§ Mr. William Smith O'Brien
, perceiving that the Irish Municipal Bill was sent down from another place, with certain additions and alterations of a very peculiar nature appended to it, was desirous of inquiring of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, what line of proceeding he would adopt on it. For himself as an Irishman, he would say, that he considered the alterations which the Bill had undergone a direct insult to his country; and if no other hon. Member better calculated for bringing the subject before the House would do so, he would feel it an imperative duty, on its introduction, to move that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ Lord John Russell
Sir, in reply to the question put by the hon. Member for Limerick, I beg to state, that it is my intention, as soon as the hour for public business arrives, to move that the amendments introduced by the other House of Parliament be read a first time and printed. When those amendments have been printed and in the hands of hon. Members, their effect and bearing upon the principle of the measure will be fully and clearly understood. I am quite sure that the House will agree with me, that the course which I have ventured to point out is that most becoming the Members of this House, and best calculated to express the calm and deliberate sense of this branch of the Legislature. In the letters of a distinguished foreigner, recently published, speaking in reference to the events of the last year, and to the differences which occurred between the two Houses of Parliament, the writer remarks, as a matter of curious observation, that the assembly which was most popular in its constitution evinced the greatest degree of calmness and temper, whilst that branch 1088 of the Legislature which was of an hereditary character, betrayed less temperance of conduct in its proceedings. It is my wish, Sir, that if hereafter differences should unfortunately arise between this and the other House of Parliament, in respect to public measures, that the same character should still attach to the proceedings of this House, and that we may continue to deserve that praise which the writer to whom I have alluded has bestowed on us, not only from foreigners, but from our own countrymen. With respect to these amendments, I have not yet been able to read them all; I am not sufficiently aware of their nature to say how far they do, or do not, preserve the principle embodied in the Bill as it was forwarded from this House, or how far they are calculated to defeat the objects contemplated by that Bill. It would, however, be affectation in me to say, that I am not sufficiently acquainted with the import of those alterations not to know that the Bill has been totally altered in its nature, and that it is no longer what by its title it professed to be when leaving this House, "A Bill for the regulation of Municipal Corporations in Towns in Ireland." From what I can understand of the nature and character of these amendments, the Bill, as now returned to us, may properly be designated an Act for the destruction, the annihilation, and the total abolition of existing Municipal Corporations in Ireland. Having stated thus much as to my understanding of the alterations made in the Bill, I must say, that when I shall have hereafter to propose this matter for the consideration of this House, so far from seeking for any collision, I shall be ready, calmly and temperately, to discuss the amendments introduced by the other House, and to make every concession consistent with the dignity of this branch of the Legislature. If it were stated that the municipal franchise was not in every instance confided to precisely that class which could exercise it most advantageously—if it were said that the powers vested in the different municipal governments were too circumscribed in some cases, and too extended in others, I for one should have been ready to discuss these alterations. On all such points I should have no objection to come to a fair and reasonable compromise. But I trust the House will do me the justice to suppose that I must remain free from the 1089 imputation of being a participator in depriving the people of Ireland altogether of municipal government, and thereby inflicting on them a mark of distinction, which cannot but be considered as a stigma and degradation. It has been the wish of the House to unite the people of the sister kingdom in one common bond of affection and interest with the people of England and Scotland, and I cannot think that this object will be attained by a measure which inflicts by the power of England degradation on Ireland. If six out of eight millions of the inhabitants of that country were alien to the people of this country in descent, differing from them in language and in religion, and were only anxious for an opportunity to shake off a Government which they considered tyrannical and oppressive, then perhaps I might be prepared to deprive the people of Ireland altogether of free institutions, and to look to the sword alone as the means of maintaining our empire. But having no such belief, entertaining no such opinion, but wishing that the people of Ireland should be firmly united to this country, and convinced that if they are treated—I will not say with indulgence, I will not say with kindness, I will not say with generosity, but I will say with justice—with that justice with which Englishmen should be prepared, and I believe are prepared, to treat their fellow-subjects;—in that spirit, in the spirit of the concession made in 1793, in the spirit of the concession called Catholic Emancipation, and in the spirit with which, since that date, the penal laws have been relaxed, I shall be ready to argue that unless you choose to go back and to change your policy altogether (whatever may be our views with respect to some of the amendments, and the particular bearing of certain of the provisions of the Bill), this House will not consent to deprive Ireland altogether of the hope of municipal government. If it should do so, this House would not only be striking a blow at the union with Ireland, it would not merely be acting partially and unjustly on an Irish question, but it would be inflicting a wound on the spirit of free government itself. We should declare that that discussion, that that debate, that that division of opinion, which are the consequences and concomitants of all free government, were no longer in the English House of Commons to be approved or 1090 even tolerated. Having thus, without going into an argument upon the especial provisions of these amendments, stated my view of any plan, or of any change in the Bill which would go the length of abolishing or destroying municipal government altogether in Ireland, I shall merely conclude by moving that the Lords' Amendments be printed, and taken into consideration on a future day, which I shall presently name.
