§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
appeared at the Bar, and being called upon by the Speaker, stated, that the managers of the conference on the part of that House had met the Duke of Wellington and others, managers of the conference on the part of the Lords, and were acquainted by their Lordships that they had taken into consideration the reasons of the Commons for disagreeing with the amendments by the Lords on the Bill for Municipal Reform in Ireland; for omitting some of those amendments, retaining others, and making amendments upon other of the amendments of the Lords: that their Lordships stated that the House of Lords insisted upon the retention of some of their amendments and waived others: rejected some of the amendments of the Commons and admitted others: for reasons assigned by the managers of the conference on the part of their Lordships to the managers of the conference on the part of the House of Commons, which reasons the hon. Gentleman brought up.
§ Lord John Russell
said, I rise, Sir, to address the House upon the subject of the amended Irish Corporation Bill, as returned from the House of Lords, and I think that those who agree with us on the original formation of that Bill will agree with me in thinking that after hearing the reasons given by the Lords, and what the amendments are upon which they insist it is not possible for us to hope to come to a satisfactory settlement of this question. Among the minor amendments there is one of no slight importance—namely, that by which the whole of the corporate property is transferred to the Commissioners under 9 Geo. 4th., where such subsist. I cannot omit to note that this is an amendment of some importance: but, Sir, the Lords have stated, and in their reasons have very strongly supported 1068 that statement, that there is one principle of our Bill in] which they have not been able to concur. What is that principle? Sir, that one principle of the Bill is the very principle which gave it vigour and vitality—that principle which made it consistent with the constitutional freedom of these realms —that principle, from the operation of which we expected to give content to the people of the towns of Ireland: and when that one principle is refused and denied to us, and when it is so clearly stated that no concession will be made on this point, I can only submit that it is unnecessary for us to take any further time for consideration. That principle we have long and deeply considered; upon that principle we have over and over again declared our opinion, in debate and on division, from the very first day upon which the House was first addressed upon the subject in the speech of his Majesty from the throne, and I cannot for an instant suppose that now, upon the last day of June, we, the House of Commons, are prepared to surrender the principle upon which we have so solemnly decided. I think, therefore, that as there can be but one opinion upon the subject among those who formed a large majority upon the last occasion on which the House decided upon this question, it will be quite unnecessary for me to enter now into any lengthened statement of the reasons upon which our opinions are founded—to enter now into a description of the advantages of local and popular municipal government, or to endeavour to exposs or to confute any reasons by which the adverse view of things is sustained. I think I perceive in the reasons given by the Lords, some of those statements which I have always held to be fallacious upon this subject; the opinion amongst others, for instance, that it is only upon reconstruction that we differ, and that upon the abolition of Corporations we are agreed. We cannot now hope for any final and satisfactory conclusion respecting that Bill; it will be quite unnecessary for me to repeat the reasons why we adhere to our original decision. But, Sir, I cannot help calling the attention of this House to some words in the reasons of the House of Lords, which induce me to take a less dark and less despairing view of this great question than I have hitherto taken, 1069 It has long been my opinion, that whatever Government you wish to establish in Ireland, you should endeavour to make it rest on stable principles, and that there is nothing so dangerous as to be adopting from day to day, and in one part of the Government as contradistinguished from another part of the Government, different principles with regard to the rule and administration of that country. I have been strongly confirmed in that opinion by the differences which have prevailed so many years on these benches —when, on a subject deeply involving the interests of Ireland, exciting all the passions, provoking all those religious feelings which it is desirable to keep tranquil— when I have seen the Members of the same Government, on these benches, differing and disputing as much as any Ministry and any Opposition were ever seen to differ and dispute. I think my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, who now sits opposite, must have imbibed the same opinion as myself on this subject, because he must be aware of the difficulties which existed with respect to the great Irish question, when the Members of the Government were expressing each his different opinions, and voting in the divisions of the House, some on one side and some on the other. I do not believe his seriously-expressed opinion could be, that it would be for the advantage of this country that such a difference should continue. I believe that both parties concur in this, that one principle or the other ought to prevail with respect to the government of Ireland. But if that be admitted, I think I may assume it to be important in an equal degree, that the two Houses of Parliament should not entertain, unalterably, opinions totally discordant as to the system of government which ought to be pursued. And I can conceive no question on which it could be more dangerous, on which it could be more calamitous, that the Houses of Parliament should differ, than on the paramount principles on which the Government of Ireland should be conducted. I will say further, that I cannot conceive, and I do not think, the Lords, in their reasons, wish it to be imagined that this is a question of a different nature. But in the prospect and in the immediate view of that calamity, I think I can gather some hope from the words used in the reasons of the Lords, and I will repeat the whole of those words, 1070 that the House may judge of them. The noble Lord here read the passage, to this effect:—The Lords, will, however, still entertain the hope, that the two Houses of Parliament, maintaining the good understanding which happily subsists between them, and zealously co-operating in the discharge of their common duty to the country, may, at no distant period, devise such measures of reform in the administration of local affairs, as may give real contentment by effecting real improvement, and promote prosperity by promoting social and religious peace in the cities and towns of Ireland.Now knowing the principles which we have maintained, knowing the principles to which we have adhered, I think the Lords would hardly have expressed such a hope, unless they expected that at no distant period they might agree to a measure, in principle the same as that on which the present Bill is founded. If that be the view that is taken, I much lament that the House of Lords did not take the present time for acting on it. I exceedingly lament that, disregarding the advice of some of the greatest, and wisest, and. most experienced among them, they did not feel that, if the question were to be settled—if they looked to an end to the differences existing between the two Houses —they did not take the present moment for terminating it, when the contentment they would give to Ireland would be pure and unalloyed, instead of postponing it to distant times, when it may be mixed with other elements. I trust that every possible means will be resorted to—I can hardly say in the words of the House of Lords, to maintain the good understanding that now prevails between the two Houses— but to bring about a better understanding than now prevails. I am disposed, then, to rely on the hope held out to me in this paragraph. I do say, in conformity with what has been in former times the course of the House of Lords, in conformity with what I think ought to be the course of the House of Lords, if, in a great measure of this kind, the majority of the House of Commons remain firm to their principles —if that majority, so remaining firm to their principles, are supported by public opinion, I retain the hope, I anxiously cherish the hope, that the time may come—perhaps within a few months —when the settlement of this question may be effected, and when the prevalence of the reasons which have given rise to 1071 this disagreement, may yield to the general opinion of the House of Commons and the people. I am sure if I did not entertain that hope, I should despair of the British Constitution. I can conceive no Constitution more inconvenient than one in which the House of Commons and the people whom they represent, being of one opinion, another House of Parliament shall determinedly, perseveringly, and unyieldingly maintain the contrary opinion. The Lords have stated it as a matter of sincere regret with them, that the more important amendments which they made have not been acceded to by this House. Thus they admit, that the more important of their amendments this House has certainly not been disposed to adopt; and that, I think, will be a sufficient justification to us, if, at all events, as regards the more important principle, we should not be disposed to give way. I should probably close my observations with the hope which I have ventured to express, and with a declaration of the determination which I am resolved to adhere to, by every possible means, to infuse into the Government of Ireland and the legislation for that country, the principles of equity and justice, if it were not that complaints have been made greatly affecting my conduct, and which have been so interwoven with the question that I consider it my duty not altogether to pass them over. Sir, it is easy in this House, without committing any breach of its privileges, to refer to matters which have passed in conversation, or in another place; and no person can say, least of all can you, Sir, say, that the Speaker is then alluding to that which took place in another House of Parliament. Undoubtedly, to allude to what passes in another House of Parliament is an irregularity; but, on special occasions, when Gentlemen have found themselves compelled to do so, they have always been able to avoid the use of words that would be. a trespass on the orders of this House. I have repeatedly heard such allusions. I remember that when Lord Castlereagh made a statement in this House with respect to the conduct of Lord Lansdowne, during his administration. Lord Lansdowne again stated the whole matter in the House of Lords, and went into his defence in that House. I remember another instance, which is not a little remarkable, because it bears certainly on some of the words which I used, and on 1072 the matter in which I am supposed to have been the cause. The words to which I am referring were used in the great debate on the Catholic question, when Lord Canterbury sat in the chair of this House. Mr. Canning said, on that occasion, "However a man may allow himself to be engrossed by the quarto, he generally contrives to peruse the diurnal sheet of Reports. And must not every man who reads know what passes? Nay, I myself have listened, in another place, hisce auribus, to what was meant to be the most taunting language, as applied to the Roman Catholics. It was said, if you give them relief, do it largely, do it effectively, &c."