. It was said, too, that they would be influenced in their decisions by Irish gentry, but he was convinced, that neither supposition was true; and every English officer would spurn with disdain any attempt to sway him from the rigid path of justice and of duty by the allurements of promotion, or the claims of friendship. He should with great reluctance see the ordinary course of law dispensed with—he should regret to see the duty of Jurors transferred to a military tribunal—but, on looking at all the circumstances of the case, he saw nothing but such an alternative. If any other efficient and good plan could be proposed, he would 40 readily agree to it. At all events, he was willing the Bill should be read a first time; and he should not resist the third reading in its present shape, if no suggestion could be made, showing, that what was required was needless. Ministers undertook a fearful responsibility; but he believed they were aware of its extent, and were prepared to incur it. Of this he was sure, that they would not abuse their powers, and he hoped, that the effect of the mere passing of the law would be such that it would not be necessary to carry even its mildest provisions into execution. In the newspapers of this very day, he had seen some valuable evidence upon this point, at a meeting of the Magistrates of Waterford, in order to take measures to preserve the peace of the county in order that the Bill, when made law, might not be applied to them. He appealed to the report in the newspapers, and there he saw that the object of the meeting was, that the county of Waterford might be exempted from the operation of the measure. The Magistrates had done their duty, and they had obviously been awakened to a sense of that duty by the introduction of the Bill. On the subject of the application of the Bill, he earnestly hoped that it might not be wanted in the north of Ireland, although it was said that thousands of Irish were in arms there; but had the measure been extended only to the South, the hon. and learned member for Dublin might with some reason have accused Ministers of partiality. He earnestly hoped, and indeed confidently believed, that if it became necessary to act upon the Bill, the law would be fairly and equally administered.
§ Mr. Harvey
considered the admission made by the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House in such a creditable tone of candour and artless ingenuity, to be well worthy of consideration. He was convinced of the sincerity of the hon. Baronet, who had poured forth the honest impressions of his mind, fearless of the chastisement of practised oratory or of the refutation of subtle reasoning. The hon. Baronet, while admitting that the present Bill, though applying only to Ireland, was an experiment for England, said, that if the same circumstances which justified its adoption in Ireland should occur in this country, he would be as willing to support its application here. Now, this was the very thing that the opponents of the Bill in England apprehended. They dreaded 41 that the experiment having been tried and found to succeed in Ireland, it would not be long till it was also tried here. And what, after all, did the case adduced by the noble Lord in favour of its adoption amount to? He did not mean to imply a doubt of the truth of the noble Lord's case, or of the sincerity of his inferences, but he would confidently maintain, that the noble Lord had quoted no case of atrocity or outrage in Ireland which had not been exceeded in England, not only in quality, but in number. Had they heard of any city in Ireland which had been the scene of such acts of pillage and incendiarism as the city of Bristol? What castle in Ireland had been consumed by the fires of rebellion like those of Nottingham? What scenes of "agrarian ruffianism "in Ireland equalled those in Hampshire, which had been the subject of a Special Commission, and which had called down the severest punishment of the law? Exaggerate the cases of outrage in Ireland as they would, they were far distanced in atrocity and number by those which had not long since occurred in England, and for which no man ventured to propose extraordinary measures of coercion. But it was idle to diguise the fact; the Bill was not aimed at the outrages of Ireland, but at one man, whom Ministers found a thorn in their sides, and whom it was easier to tyrannically oppress than conquerin open argument—a man who had done much for his country, and to the exertion of whose unrivalled talents the very Ministers who were now endeavouring to crush him were eminently indebted for their present position—the hon. and learned member for Dublin. Nothing had struck him so much in the whole course of the debate as the total forget fulness of the enormous debt of gratitude on the part of Ministers to that hon. and learned Member. His speeches might not always be characterised by the soundest wisdom or discretion; but recollecting the course he had so long pursued, the title of the Bill upon the Table ought rather to have been, "A Bill to put down the patriotic efforts of the member for Dublin." This recognition of his importance was due from those who were so deeply indebted to him; for the Roman Catholic claims would not to this day have been conceded but for the exertion of his talents—the Whigs had long been entangled in the difficulties of the subject, and he had at 42 last removed the stumbling-block to their re-admission into office. And yet, in order to prevent this man, to whom they and his country and the empire were so much indebted, from continuing his exertions for the removal of the grievances of Ireland, they were content to prostrate in the dust that Constitution which was the boast of Englishmen, and the subject of the panegyric and eloquent envy of all foreigners. He repeated, the Bill should be entitled, "An Act to prevent Mr. O'Connell from continuing his patriotic efforts for his country," and not a Bill to prevent outrages. It was particularly aimed at crushing of agitation upon the question of a Repeal of the Union. He would maintain that it was not only the right, but the duty of every man in either country, who conscientiously believed that a Repeal of the Union would benefit either England or Ireland, openly to express his opinions, and advocate the Repeal of that law as he would the Repeal of a Turnpike Bill. If the Union could not be maintained upon its merits—if it were not sanctified by its Utility, it ought to be abrogated. Were they afraid to meet the advocates of that measure, that they thus suppressed all discussion of it with the iron hand of the law, and not only suppressed the discussion of it, but proposed to suppress all public meetings whatever in Ireland? Were hon. Members aware of what they were doing? Did they deceive themselves, that while despotism might to-day be perpetrated towards Ireland, it might not to-morrow be extended here? He was confident that, if this Bill passed into a law, before twelve months—if the present Administration remained in office—a similar experiment would be made to put down public meetings in England. If Ministers were true to their own principles, it must be so; for what was their avowed object? To put down agitation and public meetings in Ireland. [No]. He said yes; for the Bill would effectually put down all meetings in Ireland held for the purpose of discussing national grievances, unless previously sanctioned by the Lord Lieutenant. That functionary being, then, vested with the power of suppressing all meetings which he might not happen to approve, it followed that the people would be debarred of all means of petitioning even the Legislature for a redress of their grievances, unless the Lord Lieutenant also considered them grievances. Ministers greatly de- 43 ceived themselves if they supposed, that the people of England would look on, cool approvers of such a despotic proceeding. If the people did not urgently press them, in reference to their past or future measures, they deceived themselves in attributing their silence to apathy or approval. The people were jealously watchful of their proceedings. Could the Ministers think they were upon a bed of roses? He meant as to the expectations of the country. When Reform ended, expectation began, and he believed that the people at this time had strong confidence in the deliberations and decisions of the House of Commons—that it was, in fact, the mirror of the public mind; and he believed it would be difficult at this time to get up a county meeting upon almost any subject, since it would be urged that it was needless to interfere with a House of Commons that could be trusted, or to impede a Ministry that had only in view the general welfare of the empire. If, however, the people found the Ministers hastily sanctioning a measure like the present, fraught with the worst ills of the worst despotism of the worst times of corrupt Parliament—Martial Law—on such silky representations as those of the noble Lord and his colleagues, they would withdraw their confidence, and assume another attitude. They would not permit their Irish fellow-subjects, with whom, in spite of all insidious attempts to excite local prejudices and national antipathies, they felt themselves connected by ties of the strongest sympathy, to be trampled under foot by men who hitherto had been the loudest in shouting for popular liberty. And then mark the consequence: if the English should deem it proper to meet for the purpose of discussing the expediency of a Repeal of the Legislative Union, would Ministers bring in a bill to suppress such meetings? And if not, would they permit in England what they put down in Ireland with the strong arm of the law—law, did he say? No, by means unknown to the British Constitution. Ministers had declared that they would stand or fall by the measure, that on it they staked their character as men, as statesmen, and as Ministers. Their declaration had been regretted by the hon. opener of that night's debate, but, as he thought, most unwarrantably. He conceived it did them honour, and that every Administration was bound to stake its official existence on 44 measures of decided policy like the present. But how would the people feel in reference to the declaration? No doubt Ministers had deserved since their accession to office: they all remembered the sacrifice of individual views and opinions which had been made by reformers in general in order to secure the Ministers in their places. But this could not always continue: a more pernicious doctrine could not be inculcated than that a great and intelligent people only possessed one set of men fitted to preside over its affairs. Ministers very much mistook their position in the country—very much overrated their own merits, if they, for a moment, persuaded themselves, as the cast of their declarations would imply, that if they threw up office, every thing in the empire would be thrown into confusion—that it would be a great political chaos—that Ireland, having severed the cable which bound it to the mother-country, the two islands would henceforth float on the mighty waters, unpitied and unknown! There would be little difficulty in providing a Ministry not inferior in all the requisites of statesmen: half the Political Unions throughout the country could send forth men at least their equals in knowledge and eloquence. The time was when Government was a mystery; now it was generally understood to be a very simple thing—the promoting the happiness of the greatest number at the least expense, and by the simplest means. The people of England made utility the test of laws; and so far as they stood the test, and no further, they yielded them a willing obedience. No institutions could stand ten years in this country, unless recommended by utility. By this all their institutions would be tested—the monarchy itself—their hereditary distinctions, and the appanages with which both were surrounded, would not escape the trial. If they stood the test, they would only be strengthened by the trial; if they fell, it would be only from their own weakness, and, on their ruin would be raised a simpler and a purer system. He, therefore, had little concern as to the men who might succeed to power; indeed, he had no apprehension of even a Tory Administration. If they persisted in measures like the present, they would find that the words of the right hon. member for Westminster might prove too true—that they would find that the only chance they would have of escaping what that 45 right hon. Gentleman called an "uncomfortable position" would be their being released from it by the justly-roused suspicion, if not indignation of the people. They would find, when it might be too late, that a Whig was not much more than a Tory in the eyes of the people, save as their merits—indeed, it was his conscientious belief that one of the happiest events that could happen to this country would be a Tory Government, corrected by, and acting under a due recollection of its former errors. He was not one who questioned the purity of the motives of others, yet he could not help expressing a belief that if the present Ministers were in their old scats on the "opposite-benches," and that the present measure had been proposed by a Tory Government, recommended by a meagre statement in which some thirteen outrages were spread over fourteen months, that the Speaker would be puzzled to distinguish who "first caught his eye" in the file of Whigs that would rise in arms against it. One after one they would ring the changes on the principles on which their progenitors had called the House of Brunswick to the Throne, on the constitutional rights of the subject, and much would be said about their great ancestors, the Russells, the Hampdens, and the Somers's, and the Tories would be denounced as traitors eager to immolate the liberties of the country. If the measure now proposed were, as its supporters alleged, a mere means of protecting the unprotected in Ireland, he would support it; but as it was a concentration of conspiracies against the people of that country, he would oiler it every opposition in his power. No men uncradled in despotism, and not the blindest devotees to despotism, could have proposed such a monstrous measure—a measure, of which one clause alone was a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; another, the establishing Courts-martial; a third, made the entire rights and liberties of a whole nation depend on the arbitrary nod of one man; another was a great trumpet proclamation, whose echo would be the blast of death; while, as a finale, another crushed the liberty of the press, and the right of petitioning for redress of grievances—a measure without parallel in the annals of despotism, be it Whig or Tory. Who was the Attorney General that concocted that atrocious measure? Indeed, he was sure no single man could have framed it, and that its sapient author 46 must have sought counsel in the lowest depths of hell to aid him in his infernal purpose. They had heard great authoritiescited in the course of the present debate, with a view to reconcile them to the outrageous suspension of the Constitution. He would quote the words of a man, the latchet of whose shoes his successors were not worthy to unloose—Lord Chatham. The words were quoted with great felicity by Mr. Erskine, in opposition to Mr. Pitt's Seditious Meetings Bill, in 1795:—"If we mean seriously to unite the nation within itself, we must convince them that their complaints are regarded, and that their grievances shall be redressed. On that foundation I would take the lead in recommending peace and harmony to the people. On any other, I would never wish to see them united again. If the breach in the Constitution be effectually repaired, the people will, of themselves, return to a state of tranquillity; if not, may discord prevail for ever! I know to what point this doctrine and this language will appear directed; but I feel the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve. The crisis is indeed alarming, so much the more does it require a prudent relaxation on the part of Government. If the King's servants will not permit a constitutional question to be decided on, according to the forms, and on the principles of the Constitution, it must then be decided in some other manner; and, rather than it should be given up, rather than the nation should surrender their birthright to a despotic minister, I hope, my Lords, old as I am, I shall see the question brought to issue, and fairly tried between the people and the Government." With the sanction of the sentiments of the venerable and illustrious Earl of Chatham, he would maintain that the people of England should defend their rights, if necessary, by the last extremity to which free men could resort. "For my own part," said Mr. Erskine, "I shall never cease to struggle in support of liberty. In no situation will I desert the cause. I was born a free man, and, by God, I will never die a 'slave.'"