§ Sir George Sinclair
said, it is well, Sir, for the Protestants of the empire, and especially of Ireland, that the measures adopted by this House are subjected to the revision of another tribunal, which it is not in the power of his Majesty's Ministers to cajole, to intimidate, or to dissolve. No public assembly deserves or enjoys at the present eventful crisis so prominent a place in the confidence, respect, and gratitude of the religious and enlightened portion of the community. By a great majority of those who have anything to lose, and who are interested in maintaining the institutions of the country, the House of Lords is considered as the main bulwark of our church establishments and the chief barrier against democratic encroachment. The noble Lord may think it proper to hold conciliatory language in this House, but I would call his attention to a letter which has this day appeared in the Morning Chronicle from Mr. O'Connell, a paragraph of which bears directly upon the question now before us. It is,I wish to know whether the British people are ready to submit in quiet and without remonstrance to the irresponsible, and therefore despotic authority of that assembly, or will they now join with me to make the union real, by insisting, in a voice too distinct to be misunderstood, and too loud to be neglected, upon an organic change in that assembly, such as has become absolutely necessary for the consolidation of a real union between both countries, and for the advancement of good government in each? 1. We will have Lord Lyndhurst's Bill kicked out. No compromise, no submission; the Lords have commenced the collision; they have taken their choice to rest that collision upon the insulting iniquity of refusing Corporate Reform to Ireland. We only follow in their track by throwing out the Bill, and join issue with them to the country. 2. We appeal to the people of England for aid and assistance; we are entitled to that aid and assistance. In the name of the people of Ireland I call upon you for that aid and assistance.I quite agree with Mr. O'Connell in his opinion, that what he calls justice to Ire- 1091 land can never be effected otherwise than by an organic change in the constitution of the House of Lords; I therefore call upon, and am entitled to call upon, his Majesty's Ministers, and to ask them whether they are prepared to recommend such a measure to his Majesty? Of this they may rest assured, that they will find the courage of the House of Lords unflinching and invincible. I am persuaded that there is not a single Member of the majority by which such signal and ignominious defeats have been inflicted on his Majesty's Ministers, whom any menaces either in this House or out of doors will cause to swerve from the path of duty. The Lords are quite aware of their own strength. Ultra-Whiggism and Radicalism are like two portentous giants brandishing enormous clubs, and threatening a whole phalanx of antagonists with annihilation at a single blow; but if any adventurous knight advances fearlessly to the rencontre, the two colossal monsters are at once metamorphosed into gaunt corporals, and their weapons fall powerless from their hands. We heard a great deal last year of bullying and blustering about altering the constitution of the House of Lords, and sundry formidable notices were elicited by the remarks which I myself took the liberty to submit; but all this vaunting and vapouring terminated in the utter abandonment of the propositions thus recorded, and nothing ensued but a display of vague and vapid declamation. Why do not the Gentlemen who, out of doors, are the Bombardinians and Bombastes Furiosos of reform in the House of Lords, come forward at this moment with their specific propositions? The Order Book is before them, pen and ink are at their service; and I challenge any one of them to place a definite motion on the table. Not one of them has ventured to take so bold and decisive a step, or to say one word upon the subject within these walls. [Several hon. Members; The Attorney-General.] I beg my learned Friend's pardon; I forgot that this enviable distinction belonged to him; and the ominous Red Book lies most seasonably within his reach, so that a notice for effecting an organic change in the constitution of the House of Lords may at this moment be recorded by the first law-officer of the Crown. Sir, his Majesty's Ministers have in no respect evinced such unparalleled dexterity as in muzzling and manacling their Radical confederates. In 1092 this respect they remind me of what I once heard concerning certain Indian jugglers, who constituted, a few years ago, the delight and admiration of the metropolis. I was informed, that each of these wonderful conjurors, among other notable feats, used to take a basket full of boa constrictors out of a cage, and would allow them with perfect impunity to coil round his thighs, legs, arms, or neck, and even, I believe, to put their heads into his mouth. If any uninitiated bystander had taken any similar liberties with these dangerous animals he would at once have been stung to the