✶ And so he went on, and stated the arguments which he had heard in another place. Mr. Canning said, he heard them, "hisce auribus;" and as regards the words to which I referred, I say, I have with my own ears heard them. But Mr. Canning stated, that he had heard them in another place. Lord Canterbury was then in the chair, that zealous and dignified maintainer of the order of this House, and he did not think proper to interrupt the speaker, or to call on him to explain his words. Though the circumstance, however, may have been passed over by Lord Canterbury, there was one person present on whom that speech must have made an impression, because it was a speech which did convey one of the most vigorous, and one of the most successful replies I ever heard to the mistaken views and the unfounded attacks of the then Master of the Rolls. Well, then, it is not without example, that allusions of the kind have been made; it is not even beyond the recollection of those who are now living. and sitting in this and the other House of Parliament. Having passed by the matter of form, I will now come to the matter of courtesy, and it seems I am said to have repeated words used by a learned Lord without giving him notice of my attack What I intended was, not to make an attack on that learned Lord; but if I omitted any matter of courtesy, I am sorry for it. When, however, it is said that if I had given notice of my intention, some of the friends of the noble and learned Lord might have been here to defend his conduct, I cannot forget I stated those words at the beginning of a debate which lasted two nights, and I spoke in the presence of the friends of the noble and✶ Hansard, page 988, vol, xvi., (New Series.)1073 learned Lord. I spoke also in the presence of his former colleagues. Further, with regard to the use of those expressions which were remarkable enough in themselves, a learned Gentleman, the Member for Tipperary, took care to repeat them on the second night of the debate, and to call the particular attention of the late colleagues of the noble and learned Lord to the subject; and though there had been full time, from the appearance of the reports in the morning, to arm any of the colleagues of that noble and learned Lord with any answer that might be given, the right hon. Baronet, wisely, as I think, but certainly, in fact, avoided all mention and allusion to the words, and the only reference made to them was made by the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, who alluded to them, pithily enough, by saying that they were words which he did not mean to justify or concur in. Now such being the facts of what passed on the second night of this debate, let it not be said, or let it not be believed at least by the Members of this House, that if I had given notice of my intention there would have been a triumphant reply by some of the friends of the noble and learned Lord. Well, then, as to the matter itself, I do not wish—I do not think there is any occasion for me—to explain the statement that I made, because as far as I can learn, from a good many observations made on the subject, I do not find that the words in themselves have been in the least altered or retracted. It appears to me, that whatever force they had as originally delivered, they still retain. If those words were right words to use, they retain their original propriety; if they were wrong, if they were insulting words to use—which I never said they were— they retain their original offence. What I did say was, that those words were evidence of the motives, the grounds, the reasons, on which the amendments were carried. I think I have not been mistaken in that view. And it appears to me, I may say, that the clear and powerful mind of the person who used the words prompted him to give what was not a just, but what, if it had been just, would have been a sufficient reason for those amendments, because what I thought was wanting—what I considered to be defective in all the arguments I heard from the other side of the House—was not a sufficient justification of a measure for depriving the people of Ireland of Municipal Government. If 1074 the statement contained in those words was correct, it was just and sufficient ground for the course adopted. But I thought, besides, that in stating what I supposed to have been the grounds of the amendments of the Lords I was somewhat justified by their own practice. I may have been deceived. I know it was the custom for the public journals of former times to give under foreign names, and dated from Rome and Athens, reports of the debates that occurred in the Houses of Parliament; and the public papers of the present day may have reversed that practice: they, perhaps, have given real names, and the speeches themselves may have been entirely drawn from fiction. I suggest the possibility of this, because I cannot conceive any such observation as I have mentioned to have been made by any Member accustomed to go to any assembly where, as the persons who write these narratives tell us, there is hardly a measure with respect to Ireland which is not rejected, and the grounds for the rejection of which are not some words that have been used by an hon. Member of this House. Not only last year was that the case, but in the present year some words fell from the hon. and learned Member on the first night of the session. I do not wish, certainly, to take on myself the responsibility of expressions to which the hon. and learned Member affixes his own meaning, those expressions being to the effect, that the Corporations would be "normal schools for peaceful agitation." I think I am right in saying "peaceful" agitation—those words, with an alteration not trifling in substance— those words, so used in this House, if we are to believe those false and feigning reporters, were made elsewhere, the very groundwork of opposition to measures for the benefit of Ireland. I will own, that I have been led into error—that I had these diurnal reports—that I read them with a good deal of belief—that I now consider them unfounded, and that their object was to give occasion to censure the House of Lords: they have put into the mouths of noble and learned Members reasons, founded on words used in this House, but which never have been actually uttered. I must admit all this, for I cannot conceive that I have been made the subject of attack for doing that which is constantly practised in that House. With respect to the matter itself—with respect to any jus- 1075 tification of the words, it may be said, perhaps it will be said, that those who sought to excite the people of Ireland, and who placed themselves at their head, to demand the repeal of the Union, made the difference between the two nations, the ground on which the demand was made. When a large portion of the people of Ireland sent in their petitions to this House, and said "you are unfit to Legislate for us, you do not share in our feelings, you do not belong to the same religion as ourselves, and we ask you to give us our independent Legislature, "What was your answer? "We will not consent. That repeal of the Legislative Union would lead to the dismemberment of the empire. We will not repeal the Union, but we will listen to your just complaints; we will show you, that for your portion of the empire, we feel as much interest as for any other portion; in proof of our good disposition towards you, we will give you the same measure of justice as we gave to England and Scotland, why then will you entertain the unreasonable and restless jealousy which arises from your thinking that we will legislate for you in any other spirit." That is the answer which you have given to the numerous petitions which have been presented to this House. Then comes an instance. You framed a measure of Municipal Reform on sound principles, and you gave it to Scotland. You framed another measure of Municipal Reform, not quite the same, but on similar principles, and you gave it to England. You have before you another measure of Municipal Reform, founded on the same principles, but likewise differing in some respects, and you wish to give it to Ireland. And then, when the people come by petition, not to ask for repeal of the Union, but for this measure, are they to be told, "No, we cannot legislate for you as we do for the other parts of the empire. You are alien from us in blood, alien in religion, and hostile to us in feeling, therefore for you a different measure of Legislation must be provided?" Why, there is so obvious and so glaring an injustice in all this, that I consent with confidence, though with reluctance, to a delay of the question. I am persuaded the people of England will feel, that after being absolutely and totally denied any approach to the repeal of the Union, it is not just to say to the people of Ireland, they shall not be dealt with as if they formed a part and parcel 1076 of the empire. And on this question there cannot well be thought, I know efforts are making to excite it, any degree of religious difference. I well know on the Roman Catholic question, and latterly on the Church question, that the feeling which was endeavoured to be instilled among the people of England was, that, the object of the promoters of these measures was to compel the people of England to give up their own Church and their own religion. I have been addressed by many a freeholder, whose vote I asked, by the reproach that I was myself a Roman Catholic, and that I wished to pass a measure which would have the effect of preventing the Protestants from going to their own places of worship. This feeling has prevailed, I assure hon. Gentlemen, to a great extent. But this cannot so easily be made a ground of objection in a question of Municipal Reform. I have been told to-day (only a few minutes ago) that the people of the north of Scotland are indignant at the notion, that they will not be allowed, by a Bill now in Parliament, to have a provost in their towns. The question is a similar one as regards Ireland— it is whether a mayor and council shall be allowed in the towns there. This is no question involving an alteration of the religion of the people, or the subversion of the Church. It is a simple question, whether the inhabitants of the cities of Ireland shall be allowed to have a mayor and council of their own. The Lords say they cannot consent to the corporations being established in twelves cities and towns; perhaps they are right, and we may hereafter extend them to a greater number. I think, certainly, that they should not be confined to twelve cities and towns; but I made a proposal to that effect to the House, because I thought it our duty, by every means in our power, to come to some understanding on this great question, and even to yield some of our opinions, that it never might be said it was on our side that the want of forbearance was exhibited. We have obtained the object we had in view so far. That which we thought necessary to give effect to our own principle, we have insisted on with as much moderation as possible—we have confined the statement of it to as narrow a compass as we could, consistently with the principle which this House was bound to maintain. I regret that the attempt to conciliate, has not proved successful; but I 1077 never can regret that the attempt has been made. For peace and harmony, for a cordial agreement between the two Houses, I am ready to sacrifice much—to alter many opinions, to confine views which might be further enlarged; but having done this, and the House having done me the honour to agree with that which I proposed to them, I should be betraying their confidence—I should be exhibiting a pusillanimity, which I hope the House of Commons never will exhibit—if I asked them to take into their consideration any further concessions, with a view to their swerving from the great principles in which is involved the future peace of Ireland, which are essential to the maintenance of the character of this House, and on which I believe the proud situation of this country depends. I therefore move, Sir, that these amendments be taken into consideration this day three months.