* This, then, was the Bill, by which the Government endeavoured to conciliate those who gave them suspicious counsel. This was the offering which they*Hansard, (parl, hist.) xxxii. p. 31347 tendered to their enemies, and this the proof of their desertion of the people who were to be told that, in the hereditary council of the nation, they would find their most determined foes. But it was said, that though a vast quantity of eloquent invective had been poured forth against this measure, nobody had ventured to suggest any other means by which Ireland might be tranquillized. He was ready to express his acknowledgment of the calm and temperate manner in which this subject had been introduced to the House by the noble Lord opposite; and he regretted that the noble Lord's example had not been copied by all who followed him on the other side. But he asked the House, were they to be hurried into the adoption of measures of infatuation by mere appeals to their passions, and violent attacks on some political rival, which were entirely unworthy of the great talents so perverted? He apprehended, indeed, that the present measure might be attributed to a species of pride, of which they had had of late no slight exhibition in that House. But, instead of giving way to such a feeling, he thought that those who composed the Irish Government would have acted a more noble part, if they had shown themselves less accessible to popular prejudices. He believed, that if his Majesty had been advised to send to Ireland the Duke of Sussex, bearing in his hand the scroll of a charter, in which Ireland was to participate in common with England, and by which the two countries would be united, not only in name, but in deed; and if, at the same time, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had unfolded his latent benefits for that country, there would not then have been the smallest necessity for the present measure. They were told that it was to be accompanied by measures of amelioration. Of coercion they were certain; but were they so certain of the redress of acknowledged grievances? Why-did not the two measures run together from the other House to this? When Ministers had made up their minds to throw the odium of this Bill on the House of Lords, why did they not try to mitigate it in some degree by allowing their Lordships to be the originators of healing measures? Why was not the Church Reform Bill introduced by some occupant of the holy seat in the other House? That would, indeed, have been a soothing measure, and a sign of "good things to come." 48 That, indeed, would have been a text from which they might have long discoursed, and would have had a better effect on the moral feelings of the community than many sermons. The conciliatory measures, however, had not yet been introduced into the House of Lords, and his Majesty's Ministers might yet have to come down with—" We intended to bring forward most beneficial measures—no Government could have intended it more sincerely; but we were unpopular in the House of Lords, and suspected by the people, and we could not carry our measures. We could not touch the revenues of the Church—in that we were defeated; but we have the satisfaction of thinking that we have secured the property of the Clergy in Ireland, and collaterally in England, for we have so bound up the people in a system of legislative tyranny, that they can neither read, nor write, nor speak, nor do anything hereafter to shake off" the burthen of tithes." It was said elsewhere, by a noble Lord, that they could not expect allegiance, unless they gave protection. That had been so often said, that it had become an aphorism. Let them apply it to Ireland. How did they give protection to the people of that country. Could the House fancy that, even in the most savage country, there existed such a mass of unprotected beings as were now starving on the soil of Ireland? The Irish people had no protection. You give them the right of sepulture—and leave them to mourn over each other's graves—and you dole out your charity to their distressed children; but this was not protection. Every human being who breathed had a right to subsistence from the country which gave him birth, in return for which he must give his labour. The Irish were willing to labour; but where was the fund out of which that starving, but loyal population might claim to be supported? There were many, however, in that House, as well as out of it, who, though they admitted the principle of support being due to all the people, as applicable to this country, were not willing to apply it to Ireland. He knew the language commonly held out of doors on this subject. It was said: "Those Irish really must be treated in a manner different from other people; they have been for 700 years, a wandering, discontented race—ever ready for a fight, and have something so convulsive in their natures, that if you do not keep them down by severe enact- 49 ments, they will be constantly in a state of agitation and disturbance." That was the language applied commonly out of doors to the people of Ireland. As an Englishman, however, he asserted that it was a foul libel on the people of that country. It was language that they dare not apply in the hour of peril, when the people of Ireland were their pride and their safety. Trace them in any situation. In mental exertions did the natives of any other country leave them behind? At the post of danger were they not foremost? There was no labour from which they shrank—there was no danger which they shunned—there was no difficulty which they avoided—there was no allegiance which they denied; and they only resisted when the laws of nature compelled them to do so. What would the people of this country be, if it were not for the 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. distributed every year amongst them under the name of Poor-rates? He was not now about to enter into a discussion on the principle of the Poor-laws; but he asserted it as an incontrovertible principle, that every man who held property, held it on the condition that the people should be fed. It was very well for those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen who had such mighty incomes, that it put an ordinary man's arithmetic to the test to calculate them—it was very well, he said, for such persons to talk of their estates and their fortunes; but they were only the trustees of the people; and unless the people were able to support themselves by their own industry, they must come, and would be entitled to come, to the properties of these noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen. If, by any chance, or under any circumstances, the people could not be employed, he only asked were they to starve? He might be asked, after what he had said, whether he would introduce Poor-laws into Ireland? His answer was decidedly, he would. It was a maxim which, in the face of so many lawyers as sat opposite to him, he should not presume to controvert, that the King could command the allegiance of his subjects. The present Bill was an illustration how that rule might be applied. It was said, that every man's house was his castle. They were now about to sanction a Bill which would turn every man's cottage into a gaol. If they drove the poor man into his cottage, why not drive the rich man into his castle? Was 50 it even-handed justice that the rich landed proprietor should be allowed to revel in luxury from the labours of those who, after their toil, were not permitted to quit their wretched abodes to breathe the air of heaven, or enjoy the beauties of nature? As the Irish peasant was not to be permitted to pass the threshold of his cottage, why not compel the wealthy Irish landed proprietor to return to his home? He felt, that he was trespassing too long on the attention of the House; but he could not sit down without quoting the opinion of that great and enlightened statesman, Mr. Fox, upon a measure which did not contain a tithe of the barbarous enactments contained in the Bill now under consideration. Speaking of Mr. Pitt's "Sedition Bill," Mr. Fox said, Nothing was more clear than that the House of Commons ought never to proceed upon any measure that might trespass upon the rights of the people, without evidence that was decisive, even in cases of extreme necessity. He declared, that he would never attend to the detail of a measure, which, in its essence, was so detestable. Good God Almighty (continued Mr. Fox) is it possible that the feelings of the people of this country should be so insulted; is it possible to make the people of this country believe that this plan is not a total annihilation of their liberty? I do hope that this Bill will produce an alarm;—that while we have the power of assembling, the people will assemble; that while they have the power, they will not surrender it; but come forward and state their abhorrence of this proceeding; and those who do not, I pronounce to be traitors to their country. Good God, Sir, what madness, what phrenzy, has overtaken the authors of this measure? A question which he would leave Mr. Fox's successors and political admirers on the Treasury Bench to answer. As for himself, having thus strongly expressed his uncompromising hostility to the principles of this atrocious Bill, he would not descend to take any part in its details. For one, he would enter into no treaty with tyranny.
§ Lord John Russell
said, on the last occasion when he spoke, after the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had complimented him on the candour with which he had avowed his opinions. He had to pay the learned Gentleman a like compliment on the present occasion. Notions and doctrines of a more extravagant nature were never 51 advanced in this House, and if acted upon to their full extent, they would lead to the destruction of all property, to the revolution of all society, and to the annihilation of all order in the community. He confessed, that the measure before the House was alarming and arbitrary in its nature, and that it could not be adopted without pain by any one who had imbibed a reverence for free institutions. He deeply regretted, that it had been imposed on Ministers by a stern necessity; but being convinced of the existence of that necessity, they would not shrink from performing their duty, though it was the most unpleasant which could be imposed on them. He had resolved to address himself to this awful and solemn subject with calmness and temper; but he owned that the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech had almost shaken him from his determination. He could not believe his ears when he heard his right hon. friend's statement, which made so great an impression on the House, not less from the horrible detail which it gave of atrocious crimes, than from the eloquence and ability with which they were described, characterized as a "silky representation." Was it possible that the hon. and learned Gentleman had called the manifold murders and outrages which were unfortunately so frequent in Ireland, only thirteen cases of irregularity in Ireland? What, when men at their toil had been stoned in the fields—when women were cruelly butchered in their houses—when children, even innocent children, were beaten and murdered by ruffians—were they to be told, that such deeds were only "irregularities?" The hon. and learned Member knew how to garble a statement with colours borrowed from that Bill of which he spoke, and had dismissed the long list of outrages with the appropriate title, no doubt, of "thirteen cases of irregularity in Ireland." Before he proceeded further, he would make one or two observations on the Amendment moved by his right hon. friend, the member for Lambeth, to adjourn the first reading of this Bill for a fortnight. In his opinion, it would be more in accordance with the character of legislators, and more consistent with their dignity, to apply themselves boldly to the present measure if it were requisite; or if it were not requisite, at once to put a direct negative on it. His right hon. friend (Mr. Tenny-son) had said, that this was not a question 52 on which the Ministers ought to stake the tenure of their offices. On this point he entirely differed from his right hon. friend. If the Ministers thought, that they could not give protection to property—that the force of Government was insufficient to secure the lives and property of the King's loyal subjects, and called upon Parliament to strengthen their hands by further powers, he could not conceive a more degraded situation than they would stand in, if after making that proposition, and after it should have been rejected by Parliament, they still remained in office. They brought forward measures which they considered necessary to enable them to carry on the Government, and Parliament was to decide between three things—whether they would allow the Government of Ireland to be in the hands of the midnight legislators, the Whitefeet—or in those of an individual, wielding the democracy of Ireland at his command—or whether they would assert and maintain it to be in the Crown, and in the Parliament of a united people? The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Harvey) had prophesied that Ministers would fail in their attempt to carry the present Bill, and that a new Administration must be formed. The hon. and learned Member added, that he thought a Tory Government, corrected of its former errors, would be the best Government. He should not envy them their situation, supported as they would be by Gentlemen, who thought, that the present Administration did not go far enough in the way of Reform. A Tory Government would find it a very difficult matter, in the present temper of the country, to carry on the affairs of the nation, and at the same time give satisfaction to those Gentlemen. He would be ready to give them, as far as he consistently could, his support; and though they might be obliged, as in former times, to propose a coercive measure for Ireland, perhaps the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Harvey) would not be so disposed to find fault with them, if, having a clearer perception of his merits than the present Administration, they should have appointed him to some lucrative post. He thought it extremely probable that such a Government might reckon on the support of the hon. and learned Gentleman, even in a measure of coercion, though the present Government were not fortunate enough to obtain it. He had been diverted from what he had 53 intended to say upon the Bill itself, and he should, therefore, be compelled to trespass longer upon the attention of the House than he had originally contemplated. He should commence by referring to the state of Ireland in the year 1828, for when Gentlemen spoke, as some Gentlemen had spoken in the course of this debate, of the impolicy and injustice of legislating against an individual, it was necessary, for the sake of those who did not bear it in their recollection, to refer to the history of the state of Ireland for the few last years. The question of the Roman Catholic claims was, as everybody knew, for a long series of years, a matter of serious and violent dispute, both in Parliament and in the country. Whilst one side of the House gave to those claims constant support, the Gentlemen who sat on the Ministerial side of it were divided upon the policy to be pursued regarding them; and the personal influence of the Crown was generally employed in creating and maintaining that division of opinion. The effect of the great measure of Catholic relief being so long delayed was, that there came at last a period at which one individual was enabled to appeal, and to appeal with success, to the passions of the people of Ireland. The influence which that individual acquired by that appeal was exercised in a manner which constituted a case the most extraordinary that ever occurred in the history of any country. For many months an association held its sittings in Dublin, which organized branch associations, interfered in trials, directed public opinion, and all but governed the country. What was the consequence? At the end of that time, when Parliament re-assembled for the performance of public business, the Ministers, who brought forward the question of Catholic Emancipation, thought it necessary to bring forward a bill to put down the Catholic Association, and to arm the Lord Lieutenant with power to prohibit such associations in future. But that extraordinary power which had been acquired by one individual, and which had been held by him in consequence of the delay which took place in granting those claims, which ought to have been conceded years before, was not destroyed or done away with by that bill. It was owing, he would say, to the good feeling of the people of Ireland that, out of gratitude to that individual for his ex- 54 ertions, they blindly did all that he recommended, and supported all the measures which he occasionally brought forward. He did not mean to say, whether it were from unwillingness to part with power, or from a desire to gain some greater object, or from the purer motives of patriotism, that that individual continued to recommend to his countrymen agitation for certain purposes; but he did mean to say, that the individual in question, the hon. member for Dublin, had not the same success in his second career of agitation that he had in his first. During the first agitation this extraordinary case happened, that while the people were excited to the utmost, the public peace was preserved; and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had said, the perpetration of outrages was prevented by the existence of the Catholic Association. But when the second agitation commenced, the result was not similar; on the contrary, wherever agitation was tried, outrages commenced of the most violent and detestable kind—outrages, which for a time the law was able to suppress, but which in the end overcame the law, and prostrated it at the feet of a ruthless and sanguinary rabble. It was in evidence before the Committee on the state of Ireland, that in many places where this agitation prevailed, the Whitefeet were the same persons who attended the tithe meetings. They were ready to accept of agitation for one purpose—namely, to get rid of the tithe system—but they were also prepared to remedy their own grievances, which went beyond the tithe system, and extended in many cases to the ejection of persons from lands which they thought other parlies were better entitled to hold. His right hon. friend near him had stated, on a former night, that of 150 outrages of this kind, not one had been tried. He remembered, that in the month of December last, there had been scarcely one case of outrage committed connected with tithe, but many outrages of a different character. Yesterday he had received a letter, stating that on the night of the 18th of February, six or eight violent outrages had been perpetrated—all for the purpose of compelling persons to surrender land. They were told, however, that this was not political agitation: nevertheless, it had been set on foot by those whom political agitation had first moved—by men who, having been told that the best mode of obtaining a redress of 55 grievances was to make resistance where resistance was legally due, thought right to make resistance in other cases where it was not legal, by the commission of nocturnal outrages, robberies, and murders. Such being the state of the country, and his noble friend, and his right hon. friend near him having entered into many details to illustrate it, the question was, how could they remedy such great evils? Could the House permit such outrages to continue? The hon. and learned member for Tipperary was anxious, on grounds of humanity, that the Courts to be established under this Bill should not have the power of whipping. He gave the hon. and learned Gentleman full credit for his humanity; but was the House to have no humanity for those who were daily and nightly tortured by apprehensions of impending danger? Were they to reserve all their compassion for the authors, and not to retain any for the victims of these organized outrages? He now came to the consideration of the Bill which his Majesty's Government had introduced for the remedy of these disorders. It was unfair to state, that this Bill put down all meetings held in Ireland with the intention of petitioning the Legislature. It did no such thing; it merely gave the Lord Lieutenant the power of stopping such meetings, if he deemed it expedient, in counties or districts which he had proclaimed as disturbed. The clause of the Act which