quick; but if one of the conjurors held up his forefinger, or touched them with his wand, they quietly uncoiled themselves and crawled back to their respective dens, where they were no sooner arrived than their eyes glared, their mouths foamed, and their hisses were so appalling, that the stoutest heart began to quail. The Radicals in this House are in a similar state of subjugation to the potent shells of his Majesty's Government. The left wing of the confederate army plays the game of "follow my leader" with the same facility as the right. All their own peculiar nostrums are either mitigated or laid on the shelf; but as soon as they return to their respective constituencies, and require to make a grand display at some great dinner or public meeting, the public is regaled with most eloquent effusions upon House of Lords reform, or annual parliaments, or any of the other peculiar doctrines which bewilder and impose upon the multitude. Look, for instance, at the case of my hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex; he seems to me to have of late had at least two fits of political paralysis; his mouth is drawn altogether to one side; his tongue refuses any longer to discharge that effort which is at one time executed with so much zeal and ability, of demolishing superfluous patronage, and denouncing Ministerial profusion. Ah, Sir, my hon. Friend would not have been caught napping if a Tory Government had proposed such extravagant measures as he now leaves for the salutary correction of the House of Lords. We should then have had no voting that black was white, but we should have had debate upon debate, and division upon division, and every clause would have been sifted, and every fraction of every charge contested, with unshrinking pertinacity, and the lists of majorities and minorities would have been 1093 circulated in red and black ink throughout every district in the empire. Before I conclude, I once more turn to the noble Lord, and ask him how he experts, that without an organic change in the House of Lords, he can ever hope to carry the clause for pillaging the Church of Ireland of its property, or any Bill for establishing throughout Ireland a chain of Popish fortresses for endangering the security of the Protestant population? Does the noble Lord recollect the expedient to which Brennus. had recourse for overwhelming that august assembly of Roman patricians whose constancy he could not subdue? He led into the senate-house "a bund of fierce barbarians from the hills," and immolated those illustrious patriots at the shrine of their gods and of their country. And thus, Sir, the noble Lord, if he wishes to carry through these pernicious enactments, must march into the House of Lords with 150 titled lacquies in blue and buff liveries at his heels. The noble Lord has quoted the opinion of a distinguished foreigner with regard to the comparative merits of the Houses of Parliament. Sir, I contend, if we may judge from experience and observation, there is a great preponderance in this country of hereditary over elective talent. How few Bills are ever sent up from this House which do not bear the most palpable and humiliating marks of crude and partial legislation! And it is as much the practice, as it is the province of the House of Peers, to detect our anomalies, to rectify our blunders, to supply our omissions, and to reconcile our incongruities. I ask every one who hears me, whether there is any comparison between the attention paid to our debates, and the interest excited when the same question is discussed in another place? How few Peers are found seated during our debates on the commodious benches provided for their reception; but when the very same Bill is discussed in the House of Lords, we find half the Cabinet Ministers, and all the leaders of opposition, and even many of the staunchest House of Lords' reformers standing with great personal inconvenience, at their bar for hours together, and listening with delight, perhaps not unmingled with envy, to the wisdom and ability which are there continually displayed. How grudgingly do these delighted auditors retire, when summoned by a division-bell, to vole upon some question in this House, of the debate 1094 concerning which they have not heard one single word. But, Sir, we cannot be surprised at this superiority in the House of Lords, when we remember that there are found in that assembly the most learned of our clergy, the most profound of our lawyers, the most distinguished of our heroes, and the most influential of our country gentlemen. I conclude by reiterating the expression of my conviction, that the conduct of the House of Lords will create throughout the country a feeling of confidence, and thankfulness on the part of those whose approbation it must be the object of every generous and well-regulated mind to conciliate and to possess, and that the names of those noblemen who have stood prominently forward as the defenders of our Protestant institutions, will be handed down to the latest posterity among the most distinguished patriots of this age and nation.