§ The Speaker having put the motion,
§ Mr. Hume
thought the noble Lord had stated very fairly his views on the present occasion, but he must say, that they were much more moderate than those which he entertained. He considered that the conduct of the other House of Parliament, with all due deference to the discretion they had exercised, did little honour to their judgment, as regarded the consideration they ought to give to the wishes of the people. They had in this instance the united voice of Ireland, demanding justice from this House. The question for the consideration of the House of Lords was, simply, whether there should be inefficient or good Government in Ireland. If the Lords continued to oppose themselves as they had done to good Government, the day would come when the people would consider the propriety of sweeping them away. Could it be supposed that the House of Lords was an institution constituted for the Lords themselves. No, they had a higher object to accomplish. They were appointed as one branch of the Government. So were the royal boroughs appointed for municipal government, yet they had swept away the royal boroughs, because they were supported by men who consulted only their own interests. Was there any difference between the rotten boroughs in England and Scotland, and the House of Lords? They were asked, would they not allow the Lords to do as they liked? He would say no. He repeated it might become a question, whether this 1078 second branch of the Legislature should be allowed to stand in the way of good government. He must say, that the manner in which the House of Lords had met the moderate proceedings of this House, exhibited a very ungracious return. The noble Lord had noticed the rap on the knuckles he had received for proposing that only twelve boroughs should have mayors and town-councils; that was an act of injustice, and he now saw the way in which his concessions were appreciated. He considered that it was the duty of his Majesty to carry on the Government of the country peaceably. He would not properly fill the high situation which he occupied, if he left anything undone to promote that harmony between the two branches of the Legislature which was necessary. He considered it his duty, at a time like this, boldly to state, that, in his opinion, from the House of Lords nothing was to be expected till an organic change had taken place. He knew that the noble Lord near him would resist such a proposition as long as possible, but it would be discovered, that what the House of Lords wanted, was responsibility, and responsibility to the people could not be accomplished till an organic change was made in the House of Lords. Come it would, and when it did come, it might sweep away institutions which they were now anxious to preserve. The people would not forget the "shilly-shally" policy which had been acted on for the last ten years; they had lost two years of reform. Was this the return which was to be had for the great sacrifices they had made? Of what use was the Reform Act to the country, if the House of Lords were to reject and treat with contempt every measure which was sent up to them for the purpose of realizing those fruits which the Reform Act gave the promise of. Who was to direct the proceedings of the Government—the minority or the majority? Were the people to yield to the Lords, or the Lords to the people? The House of Lords, with all its pageantry, was established for the good of the people, and if they worked to the prejudice of the people, it would be for the people to consider the mode of sweeping away the Lords. But they were told that matters were to go on in this way for another year. The doors of this House, then, were to be closed without their having granted a single request of the 1079 people of Ireland. With what confidence could the representatives of the people of Ireland go back to their constituents and tell them, that this House was willing to grant them what they asked, but the other House refused to listen to their just demands. He hoped that the example set by the right hon. Baronet, and the noble Duke, on a former occasion, would not be forgotten. They would bear in mind that short speech of the noble Duke, in which he said, that rather than have one day of civil war in Ireland, he granted Catholic Emancipation. With that example before them, he would ask, what was to be expected from the course taken by the House of Lords? Last year a Bill for the benefit of Ireland was rejected, because it contained the appropriation clause. Was there one single measure of Reform which the people of Ireland had a right to expect, and which this House was disposed to give them, that the House of Lords would consent to pass? Till means were found to compel them to act in conformity with this House, there should not be peace, there ought not to be peace, either in this country or in Ireland. He trusted the people of this country would rouse themselves, and demand for their fellow-citizens in Ireland that justice which we were pledged to afford them. The noble Lord said there was hope; but what a mockery was it to people who were suffering as they were, that there was a distant hope that the time might come when justice would be awarded them? The time might come when that measure which it was proposed to dole out to them might not be deemed satisfactory, and when the people might demand twice and thrice as much as they now asked for. The time might come— and he hoped it would come—when there would be extorted from their hands full justice, without thanks to that body which threatened the peace of the country. The Lords objected to the Bill; that it would give power to the majority; why, that was the very object which the measure was intended to accomplish: the people of Ireland were at present governed by a tyrannical minority. There did exist a tyrannical minority in the royal boroughs in Scotland and England, and they were properly swept away. That which was desired, was to give a popular control in the Municipal Corporations. That, however, was denied and he trusted this House would decide that the amendments of the Lords were 1080 no longer worthy of the consideration of this House. He differed with the noble Lord as to his grounds of hope. He believed that nothing was to be expected from the House of Lords, till the Peers were made responsible to the people. There existed no responsibility of the Lords to the people at this moment. The only ground of confidence, therefore, that he felt was, his belief that measures would be taken to force the Lords to concur with this House in its views of the necessity of giving Reform to Ireland.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I did not rise immediately after the noble Lord opposite concluded his speech, because I perceived, from the manner of the hon. Member for Middlesex, that he was desirous of addressing the House, and I wished to ascertain to what extent the noble Lord had been a fair representative and expounder of his opinion. I must say, I did not expect on this day, that we should have been called on to take into consideration the amendments of the House of Lords; still less did I expect that we should be called on without notice, and on the instant, to vote for the rejection of those amendments. I should have thought it would have been more consistent with usage, and the importance of the subject, that a motion should have been made for printing the amendments; and that on a subsequent day, a sufficient interval being permitted to weigh the nature of them, we should be called on to pronounce our opinion. Nevertheless, although I feel it necessary to express my dissent from the proposition of the noble Lord, — although I disapprove of postponing for three months the consideration of this question,—yet, as it has been understood that no division would take place,—I will not call upon the House to divide, lest an erroneous conclusion should be drawn from the numbers which would appear on either side. My conviction, however, of the propriety of delay in this matter, is confirmed by what has fallen from the noble Lord. In the first place, the noble Lord himself attaches great importance to some of the declarations contained in the reasons of the House of Lords, and he has said, there were some expressions of the House of Lords which made him hope for an amicable settlement of this question at a future period. If that be the noble Lord's view—it would be only decorous to afford us every opportunity for considering the reasons of the 1081 House of Lords, and we ought not at once, hastily, and perhaps after not a very intelligible reading of those reasons, to be called upon for an immediate, a final determination. Another reason for delay—one that in my opinion makes it most desirous, is, that I think the noble Lord has placed a most erroneous interpretation upon a passage in the reasons of the House of Lords to which the noble Lord had referred. The noble Lord stated, that one of their Lordships' objections was, that it was proposed by the Bill, that Corporations should be confined to twelve towns in Ireland; and he excited considerable laughter among his supporters, by observing, that the House of Lords were anxious to establish more Corporations than the House of Commons had considered necessary. I think the noble Lord's interpretation of the passage referred to is erroneous; and if it be erroneous, that is an additional reason for taking the precaution of printing the reasons, before refusing to take them into consideration. It appears, by the paper read by the clerk, that "the Lords are unable to acquiesce in the proposition now made by the House of Commons—that the Corporations of Ireland, as reconstructed by the Bill, should be confined to twelve cities and towns." That is, that the Lords resist the proposition of the Commons, which was, that Corporations should be confined to twelve places. But was the noble Lord justified in stating that the real and bonâ fide objection of the Lords is,—that Corporations are to be confined to twelve towns only, and, therefore, they wished to have them extended? The noble Lord's description of their Lordships' reasons is most imperfect; and if he had condescended to give them a second perusal, he would have found that their Lordships do not object to the Bill, because Corporations are confined to twelve places only, but "because it is in those cities and towns of larger population that the most extensive evils would, in their opinion, result from such reconstruction." That is the real reason assigned, in distinct terms, by their Lordships; their reason is not,—that Corporations are confined to only twelve cities and towns. The House of Lords, in the course they have taken, have acted in conformity with the opinion of no inconsiderable minority of this House—a minority not unimportant in respect of numbers, station, and respectability; and I am bound to add (not, of course, with reference to 1082 myself) powerful, also, in respect of ability. On the first day of the Session this question was discussed—whether we should bind ourselves, by a preliminary resolution, to extend to Ireland the principles on which we had given Corporate Reform to England and Scotland? On that occasion the House of Lords made, without a division, an amendment to the Address, by which they declined to give that pledge. In this House I moved an amendment similar to that adopted in the other House; which was negatived by a majority of forty-one only. I believe that the course I then proposed—speaking with all respect of the decisions of this House—I believe that the course I then proposed,—a course in which I consented to one great principle of the Bill—namely, the dissolution of existing Corporations, the extinction of the monopoly of power heretofore confined to one party, making a sacrifice of the present power held by one party in the State—I think that the course I then pursued in proposing to make that sacrifice, to dissolve those Corporations,— but at the same time declining to establish other Corporations, under the apprehension that the evils would not be removed, but only transferred,—was the correct one. I concur, therefore, in the course which the House of Lords have taken. It is in conformity with the course which I have taken, and I should be ashamed of myself if, in the face of a majority, I shrunk from this avowal. I concur, too, in the substance of the concessions made by the House of Lords. There have been concessions, it should be remarked, by the House of Lords, upon matters, I admit, of a subordinate nature. I do not pretend to attach any undue importance to them as bearing upon the main point in this Bill, respecting which great difference exists; but, let it be recollected, great importance was attached to them during the debates upon this subject. Upon those points the Lords have receded from their opinions. Let us see whether this concession does not show the spirit that actuates them; let us see whether it does not show, upon their