referred to this point referred to the disturbed districts only; and he might say generally, that it was only intended to prevent those meetings which were likely to be dangerous to the peace, and to stop the progress of those evils which had now risen to so unfortunate a height. There were two provisions of the Bill which had met with serious objections. One of them was that clause which referred the trial of those offences to a military court, not establishing Martial Law, but giving the trial of offences at Common Law to a military tribunal. With regard to that clause, the proper point to be considered was this—" In what other hands can you better place this jurisdiction?" He had heard many suggestions in lieu of these military tribunals, and none better than this—that you should place this jurisdiction in the hands of a King's Counsel, and a Special Jury consisting of the gentry of the county. He agreed with his hon. and learned friend, the member for Leeds, in 56 saying, that when it was necessary to deviate from the Constitution, he would rather have a measure totally unlike, than a measure something like the Constitution. He confessed, that to him it appeared to be the most dangerous thing in the world to have the shadow of a free Constitution, and to lose the substance. He would briefly explain what he meant by that assertion. If, in an Unreformed Parliament, it had pleased the House of Commons to say, that thirty or forty individuals should have the right of naming all the Members who were to sit within it, and that that right should be saleable in the market, there would have been no difficulty in showing that such an open mockery of representation was a violation of the Constitution, and must be altered. It was because individuals who only represented themselves came into that House as the Representatives of the people that the abuse became dangerous—that it increased to such a formidable height, and that it lasted so long, in spite of all the opposition which it had to encounter. Now, what was proposed instead of these military tribunals? That the Judge should not be taken from the ordinary Judges of the land, but should be taken from the King's Counsel or Serjeants, who were Judges in expectancy, and that the Jury should not be chosen from the common panel, but from the list of Special Jurors,—that is, you would establish a Judge without independence, and a Jury without impartiality. That would be a shadow without a substance. For his part, he thought it much safer to have a tribunal completely different—and totally separate—from the ordinary civil tribunals of the country; because if the tribunal vested with these arbitrary powers, at the same time had the name of a Judge and of a Jury connected with it,—there might be an inducement to perpetuate the system, and to deprive Ireland of free institutions altogether. He would rather have a coercive measure that was unlike, than a coercive measure that was like the Constitution. He said the same with regard to the Habeas Corpus Act. If those who had first proposed the suspension of it had attempted to fritter away that suspension, by limitations and mitigated modifications of it, we might not now be enjoying its benefits. It was because they suspended it altogether that the Habeas Corpus Act was now subsisting in all its power. It 57 was because they gave the King power to the full extent to dispense with that Act, that we could now boast of its giving us at present not only the name but also the reality of freedom. For that reason he preferred the military tribunal to one nearer the common forms of the Constitution. Deeply should he lament to see the Judges of the land, or those who were likely to fill that high station, employed to try offenders without the assistance of a Jury. Nothing was better calculated to corrupt the minds of men than the accustoming them to have recourse to extraordinary powers. Military men were in the habit of deciding without the intervention of a Jury; but if they placed judicial characters, and those who were almost as much engaged in judicial proceedings as the Judges themselves—he meant members of the Bar—in the situation of military men, who could say, that those learned individuals would not get enamoured of their extraordinary powers and say, that trial without Juries was necessary for the ordinary administration of justice in Ireland? He was afraid that, owing to the provision that no officer should sit upon these Courts-martial who was not of full age, and of two years standing in the army, a false impression had been made upon the public mind respecting these Courts-martial. It appeared to be a general notion that these Courts-martial would be composed of nothing else than young officers, who had just attained their twenty-first year. This was about as erroneous as to suppose, that because there was an Act of Parliament declaring that no man should sit in that House for any borough who was not twenty-one years of age, and in possession of a qualification of 300l. a-year, that House did not contain among its Members a single individual who was more than twenty-one years old, or who possessed more than 300l. a-year. He saw no reason why there should be any limitation as to the number of years during which the officer had served; he thought that if the officer were twenty-one years of age, it was enough, for a civilian at twenty-one was capable of serving upon Juries; and he believed, that the education of a young officer, from his station in life, was likely to be quite as vigilantly looked after, as that of any ordinary Juryman who was called on to decide matters of life and death. Another provision of the Bill, 58 which had raised considerable objection, was that which gave the right of visiting and searching the houses of suspected persons. He felt this objection as strongly as any man, but its force was overcome by the fact that every gentleman who was either a native of Ireland, or connected with Ireland by property, thought that this provision was absolutely necessary. Whilst upon this point, he would ask the House to remember what was the provision contemplated by the Committee which reported last year on the state of Ireland. The hon. and learned member for Tipperary had told the House, that the Committee had not recommended the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; but he had forgot to tell them, that they recommended the adoption of a measure by which, if a person was found absent from his home more than once, he should be held to bail for his good behaviour, and, in default of bail, should be liable to imprisonment. There was no need of a Jury to have him held to bail, and yet, if he refused to find bail, he must be committed to prison. These were the words of the Report:—" The warrant to be executed always in the presence of a Magistrate, and the persons who may be absent from their houses to be summoned by the Court of Sessions, and if unable to give a satisfactory explanation to the Court of the cause of their being absent, a record to be made of the conviction of their absence; those persons who shall be found absent a second time to give bail for their good behaviour for twelve months, and, in default of doing so, to be committed to the county gaol for one month." He said therefore, most decidedly, that the opinion of the Committee was, that a person should be liable to punishment, without the intervention of a Jury, if he were twice absent by night from his home. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told the House, that the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland had stated, in his charge to the Grand Jury of the Queen's County, that the present law was sufficient for the repression of these outrages; but he had not told the House that the Committee did not agree with the Lord Chief Justice on that point, but were of opinion that other provisions were necessary. Now, an extraordinary case must have been made out before the Committee, or the Members would not have violated the usual practice of Committees by making distinct pro- 59 posals for the suppression of these outrages. The making of such proposals was almost invariably left by Committees to the Executive Government; but when we find a Committee, consisting chiefly of Members elected by popular constituencies, making such proposals at the very time when they were about to appeal again to their constituents, we must admit that the case must have been strong which had led them to so unusual a determination. The hon. and learned member for Tipperary had taunted him with inconsistency because he supported this measure now, after having opposed a similar measure some years ago; and the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just preceded him had said: "If such a law had been proposed by a Tory Administration, the Whigs would have risen in files to oppose it." He hoped that both the hon. Gentlemen would listen to the answer which he was going to give to this charge. In the year 1822, on the 7th of February, the Administration came forward and proposed the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the enactment of the Insurrection Act. They did so upon their own statement, and upon their own responsibility; they asked for no inquiry, they reverted to no Committee, but they introduced the Bill as the present Government had introduced this measure, upon the proper feeling, that such a measure should be introduced upon their single and undivided responsibility. There was a discussion on the measure on Thursday, the 7th of February; the Bill was then read a first time; very lew persons divided against it; and he (Lord John Russell), feeling that the measure was necessary, did not come down to oppose it. When the debate was over, the late Lord Londonderry proposed that the second reading should take place that night, in order that the Bill might be committed and read a third time the next night, that it might then be sent in to the Lords on the Saturday, and after passing through all its stages in one night in that House, be sent off without delay to Ireland. It was not read a second and a third time that day; but, within a week, both measures were passed and sent to Ireland. Now, if the Administration of the day had met with the opposition that the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House had stated it had met, it could not have passed those Bills, for there were two of them, within the short 60 space of a week. His opinion was—and he had always avowed it—his opinion was, that acts of this description rested for their justification on the necessity of the case. He believed, that if the hon. and learned member for Dublin were in full possession of power, he would not be slow in producing a measure to suppress these outrages. The hon. and learned Member had admitted that the greatest sufferers by these outrages were not Protestants but Catholics, and had said, that he was ready to agree to any law which would make it a misdemeanor for a man to be absent from his house at night. If such were the case, what became of this charge of inconsistency and desertion of principle, so confidently made against his right hon. colleagues and himself? The present was a case, in which every man must judge, according to his honest conviction, whether these laws were necessary or not. If they were not necessary, let them not be enacted; but if they were necessary, he called upon Gentlemen not to shrink from the duty which they owed to their country, but to pass them at once. Let them be assured that, whatever measures of concession, conciliation, or improvement might be necessary, that must be a great improvement which rendered life and properly safe. Talk of men not obtaining employment! How could they expect to gain employment when the inland conveyance of goods on canals for the purposes of trade was interrupted in open daylight by bands of armed men traversing the country? From whom could employment come except from men in the possession of capital? And what capitalist would vest his capital in Ireland until he was certain that his property would not be destroyed, and his servants would not be murdered, in performing his business? If employment be wanted in Ireland, pass acts to give it to the people; but do not fancy that you are doing your duty towards Ireland by refusing your consent to a measure without which life and liberty would be left insecure, and made the sport of every miscreant or ruffian who may delight in blood. He was convinced that by subduing insurrection, while they maintained, as they ought, the authority of the laws and the dignity of the Crown, it would be confessed in the end, even by those who were averse to own it now, that they had been the best friends to the peace, the liberty, and the prosperity of Ireland.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down, that the Whitefeet ought to be put down, but differed from him in thinking that the Constitution ought not to be put down with them. They must stretch forth every arm to put down the Whitefeet, but they must also exert every nerve to keep tip the Constitution. Of what use was the Constitution, handed down to us from our progenitors, and cemented by the blood of our most illustrious patriots, among whom the noble Lord's ancestors stood proudly preeminent—of what use, he asked, was that Constitution, if it could be destroyed by the agitation of a body of Whitefeet, who confined their ravages to four counties of Ireland? Could the noble Lord show him any case, occurring either in time of foreign invasion or of domestic rebellion, in which a tithe of the arbitrary power which it was now proposed to place in the hands of a single dictator, was ever before intrusted to the Executive Government? Did he suppose that 8,000,000 of Irishmen would calmly submit to have their rights spoliated by these Whitefeet, who might have been put down long since had the Aristocracy done their duty? He asserted, that the gentlemen of the Queen's County had abandoned their duty to their King and to their country. Punish them, if you like, for it; but do not, on account of their misconduct, take from the people of Ireland the right of petition; do not stifle the liberty of the Press, nor strangle the rights and privileges of every man in that kingdom. For his own part he would rather cut off his hand than give his assent to this atrocious and oppressive Bill. The right hon. Secretary had endeavoured to make out a case to justify the passing of this Bill; but in doing so he had been guilty of a dereliction of his duty. The right hon. Secretary had only stated half a case; for, in alluding to the murders of Marum, Potts, and Gregory, he had carefully kept out of sight the provocations which had led to those atrocities. Had the right hon. Gentleman read over the evidence taken before the Committee on the state of Ireland—a Committee from which he had so sedulously absented himself? Had he read the evidence given by Colonel Johnson, by Mr. Stapleton, by the agent of the Marquess of Lansdown, and by the Magistrates of the Queen's County generally? The right hon. Secre- 62 tary could not have read that evidence, for, if he had read it, he would have found it to contain an account of the gross acts of tyranny which had been perpetrated on the peasantry during the last three years, and which had at length goaded them on, unfortunate victims, to the perpetration of these lamentable outrages. These witnesses stated, that Mr. Gregory had got possession of the property of these poor people; that he had not given them the benefit of the equity of redemption for six months, to which they were entitled; but that he had left them with their wives and families to die in the streets, as his hon. friend had stated, "unpitied and unknown." He had not even performed the common acts of justice to them, and Mr. Hovenden said, that he had not even paid them the wages which he owed them for their labour. Was it, then, to be wondered at that these uneducated men—uneducated owing to your own bad laws—should follow the example of injustice and oppression which you had set them? They had heard of the torture to which your aristocracy had subjected their ancestors; was it surprising that in their turn they had practised your inhumanity? One of the English Viceroys had been guilty of the grossest cruelties and injustice in that country, but in his case some justice had been done, for eventually his head rolled on the scaffold. Other governors followed his example of injustice without meeting his reward, and by their tyrannical and oppressive conduct drove the people to desperation. If the remembrance of ancient grievances, or the pressure of present wrong, should drive men to outrage, let those who perpetrated that outrage be punished: whatever might be the cause, he would not defend the outrage; let it be visited with the utmost severity, but let not all Ireland be punished for the acts of a few. In many instances in which Magistrates and others had been murdered, the crime did not proceed from any general disposition, but was almost in every case the result of a sense of individual oppression. Thus, in the evidence before the Committee of last year, it was proved that Mr. Hoskins, the agent to Lord Courtenay's estate, whose son was murdered in the county of Limerick, had been most oppressive in his conduct to the tenantry of that estate. The same account was given of the agent to Lord Stradbroke; and of Mr. Gregory 63 it was said, that there never had been a worse man. In these instances a sense of personal injury would account for the outrages that had been perpetrated; but of all these the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had taken no notice. He went to the outrages committed by some lawless ruffians, and with these he would wish to mix up the great mass of the people of Ireland, who were wholly innocent. But had there not been outrages to as great an extent committed in England? Had not the gaols of the western counties been crowded with thousands accused of most violent outrages? Had not Nottingham and Bristol been the scene of the most lawless devastations? And had the Government resorted to the same coercive measures as the present? No. And why? Because the system of outrage was local and partial? Why, then, not apply the same principle to Ireland? If insurrection existed, he would not object to strengthen the hands of Government to put it down; but let them not have the power of putting the whole country out of the pale of the law, for the outrages of comparatively a few. In all the measures which had been introduced to put down disturbance in Ireland, from the year 1776 down to 1823, no Minister had ever followed a course of proceeding like that now proposed. The Minister of the day had either come down with resolutions declaratory of the state of disturbance, or laid evidence of it on the Table, or referred it to a Committee. At a time when disturbance proceeded to such a height that a battle was fought between the insurgents and the King's troops in Galway, and when thirteen men were killed, it was not deemed necessary to call for such measures as the present. What were the memorable words of the present Lord Brougham, the head and great light of the law? 