§ Lord John Russell
merely rose to say, that whatever reason there might be in the hon. Baronet's speech, it was not to be taken as an answer to anything he had said. He had not entered into the merits of the House of Lords. He had said nothing, nor had he intended to say anything upon the question whether or not they were deserving of that high panegyric which the hon. Baronet had pronounced upon them. He therefore hoped the House would not be led by the hon. Baronet's speech into a discussion which was altogether foreign to the occasion.
§ Mr. Hume
admitted, that he had often stood at the bar of the House of Lords and heard with astonishment the sentiments which were uttered in that House. That was the only observation made by his hon. Friend in which he at all concurred. His hon. Friend had talked of the insurmountable obstacles which the House of Lords presented to the success of measures brought forward by his Majesty's Ministers; and as he appeared to speak with some authority on the subject, there was no hope that the House of Peers ever would do justice to Ireland.
§ Sir George Sinclair
had not said the Peers never would do justice to Ireland but that what Mr. O'Connell called justice to Ireland, never could be accomplished without an organic change in the constitution of the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Hume
continued, — the declaration of his hon. Friend amounted to this— that the Lords never would do what he 1095 and the majority of the Commons of England deemed to be justice to Ireland. He for one, therefore, should feel sorry if his hon. Friend should turn out to be a true interpreter of the intentions of the House of Lords. But while his hon. Friend stated the differences between the two Houses of Parliament, why had he not also shown the way in which they might get out of them? Ministers, he said, could never overcome the large majority in the House of Peers; he begged to ask in return, how the House of Lords could overcome the large majority in the Commons? His hon. Friend seemed surprised that he and other Radicals, went on so smoothly and quietly with the present Government, and he insinuated, that if the same measures introduced by them had been proposed by another Ministry, they would have been factiously opposed. He had only to say, that no such measures had ever been proposed by those on the other side of the House, and therefore his hon. Friend had no means of forming such a judgment. When did his hon. Friend ever before witness such anxiety and attention manifested towards the extension of the rights of the people of this country? When had he ever heard such sentiments as those which the noble Lord had now so justly expressed, sentiments in which he (Mr. Hume) cordially concurred, and which he was sure would be responded to with admiration and enthusiasm by the great majority of the people both of this country and Ireland? The noble Lord had stated clearly and distinctly what had been the wish of Government in proposing this Bill, and the changes which had been made in it elsewhere, of the effect of which they could not be supposed to be ignorant. His hon. Friend must recollect that one of the greatest curses, and certainly the greatest obloquy attaching to this country, was the unequal, unjust oppression, and tyrannical conduct which had for centuries been pursued towards Ireland; and the bond which united himself and the Radicals in that House to his Majesty's present Ministers consisted in this—that they for the first time had laid down the principle that they were determined to do justice to that country. That was the sole bond which united, and which he hoped would continue to unite them. When Mr. O'Connell brought forward in that House the question of the repeal of the union, the Radical party had strenuously, and he 1096 might say unanimously, opposed to him; but what was the alternative proposition which the House had adopted? That they would proceed to do ample justice to Ireland. Only one English Member had voted on that occasion in favour of repeal, and that was under the impression that substantial justice never could be done to Ireland but by a domestic legislature. His hon. Friend had pronounced a high eulogium on the House of Lords, but he had no hesitation in saying, if there was any body of men in the country whose acts were more detrimental to the tranquillity and good government of the people than another, that body was the House of Lords; and if the hon. Baronet's interpretation of the feelings of the Protestants were correct—if they would rejoice at the conduct of the House of Lords, must not the Catholics weep, and deplore the fate which awaited them? Was that a desirable state of things which made one-tenth of a population assume the attitude of triumph and exultation, because the other nine-tenths had been adjusted unworthy of those rights and privileges which had already been accorded to the people of England and Scotland? It would be insanity to suppose that the people of Ireland would put up with less than had been given to the other parts of the united empire, and he hoped that House would use all the influence which it possessed, in order to carry into effect those measures of equal justice which the necessity of the case demanded. Let the contest come when it might, one thing was clear—the House of Commons had not sought it. His hon. Friend had alluded to the motion of which he had given notice last Session relative to the House of Lords, and taunted him in no very measured terms because he had not brought it specifically