part, a dignified resolution to reject all menaces, to despise all imputations of sordid and sinister motives, and, after collecting what they believed to be the prevailing opinion of the House of Commons, to meet them in a corresponding spirit, and make an advance towards a conciliatory settlement. The noble Lord contends that the House of Lords have rejected the vital and popular principle of 1083 the measure. I must say that a greater exaggeration of the extent Of the difference between the two Houses I never heard. What is the extent of the difference between the two Houses? The House of Commons proposes, that there shall be Corporations in twelve cities and towns in Ireland, and that twenty-two other towns shall, whether they wish it or not, be compelled to adopt the provisions of the Act 9 Geo. 4th. The Lords, on the other hand, leave to every town in Ireland the option of calling the Act of 9 Geo. 4th. into operation. It was objected, in debate here, that supposing the inhabitants of a town were to place themselves under the provisions of that Act, still the property of the preceding Corporation would be vested in the Commissioners to be appointed. This was one of the objections most strongly urged against the Lords' amendments in the first instance. The Lords, however, have now decided that in all cases in which the Act 9 Geo. 4th. may be adopted, the corporate property shall be vested in Commissioners chosen by the popular voice. The noble Lord admitted that this was an important concession. That admission is totally inconsistent with the noble Lord's declaration, that the House of Lords have divested the Bill of its vital and popular principle. We may differ with respect to the maintenance of Corporations in Ireland; but I cannot understand how a measure can be said to be deprived of its popular principle which allows five-pound householders in towns, in that country, to elect Commissioners for the purpose of local government, which Commissioners are to have exclusive control over the corporate property of the place. Great objections were made to the continuance of certain Corporation officers, who were, I think, called butter-tasters and weigh-masters. We heard a great deal of them. Now, have the Lords shown any desire to prolong corrupt interests (as they have been termed)—by perpetuating these appointments? As far as I can collect from the Lords' amendments, they have obviated all objection on this head. In the administration of justice, too, objections were urged with respect to certain officers; and the Lords have completely abrogated the compulsory clauses which related to those officers. These, then, are all important points, which the Lords have conceded. Though I dissent from the proposition of the noble Lord for the amendments being summarily rejected, I 1084 am bound to say, that in the present temper of the House, I do not see any advantage to be obtained from a postponement of the discussion. I am bound to say so; I do not think that any nearer approach could be made towards a settlement by protracted conferences. I doubt whether, if ever the elements of a reasonable and satisfactory settlement are to be collected, there could be any advantage in looking for them now, on account of the influence of strong feelings which exist upon all sides, and the excitement of passions produced in the discussion of these questions. The noble Lord has referred to the part taken upon this subject by a noble and learned Friend of mine. A great part—much too great a part of his speech—was occupied by a reference to what has taken place in the House of Lords. The noble Lord complains of the animadversions of my noble and learned Friend, upon a speech delivered here by the noble Lord. The noble Lord ought to recollect, that if any offence has been committed, he was the first offender. I put it to the noble Lord, whether, if a Peer of Parliament, admitted by courtesy to listen to our debates, had gone into the House of Peers, and there declared that he had heard with his own ears certain expressions used here—and had made a charge against the person who had so used them—whether or not the Member of the House of Commons, so charged in the House of Lords, would not be justified instead of involving himself in a question of Order, or appealing to privileges in defending himself, or in administering reasonable chastisement for the offence. That is the course which would be pursued, I am sure, by the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord has expressed his surprise that on the second night of the debate there was no reference to the speech delivered by my noble and learned Friend. He seems to think that a former colleague of my noble Friend ought, on the second night of the debate, to have offered some explanation on the subject. Surely the noble Lord is not under the impression that I shrunk from defending my noble and learned Friend from imputations cast upon him? The noble Lord refers, I suppose, to the explanations called for, from me, by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary. Upon that occasion I was asked this question—"Do you subscribe to these words? Do you adopt them?" My answer was—,"I am here to explain 1085 my own sentiments and my own opinions." I have frequent opportunities of stating what are my own views and principles, and no one has a right to repeat to me words used by another person, and ask me, whether I subscribe to them. I did apply to my noble and learned Friend to ascertain how far the interpretation put upon the words alleged to have been used by him was correct; and the answer I received was, that ray noble and learned Friend wished to reserve to himself the opportunity of making an explanation on the subject. My noble Friend has explained the words referred to. He has put his own construction upon them. He has declared the intention with which they were used; and that having been done by my noble and learned Friend, I am under no obligation,—but the reverse—of entering into any explanation upon his part; and on my own, I refer to my own declarations with respect to Ireland, and the principles upon which I think she ought to be governed; and if at any future period you bring to me the words of another, my answer must be, "I speak my own sentiments. I explain only my own language." If, with respect to this Bill, I have not explained what my sentiments are—if I have not made my opinions and principles manifest to you—I despair by any subsequent explanation of giving to you an exposition of my feelings. There is only one other point in the noble Lord's speech to which I feel it necessary to refer. The noble Lord has thought proper to declare that under a certain alternative he should despair of the maintenance of the British Constitution. It was with deep regret that I heard such a sentiment uttered by a Minister of the Crown. At any rate, I disclaim any participation in the noble Lord's despair. I do not entertain a doubt that the British Constitution will be upheld. I do not believe that there is any desire entertained by the people of England to part with the advantages of a mixed government under which they have so longed lived! You say—you must not refuse to do justice to Ireland. No doubt you must not. But then you have no right to prescribe and enforce upon us, that which, in your opinion, constitutes justice. Hon. Gentlemen may say, that noble Lords shall not wantonly exercise this power; hon. Gentlemen may declare, that they shall not exercise the privileges which they have been vested with by the Constitution for their individual benefit. 1086 No doubt they are not to do so. They are responsible for the power they exercise. They are not responsible to constituents as we are; but they are responsible to God [Laughter]. I say, Sir, solemnly—that the Lords are responsible to God, to their own consciences, and to their own intelligent fellow-countrymen. No doubt, they feel and act upon that responsibility. What does the noble Lord say? "That, judging of the course which the House of Lords has hitherto pursued, he does not despair of an amicable arrangement of this question." Can you hold, that the House of Lords have pertinaciously adhered to their own opinions, without reference to the public good? I believe that the House of Lords will continue, as they have done, to give satisfaction in the exercise of a public duty—a duty that they owe to the people. I believe that on account of the great functions with which they are intrusted, it is absolutely necessary that the power they possess should be maintained. I believe that they exercise those powers, not with a view to the mere exercise of power, still less on account of personal privileges, but upon enlarged and enlightened views of what is necessary for the public good. If they think it not necessary to yield to the first impulse of popular passion. I believe they are not only satisfied in their own consciences that they are doing what is right, but I believe they will be supported by such a mass of public opinion in this country—by such a -preponderating mass of the intelligence and public opinion of this country—as will long secure the British Constitution from the dangers which some appear to apprehend. There may be. gusts of popular passion directed against the House of Lords; but I firmly believe that our mixed form of Government is rooted in the hearts and affections of the people, and when they reflect what mighty changes in legislation have taken place in the last eight years, they will not believe that the House of Lords have set themselves up as perpetual barriers against the reform of all abuses—as is most unwarrantably alleged. I believe, that the more the Lords are threatened, because they will not yield or adopt particular opinions, the more that hold will be confirmed which they justly have—upon the respect and the affections o the people of this country.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
I entreat of hon. Members to consider whether a much better reply than any I could 1087 presume to offer to their consideration, has not been supplied by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, whether it has not actually been furnished by himself, and whether he has not afforded in his speech a refutation to his own charge against my noble Friend. The right hon. Gentleman began by regretting that there was no notice of this proceeding, that there was not a calm and deliberate consideration of a difference between one branch of the Legislature and the other, that we should have proceeded with this at once, and without notice; and he declares there ought to have been a postponement. Now, Sir, I ask, has this House been taken by surprise? Has there been nothing known of this Bill in the House till now? On the contrary, at this period of the session, this advanced period, is it not clear from the attendance here, from the conversation out of doors, that the course now adopted was known to be the course likely to be pursued upon the present occasion, and is felt to be the course most consistent with sound policy and public justice? And I must add, that it appears to me, even according to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, it was absolutely necessary for the Government to take this course, and it could take no other. The right hon. Gentleman has said in the course of his speech, that he was not prepared to declare that any benefit could arise from a postponement of the discussion; on the contrary, that a postponement of the discussion would be likely to raise feelings which might hereafter increase the difficulties, and multiply the obstacles in the way of the adjustment of this question. Undoubtedly, in stating this, the right hon. Gentleman was quite correct; for if that which we are now debating were to be put down for discussion this day se'nnight, instead of leading to a more permanent settlement, it would he more likely to give excitement to feelings rendering that settlement more difficult. Does, then, the right hon. Gentleman complain that we have not delayed the notice of this subject for a week, when that delay would not aid the views of any party in this House? The right hon. Gentleman knows it: he feels that this is the best course that we could have pursued, and it is one by which we are ready to abide. I mean no disrespect to the House of Lords; on the contrary, I look to their amendments, and I find that they justify the whole course we have taken. We have had notice sufficiently notorious of what was done by the Lords, We know by the 1088 journals of the Lords what has occurred; we know that, upon a vital question, they differed from us: on that point we know that they are not likely to agree with us. We know the course they have adopted, and we knew in advance the course they would adopt. At the commencement of the present session there was a discussion upon the very point on which we differ— the amendment to the Address. The Lords discussed, and considered, the reasons offered in support of our