'Nothing, said he, short of complete redress of their wrongs can ever satisfy the people of Ireland. I will tell the House what will be worse than suffering those wrongs to be unredressed, and caution them against pursuing a course which can only prove an insult to their feelings. I will caution Government and this House to beware of attempting to stifle their complaints by anything in the shape of penal enactment. You may chain them by restrictive laws, they will break them as soon as attempted to be enforced—you may 64 'load them with galling fetters, you will 'only exasperate them—you will not—'you cannot—break their spirit'. Since, then, the condition of Ireland had not been improved. It was vain for the English to talk of their liberty—vain to boast of the glorious examples of their ancestors—of their charters thirty times confirmed—for the breach of which they slew one King upon the scaffold, and drove another from their shores—it was vain to dilate on these things, when, in order to put down a miserable and insignificant body of Whitefeet, they were ready to pass a measure which would enslave the whole of Ireland. If Government took the proper steps, and obliged the Magistrates to do their duty in their respective counties, there would be no necessity for such measures as were now before the House. He thought that the true way to gain tranquillity in Ireland was by forcing the Magistrates to do their duty. He knew, from circumstances which came within his knowledge, that the Magistrates could do their duty if they chose, but that in many instances they refused to do so. He had letters that day from the counties of Meath, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Waterford, and Queen's County, all of which stated those counties to be in a state of complete tranquillity. He would read a passage from one letter, to show the system made use of in order to keep up the appearance of disturbance:—" The Police Reports which are made up for the Castle are highly pictured and exaggerated. They are made up by persons who have an interest in keeping up the disturbances. This county was never more tranquil than it is at present. There were only fifty-eight persons committed for trial at the Assizes (he would remind the House that this was out of a population of 200,000 souls), and one-half of those were out on bail." It was a fact, too, that wherever Special Commissions had been appointed to try parties engaged in outrages, they had on all occasions been found efficient; and the opinions of Judge Foster and Judge Torrens bore him out in the assertion, that Juries could be found to discharge their duties fairly. It was said, it was necessary to put down agitation, but who had caused agitation? He would say, that it had been encouraged, no doubt, in the way of friendly advice, by the noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government, who had used the emphatic words. 65 "agitate," "agitate," "agitate." But the Bill was not to put down agitation or Whiteboyism, so much as to incarcerate the hon. and learned member for the city of Dublin. The right hon. Secretary had brought all his private animosities into that House. He had made the Chapel of St. Stephen's the theatre of angry passions, the arena wherein to fight personal quarrels. Was that what he saw in the years of his infancy? Did Mr. Ponsonby, did Mr. Perceval, did even Lord Castlereagh go so far as that? Mr. Perceval never made the House the scene of such angry feeling. In the worst of times neither he nor Lord Castlereagh attempted to enlist the angry feelings of the House on the side of legislation. Such conduct now could not tend to raise the House in the opinion of the people; and (which was quite as necessary) in their own estimation. The Bill was proposed as an instrument to procure, if possible, the incarceration of the hon. and learned member for Dublin; and that being its object, he predicted that it would signally fail. They had been told, that that hon. and learned Gentleman was the great—the prime agitator. Let every man stand or fall by his own acts. But when the right hon. Secretary talked of agitation, and of the necessity of putting down agitation, let them look for a moment, to the success which had attended attempts to suppress it informer times. Molyneux was denounced and persecuted as an agitator. By the order of the House of Commons his book was burned by the hands of the common hangman, but the day came, when Phœnix like, it rose from its ashes, and obtained a double influence over the minds of men. Talk of agitation! Dean Swift was an agitator, for Draper's letters were prosecuted, Lucas was an agitator—an agitator, of whom the Irish Parliament thought so much, that they banished him from the country. But the day came, when justice asserted herself—when the falsehood and ignorance of the placemen of the day (ignorance quite as great as that which distinguished the Government of the present day) was exhibited in its true colours: the principles of M r. Lucas were established in 1782; he returned from his exile, and was elected, by acclamation, as the Representative, like the hon. and learned member, for the city of Dublin. Did the right hon. Secretary think that mere catchwords—idle ballads picked up among the mountains of Ireland—were to sway the 66 minds of Members of this House? to overcome their reason, and to drive them into a kind of insanity of legislation? Talk of agitators I Why the late Mr. Grattan was an agitator—and if the plan of the Irish Volunteers had not succeeded he would have been arrested for high treason. The Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry, would have been arrested for the same cause if the Volunteers had not succeeded. The fact was afterwards stated by Lord Northington, who said, that he had at the time the warrants in his possession to arrest the Bishop and others if the success of the Volunteers had not prevented it. Look then to the past; see what the results of agitation have been; and then ask with what reason they could tell the Irish to agitate no more. From 1776 to the present hour all the good that Ireland had ever acquired had been obtained by agitation. What was its result in 1829. The Dake of Wellington stated, that no concession should be made to the Roman Catholics. Agitation took place; the Duke retracted; he retraced his steps, concession followed. Why, then, should they not agitate? Had they no grievances to complain of?—no relief to seek for? He threw the idle admonition to the winds; and said, that till Ireland were better governed, the Irish must agitate. Was the Government then prepared to call that treason or insurrection which had been suffered to pass with impunity in former cases? The attempt would fail in this case, as it had in the former; and in his conscience he believed that this measure, so far from conciliating or pacifying Ireland, would tend only to its separation from England. It would alienate the affections of the people from the Government of this country. He objected to the Bill in all its parts, but he strongly deprecated the injustice of that clause which was intended to prevent signals by fires or lights of any kind, and which put on the poor peasant the onus of proving, that his fire was not kindled for seditions purposes. The clause he alluded to was this:—
" Be it enacted, that from and after the passing of this Act, no person shall make, or aid, or assist in making, any light, fire, bonfire, flash, blaze, or other signal; or by smoke or firing, fireworks, firing of guns or other fire-arms, or by the blowing of horns, or by the ringing of church, chapel, or other bells; or by any other contrivance or device, give any notice, signal, or inti- 67 mation to any person or persons engaged in illegal combinations or assemblies against the provisions of this Act; and that no person shall make or assist in making any such signals, or any other signals, to call persons to assemble together, or to act in concert together, for any purpose not warranted by law, or which is prohibited by this Act, or to assemble in any unusual numbers to endanger the public peace; and if any person shall, contrary to the Act, make any such signals or notice, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and every such offence so committed in any district proclaimed in pursuance of the provisions of the Act, shall be cognizable by Court-martial; and if not committed in any such district, shall be tried and punished according to the course of the common law." The hon. member might laugh—so laughed the persons in 1776 to whom he had before drawn the attention of the House. Such levity added to the bitterness of the insult offered by this disgraceful clause to the feelings of the people of Ireland. The clause was hateful enough to be described in the poet's language'—Weave the warp and weave the woof.The winding-sheet of Edward's race;Give ample room and verge enoughThe characters of hell to trace.Such were the true characteristics of this odious and fearful Act, But such an atrocious measure would fail, as it deserved to fail. Had they not the experience of the failure of former coercive measures to guide them? They had tried the Algerine Act, and it failed—they had tried the Insurrection Act, and it failed—they had tried Lord Clare's Convention Act, and it failed—and now when they had concocted the whole of these into one Act, did they think that they would make it more palatable, or more likely to be successful? The measure as it now stood in the Bill was not coercion, it was slavery, a slavery which the ancestors of the English Members of that House would not tolerate, and which he trusted those descendants of the present day would not sanction. The right hon. Secretary had been lavish of the terms "dictator" and "chief legislator" and other personal epithets which he had applied to his hon. and learned friend the member for Dublin, though the use of such terms tended only to irritate, and could produce no good in the discussion. The right hon. Gentleman, in the measures 68 of which he was now the warm advocate, had not shown his fitness for the station which he occupied in the Government of that country. He feared that the right hon. Gentleman's trip across the Atlantic had not improved his taste for the institutions of our limited monarchy, and that therefore, as far as related to Ireland, he was disposed to get rid of them. Without any feeling of personal disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman, he must say, that he was not fit for the situation which he occupied in the Government. He was constantly getting his friends into scrapes, and daily making them, as far as the Irish Government was concerned, more and more unpopular. Indeed, to such extent did this feeling prevail, that at the late election in Ireland, it was a sort of popular dislike that a candidate was friendly to the Irish Government. Let him but proceed in the same course, and he would succeed in making the Government equally unpopular in this country. It was, he contended, absurd to talk of the agitation of the hon. and learned member for Dublin as the cause of any disturbance. The real cause was, the existence of the many grievances of which the people had to complain. This was proved by every event which had occurred for years. When the Roden declaration, as it was called, was signed in 1830, it laid (after declaring the subscribers to it opposed to a Repeal of the Union) great stress on the necessity of taking immediate steps for the remedy of the grievances of the people of Ireland. Three years had since elapsed, and what steps had been taken for that purpose? Hopes, it was true, had been held out that the grievances of Ireland would be redressed; how had those hopes been realized? What had become of the promises made by Lord Anglesey in answer to the deputation from the citizens of Cork, on his visit to that city. The deputation set forth the grievances under which the country groaned. What was the noble Lord's answer?—"The day" said he "will shortly arrive—it cannot be distant—it is impossible that it should—when, by the accomplishment of measures now in preparation for relief of the distress of the country, justice will be done to the good intentions of the Government of Ireland. The day will soon arrive when the people of Ireland shall see the measures now in progress to fit them for this change." Such were the hopes given to the people of Ireland; and how was the 69 promise kept? why, at the last election for Dublin, when Sir George Rich was opposed to the popular candidate, that gentleman was supported by the Government interest. He thus put the Government on their trial with respect to their sincerity. They had launched their poisoned arrows at the Irish Volunteers—they had accused that body as the cause of the existing disturbances, whereas they were to be traced to their own misgovernment. He had just mentioned a case indicative of their duplicity—a case which they never had the face to deny; and if they did deny it, he could prove its truth by an appeal to a speech delivered by the reverend Mr. Boyton. Such had been their extraordinary course of proceeding, that by their machinations, they had actually turned their own members out of the University of Dublin. Hon. Gentlemen had inveighed strongly against the Repeal of the Union. In answer to their observations he would say; "make it not a nominal, but a real union." If not from their justice or from their sincerity, yet let the people of Ireland hope, that, from their sense of danger, the Union would be made a more effectual measure. He had never stood up for a Repeal of the Union, but if it were necessary, he felt that he had a right to argue that question. Why did not the Government, by their acts, show to the people of Ireland, that the Union was really beneficial? Why not show to every peasant that it was a desirable measure? The more the justice and the goodness of the Government appeared, the more would the people be inclined to believe that the Union was a salutary measure. He had received letters from Ireland, in which trade was described as being paralysed, in which the people were spoken of as shrinking with apprehension at the contemplated horrors of Martial-law. Why, he asked, was not the promise held out to Ireland, not only by Lord Castlereagh, but by the members of succeeding Governments, why was not that promise kept? The Union was pointed out as the only effectual remedy for the misfortunes of that country, because it would give the people of Ireland a participation in all the rights of the Constitution. Was this bill one of the roads by which they were to arrive at this so-much-desired participation? Mr. Pitt said, and he begged the attention of Mr. Pitt's followers to the words, Mr. Pitt said:— 70 'We must now look to the Union as the only measure we can adopt which can calm this excitement, and allay animosity in Ireland. We must look to it as a measure which will give Ireland a participation in the Constitution of England. It is to be founded on similar law—it is to be founded on a similar Constitution—it is to be founded on similar Govern-men I, by providing for the security, and increasing the stability of the respective kingdoms—by decreasing the discontent which, unfortunately, has long prevailed in one of them. Such was the sentiment of Mr. Pitt; but the present proceeding was opposed to that sentiment. By adopting the Bill, they would only create confusion, not concord; and, instead of peace and tranquillity, they would engender distrust and discontent. In his conscience he thought that this was a measure which, if carried, Ministers and the country would, in the end, have strong reason to rue. It was a measure, he believed, contrary to the feelings of the people of England—it was a measure, he was sure, which greatly excecded the necessity of the case. They talked of putting down predial agitation; and to do this they were about to deprive the Irish people of their rights—to remove, in fact, from those of whom they complained, any desire, any wish, to cultivate a feeling of quietude and content. But, if the hand of oppression fell heavily on men, it was impossible that they could participate in those sentiments. What induced Ireland to agree to the Union? Certainly the hope that she would participate fully in the freedom of the British Constitution. Did such a measure as this accord with that hope? If he had failed in appealing to the passions and sympathies of English Members on this most painful subject, he would next address himself to their calm and sober feeling. He would call on them to mark what the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had said in support of his case; and he would confidently maintain, that the Secretary for Ireland had not made out, had not proved, any such case as he had declared that he was able to substantiate. Yet, on a question of such momentous importance, the right hon. Secretary would not even allow the delay of a fortnight. He had now nearly concluded. If he failed in this humble but heartfelt appeal to the House to do his country right, still he had the satis- 71 faction of feeling that, to the best of his ability, he had performed his duty. If Martial-law were to be inflicted on his country, he should go out of those doors with feelings of deep indignation. If he had failed in enlisting in the cause of his suffering country those whom he now addressed, he would invoke the memory of those great men, now departed, who, in former days, assisted in that House the few who were struggling in support of popular rights. He would invoke the shade of Mr. Ponsonby, that able and consistent patriot—who had led the Opposition in that House, and whose ashes now reposed in this country. From 1807 to 1812, when you could not get amongst yourselves any one to undertake the situation of leader, he stood forward, and boldly performed that arduous duty. To his shade, and to the shade of another statesman, whose memory was dear to him, yes,Dear as the ruddy drops that visit this sad heart,to them would he appeal, in the hope that the recollection of their services might raise in the minds of those whom he addressed, a just, a kindly, an honest feeling to wards his suffering country. He should resist this measure to the last, because it appeared to him to be fraught with the seeds, not of union, but of separation.