under discussion; but he begged leave to remind his hon. Friend that discretion was, after all, the best part of valour. His hon. Friend seemed to forget that promises had been held out by noble Lords at different public meetings in the early part of the Session that the House of Peers would be found ready to do that justice and adopt those liberal measures of good government which the country required; and if he had then brought forward the subject, he would have been told that he was anticipating their conduct, and that it became the House to wait till they saw what course the Lords really would adopt on this ques- 1097 tion. He did think the conduct of the Peers highly detrimental to the tranquillity and good government of the country — standing up, and intending, as his hon. Friend stated, to stand up, in order to put a stop to every thing which afforded a prospect of useful and salutary reform. Then came the question of "organic change," as it was called; and why should there not be an organic change, if necessary? What was the House of Lords— what was the House of Commons established for, if not to promote and carry on good government for the people? If it should be found that the House of Lords, as one of the three great branches for conducting the government of the country, opposed their own obstinacy to reason and justice, and strenuously persisted in refusing those measures which were deemed essential by the representatives of the people to the good government of the country, should every thing continue to stand still? Were 180 men, however individually respectable, to be permitted to defeat whatever was good and beneficial? Would the people always remain silent and allow them to dole out to them only what they chose to think safe and advantageous? When a machine was used for any particular purpose, of which one of the wheels happened to give way or would not move, it was necessary to replace it. His hon. Friend must not think there was anything sacred in the character of the House of Lords which would enable them with impunity to obstruct the progress of salutary reform; the people of this country would not permit the continuance of such an anomaly in the constitution. He was not prepared to say what measures would be necessary in the present crisis; but he well recollected the spot where he and his hon. Friend spoke on the first reform question in that House. The maiden speech of his hon. Friend was in favour of reform; and till lately he had always been extremely reasonable and desirous that every measure should be carried which appeared to be for the general benefit and advantage of the people. If the other House obstinately refused to pass measures essentially requisite for the peace of the country, what must follow? As complete an organic change as had been effected in the representation of the people must take place in the other House of Parliament; and after having changed and limited the power of the Crown, after having altered and im- 1098 proved the character and powers of the Commons, it was absolute nonsense to say that the people had no means of reforming the House of Lords. He regretted the question had come to this, but the Lords had themselves to thank for it, by breaking their own pledge, unanimously given, to do equal justice to Ireland, and thereby calling on the public to look well to their conduct. He protested against their whole conduct in this affair. They were the true destructives—for Conservatives they certainly could not be called, after the course they had pursued with regard to this Bill. He had been called a Destructive, but it was of pensions and sinecures, not of the rights of the people. He was also a Constructive, for he wished to raise in the room of the old, close, rotten corporations in Ireland, as in England and Scotland, a well-considered, liberal, and effective system of municipal government, without which he believed the people of Ireland would not and ought not to be satisfied, but of which he regretted to say they had for the present been deprived by the absurd, insane, if not suicidal, conduct of the House of Lords.
§ Sir James Graham
had heard with great satisfaction the commencement of the speech of his noble Friend. His noble Friend had admitted most distinctly that the present crisis of affairs was somewhat dangerous; and feeling that to be the case, he certainly thought the advice of his noble Friend at once prudent and statesmanlike—that the House should proceed with calmness and deliberation, and not rush prematurely and precipitately into a discussion involving matters of the greatest delicacy, and important to the character, the constitutional rights, and privileges of both branches of the Legislature. That advice, he repeated, he considered prudent, statesmanlike, and worthy of his noble Friend; but he was bound at the same time to declare, if he had heard with satisfaction the commencement of the speech in which that advice was tendered, he had listened to the conclusion of his noble Friend's address with feelings of a very different character. If, therefore, the discussion had already proceeded further than was consistent with the recommendation contained in the beginning of his noble Friend's speech, he was bound to say the inducement which led to it had been furnished by his noble Friend himself, The noble Lord, he believed, ad- 1099 witted that, speaking as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature, they were not informed of the nature of these amendments, and the motion of the noble Lord was, that they be printed