views, and the Bill has now been returned to us from the Lords on that very point. Have the Lords ever held out to us the expectation of their taking another course? Could we look to the arrangements of those differences, with the views they maintained? No; and in the sentence to which the noble Lord has alluded, and to which I attach great importance—in that sentence, in which the Lords speak of some period (I hope not a very distant one), in which those differences may be settled—they fairly tell us that they cannot yield upon that point to which we attach so much value. When we know-that they have long been decided upon that point—a point upon which a majority of this House stands pledged—it would be childish, worse than childish, it would be mischievous, if we did not take a course to vindicate our principles, and justifiable in reference to our own dignity. We have in doing so taken a course the least likely to embitter the differences between us and the other House. I have stated the progress of this question, and I have stated the reason for now settling it in this House, and the only reason I can imagine, which would justify the postponement would be to do that which we certainly are not disposed to do, to recede from the principle of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the majority of forty-one in support of the Address. But does it rest there? That majority of forty-one was subsequently converted into a majority of eighty-six, and this, too, after repeated discussions on the Bill, Here, in maintenance of the argument, I trust I may be allowed to offer some reasons, which may support the hopes of the people of Ireland; and that they may with confidence look forward to the future adjustment of the question to which I refer, let them look to the elements of which that majority was composed. How often has it happened that those who have asserted that the Irish are aliens in blood, and who by so asserting were injuring the British connexion, how often has it happened that by them the 1089 majorities in this House have been analyzed and displayed? How often have they attempted to raise invidious distinctions? How often have they declared that the Irish Members at one time, and the Scotch Members at another, outweighed the English Members, as if they were not all equally Members of Parliament? How often has this been done by them to raise distinctions when it suited the advocacy of their own opinions? The persons who have done this wish it now to be believed, that such national distinctions are no longer to be noticed. The answer to them is, that it is not only for such persons, but it is especially for the people of Ireland, for those who have been led to think that justice could not be procured in an English Parliament, that I have to tell them that the free votes of British Members declared that an end should be put to these abuses; and that the majority is increased to that number from forty-one in consequence of the invidious distinctions they sought to perpetuate. I proceed now, Sir, to another branch of the argument. The right hon. Gentleman has stated, that we have no right to ask him respecting the sentiments of his colleagues—that we have no right to suppose that the opinions that have fallen from another are his—that he is only responsible for his own opinions. Let me then entreat the House not to take the version of my noble Friend's opinions from the commentary which the right hon. Gentleman has passed upon them. Attend to my noble Friend's speech and not to the commentary. The right hon. Gentleman charges, not an individual merely, but a Minister of the Crown, with a breach of his duty, for declaring, that danger menaced the British Constitution. That was not my noble Friend's observation, nor his argument. What did he state? That, upon a review of the facts, he saw no such danger to exist. Why did he state that? Because he is confident, and the confidence he expressed is my own confidence, my own hopes, that the Irish will yet receive justice. I cannot, Sir, look to the past, without being confident of the future. It is not the first time that good measures have been intercepted in their advance to the Crown by the unworthy delays, or unnecessary jealousy, of a party. In the language of the right hon. Gentleman, powerfully as it has been used upon this occasion, and in the general sentiments expressed by him, I agree. But suppose that language had been used with respect to a 1090 vote of the Lords in 1829, when he was the able and successful advocate of the. Roman Catholic] question; suppose that he had experienced his hopes checked be a majority against him upon that question as there had been in former years, if such an appeal were made, would he still believe. they would continue of an adverse opinion Now, such general declarations could not have defeated him, because he might have relied then, as I do now, that in a just course, if the House of Commons stand upon that alone, and if they are supported by public opinion, if they stand upon a measure of honest reform, though defeated for the time, still there is a certainty that such a measure will pass into law. It is therefore my confidence from what I know from that which has past, that I think there exists no danger to the British Constitution. I feel that there is no danger to be apprehended for the British Constitution, but, as was rightly said of the Catholic question, there is danger in the postponement of the reform demanded. Upon the reform question, I might appeal to the right hon. Gentleman himself for his knowledge of this fact. There were then appeals like those we have heard to-night. We were then told, as we have been told in this debate, in answer to such appeals that power and dignity cannot and ought not to arrest the progress of liberal legislation. [Sir Robert Peel: Who is to decide what liberal legislation is?] Perhaps we are not the right judges of it. The right hon. Baronet excepts to our judgment on this point, we question his; but it so happens that on all great questions the right hon. Gentleman has been against us, and has been wrong. Upon the Test and Corporation Acts he was against us; upon the Roman Catholic question the right hon. Gentleman was against us; upon the Reform Question he was against us; upon Municipal Reform he was in many of it leading principles against us. Undoubtedly he felt that he was thoroughly right but the difference is, that in the long run we succeeded, and the right hon. Gentleman did not. The experience of the past is with us; but the weight of authority I am willing to concede is entirely with him. We have even dragged him with us, and we have had his reluctant support. Of the many converts we have made, the right hon. Gentleman himself is one, and when we have been able to convert him more than once, let us not despair that we shall be able to convert him again. The 1091 right hon. Gentleman must see that, in questions between the two Houses of Parliament, the public at large exercises an ultimate authority over both. It measures the proceedings, as 'well as the ability, of the Senators; it refers to principles as well as speeches; and to the principles of which it approves it gives such force and support in Parliament, that there is nothing which can ultimately resist them. These are the hopes which I hold out to the people of Ireland; I tell them first, "we have fought your battle in this House;"—and, by way of parenthesis, in answer to the taunting observations that have been made respecting English Members, I tell them, that if there had been even their unaided votes to support them, those unaided votes could have defended and maintained the liberties of Ireland. I tell this for their consolation also—for I wish to temper with consolation the severe lesson that has been inflicted upon them, for I well know that "hope deferred" with nations, as with individuals, "maketh the heart sick." I think it impossible to conclude the observations which I have felt it to be my duty to make, without saying again, that I trust the public at large, and those who read history hereafter, will do justice to the moderation and calmness evinced by the House of Commons, when the principles for which we are contending are in peril, when a mighty stake was at issue, and that, confident in the support we must receive, we abode by principles which to their fullest extent we have embraced, and that having so resolved, we never will abandon those principles.—Discharging our duty to the people of Ireland — we never will abandon the pledge we have given in resisting a repeal of the Union to do justice to that country. On the present occasion we redeem that pledge by the course we are pursuing. With respect to Municipal Reform, we have not at once succeeded, because there have been exaggerated fears of personal antipathies, and religious apprehensions, though scarcely avowed, which have stopped that measure. For Scotland Municipal Reform was carried almost without a division. For England it was carried after some discussion; and I thank much the right hon. Gentleman for the assistance he gave upon that question in the last session. I remember well the right hon. Gentleman, at a late period of the year, deserting pursuits which are more congenial to my taste, and I believe more so to his than legislating in the dog-days, and 1092 offering in his place to assist us, and giving us the great weight of his authority in procuring a good measure of municipal reform for England. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is opposed to us when a similar measure is to be applied to Ireland. If there be any difference between the course we then pursued and that which we are pursuing now, it is that, having greater difficulties to contend with, we are disposed to make larger concessions than we did then; but those concessions are in vain,—they are urged against us as objections; and thus every effort we make at conciliation becomes only a new bar to adjustment. One observation more with reference to a particular argument which has been used on this and a former occasion. It is said that we have inflicted a wrong upon Ireland, because we have endeavoured to make it compulsory on the people of Ireland to adopt the Act of 9th Geo. 4th. That Bill was long under discussion between my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cambridge University, (Mr. Goulburn) and myself. We took the whole Bill as it appeared in the Irish Office. Lord Melbourne was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, and though he could not hope to pass it that Session, still it was introduced, and it was carried in the next Session. The imputation against us is, that we compel the people to adopt the provisions of that Bill; but there was originally a clause in it, to the effect that in all cases where the population was 5,000, the Lord-Lieutenant might positively direct the Act to be carried into effect without waiting for the decision of the inhabitants. It was varied in the next year, because in that case we were not dealing with corporate property — we were not overthrowing existing corporations,—and I thought, therefore, it was quite fair to leave it optional with the parties to accept or reject the Bill, as they thought proper; but now that we are unanimous in destroying them, I think we ought to be equally so ill determining upon a substitute for them. In order to give the means of administering the corporation revenues, it is absolutely necessary that there should be an authority established contemporaneous with the destruction of the Corporations which are to be put an end to. That is the reason why it is requisite to make the adoption of the 9th Geo. 4th, compulsory on those towns. I feel every confidence we shall ultimately succeed; I look upon this only as a postponement; I feel 1093 every assurance that in adhering to the measure with the same temper and firmness as we did to the English Bill last year, public opinion will accompany and support us, and that sooner or later we shall succeed. I say, and trust we shall do so, soon; for this measure carried next year, will not bring with it all the benefits that it would carry, if conceded this. Let us be wise in time. I remember when Mr. Canning argued the question of the independence of the Spanish colonies, that gentleman, being reproved for not having adopted a particular course at a particular time, said "Time is everything;" and I say, too, with respect to concessions made by the Legislature to the people, if we would have them looked upon as acts of grace and favour, time is everything; the manner in which a concession is made causes it to be either more or less gratefully received. I have no more fear than my noble Friend has, of danger to the Constitution. I shall visit my friends in the great towns in Ireland, and tell them not to despair, but to hope, and to trust that the same Legislature who repealed all Catholic disabilities, will also put an end to a system which no man living under it can support.