The Attorney General
said, he should be wanting in that respect which was due to the House, he should be wanting in that respect which he might fairly assert was due to his own character, if he did not offer his opinion, and it was not a lightly considered one, with reference to this question. Observations had been made in the course of the evening, which would appear to call for some particular notice from him; but it was not his intention to enter into any personal argument with the hon. Member who made those observations, or with any other hon. Member, on such an occasion. He should merely say, with reference to the allusions which had been made, that he believed there was no man having the honour of a seat in that House, to whom they could be fairly or justly applied—there was no man in that House so base as, in his opinion, to deserve them. For himself, he should only say, that he would yield to no man who entered that House, (let his constituency be what it might—let him come from whatever part of the empire he might) 72 in an honest love of rational liberty, He would resort to all constitutional means to maintain and to support such a species of liberty. But the liberty of which he spoke was connected, and intimately interwoven, with the laws and the Constitution of his country. It was a liberty friendly to the laws, friendly to loyalty, friendly to peace. It was not a liberty to be supported by midnight murders, by violence, by outrage, or by the unlimited congregation of men, who, whether with or without regular organization or combination, had shown themselves to be too strong or too cunning for the existing law. Such bodies, they all knew, had, assembled, and their acts were a disgrace to the community. Now, whoever fairly looked to this Bill, must see, that it was a Bill to suspend, for a time, and for a time only, under most peculiar circumstances, certain functions of the Constitution of the country. By thus acting. Government were not actuated by any improper feeling. They wished, on the contrary, by the assistance of this measure, to strengthen the hands of the friends of liberty—their object was not, as had been asserted, to extinguish liberty. This measure was resorted to, because it was considered, by those who brought it forward, to be necessary to the preservation of that liberty which they all revered; and he would add, that if they were not justified by the necessity of the case in so proceeding, he would not only join with Gentlemen in the condemnation of the Bill, but even if it went only one hundredth part as far as it did go, he would not, in the absence of an imperative necessity, give to it his concurrence. An imperative demand was, however, now made on the Legislature, in consequence of existing circumstances, to narrow for a time the liberties of a portion of the empire. In countries that were not free, there was no necessity, in any case, to apply for any additional powers. The despotic nature of the Constitution was sufficient to meet every exigency. It was only in free countries where such an application as this was deemed necessary to be made—there only it was requisite to resort, after proper deliberation, to a measure of this kind. In a free country, the law might be such, that though it was fully equal to the ordinary exigencies of the State, yet such circumstances might arise as the law was not calculated to grapple with. In that case it might be 73 deemed advisable for a time to interfere with the liberty of the subject. The only point to be considered was, whether a justifiable necessity for such a determination had been made out? They then came to this point—what is the extent and nature of the crimes which you wish to repress, and what is the state of the existing law to meet those crimes? He would not, in considering this subject, go through the frightful enormities—he would not advert to the multiplied and still increasing crimes, which were reported from the unhappy country to which this measure referred. When they were dealing with those acts of enormity, he would not enter into a numerical enumeration of crime. No, he would point to a long and black catalogue of outrage, the perpetrators of which appeared to have under their control a large physical force. But it was said; "Oh, this is all predial agitation!" Well, suppose it was so; did that afford any satisfactory reason for opposing this measure? If predial agitation was too strong to be put down by the existing law; if, for years, a system of murder, and robbery, and intimidation, was carried on by a combination possessed of great physical force; if such were the case, how were they to meet the evil, how were they to punish the offenders? Must they not, if the ordinary powers of the law were too weak, have recourse to more powerful measures? He had heard, with great attention, the statements of those Gentlemen who were best acquainted with the situation of Ireland; and he would candidly ask them, what was the efficacy of the law in that country; was it, or was it not sufficient for the protection of life and property? Why, those Gentlemen admitted that such a system prevailed in Ireland, as clearly proved, that the law was not sufficient for the accomplishment of its object. The law, it was clear, could not operate, but through the medium of those authorities who formed an essential part of the system. There must be Magistrates to act, prosecutors to come forward, witnesses to speak, and Juries to pronounce a verdict. There must also be a species of public opinion to go along with the proceedings. All these things must exist, if they expected the law, in a free country, to do the necessary work required of it. Now, the House must be satisfied, from all they had read and heard, that the law, as it existed at present in 74 Ireland, did not answer the purpose—it did not work well—its wheels were impeded, and its course retarded. What, then, was to be done? There was but one of two courses to be pursued; you must either follow up the law strongly, or, for a time, you must put some other force in action, the law having been found insufficient. With respect to the first point, he admitted, that they should pause and see if they could possibly proceed before they adopted this measure. What, however, was the case? It was easy to say, that offenders might be brought to trial, and the law might be administered; but the fact was, that offenders could not be brought to trial, in consequence of the system of intimidation which prevailed. Those who were not directly arrayed against the law, were prevented from coming forward. The evil, it was clear, could not be remedied in that way; for, in fact, the statutes had become, under this system of terror, a dead letter. What, then, he again asked, was to be done? Why, they could only proceed by some such measure as that which Ministers had proposed. But it was said, that it would be better, instead of establishing the Courts pointed out by this Bill, to allow the Judges to exercise the powers which were granted under it. Now, for his part, he could not conceive anything more objectionable, on purely constitutional principles, than the mixing up, in the same persons, of two very different principles. The Judges were in the habit of administering the law, which admitted none of those despotic principles that, in consequence of the circumstances of the times, the Bill did, to a certain extent, recognise. He should therefore ask, whether, in delegating to the Judges the duties to be performed under the Bill, they did not run a risk with respect to the Judges themselves, whose duty it was to administer the ordinary law, as well as to the Constitution? As he had already said, he did not like to see the Judges taken from their usual legal course to administer a new law, passed for a specific purpose. Then it was retorted: "If you will not have the Judges, why not take the Assistant Barristers?" In this latter case he very much feared that the public would be scarcely induced to believe, that the Assistant Barristers in their decisions were not actuated by the hope of procuring preferment from Government. The danger 75 in either case was clear. The Judge ought not to be placed in a situation where by any chance he might forget the ordinary course of law, and the Assistant Barrister might be liable to suspicions, which, however unjust, might influence the popular mind. They could therefore only adopt that which the exigency of the case called for—an extraordinary power. Looking to all the circumstances, he did not think that there was any power to which they could so properly resort as that which was contemplated by this Bill. He knew there was an objection to the jurisdiction of Courts-martial, on account of the military education of those who must of necessity sit on them. That objection unquestionably, at first sight, had some weight; but, he would ask, did it follow, that those who were educated for a military life were insensible to the principles of justice? Were not those who sat on Courts-martial, under this Bill, amenable to another power? Was not that power amenable to Parliament afterwards, not only for their own acts, but for the acts of those whom they had employed, and over whom they had control, if they had not, in the exercise of their authority, fairly and justly made use of that controlling power? With respect to the distinction between predial agitation and political agitation, he would oiler but a very few observations. It was very evident that where predial agitation existed, the movements were effected under some sort of power to whom the agents conceived themselves to be accountable. It was said: "Oh! in such a county, the disturbance all arose from predial, not from political agitation." He, perhaps, was not sufficiently acquainted with the subject to understand the exact connexion between predial and political agitation; but this was known to all, that in those parts of Ireland where predial agitation existed, political agitation existed also. No gentleman had proved, though some had attempted to prove, that the one was unconnected with the other. Now, he would ask, whether there had been any political agitation in Ireland that had not decidedly acted on the lower classes of the people? Where there was a predisposition to predial agitation, and where political agitation followed, on whom could that political agitation operate? What class—what portion of the population could it act upon, except upon that lower class 76 already experienced in, or ripe for, predial agitation? He demanded from what class the Irish Volunteers were to come? He asked that question of those who stated that they were the best instructed as to the mode of agitating the people? He would ask, whether those Volunteers, who were to perform such great services for Ireland, were not to be taken from that intimidated, or misled, or criminal mass, which formed the predial agitators of that country? In his opinion these facts clearly connected together the predial and the political agitators. This was sufficient to show him that the predial agitation was too much for the law. Political agitation, whether it was so intended to operate or not, must, it was evident, have a powerful effect on the lower classes, already disposed to outrage and insubordination, because it had, in fact, no other materials to act upon. The acts and speeches of the pacificators were equally inflammatory. One gentleman, who had been despatched on a mission by the most eminent of the agitators, had used language relative to his Majesty, such as he (the Attorney-General) dared not to repeat in that House, but which he would characterize as being most flgitious and brutal. What were the proceedings of the volunteers? They involved the very worst species of tyranny—the tyranny of the mob. The institution was a scheme to obtain power; and the practice of holding up to odium those men who would not submit to the law they dictated, was the worst species of tyranny. It was said, that these Volunteers were not armed: they were not at present; but they were united under secret leaders, and formed one great mass for the protection of themselves, and the prosecution of their own purposes. The greatest of all the agitators, too, had expressed his delight at the probability of the great pacificator—he who had used the seditious harangue—the greatest of all the agitators had expressed the delight he should feel at a triumphant day in arms, when, his friend, Tom Steele, should strut at the head of the Volunteers. Was this a state of things to be contemplated with in-difference? Was the existing disorganization of society to be allowed to continue? With regard to the present Bill, he sincerely hoped, that, as some Gentlemen seemed to suppose, such a change might be produced merely by the passing of it, as would render it unnecessary to put its 77 provisions in force; he should be most happy if such proved to be the effect of this wholesome measure of constitutional counter-intimidation—most happy, if it gave courage to the good and well-disposed, repressed violence, and vindicated the authority of the law, without bloodshed or violation of personal freedom. If such were the case, or if the Bill in any way effected these desirable objects, and brought back Ireland to a state of peace and good order, the measure would only suspend the liberties of the country for a time, ultimately to preserve them, and enable the Legislature to hand them down to posterity, with all their excellence unchanged and unimpaired.
§ Sir Robert Peel
spoke as follows:*—
Having a deep sense of the value of the time of this House, and seeing how much of it is wasted in useless discussion, I shall, without any attempt at an elaborate preface, proceed at once, briefly, and in the plainest language, to state the course I mean to pursue with respect to this painful measure; and the grounds upon which my resolution has been formed. I came down to the House on the first night of the debate, with a strong impression, founded on the general notoriety of facts which have not been denied, that some measure in aid of the ordinary operation of the law, was absolutely necessary for the protection of life and property, and the preservation of order in Ireland. I have since heard from two Ministers of the Crown a detail of atrocities, the recital of which makes the blood run cold. Is this detail correct? Have these murders—these burnings—these various atrocious crimes been committed? We may differ as to the conclusion to be drawn from the premises; we may differ as to the remedy to be applied; but do we agree as to the state of facts, and as to the existence and character of this evil? Up to this hour I have heard no denial of the truth of the statements that have been made. There appears on all sides an admission that the condition of society in many parts of Ireland is most alarming—that the worst crimes have been committed with impunity. Some attribute this state of things to the remissness of the Government; others think the spirit of disturbance might still be suppressed by*Reprinted from the second edition of the corrected speech published by Murray.78 the vigorous execution of existing laws; but no one has impeached the accuracy of those statements which have been made to the House on official authority. To that authority I can of course, add nothing. If the details of crime already given be thought imperfect, I cannot supply the deficiency; but I find on the Records of this House some recent testimonies as to the moral and social condition of certain parts of Ireland, which completely confirm my own previous impressions, and warrant the inferences which have been probably drawn from the recital of individual acts of outrage. As I before observed, the first point to be ascertained is whether we are agreed as to facts. As the foundation of my argument, and in aid of the uncontradicted evidence already offered to us, I beg to quote the testimonies I have before referred to; they will be found in the appendix to a Report on the state of the Queen's County, which was presented at the close of last Session.
The first is contained in a charge delivered by a Judge of the land—a Judge who has had much experience in the administration of criminal law, who has had personal opportunities, in the exercise of his judicial functions, of observing the state and the progress of crime. This Judge has always professed opinions truly liberal; has always been the friend of that liberty which is founded on order; has from his earliest years been friendly to the Roman Catholic claims; and by his great abilities and unsullied integrity has commanded the respect of all parties in Ireland. The Judge to whom I am alluding is Baron Sir William Smith. It being his duty to preside at the Lent Assizes at Maryborough, in the Queen's County in the year 1832, he thus commences his charge to the Grand Jury:—
'Gentlemen of the Grand Jury—I find here a calendar consisting of 150 cases. Of these, twelve are charges of murder; six of conspiracy to murder; nine of man-slaughter; eleven of rape; five of child-murder and its appurtenants; eleven of abduction; forty-one of house-breaking, assaulting dwellings, and robbery of arms; nine of shooting at persons; two of administering unlawful oaths; and twenty-two of violent as saults. A mere selection from this general calendar, of cases which the Attorney-General has found it necessary to prosecute consists, as to quantity, of 79 crime, of more than fifty in number, and as to quality, includes nine murders or felonious homicides: five cases of robbery, and one of demanding arms; five of burglary; one of conspiracy to murder, and three of shooting at with a murderous intent; one case of arson, and four, or rather six, of assaulting habitations; five of compulsory notices, threats, and menaces; and two of administering an unlawful oath; eleven cases of waylaying and malicious assault; two of appearing in arms; four of abduction; one of child-murder, and one of child-desertion.'