previous to the adjournment, in order to their being; afterwards taken into deliberate consideration; yet, having stated that, the noble Lord immediately proceeded to argue on the nature, the extent, and the bearing of those amendments, at the same time, certainly, holding out strong inducements to the House not to concur in them—if, indeed, they should happen to agree with him that the amendments in the Bill were inconsistent with the maintenance of the attachment and loyalty of the people of Ireland to this country. He believed the noble Lord had gone the length, if not of stating, yet leading irresistibly to the conclusion, that the amendments were of that description, that the people of Ireland could not, and ought not to accept the Bill. Now, if he could bring himself to believe that concession after concession should naturally produce contentment in Ireland, even almost at the risk of incurring danger, he might be led to proceed in that course. The noble Lord had mentioned various concessions; he had referred to the concessions of 1793, when they granted to those professing the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland the enjoyment of the elective franchise; he had alluded to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in Ireland, which long preceded the repeal of those Acts in England, but, unfortunately, without leading to the same happy results. His noble Friend had mentioned the great concession of 1829, which placed Roman Catholics on a footing of perfect civil equality with Protestants, and the inference of the noble Lord was, that because these great concessions had been made, and as he (Sir James Graham) feared, made in vain, they must, therefore, continue to proceed in that direction. He could not see the policy of that advice. When great national concessions had been made, and those who made them were disappointed in the expectations they most reasonably entertained before consenting to them, instead of being hurried on to further concession in that downward path, never crying halt to consider the effects produced, and whether such concessions had been made altogether in vain, he, for one, would say, that the time had arrived when 1100 it was necessary to pause in so fruitless, if not dangerous, a course. [Cheers from Mr. Evelyn Denison.] He was not to be deterred by the cheers of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Evelyn Denison.) He challenged his convincing speech, and cared not for his unconvincing cheer. The point under consideration reminded him of the observation of a man of the greatest experience in the policy and movements of Government perhaps now living,—he alluded to a saying ascribed to no less a person than Prince Talleyrand, —that "those who begin a Government of concession, never fail to end in making some concession which they did not intend to make when they commenced that career, and which generally proved fatal to themselves." He believed that saying was true, and he hoped his noble Friend would not, in the result, experience it to the full extent. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Middlesex, he did not think, if unfortunately there should be a difficulty in reconciling the two Houses, they were called on, in the first instance, to solve it. It was the duty of the executive Government first of all to propose the mode in which that difficulty might be removed. And, if he rightly understood the noble Lord, he appeared, not distinctly, indeed, but faintly, to shadow forth some proposal by which even now matters might be arranged. He understood him to say, that the difficulty he felt in adopting the Bill as amended was, that it removed from Ireland altogether the means of municipal government, clearly pointing to some arrangement by which that objection might be obviated. Not having Parliamentary knowledge of those amendments, he was not now prepared to enter into any discussion on them; but if it were necessary to do so, he should point out fairly and frankly to the House, as he did when the measure was originally under discussion, that his great objections were to the constructive part of the Bill as introduced by his Majesty's Ministers. It was distinctly avowed, it had never been dissembled, that the Bill, as sent up to the other House, consisted of two parts —the one destructive of the whole Corporations of Ireland, the other constructive. On the destructive part of the Bill there had been no difference of opinion on either side of the House, the whole difference arose on the constructive part of the Bill, 1101 In the opinion of a large minority of this House, the constructive part of the measure was held to be most objectionable, and as he understood (for he had no Parliamentary knowledge of the fact), a large majority of the other House of Parliament had determined the same. The hon. Member for Middlesex had said, that he was surprised that a friend of reform, like the hon. Baronet, the Member for Caithness, should propose further concessions; and the hon. Member added, if concession of that in which a majority of that House concurred was required, a reform of the House of Lords would be necessary. Now, he had been always a steady, uniform, unflinching reformer; but he was ready to admit, that if further concessions were to be extorted by a threat of an organic reform of the House of Lords, then, friend as he was of reform, he must say, that he was not a friend to revolution; and that, born as he had been in a country governed under a limited monarchy, with Lords, either hereditary or nominated by