Sir, I have no apology to offer, and I believe the House will admit that I stand in need of no apology for presenting myself to its notice on this subject. I confess that my first impressions of what has taken place this evening were of a nature that I would rather have suppressed them than given them utterance. I do not think that it ever fell to my lot to hear a more unstatesmanlike speech from the right hon. Baronet than that which he has just uttered. That upon an important question like this the right hon. Baronet should stand up to advocate delay, under the mere formal pretence of having the Lords' reasons and amendments printed, was in itself quite astonishing, and showed the weakness of his position and of his arguments. But the right hon. Baronet immediately answered himself on this very point, by detailing the unhappy consequences which would result from prolonging this discussion. He answered himself admirably, and his prudence in avoiding to press for another division upon this question was equally to be admired. The right hon. Baronet recollected that the former division of forty-one had lately swollen into 1094 eighty-six, and he feared that on another division the majority would again be doubled. But whilst I admire the right hon. Baronet's prudence in this matter, I do not think he has shown himself equally prudent in standing forward, as he has done to advise the House of Lords to persevere in the course they have taken up. If the people of England were to rally round the House of Lords and the Crown in this matter, as he says they would, what chance of justice would remain to Ireland, but in a repeal of the Union between the two countries? The right hon. Baronet adopts the House of Lords, he becomes a participator in all their outrages against Ireland, and when at last the seven millions of people who are wronged in these Acts are driven to rank themselves in open hostility against their Lordships, the right hon. Baronet flatters himself that he may calmly take up his position and direct the storm. I know all this may be sneered at, but we are in a temper to bear it. Scotland obtained her measure of Municipal Reform two or three years ago; England her's last year; and this year Ireland might have had her's at the time this Bill went up to the House of Lords. It has been admitted on all hands that the Corporations of Ireland have become grossly corrupt; that they have been perverted, even in the administration of justice, to party purposes and unblushing partiality. All this has been admitted; even the hon. and learned Recorder for Dublin could not deny it; and yet all this is to remain for another year at least. I appeal to the people of England whether it is just that things which no man has had the audacity to defend should be continued in Ireland for two years after similar abuses have been swept away from England? I know it may be said that there was not time last year to pass this Bill for Ireland. But look at the fate of the Bill sent up to the Lords this year. What have they done with it? They have cut out all the essential principles of it, and they return it to us a measure for destroying all that at present exists, without substituting any thing in its place. I tell the right hon. Baronet that the people of Ireland will not be content with the 9th George 4th; and there is another thing, namely, the appointment of sheriffs, which they will never consent to give up. I do not mean the absolute appointment, but the choice 1095 of three, out of which one is to be chosen, and with power to reject; this is a right which the people of Ireland do and will demand. Look at the position the case is brought to, and it is you, the Opposition, who have done all this. It is you who have done this injury to Ireland, declaring that she shall not have what England and Scotland are permitted to enjoy. It is you who have adopted the man who said that the people of Ireland were aliens in blood, aliens in religion, and aliens in country to the people of England. It is you who have injured the people of Ireland, and then insulted them. And then you talk about avoiding agitation. You may have got rid of the normal schools of agitation, but wait till you see what finished agitation you will soon have about you. For from the hour in which I stand here till I see corporate reform in Ireland, I promise you shall have plenty of agitation. With the exception of a very small faction, whom I may call the ascendancy faction, there is not an Irishman who will not take offence at the condition to which you have attempted to reduce them, and I should despise the man who did not feel the force of the insult. That you injure us no man can be surprised, but that you should insult us also, and with impunity, is not to be credited. The right hon. Gentleman need not take the trouble of going through the towns of Ireland; the towns of Ireland will meet in the open day—there will be no secrecy in the matter—and organise their system for the peaceful agitation of their rights and character. We will do so, and you ought to despise us if we did not. As to these reasons, as they are called, of the House of Lords, cant and hypocrisy could not be carried further. I actually blushed for Ireland when I heard a noble Duke read them in the other House. Oh! what a state of misery and degradation are we reduced to, that you cannot meditate an act of injury against Ireland but you can find one who was born within her shores to assist in perpetrating it. What hope has Ireland now? The pledge of the House of Lords! Why, the Peers have violated their pledge a thousand times. All disguise has now been thrown off by them—all the disputes about petty details have been thrown overboard; they have come to the principle, and the principle 1096 they reject also. The right hon. Baronet halloos on the House of Lords to persist in rejecting this principle, and then he tells us that their Lordships represent the people of England; and, moreover, he finds out that they have a responsibility also. But the right hon. Gentleman is a plagiarist. A responsibility! so, too, has Mehemet Ali, who told his people, "You are all represented in me; and as to responsibility, Mahomet be praised, I am responsible to God!" This is the tyrant's responsibility. If I were disposed to be profane, I should like to know how we are to bring that responsibility to bear— how to make it avail in human affairs? If their Lordships are quietly resigned to endure the punishments of the next world, for having done all the mischief they can in this, hurrah! for their Lordships' responsibility to God—hurrah! for the high priest and the prophet of Mecca! After all, perhaps, you are right. It is almost impossible to speak of the subject without approaching the profane; but it is him you should blame, and not me; blame him who treated us, in the first instance, to this mighty theological discourse on the responsibility of the House of Lords. But, can there be anything more pitiful than such an argument? The House of Lords are indeed responsible— responsible to the people—and to them they must account for their actions, and the true motives of their conduct. They shall not hide it under the cloak of a difference in religion. If that be their reason, let them speak it openly; let them declare that we are irreligious aliens, and mentally inferior to this country; but they shall prove both of these assertions if they make them. The right hon. Baronet then went on to talk about the British constitution. What is a constitution? It should be more than words—it should show itself in matter, and for the good of the people. I have said that the right hon. Baronet's speech was a most unstatesmanlike one; and why is it so but because it does not contain a single statesmanlike reference to the actual position of affairs, and the feelings of the people upon this great question? The Lords did not dare to mutilate the English Corporation Reform Bill to so outrageous an extent, and for this very simple reason—they saw the organized and menacing determination of the people of this country, and they were afraid to 1097 meet it. But the Lords do not fear the people of Ireland, and therefore they refuse to do them justice. That is the real reason of their conduct. Every one knows that it is almost impossible to suppose that a Bill of utility to Ireland can ever be passed into law. If you talk of bringing in such a measure, the answer immediately is, "What possible chance have you of passing it through the Lords?" But is there really any one so insane as to suppose that this can last for ever? Having succeeded by dint of peaceable agitation in obtaining one portion of Catholic emancipation from your hands!—yes, a portion, for, after all, that Act was but a part of the justice we looked for—having forced that part from the right hon. Baronet and from the noble Duke, who in 1828 talked about conquering Ireland with the sword, and in 1829 found it more agreeable to put it in the scabbard—I tell you that the people of Ireland defy your menaces for the future. Neither the noble Duke nor your minority shall ever be permitted to trample upon Ireland with impunity. In the name of the Irish people I give you this defiance. Do not think that I mock you when I talk so to you. I tell you that if you refuse to do justice to us, we are able to do justice to ourselves. I have given up the agitation of the question of the repeal of the Union, and now see what an argument you have given me in support of it. See the large majority in the House of Lords, and the minority in the House of Commons, both denying justice to Ireland, and the leader of the Opposition party absolutely identifying himself with the majority in the Lords—that leader himself having made a brief and vain attempt at Government last year, with the No Popery flag floating over his head. I know there are men who, because they see a person obey the mandate of what he fancies to be a superior authority, charge him with the want of persona], though I defy them to deny him moral courage. Let them try this experiment a little longer, and I tell them, that there is not one man in Ireland, with the small exception I have somewhere else alluded to, who would not die ten thousand deaths rather than submit to the insult which is now attempted to be put upon them. I know the present Government are disposed to do all they possibly can in order to obtain justice for the people of Ireland. Let my support of them be misrepresented as it may, I shall support them, because I know there is no alternative be- 1098 tween a system of uncompromising despotism in Ireland, and the maintenance in power of the present Ministry. I repeat, that there is not a man in Ireland who can read, and we are more fortunate in this respect than you are, but will read the account of these proceedings, and instantly demand of the Parliament to wipe away the insult which it has put upon him. The moral courage of a whole people will unite, and peaceably, quietly, but irresistibly demand one of these two things—the repeal of the Union, or justice to Ireland from the British Parliament. For my own part, I shall continue the experiment I have entered upon, of obtaining justice for Ireland without a repeal. I shall persevere in that experiment as long as it seems to be compatible with justice to my country, and no man would pardon me if I were to go further. This is my determination. In the meantime you have heaped insult upon injury, the iron has entered into our very souls; but you will find that we are not unresisting victims, and that you can not continue this career with impunity.