These were the atrocities to be tried at one assizes.
The learned Judge proceeds:—'The state of this county, however, seems to furnish an example of what I have more than once had occasion to observe; how easily disorder can shift its purposes and course, and, after threatening one line of outrage proceed upon another. A fact which, by the way, we ought constantly to bear in mind; and be cautious how, by encouraging the discontented feelings of the populace, we inadvertently collect and raise, and train and exercise, a force concerning which we must be uncertain what direction it may take. Not many months ago, when I last was in this county, and presided in this court, I found a system gaining head, of tumultuary array against rights long undisputed, distinctly recognised, and firmly established by the law. It did not seem to be too late to stem the gathering torrent. This, accordingly, within my limited province, I attempted; and, for a time, the attempt did not appear to be unsuccessful. But my endeavours—I cull your attention to this passage—were counteracted by influence which did not fail to render them abortive. Of this powerful counter action, what may be surmised to have been already the results? The lower class of society—a class deficient in the guiding lights of knowledge and instruction, and labouring, it must be admitted, under sufferings and privations, and on these accounts the more liable to be excited and misled—this portion, I say, of our community, stimulated into turbulent and lawless agitation (it may be unawares, and without a culpable, nay, even with a laudable intent); your county, become restless, discontented, and disturbed;
80 its tranquillity rendered, I can only hope not permanently, insecure; your prison crowded to excess with persons charged with insurrectionary transgressions of the law; and the Crown compelled to wield its powers of prosecution, if not with rigour, with an unusual degree of energy and force. If the popular enterprise and incursion proved a failure, we should have gained by it nothing better than commotion and offence; followed by the punishment of, too often, not the misleaders, but the misled. If on the contrary, their resistance of the law accomplished an alteration of its enactments, might they not, by their victory over one class of rights, be encouraged to march forward to the storming of a second, and not discover, till too late, that in spoiling the rights of others, they had been inadvertently plundering and demolishing their own?
Take the testimony of another gentleman also above all exception—a gentleman who would not have come forward, considering the situation in which he stood, unless he had been compelled by an urgent sense of public duty. I refer to a gentleman occupying the situation of a Roman Catholic priest, with no undue influence upon his mind, to lead him to exaggerate the unfortunate condition of the country. In a letter addressed to Lord de Vesci, by the Rev. Nicholas O'Connor, parish priest of Maryborough, and quoted in Mr. O'Connor's evidence before the Committee, the following passage occurs:—In vain have we waited, in hopes of the returning good sense of the deluded; and have found, on the contrary, the well-disposed compelled, by intimidation, either to join the illegalsocieties, ormurdered, or terrified out of the country. This was the testimony of a Roman Catholic priest: it occupied only three lines, it is true; but could the House conceive three lines more pregnant with horror? Such was the state of the country—such the powerless condition of the law, that, to the peaceable and well-disposed, the choice was offered between three courses of action—either to join the illegal societies, or forfeit their lives, or abandon their country. I shall only refer to one other testimony in reference to this subject, because the multiplication of undisputed and indisputable statements, all bearing on the one point, is of no advantage. The last testimony, then, to which I shall direct 81 the attention of the House, as completing the picture, is that of Dr. Doyle, Roman Catholic bishop of the diocess of Kildare and Leighlin. It is contained in a letter addressed by Dr. Doyle to the Catholic clergy and people of his diocess, and is as follows:—'For several months past we have witnessed, with the deepest affliction of spirit, the progress of illegal combinations, under the barbarous designations of Whitefeet and Blackfect, within certain portions of these diocesses. We have laboured—by letter and by word, by private admonition and by public reproof, proceeding from ourselves and from our clergy—to arrest and to suppress this iniquity; but the tares which the enemy of man has in the night-time sown in the field of the Church, have grown up in despite of our watchfulness. Murders, blasphemies, perjuries, rash swearing, robberies, assaults on persons and property, the usurpation of the powers of the State,'—mark that; the usurpation of the powers of the State,'—and of the rights of the peaceable and well-disposed, are multiplied and every day perpetrated, at the instigation of the devil, by the wicked and deluded men engaged in those confederacies.'
Such is the outline of the state of crime in one considerable district of Ireland, traced by the faithful pencils of a Roman Catholic priest, a Roman Catholic bishop, and a Judge of the land. Will any one assert that the picture is overcharged? If it be not—if there be no exaggeration, no overcolouring of the melancholy facts—will it be maintained that ordinary remedies will suffice for the cure of this admitted and alarming evil? If the statement of facts be not denied, and if the existing law be not sufficient, then I feel warranted in giving my assent to the first reading of this Bill—that is, in fact, to the introduction of the measure, with a view to its future consideration in detail. Into that detail I will not now enter; not that I would shrink from doing so, if this were the fit occasion; but let me assure those who are for the first time Members of this House, that the established rules and orders of our proceeding, which allot different stages of the same Bill for different discussions—one for the principle, another for the details—are well calculated, if duly observed, to promote the fair collision of opinion, and to elicit the 82 truth. All that I shall say at present, with respect to the details of the Bill, is briefly this, that, although I will not now pledge myself to their adoption without modification; yet I will not consent to fritter away the general efficacy of the measure, by encumbering the powers which it confers by various restrictions and qualifications.
I will now proceed to review those arguments brought forward in this debate against the principle of the measure, which appear—at least if one may judge from their frequent repetition—to be mainly relied upon by its opponents. It is said, repeatedly, that this measure of coercion is no cure for the deep-seated evils under which Ireland is suffering. In the truth of that observation I cordially concur. There is not a man present who views the condition of society in Ireland with more anxiety and apprehension than myself; or who feels more strongly than I do, the utter worthlessness, as a remedy, of this or any other measure of mere coercion. To form a true judgment of the state of Ireland, we must raise our views above the comparatively petty subjects of our party conflicts—above the questions, important as they are, of Corporations and Grand Jury laws, and tithe-commutation bills. We must include within our view, a whole population labouring under the double evil of a rapid progressive increase in its numbers, and of the contraction of a demand for its labour, and therefore, its increasing destitution. We shall find these evils, that seem, at first view, incompatible with each other—each acting and re-acting on the other, and contributing reciprocally to their own aggravation: the increase of population lowering each individual in the scale of comfort and enjoyment; and the diminished scale of comfort, by removing the checks on early and improvident marriages, and by causing a recklessness about the future, having a tendency to increase the population. Then comes the failure of the potato crop, the want of food, and the ravages of disease, opposing sudden and calamitous restraints on the increase of population, which might be much more effectually and more gradually controlled, were it possible to give a taste for increased comfort; and, at the same time, to supply by labour the means of commanding it. For these evils this measure is no relief. [Hear, hear, from some Members.] Who said it was?—True, this 83 measure is no remedy; but a state of anarchy precludes one. Coercion is not a cure; but continued insurrection is positive death.
I am aware that, even with regard to the professed remedies for the permanent evils of Ireland, I differ from a large majority in this House. I listen, night after night, to the attempts that are made to charge the clergy of Ireland with exaction and rapacity, and to represent tithe as the crying grievance of Ireland. No, no; these are not the sources of the evils that afflict the country; and though an extinction were effected of the legal rights of the clergy, the evils would continue—ay, and would be aggravated, if the rights of which the clergy should be deprived were transferred to the landlords. The first step towards remedying the evils, and removing the disorders of Ireland, will be the knowledge and the statement of the truth. Do not let us offer up unoffending men, who are already despoiled of their rights of property, as sacrifices for the exactions of others. Such a sacrifice would not suffice. You cannot stop at the spoliation of the Church. You will be the sufferers by your own injustice. Remember the remark of Lord Boling broke on the trial of Sacheverell: it is true of your attacks on the Irish clergy, and of their result:—They made a fire to roast a parson, but they made it so hot that they burned themselves. I ask, whether Gentlemen have read the evidence on the subject of tithes? I refer them to the testimony of Mr. John Walsh, a Roman Catholic Magistrate—for I prefer Roman Catholic evidence in such a case—for an exculpation of the clergy. Mr. Walsh is conversant with the condition of the lower classes of his countrymen, and his testimony shows that the miserable state of that vast class of farmers who occupied farms of less than fifteen acres, was attributable, not to the tithe of the clergy, but to the rent of the landlords. Let those Gentlemen who talk of the exactions of the clergy, and think that the evils that afflict Ireland flow solely from tithes, and, consequently, that the "healing" measure for their abolition would accomplish all that was necessary to be done in that country—let them look at the evidence of Mr. Walsh. He states that the majority of persons under the class of farmers it the county of Kilkenny are people holding from ten to fifteen acres of land; that they are generally in the greatest 84 state of destitution from about the month of April to the month of September. Fanners in that class have no means of meeting the demands made upon them but by their crop; and from the time the sale of the crop takes place, till the next crop, they are destitute of every means of obtaining money. Potatoes generally, without either milk or meat, constitute their diet; and they consider themselves very lucky if they have enough of them. I asked Mr. Walsh how many rents a solvent tenant in Ireland ought to make, in order to prosper on his farm. His answer was—Such a calculation never came into the head of the Irish tenant. All he looks to is, to provide his family with potatoes, and pay his rent to his landlord. I asked him whether the people consider themselves well off, if they made two rents out of their crop. Mr. Walsh replied, that he considered a farmer, by converting land to the best purpose, might make double the rent; but he did not think that the small farmer, in general, made anything like that. He meant to represent this as the general state of the farmers of ten or fifteen acres, who have a greater proportion of the whole land than the half of it. The examination of Mr. Walsh proceeded as follows:—You were asked for a statement of what you conceived to be the outgoings upon a farm of ten acres, and the profit that would accrue to the tenant: have you prepared a statement in explanation of that? Answer: I have. I have put the most general mode in which an Irish farmer of that description makes his rent. I have first debited with his year's rent, 15l.; then ten barrels of seed potatoes at 4s. for one acre, planted for his own use, another acre being generally given for manure, 2l.; two barrels of seed wheat, 2l. 10s.; four barrels of seed oats, 1l. 16s.; at 9s. a barrel; by which he will have cropped two acres of wheat, two of oats, and two of potatoes; making six acres of tillage, and leaving the remaining four acres to support his cow and horse. I think I overstated the average produce of such land at six barrels of wheat per acre; I think five barrels would be nearer the average upon 30s. land. I have put that at 1l, 5s. a barrel, which for ten barrels would be 12l 10s.; the oats, of which he may have sixteen barrels, I have rated at 9s, making 7l. 14s.; profit 85 on feeding four pigs, 6l.; butter sold from one cow, generally in small quantities, 1l. 10s.; making, in the entire, 27l.14s. The seed and rent, as I have said, come to 21l. 6s. Then, where the composition is not in force, there is tithe on two acres of potatoes, 1l 4s.; wheat, 1l. 4s.; oats, 16s.; the rent, tithe, and seed, therefore, come to 24l. 10s.; and deducting that from the receipts, which come to 27l. 14s., there is only 3l. 4s. left him for paying taxes and Churchrate, Tepair of houses and forge-work—the labour being done by himself and family, for whose support he has one acre of potatoes and one cow's milk. I will next read an extract or two from the evidence of a clergyman named Dwyer. In answer to the question—Are there a great number of intermediate landlords in Ireland? Mr. O'Dwyer said, Not in the part where I live; but I believe, in many parts—in the more improved parts, there are.—Is it the case genenerally?—I believe it is wearing out a good deal; I know that in the county of Galway, it has considerably decreased. Do you know the situation of the landlord placed immediately over the tenant; is he generally a respectable man? Very often not: last year I found upon a piece of land, that might, when it was let, be fifty-six or fifty-eight acres, fifty-two families residing; it was broken so small as that; and the consequence of the minute subdivision of it was, that, being adjacent to a bog, the people had spread, and reclaimed some of the lands of the bog. Before they joined in condemnation of the clergy, let the House attend to the following extract from the same gentleman's evidence. It was the intention of the Tithe Composition Act to relieve the tenant from the tithe, and that the landlord should henceforth let his land tithe-free, and be the virtual payer of the tithe; that is, by giving credit for the tithe-owner's receipt for such tithe. Says Mr. O'Dwyer, I have in my own instance known the tithe composition applotment to be borrowed from me and from my clerk, by the agents of proprietors in the country, for the purpose of ascertaining what the exact amount of composition was with reference to their own estates, and then setting their lands. On many occasions I believe, it has been the practice to embody in the rent that they charge upon the tenant the amount 86 of the composition-rent, as applotted or assessed upon the land; but still, nevertheless, that the liability for the payment remained upon the tenants; and those tenants, many of them, have complained to me that when they offered their receipts for tithe-rent, they got no credit for it in the accounts of their landlords.—Would not the tenant have the power of enforcing such a claim against his landlord?—I am not aware that there is any especial provision in the Act that would enable him; and I am sufficiently well acquainted with the dispositions and the habits of the people to know, that it would not be a very feasible thing for them to do, to compel such credit to be given. The tenantry, in general, are too much dependent upon their landlords. Leases are generally not given complete leases; they more frequently hold by demise, or they hold by acceptance of proposal, which leaves them entirely at the mercy of the landlord to continue them in or not.