the Crown, and not elected by the people, and with an Assembly representative of the people, he was of opinion any such organic changes as was suggested would not be reform but revolution, and such a reform he should oppose as strongly as his humble abilities could possibly enable him. The hon. Member for Middlesex talked of a majority of 180 in the other House in contemptuous terms; but the hon. Member seemed to forget that the House of Lards had powers, rights, and privileges co-ordinate, co-equal, and coextensive with the House of Commons; and the question was not the majority in the House of Lords, but whether there should be an equality of legislative power between those two branches of the Legislature. It might be right—the time might have arrived when the people of this country no longer desired to live under the form of government framed at the Restoration, but into that question he would not now enter. He would, however, say, that public men in this and the other House of Parliament were now upon their trial before the British public. He believed that the people of this country were still attached to the form of government under which they now lived. His belief also was, he repeated, that public men, either Ministers or aspiring to be Ministers of the Crown, in this or the other House of Parliament, were on their trial before the 1102 country; and he further believed that any false, precipitate, or hasty legislation towards organic change would not be pardoned by the people, who were too much attached to the existing institutions, and too sensible of the liberties, the security, the happiness those institutions afforded them, to be willing to risk the loss for the chance of a mere contingency. If he was right on this proposition, the House must see. that, in the present position of affairs, it ought to proceed with the utmost caution. The hon. Member for Middlesex had been pleased to say, that his immediate support of, or connexion with, the present Ministry, was from a fear that no Ministry so Radical could be found to replace them. The hon. Gentleman added also, that he supported his Majesty's present advisers on the ground of the measures they had brought forward with respect to Ireland. The hon. Member was frank, not only in Parliament, but frank also with the public; and there was a letter of his published last month, in which he stated, that "as a good Radical, he felt it necessary to use some forbearance towards the present advisers of the Crown, until certain measures for Ireland had been passed. Wait till they are carried," added the hon. Member, "and then we can assume quite a different tone." When he thus saw the narrow view with which the hon. Member supported the Government in these further concessions, as they were termed—when he had the admission that they were only to be the stepping-stones to other changes to which the hon. Member thought the present Ministers would not be prepared to give their sanction—he received these intimations as warnings to the Legislature to pause, and not to rush to measures which were confessedly only the means of effecting the still greater changes which the hon. Member, and those who thought with him, intended to force, at nodistant period, on the attention of the advisers of the Crown. He must, however, return to the point on which he, as well as the noble Lord opposite, had started—namely, that this discussion was premature. [Cheers.] He understood the cheers of hon. Members, and in answer to them would say, that if he had failed to notice what had fallen from the noble Lord, he and hon. Members on his side of the House would have been liable to have had their silence misconstrued and misrepresented. Having risen without any intention of prolonging the debate, he 1103 Lad expressed his views on the subject before the House frankly and dispassionately. He had but one mode of addressing the House, which was always to express frankly his genuine feelings, and he had done that on this occasion. He could not blind himself to the critical emergency of present affairs, and he could not think that premature discussion could be conducive to the public interests. He could not but regret extremely that his noble Friend opposite should not only have courted, but actually forced on this discussion by the observations he had made at the conclusion of his speech. If, indeed, this system of concessions could be hoped to win the affections of the people of Ireland, or to render those persons who swayed the feelings of that people satisfied, even at the risk of departing from his own sense of the necessity for caution and prudence, he might be induced by arguments such as he had not yet heard, to change the opinion he entertained and had expressed. It was, he feared, but vain to hope for any such results as those he had just stated; and, therefore, unless he heard arguments much stronger than any that had been yet advanced, he was still prepared to adhere to the two votes he gave when the Bill was last before the House. A great deal had been said about "justice to Ireland," and the expression had been explained by the person who first used it, and who distinctly stated, that without an organic change in the House of Lords it would be impossible to have justice done to Ireland. To that organic change he (Sir J. Graham) was as much opposed as to revolution itself. Such being his present views, and conceiving also that no compromise—which he for one disclaimed—was possible, he was not at present prepared to depart from the votes he had given on former occasions.