Mr. Milnes Gaskell
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had commenced the speech which he had addressed to the House by telling them that he owed no apology for so doing. After that speech of the learned Gentleman no English Member owed an apology to the House for following his example: after that speech, no declaration of attachment to the Constitution—no disclaimer of participation in doctrines now openly avowed, and tending to subvert it, could be looked upon as uncalled for. He was prepared for strong and exciting language on the part of the learned Gentleman, but he owned that he was not prepared for any declaration of intention, so plain and undisguised as this—he knew that it had served the purposes of certain persons out of that House to calumniate and decry the other House of Parliament, but he owned he had not expected that they would have been gravely told by Gentlemen sitting there, that an act of usurpation was to be committed on the composition or on the functions of the House of Peers. He believed, that those who were parties to this project were labouring under the strangest misapprehension—he believed the great body of the people of this country were, to say the least of it, as anxious to preserve unimpaired, the independence and the privileges of the House of Peers, as they were to ensure to that House the full and un- 1099 disturbed exercise of its own functions. The Gentlemen opposite might doubt the truth of this assertion, but if they would but prosecute their researches beyond the precincts of political unions—if they would but take the trouble to inform themselves of the state of feeling and opinion that prevailed in our agricultural districts—if they would go into the counties of England —not to Devonshire, Staffordshire, or Northamptonshire—but to Essex, Warwick, and Merioneth, they would find that there were still thousands of those ignorant and deluded men, who, if it was a crime to love the Constitution, would take good care not to repent of it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had talked in his usual strain about the rights of the people of Ireland— he forgot that the people of England had their rights also—that the independence of the other House of Parliament formed a portion of those rights, which they would never abandon to please him, and that the hereditary right which the Peers of this country enjoyed was to them as good a right as that of the Monarch to occupy his throne, or that of the hon. and learned Gentleman to sit in that House as the Representative of Kilkenny. He (Mr. Gas-tell) knew not what the Irish reading of the Constitution might be, but the English one was this—that the right of the other House of Parliament to amend, to modify, or to reject any Bill upon any subject, which that House might send up to them was as undoubted and as clear as the right of that House to originate Bills and desire the acquiescence of the other branches of the Legislature. He knew not what the learned Gentleman might think about the theory of our form of Government, but he would remind him that it was at present a Monarchy—controlled by one assembly, which was independent of the people, as well as by another which was elected by them; and if Gentlemen told him that two such assemblies could not act in concert, and solved their difficulty by deciding that one House of Parliament should usurp the functions of the other, why then they admitted, that such was the infusion of democracy in our institutions, that such was the fatal and unforeseen effect of their own Reform Bill, that they had no alternative but to make the Constitution what Mr. Canning called a crowned republic, and to strip it of every attribute that belonged to it as a limited Monarchy: —but he (Mr. Gaskell) said, God forbid that that House should become the 1100 sole Government of the country, that instead of a third and co-ordinate branch of the Legislature, it should presume to usurp other functions than those which the Constitution vested in it, and dare to act by its own single and uncontrolled authority. Against such an assembly he was persuaded that the prerogatives of the Crown would be of no more avail than the privileges of the Peers. Gentlemen talked about the rights of the people, as if the people had no reciprocal duties to perform—as if there were nothing in this world but abstract political privileges, and no corresponding duties of tranquillity, and contentment, and obedience to the law. Those were the worst enemies of the people who used this language—language that struck at the root of civil government, and put a premium upon outrage and sedition. They were responsible for the consequences which they charged upon them (the Opposition), whether it was for the blood shed at Inniscarra and Rathcormac, or for the agitation and violence in this country which they strove to foster. And what was it, he would ask, but agitation and violence, by which the other House of Parliament was now sought to be assailed? They were told that this was a question of time, that they had no alternative—that they must pass this Bill—that the people of Ireland would have it so—that the mandate had gone forth,—and that they must yield to their apprehensions, what they had refused to their sense of justice. It was not for him (Mr. Gaskell) to presume to say what course the other House of Parliament was likely to adopt, when this question was again brought forward; but this much he thought he might safely say, that, looking at the experience of the last few years, they were not likely to become impressed with a belief that extorted concessions were the means of quieting agitation. The advisers of his Majesty thought otherwise, and in obedience to the wishes and the passions of the Irish Roman Catholics, excited almost to madness by. the Gentlemen opposite, they were called upon to reject the solemn and deliberate opinion of the other House of Parliament, and to persist in the rejection of this Bill; but he hoped that the King's Ministers,—he hoped that those who had refused to abolish the Corporations of Ireland,—who had refused to redress the grievance which they had themselves described as so intolerable,—and seemed resolved to perpetuate the nuisance they were invited to destroy, because they 1101 had no power to legalize as well as to establish the ascendancy of the Roman Catholics in Ireland,—he hoped they would not seek to charge upon them (the Opposition) the responsibility of their own refusal. If they did this, the people of England would understand—what the people of Warwickshire already understood—that when the Gentlemen opposite talked about the redress of grievances, what they meant was the continuance of agitation. But this was not the real ground of cavil and of objection against the other House of Parliament. It was not because they had refused to do justice to Ireland—it was because they had refused to vest additional power in the hands of the learned Gentleman, to be wielded for the learned Gentleman's purposes—it was because they had refused to hand over the Protestants of Ireland to the absolute dominion of men, who were honestly and conscientiously opposed to the integrity and stability of the empire—that they were branded as miscreants and liars at the meanest, the dirtiest, and the most seditious meetings that were ever held in England. He knew not what course his Majesty's Ministers would hereafter take upon this question—whether they would take that of rigidly insisting on what they called the principle of the Bill, or meet the other House of Parliament in a fairer and more temperate spirit than that which had characterised the speech of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell). The people of England would watch their conduct, and would not fail to recollect that when the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, announced the intention of his Majesty's Government to oppose the motion of the learned Gentleman with reference to organic change, he coupled that assurance with an intimation which was much more palatable to his friends about him, viz., that he should also have opposed the motion of his (Mr. Gaskell's) hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Sandwich, (Mr. Grove Price.) A few months would serve to show whether the King's Ministers were indeed the united party which they professed to represent themselves, but which the speech of the hon. Member for Middlesex indicated that they were not likely to remain. A few months would serve to show whether they were sincerely bent upon "carrying out," as it was called, their reforming principles—whether they had taken office that they might uproot the Protestant institutions of Ireland— establish Roman Catholic Corporations in 1102 that country—and overbear the constitutional authority of an independent branch of the Legislature, or whether they intended to adopt a course much less dangerous to the country, but at the same time less creditable to them, that of shrinking from the legitimate consequences of their own violent conduct, and calling upon their political opponents to protect them against their friends.