Now, I ask, is the statement of this clergyman true? Are there landlords in some parts of Ireland who have done this? Have they increased the rent of their tenants by the amount of tithe to which those tenants were subject, left the tenant responsible for the tithe to the clergyman, and then refused to give him credit for the amount paid, notwithstanding the production of the clergyman's receipt? If these things are not true, contradict them: but while they remain on our records uncontradicted, it is neither very generous nor very just, that, in this assemblage of landlords, where the clergy have no place, no means of personal defence, they should be held up as extortioners, and destroyers of the poor. They have lost—many of them, at least—have lost their all, either through the dishonesty of others, or their own forbearance. In mercy, let us spare their characters, unless we are sure that our accusations are just.
Other remedies are proposed—Poor-laws among the rest. If I have paused in giving my assent to their introduction into Ireland, it is not from insensibility to Irish suffering, but from the fear, where poverty is so wide-spread, and the demand for labour so disproportionate to the supply, that, the principle of the Poor-laws once introduced, the whole revenue of the land Mill ultimately be absorbed by the 87 claims for relief, and an agrarian law of the worst kind practically established. Suggestions have been offered of a strict limitation of the principle of Poor-laws; of confining relief exclusively to cases of disease, and decrepitude, and total incapacity for labour. If this limitation can be applied, and rigidly enforced, many of the objections to the system of Poor-laws will, no doubt, be abated. But looking, on the one hand, to the extent and complication of poverty in Ireland; on the other, to the extreme difficulty of confining within definite limits any sound principle of relief, and of checking its abuse—I have sometimes feared that, in reference to Poor-laws for Ireland, we are almost arrived at that melancholy state described by the Roman historian, in quo, nec vitia nostra, nec remedia, patipossumus.'
There has been much vague declamation about healing measures, and large concessions, the nature of which has not been specified, and of which, therefore, no one can judge. But this I will say, that, however you may talk of healing measures, and notwithstanding you may conciliate powerful parties by concessions, Parliament will gain nothing by giving way to popular clamour, or yielding one single point beyond that which their sense of justice may dictate. If Ministers should either consent to the confiscation of any species of property, or should establish principles leading to future confiscation, they may be cheered in this House by the voices of many around them—but not only will they fail to procure additional security for life, and peace, and property; but, so far from satisfying the deluded people of Ireland, they will only whet their appetites for further rapine. I shall vote for this measure; but I accept it as no compromise on any other subject. I vote for it on its own principle, and will consider whatever other measures may be presented on their principles. If ever there was a country in which it was essential jealously to uphold the rights and properties of all classes—to teach all men, rich and poor, that those rights must and shall be respected—that clamour and combination shall not prevail; it is the country which is the unhappy subject of this debate.
I shall proceed in my review of the main objections to this Bill—sweeping aside, of course, all the rubbish with 88 which Gentlemen have filled up the interstices of their arguments. Of such rubbish the following appeal was a fair specimen:—Was this measure the proof which Ministers gave of their gratitude to Ireland?—Was this the gratitude of the Legislature for the assistance received from Ireland on the Reform Bill? As to this latter appeal, it could not be supposed to produce much effect upon those who had opposed Reform, Still, I admit, that I should be quite as base as those charged with ingratitude, if I consented to a law like this, if it be not absolutely necessary for the tranquillization of Ireland. But this is no question of gratitude or ingratitude. The lives and properties of the King's peaceable subjects are not to be complimented away. The question is, does the state of Ireland require such a measure? If it does, what room is there to talk of gratitude? Parliament is to determine whether bands of armed ruffians are to be permitted to break open houses by night, to plunder arms, to injure property, to destroy life. Why do you call these things privileges? Is this the happiness and the liberty of which it will be ingratitude to deprive you? It has been said, that this measure amounts to a suspension of the British Constitution. I admit, that it is a measure of severity, of intolerable severity, unless there be a paramount necessity for it: I admit that; but I deny that it is a suspension of the British Constitution. Oh, no; that has been long suspended. I see, indeed, a ghastly form, which takes the semblance and usurps the name of the British Constitution; but it is a phantom without life. You mistake the British Constitution. It is not a mere heap of cumbrous formalities, that serve no other purpose but to give impunity to those who are accused of crime. The British Constitution is meant to give equal protection, and ensure to all equal liberty. It presupposes the existence of some executory principle to work it—of instruments imbued with the generous spirit in which itself was framed. It presupposes a love of order, a respect for property, a reverence for the obligation of an oath. The British Constitution never recognised the vile doctrine of passive resistance. It may have no punishment for it. It may have been too generous to foresee a wide-spread combination among rich and poor, to defeat the law, and to rob others of their pro- 89 perty. So long as this robbery is committed with impunity—so long as innocent men are fleeing from their homes to seek protection from murder—do what you will, but do not talk of the British Constitution! Spare us the stale quotations from Lord Chatham—spare us the empty boast "that an Englishman's house is his castle!" What! Was the reverend Mr. Houston's house his castle? Was Mr. Marum's house his castle? Will you see men savagely murdered in the broad day by assassins, and then mock their widows and their children with your laboured periods about the British Constitution and an Englishman's castle? You may not be able to punish guilt; you may not be able to prevent murder; but do not let these things be perpetrated under the shield and cover of the British Constitution, Send it not on a forlorn hope, on which disgraceful failure is inevitable. Impose not upon it the condition of Egyptian bondage; and exact the work without giving it the materials. This is my answer to your objection, that the Bill will suspend the British Constitution.
But it has been asked repeatedly, would England tolerate this law? I ask, would England tolerate the state of things which now exists in Ireland? And this state of things existed before this law was brought in, and therefore my question ought to have precedence. Would England bear to live under the domination of hungry and illiterate legislators, with no more mercy than those in Ireland? I tell you that England, rather than submit to such a state of things, would rouse those energies which existed before laws, and are independent of laws, and would put down the base and vulgar tyranny. If these failed, and if to the suppression of that tyranny such a law as this was indispensable, England would tolerate it—ay, and would demand it. She would not talk of the ingratitude of a Legislature, which rescued life and property from midnight attacks—but she would rebuke the apathy and cowardice of one which refused to give them protection. The measure had two objects in view; and one of the main objections to it was, that it contemplated both those objects. The first object for which it provided by enactments which extended to the whole of Ireland, was to prevent political agitation; the other object was, to prevent those insurrectionary proceedings 90 which have been called in this Debate agrarian disturbances. The objection was, that political agitation was unconnected with the insurrectionary proceedings, and that it was unnecessary and unjust that there should be precautions taken against political agitation. I will make no personal applications, but this I will say, that I will not vote for a law which should arrest the ignorant and deluded offenders, unless it laid at the same time its interdict upon the system which encouraged and incited them. I am now touching on the most important part of the measure. It would be unjust to limit the law to a number of wretched Whitefeet, whilst it made no attempt to prevent the proximate cause of insurrection. I can see no justice in an act which should punish the deluded conspirators, if it did not take some precautions against the system of political agitation. There are great fallacies on this part of the subject. The argument was this—that there were two matters, political agitation and insurrectionary violence, but that they were altogether unconnected; that the system of political agitation was, not connected with the insurrections. He should try to draw the line between the truth and the mistake, and expose the fallacy. The object of political agitation was, to work upon the mass of the people—to create a mighty power of opinion and physical force combined, which should be subject to its control, and obedient to its will. It was no easy matter to keep this fiery mass at the proper temperature, and at the same time to prevent those partial eruptions and explosions from which no good could ensue. I do not deny, that political agitation does occasionally condemn, and does try to repress, insurrectionary violence: to be sure it does—it does it whenever insurrectionary violence defeats the object of political agitation. You say, that political agitation has the power, and has exercised the power, of restoring peace to disturbed districts—that ten counties have been quieted through its influence. I, for one, will not pay such a price for peace and quiet. What does all this prove? Why, that there exists a power, superior to Government, and superior to law, that operates by an unseen but magic influence on the mass of the people. This power may be strong for good purposes, but it is irresistible for evil. Do you think, if it can perform 91 the miracle of stilling the stormy wave of the multitude, it need to put forth equal strength to rouse into fury the tranquil deep? Your Government and the dominion of the law exist but by sufferance, if you permit yourselves to be duped by the sophistry, that, because political agitation may be able occasionally to control popular excesses, therefore it is a system to be tolerated and encouraged. But the truth is, that it can only control those excesses for a time: it must administer some great stimulant; it must excite a hope of some great measure of relief. At one time the Catholic Question will serve its purpose; at another the Repeal of the Union, or the destruction of the Church; but if it should come to pass that excitement cannot be maintained—that the special object to be gained cannot possibly be achieved; then popular excesses will break their bonds, and prove too strong even for political agitation.
You read to us plausible and artful manifestoes, exhorting the people to abstain from crime. They may be very sincere; you tell me they are so, and I am bound, at least, not to contradict you; but this I say, that the issue of such manifestoes is, of itself, no proof of sincerity. I say more, that the cunning of the serpent would suggest and dictate the issue of them. I will believe you to be sincere, if you will abandon the system of agitation at the same moment that you exhort the people to peace and good order; but, if you do not abandon that system, of what avail are your exhortations? Of course, the mass that obeys you will be more irresistible, as the habits of subordination and discipline are more complete. Is an army less powerful or less formidable because it maintains good discipline—because it obeys the orders of its superiors—because it abstains from individual acts of outrage and violence? I do not say, that such exhortations are incompatible with good intentions; but I will prove to you that they are quite compatible with the worst. Let us go back to the period of 1798. You will find, in the secret reports of the Irish Parliament, on the origin and progress of the Irish Rebellion, that the leaders of rebels, who were negotiating with France, were, at the same time, exhorting their followers to peace and good order. Here is an address of the County Committee of Dublin to their constituents:— 92 'We recommend, in the most earnest manner, your constant recollection of your solemn obligations to promote a brotherhood of affection among Irishmen of every religious persuasion: suffer it not to be a mere profession; but realise it by every act of benevolence and kindness, as you would do to your natural brothers.
Be sober, and promote sobriety in all your circles. Banish all violent and intemperate language from your meetings: be assured that nothing can injure the cause of liberty more than such conversations. Violent and intemperate language is affected by spies and enemies'.—Spies and enemies! one word on that subject. This is the universal cant, that all the disturbances in Ireland are the work of emissaries employed by the Government, to ensnare the credulous and innocent people into the commission of crime. I have been connected with the Government, English and Irish, for near twenty years, and I declare, upon my honour, I never knew or heard of a spy or emissary employed by Government for the purpose of seducing people into the commission of crime. The Government that employed such instruments would be justly the object of execration and ridicule. But to revert to the Address. 'Avoid, as much as possible, all meetings in public houses: a few minutes, in any convenient place, will be sufficient for a small number of men to confer on the objects of their deliberation.'
What excellent advice! but where do I find it? Why, in the very same document which contains the resolutions and constitution of the Society of United Irishmen;—in the very same document which explains the organization of that extraordinary machinery of treason, by which baronial Committees, and county Committees, and provincial Committees, and the national Committee, were constituted; the inferior authorities each obedient to the commands of a superior, of whose names and persons it was kept in utter ignorance.
Among the persons who were apprehended in 1798, shortly before the breaking out of the Rebellion, was an active agent of treason, of the name of Edward Ratigan. In his house there were found many thousand copies of an Address to his countrymen, breathing that spirit of peace which betokens the holy effusions of 93 religion, rather than a political manifesto. Can anything be more edifying than the lessons which it inculcates?—
Your strength consists in being a cordially united and thoroughly well organised body. Let sobriety, let good character, let courage, let talents, be the qualities which shall direct your choice. Purge your societies of all suspicious or doubtful men. Be discreet, and avoid drunkenness. Be patient, and avoid riots. The taking of arms, by force, from houses, is attended with great evil, and productive of no good; therefore, any man imprisoned shall not be maintained by their societies.[Hear, hear! from some Members.]
Oh yes, the instructions are excellent; but, sometimes, the cry of" Hear, hear!" is premature. What a pity it is that this was not the only document found in the possession of Edward Ratigan! He would have gone forth with the character of an apostle of peace; and would have been sent, perhaps, on his holy mission, protected; and rewarded by the Government of Ireland. But Edward Ratigan had other papers in his possession, which might suggest a doubt of his apostolic character. He had a sergeant's oath, which runs thus:—
'I, A B, do voluntarily declare that I will come forward when called upon by my captain or superior officer, and aid him in any eligible manner that may tend to the establishment of liberty or the freedom of Ireland; and that I will not call forward, under arms, any of the men consigned to my command, without the authority of my superior officer; and that I will not risk, by any illegal meeting, the safety of any individual under my command.'
This oath throws some suspicion, I fear, on the good intentions of the political sermon on obedience and sobriety, of which Mr. Ratigan had so many thousand copies: but there was in the possession of Mr. Ratigan a still more awkward document. It reposed peaceably, side by side, with the admirable address which was cheered just now, and it is not a bad commentary upon it.
It is a return of the number of United Irishmen in thirteen counties of Ireland; that is, of the men among whom the address was to be distributed, and who amounted, from Mr. Ratigan's returns, to 111,725 men, for whom there were in 94 store, according to the same return, 6,919 guns, 34,632 ball cartridges, and 43,125 pikes. So much for Mr. Ratigan and his exhortations to sobriety and good order, Now, all that I meant to prove was, that it may so happen that men with very dangerous intentions may sometimes give very good advice respecting the duties of peace, and obedience to the law; and I hope that I have succeeded.