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I confess, Sir, I am not surprised at the course which the Lords have taken upon this Bill. To me it appears the natural consequence of the present state of things. I all along expected that the Lords would throw out this Bill, because they have opposed themselves to each successive measure of reform as it has passed this House during a long period; and, reasoning from the experience of the past, and from the nature of the body itself, I all along expected that the Lords would follow their natural disposition, and throw out this Bill; and I say, that the House of Lords, in throwing out this Bill, have not acted against their own interests; I believe they have acted wisely, as a body of men, not interested in the good government either of England or of Ireland, but as a body whose interest it is, to gain the largest possible plunder which they can from the people of this country. ["Oh, Oh."] If we erect a body of men "responsible,'' forsooth, "to God alone," we shall find, that unfortunately they will follow their earthly interests, that their heavenly interests will be forgotten in their earthly, that they will cling to the things of this world, ["Oh, Oh"] and that, in short, that "heavenly responsibility" which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, talked of, will be no responsibility at all. They will be, in conformity with their own interests, as they ever have been, the stedfast, and I will say, the courageous opponents of all reform. Reforms are opposed to their interests, therefore, they must ever oppose reforms. I don't blame the Lords, I have no epithets of vituperation to bestow upon them; they acted rightly in throwing out this Bill, they were labouring in their vocation, they did as they ought to do, in following their vocation. Whose is the fault? It is not the fault of the Lords. The fault, Sir, is in the institution; and I expect, that, by a series of these precious experiences, the people of England will at last come to a right appreciation of that 1103 institution. Of the men, I have no complaint to make. I care not whether there be some there who began life as wild and furious democrats, and who are now acting in the ranks of so called conservatism. If you place men in such a position, the labour which mankind must undergo to effect improvements will be long and tedious. I have waited long for that growing hatred to the Lords which must arise from a repetition of these injurious experiences. If it be any satisfaction to their Lordships, I am frank to confess my belief that if the people of England were polled to-morrow, the majority would be in their favour; but I also believe, that so rapid a change in the feelings of a people, respecting any of their institutions, never took place, as that which has taken place with respect to the House of Lords in this country, within the last five years. I believe that from the conduct of that body, shown lately more clearly by various circumstances; experience has been rapidly gained by the people of England, which has already taught the more sagacious of them of what use the Lords are; and that the rest of the community will soon learn a similar lesson. Time will thus effect that revolution which is necessary for the good government of England, the total extirpation of the irresponsibility of the Lords. Until that period we shall always be subjected to these checks in the business of Parliament. Last year, as a humble prophet, I said in this House, that I should be in the same place next year, saying the same things regarding the House of Lords, for having rejected what was desired by the people of this country. And the event has completely fulfilled my prophecy; here we are, despoiled of all that we had, after long and serious debate, effected for the good of the people, by an irresponsible branch of the legislature, whose interest is, and ever will be, to keep back improvement, in this country. Tell me not it is for their interest to exercise their power for the good of the people—such has never been the interest of an irresponsible body. I care not that you may find in that body (as undoubtedly you may) men of extraordinary character, standing up above their fellows as bright and brilliant phenomena, who may use their efforts to maintain good government. The usual, the general course that such a body will pursue, is, to provide for its personal interest by peculation. And this is what the Lords have 1104 done, universally done, from the time at which history gives us the first account of their proceedings, to the present hour. [Loud cries of "Order," "Chair."]
§ The Speaker called the hon. and learned Member to order.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I am glad, Sir, you have called my attention to the orders of the House; it is not my intention to apply language to others which I would not wish to have applied to myself. I have no wish, Sir, to speak of individuals. I am speaking of the system which unfortunately does exist; and in characterising the conduct of the Lords in past periods some allusions may possibly apply to their present conduct; but I am speaking of the House of Lords historically; I am not I think out of order in that. I am not speaking of the House of Lords as at present existing, but of that House as a body. And, Sir, of that body I am prepared to say, (not believing that in this they are peculiar, but that any body of men placed in the same position would act in the same way, of that body I am prepared to say, that they have ever followed out their own private personal interest, that they have always endeavoured to secure for themselves power over the people because it was their interest. In the stoppage of this Bill, there is only one thought that grieves me. And that is lest the real friends of the Irish people should be unable to curb that already too long oppressed nation; to prevent any-violent outbreak upon their part—to keep them from demanding that which I believe would be but a fruitful source of misfortune to them, the Repeal of the Union. At the same time, I am ready to acknowledge to my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, that if he cannot get justice for Ireland from England, she would have a right to try whether she can obtain it for herself. I should look upon the Repeal of the Union, however, as the greatest evil that ever befel this community, or the people of Ireland themselves. To me it does seem that two nations, united as I believe them to be in feeling, united in language, united almost by blood—two nations so closely connected, and so near to each other, are best placed, for their own interests under one Government. But if it so happens that the larger portion of this empire shall withhold good government from the smaller portion, the latter may acquire a right to vindicate to herself that good 1105 government which she is thus denied at any risk, at the risk even of separation. And the only alarm that I feel is, that the people of Ireland, stung as they have been by insult and injury, may make the determination no longer to feel faith in this House, in the Government, or in the English people. But I do hope that, despite all their injuries and insults, they may be enabled to listen to the calm voice of reason,—to the voice of their best friends,—of those who have adhered to their cause through long years of peril and suffering. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, may have that influence over them which he has so long exercised, to restrain their indignation. For I believe that so incensed are the great mass of the Irish people at the injuries and insults which they have endured, that they would by one word from my hon. and learned Friend, be raised into open insurrection, and I believe that to my hon. and learned Friend we shall owe the tranquillity of Ireland. But I must say this, that when I hear persons talk of language used in the other House of Parliament, my humble opinion is, that though some individuals may have chosen to express themselves rather too freely, perhaps to gratify their own particular feelings, and though it might have been hoped that they would have governed their feelings, and controlled their language, yet that those expressions were the result merely of that excitement, which we know sometimes engendered in debates on this subject. I should have expected, however, that these expressions would not have been maintained, that some friend of the party might have been deputed to disclaim any intention of insulting the Irish people, or that some explanation might have been afforded. Sir, I conclude by repeating, that I believe we shall be annually subjected to these impediments and checks in business, so long as we are a Reforming Parliament, by the House of Lords, and that, if the people of England wish us to continue a Reforming Parliament, they will aid us to put down that irresponsible body.
§ Mr. Dillon Browne
said, the hon. Member who spoke before the hon. Member for Bath, delivered, in my opinion, a most amusing speech; he gave the House a dissertation upon law—he talked of Irish rights, and giving a reason for denying them, and said, "Why, Englishmen have 1106 their rights too." The hon. Member spoke of political duties, and he enumerated amongst them peace, happiness, and contentment. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of compulsory voluntary donations. Now, I do not know which to admire most, the law, the metaphysics, or etymology of the hon. Gentleman. What is the question before us? Whether Ireland (I use the repudiated term) shall have justice or not? —whether there shall be a union or not?— whether she shall enjoy English rights and institutions, or be dishonoured and degraded. There was much warmth on the Opposition side during this debate. Why? Because hon. Members calculated on a different result—they thought they might change their position, and sit on this side of the House, and that his Majesty's Government might be induced to resign their trusts; but I trust that no false delicacy will induce the Ministers of the Crown to desert their posts, and forget the duties they owe to their country. What species of government might we then hope for? In all probability we should have the noble Duke at the helm of the State. I shall not call him an alien in blood, but though an Irishman, I believe he does not triumph in the accident of his birth. We should have him performing in his double character—for while he advocated Church monopoly in another place, he would, with the dexterity of a ventriloquist, speak the same sentiments through a certain hon. Baronet in this House. We should have two hon. Baronets in this House answering sophistry by argument, and what species of government might we hope for Ireland I We should have, secretary to that country, a right hon. and gallant, and worthy Baronet, ready booted for tithe-campaign; and, perhaps, we should have the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, by a special act of favour, viceroy in that country, whose affection for the Church, and whose advocacy of Reform, form one of the strangest anomalies I have ever read of in the history of a statesman, and whose political career strongly reminds me of those grotesque figures which we read of in the Italian writers, whose bodies were half reversed, for while his feet were moving in one direction, his heart and head were turned in another. Oh! I trust that his Majesty's Government will not, through a false delicacy, deliver us into the power of those men. Under the auspices of the 1107 present Government, the political horizon of this country, which is now charged with so much mischief, may assume its wonted serenity, and after the dust and confusion of present contentions shall have passed away, justice shall be done to Ireland, and order to the British State.
§ The question agreed to. Lords amendments to be taken into consideration in three months.