It only remains to inquire what practical course I shall pursue. Shall I vote for the first reading of this Bill, and thus permit a further consideration of it? or, shall I reject it at once, as an act of intolerable and unjustified despotim? I have, it is true, an alternative: I may, if I choose, range myself under the standard which has been erected by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tennyson), the member for Lambeth But really, Sir, the device which he has chosen for his shield is so little inspiriting, that I am forced to hesitate. If his warcry had been, "Down with the Bill" or, "Trial by Jury!" or, "Stand by the Laws!" or, "The British Constitution or Death!" one might have partaken of the enthusiasm of your leader, and followed him at all hazards. But when the leader has chosen such a very unromantic motto—when his standard is merely inscribed—" That this Bill be read a first time on this day fortnight;"—when he rallies his followers with the sage advice, "Let us wait a little,"—" Come, tarry awhile with me," I have self-possession enough to resist his appeal.
Wait a fortnight! and for what? Why, to see what effect the promise of remedial measures will have in a fortnight. Did the right hon. Gentleman hear the Secrecretary of Ireland give an account of the relative progress of crime during certain periods of each of the last four years? It was bad enough in 1829; it was worse in 1830; 1831 was still more alarming; but 1832 almost exceeded belief. Well! but you have had "remedial" measures in abundance during the interval. Why, yon had extinction of tithe, as it was called: nay more, you had the great healing measure of all, Reform of Parliament. If they have done nothing in the space of four years; nay, if they have made—or, at any rate, if matters have become, in spite of them—infinitely worse, where is the use of waiting a fortnight? How I wish we were at this moment at the end of the fortnight, and that I could just ask 95 the member for Lambeth, what he would do next? Would he wait another fortnight, or pass the Bill? No, Sir, there is no use in this delay; there is no use in pausing on the banks of this turbid stream, and poring over the waters, to see whether, some days hence, they will be less streaked and discoloured with human blood. I am for passing over while it is yet day; while the current is yet fordable; while it is yet within our power to carry across the stream succour to the law, and consolation to the drooping spirits of those who have begun to despair. Wait a fortnight, and you may be too late! not because you waited the fortnight; but because you showed the symptoms of irresolution and fear. The current already rapid, but still passable, may, before you are aware, become a foaming torrent, that refuses to be crossed—Lapides adesos,Stirpesque raptas, et pecus et domosVolventis unà——I have attempted to refute some of the objections urged against this measure; but the truth is, that it is here, it is in this list, in this bloody catalogue of crime, that the true answer to these objections lies:—196 murders and murderous attempts; 194 burnings; 1,827 burglaries and attacks on houses! Can you deny these facts; and if you cannot, where is your answer to the argument drawn from them? It is too powerful not to be repeated. Above 2,200 acts of insurrectionary violence have been committed in one single year in one single province.
One hundred and ninety-six murders!—Why, you have fought great battles, and achieved famous victories, at a less cost of English blood! [An Hon Member: No, no.] No! but I say emphatically, Yes. The battle of St. Vincent cost you less. The terrible bombardment of Algiers cost you less. With less profusion of English blood you rolled back the fiery tide which the exulting valour of France poured upon the heights of Busaco. But why do I talk of battles?—Oh, how tame and feeble the comparison between death on the field of honour, and that death which is inflicted by the hand of Irish assassins. It is not the fatal hour of that death that is most terrible; it is the wasting misery of suspense, the agony of expectation, that is listening for weeks and months to every nightly sound, lest it be the fatal knell to summon a whole family to destruction. 96 These are the real terrors, from which the act of murder is but too often a merciful relief. In Ireland they can afford to give you notice of death; and woe to the victim that receives that notice and neglects it! In England, who is there that has mixed in public life and has not received some anonymous warning, or threat of personal injury, and, having received it, does not treat it either as a malignant jest, or an empty menace, which proves, that from one quarter, at least, he is in no danger? But, in Ireland, these warnings are given in sober earnestness. They are the preliminary tortures, the refinements of cruelty, which embitter the pangs of death. These, Sir, may appear slight things, but they are in truth, the colours that paint the state of society more vividly than volumes of laboured disquisitions.
There never was a tale of fictitious horror that equalled the romance that in that state of society real life has presented. There never was a creative fancy that could figure to itself a state of misery more terrible than that which has been, and now is, endured by many a family in Ireland, or could pourtray, from imagination alone, such examples of heroic fortitude, of sublime composure in the very jaws of death, as have been exhibited by illiterate and wretched peasants. There you may find the gauge and measure of the load of agony which the human spirit, after repeated trials, can endure, without fainting under the pressure.
I am still haunted by the recollection of the scenes of atrocity and suffering with which I was once familiar. Will the House bear with me while I mention one fact to prove the truth of what I say, both as to the misery that is endured, and as to the fortitude that is exhibited? It occurred long ago, but it was then no rare occurrence, and it is less so now.
There was a family in the county of Kilkenny, consisting of a father, mother, and three children; the eldest child, a girl about nine years of age. The father had made himself obnoxious by giving evidence against some persons charged with White-boy offences, who were, I believe, tried and executed. He was forced to leave the country; he came to Dublin: but the desire to return to his native spot overcame his fears, and he was resolved to brave the danger. It was in vain to expostulate with him: all he asked was, that he might be allowed to return to his home, and that his 97 house might be slated. Perhaps some English Members are not aware of the object of this request, and do not see the great difference, in point of security, between a thatched and a slated house. Here, again, is one of the slight, almost imperceptible circumstances, that are unerring: indications of the state of society. The house is slated, as a means of additional defence, to prevent the murderers, who may try to force an entrance through the door or window, from setting fire to the roof in case of failure. The man returned to his home, took possession of his house, received a notice to leave it, and a threat of murder if he did not; but he still resisted all importunity to him to come to a place of safety, and remained with his family some weeks, with out being attacked, long enough to relax his vigilance. One night his house was surrounded either by eleven or nine men (I forget which at this moment). He was asleep in bed with his wife and children. They broke into the house, dragged the man just outside the door, and murdered him in the most horrid manner, with pitchforks, in the hearing and almost in the sight of his wife and children. Now, let the House mark what I am about to relate. While the husband was in the struggles of death, the mother took her child—the child of nine years of age;—placed it in a recess that was close to the fireplace;—and, such was the heroic fortitude of that woman, such her awful composure, while the cries of her dying husband were ringing in her ears, I that she said to her child: Those are the cries of your dying father. I shall be the next victim. After they have murdered him they will murder me: but I will not go out when they call me; I will struggle with them to the last, that I may give yon time to do that for which I put you here. My last act will be to throw this dry turf on the hearth; and do you, by the glare of it, watch the faces of the murderers, mark them all narrowly, that you may be able to tell who they are, and to revenge the death of your father and your mother.
As the unhappy woman foretold, so it fell out. She was summoned, but she did not go forth. After a short but unsuccessful struggle with her murderers, she was dragged out of the house, and she was actually slain upon the bleeding body of her husband. The child obeyed her dying command;—watched, by the lighted turf, 98 the faces and every motion of the assassins; and upon the artless evidence of that child, which nothing could shake, five of those assassins were convicted, and hanged! Such are the romances of real life!
Alas! in that state of society in which such things take place, it is not merely that laws are powerless; all the moral restraints and checks on crime appear to have lost their force. Those feelings of pity, those compunctious visitings of nature, which, in other times, have given protection, at least to the helplessness of age and infancy, are extinct. There is no remorse. The conscience—" which makes cowards of us all,"—inflicts no secret punishment on the murderer whom the law has spared. Those superstitious terrors; those salutary, and almost instinctive prejudices, that impress the mind with a belief that murder cannot escape detection—are obliterated. The mighty genius that dived deepest into the recesses of the human heart, and laid bare the springs of human action, never imagined the total extinction of pity and remorse. When he painted the murderer, he painted him haunted by the recollection of his crime, and driven to distraction by the phantoms that pursued him:———"Blood will have blood, they say;Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak;Auguries and understood relations have brought forthThe secrct'st man of blood.In Ireland the man of blood is not secret; and neither the law of his country nor his own conscience, have any terrors for him.
In this state of things, then, there being no adequate punishment inflicted by the ordinary operation of law, and the force of moral restraints on crime being almost extinguished, shall we reject at once this measure as unworthy of consideration? You are asked how this measure can supply the defect of evidence. You are told that it is evidence, and evidence only, that is now wanted; and it is inquired of you, in a tone of triumph, "Do you mean to convict without the proofs of guilt? and, if not, how do you mean to procure those proofs?" I answer—By restoring confidence. Range yourselves on the side of order; lend the weight of your authority to the law; and from that hour you will instil confidence into the peaceable and 99 well-disposed, and strike terror into the coward hearts (for they are cowards) of nightly assassins. Then will men breathe a new atmosphere. Then will the position of the friends of order and of its enemies he reversed; and those who suffer will come forth with voluntary testimony to aid the law, which gives them redress for past injury, and protects them from renewed wrong. But if you shrink from your duty—if you pause for a fortnight—if you cover your irresolution under the flimsy veil of requiring further time to consider, then take these consequences:—The contagion of depravity will rapidly extend; the places yet healthy will be infected; the whole land will become a moral wilderness, in which every principle of Government will be subverted, and every rule of justice reversed—in which there will be no punishment except for innocence, and no security except for triumphant guilt.
§ On the Question being put,
§ Lord Althorp
said, that though he wished to give every opportunity for the discussion of the measure before the House, yet he did think that this would have been its utmost limit; in this opinion he was supported by many Gentlemen. He was, generally, very much averse to opposing a motion for adjournment, but he must say, that it was hardly possible to believe the Motion was, in the present instance, made for the sole purpose of discussing the Question. After three nights debate on the first stage of the Bill, he certainly must consider the Motion in the light of an expedient for delay, and in that view must oppose it.
§ The House divided on the Motion for the Adjournment—Ayes 68; Noes 466: Majority 398.
§ Another division on the Motion, that this House do now adjourn, took place—Ayes 63; Noes 468: Majority 405.
|List of the AYES.|
|Attwood, T.||Bulwer, E. L.|
|Baldwin, H.||Bulwer, H. L.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Butler, Hon. P.|
|Barron, H. W.||Daunt, T. O.|
|Bayntun, Captain||Faithful, G.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Fancourt, Major C. St. John|
|Bellew, R. M.|
|Blackney, W.||Fielden, J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Finn, W. F.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Fitzsion, C.||O'Reiley, W.|
|Fitzsimon, N.||Philips, M.|
|French, F.||Roche, D.|
|Grattan, H.||Roche, W.|
|Grote, G.||Roe, J.|
|Gully, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Ronayne, D.|
|Humphrey, J.||Rorke, J. H.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||Ruthven, E.|
|James, W.||Scholefield, J.|
|Kinloch, G.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Lalor, P.||Stawell, Lieut.-Col.|
|Langton, G.||Sullivan, R.|
|Lynch, A. H.||Tennyson, rt. hon. C.|
|Maclachlan, L.||Torrens, Lieut.-Col. R.|
|Macnamara, Maj. W. N.||Tynte, C. K. K.|
|Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Moles worth. Sir W.||Vigors, N.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Wallace, R.|
|O'Connell, D.||Warburton, H.|
|O'Connell, M.||Williams, Colonel G.|
|O'Connor, D.||Hume, J.|
|O'Dwyer, A. C.||Ruthven, E.|
§ Debate resumed.
§ Mr. John H. Lloyd
observed, that there could be no doubt that there were outrages committed in Ireland, and it was equally undoubted that they should be put down; but the question which the House had to determine was, whether such a measure as the proposed one was required for that purpose, and whether a due and vigorous administration of the existing laws would not amply suffice without its enactment. He contended that the case of a necessity for such an unconstitutional measure had not been made out by his Majesty's Government, and he maintained that the existing laws afforded sufficient means for restoring peace and good order in that distracted country. Let the Government and the constituted authorities only do their duty, and his Majesty's Ministers would have no occasion for those increased powers which it was proposed to give them by this Bill. He could point to an instance in which the vigorous execution of its duty on the part of the Government led to similar happy results in this country. In the year 1812 a general illegal organization took place throughout the manufacturing districts; the same system of intimidation that was now practised in Ireland was universally resorted to; the Magistrates shrunk from the performance of their duties; but one man came forward at his post, and, assisted by the vigorous 101 exertions of the Government of that day, he effectually put down the disturbances and restored tranquillity. He objected to this measure altogether, but he especially objected to those military tribunals which would be constituted under it, and which were so liable to be perverted to the purposes of injustice and oppression. There was an intense feeling against the measure in England, He had been intrusted with a petition, numerously signed from his constituents, to present against it. [The hon. Member addressed the House for some time; but noise and cries of "Question," &c., prevented what he said from being heard.]
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the objection which he had made to the Motion of Adjournment, when it was made before, was, that it was not necessary for the House to adjourn at that early period of the night. He then certainly thought, that they might go on with the discussion some time longer, not that he at all wished to prevent those Gentlemen who might be desirous to address the House from speaking, but, because it appeared to him, that to adjourn a debate of this kind at an early hour every night before its conclusion would be productive of great delay and unnecessary inconvenience. He had not, however, the same objection to the Motion for Adjournment when it was brought forward, as it now was, at a more advanced hour of the night. An hon. friend behind him suggested, that it would be better to adjourn till to-morrow, but he thought, that upon the score of convenience alone that would be objectionable.
§ Debate adjourned till the following Monday.