§ Viscount Clements
I feel it impossible to hear the interests of the Irish people alluded to as they have been without protesting in the strongest manner against it. The blood boils in my Irish veins when I hear the disposition to do the people of Ireland justice called concession. Concession! Are the Municipal Corporations of England to be reformed for the good of the people of England, and is the reform of the Municipal Corporations of Ireland, for the good of the people of Ireland, to be called a concession? I repeat, that it is impossible for me to listen to such language without protesting in the strongest manner against the doctrine which it involves, Sir, I much fear that 1104 the Protestants of Ireland have much more to fear from their zealous but injudicious friends, than they have from their worst enemies. For myself, I hope and believe that I am conscientiously attached to the religion which I profess; but I deeply regret that the interests of that religion have been taken up in the manner in which they have been taken up, and that the Tories seem desirous of maintaining the distinction between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, instead of trying to forget all religious differences, and to merge them in one general feeling for the common good. Sir, I am convinced that if this destructive measure sent to us by the House of Lords be adopted by the House of Commons, many a Protestant in Ireland will lose his rights. And why is this done? To me it is evident, that merely for the sake of destroying the rights of the Catholics in Ireland the House of Lords has consented to destroy the rights of the Protestants in that country. We have been told of British dominion over Ireland! To such language I can never listen without resentment. Concession and dominion! Was it concession to Ireland when the penal laws against the Catholics in that country were abrogated? Was not that abrogation calculated to be at least as beneficial to the Protestants of Ireland as to the Catholics? I will always stand up for the country from which I come; and I will never hear the terms concession or dominion applied with reference to that country without the frank expression of my feelings. The House of Lords, by the course which they have adopted on this occasion, have prevented much good from being done. I do from the bottom of my heart believe, that the majority of the House of Lords have taken the course which they have taken on the present question, because they dared to do with reference to the people of Ireland what they did not dare to do with reference to the people of England. Sir, I may have been led into too great warmth in the expression of my opinions, but I have for apology my conviction, that if the majority of the House of Lords be permitted to have their own way in this matter, it is all over with popular rights in Ireland; and I am quite sure that such is the opinion at the present moment of the great majority of the people of England.
Mr. Evelyn Denison
The right hon. Baronet who spoke on the other side of the House indulged in an admonition addressed to me as well as to other hon. Members, on the danger of the path on which he appre- 1105 hended we were about to enter. Sir, a juster admonition might be addressed to those who, having commenced great political changes, having laid down great political principles, do not follow up those changes, or pursue those principles to their proper termination. The right hon. Baronet launched into a very just and a very legitimate deprecation of rashness and imprudence. But if he, who was a party to Catholic Emancipation, who was a party to the Reform of Parliament, who was a party to the resolution of the House declaring that the people of England and the people of Ireland were entitled to equal rights, will suddenly stop short in that laudable career, and will substitute for action advice and warning to those misguided politicians, as he conceives them to be, who are disposed to continue the course recommended by his early example, and an entreaty to pause before they venture further on their path, it is, I should suppose, impossible for the House or for the country to contemplate such a change without feelings of great dissatisfaction. Sir, when the proper time arrives, I shall be prepared to deliver my sentiments on the alterations which have been made by the other House of Parliament in the Irish Municipal Corporations Bill; but I now mean to do, what no hon. Member who has preceded me has done, although every one has claimed the attention of the House on the ground of his intention to do it— namely, to confine my observations to the question immediately before us. Sir, I am perfectly satisfied with the statement which has been made by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, That noble Lord confined his observations to the point which is really under our consideration; he said nothing about organic changes in the House of Lords, or about the Irish Church, neither of those subjects being under discussion. All that the noble Lord said was, that as the Bill for the Reform of Municipal Corporations in Ireland had come down from the other House of Parliament with amendments, he should move that those amendments be printed, with a view to their being taken into consideration on a future day. This was the only course for the noble Lord, in the peculiar situation in which he was placed, to adopt; and if he had not taken it he would not have done his duty. I will not enter at all upon the question; I will say nothing of the clauses in the Bill which have been struck out, or of those which have been substituted; but 1106 I cannot hesitate to express my concurrence in the opinion that a party measure, annihilating all municipal government in Ireland, is a proceeding to which it is impossible that this House can agree. With that declaration I sit down. I join issue with the hon. Baronet. With the conviction that the eves of the country are upon us, it becomes us, I admit, to proceed with caution and deliberation; but I totally dissent from his conclusion as to the course we ought to follow. I hope that the example of decorum and forbearance which has been set by the noble Lord will be followed, and that this debate may not be at present continued.
§ Mr. Shaw
was persuaded his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) would be very willing to abide a just determination of the question that had been raised by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, whether the right hon. Baronet was more strictly pursuing the principles on which he had acted in the Government of Lord Grey, or other members of the same Cabinet, driven, as they now appeared, beyond every limit they had prescribed to themselves; forced on by a party with whom they had no community of principle or real bond of union, but with which they were merely connected by a temporary combination formed to drive a rival Government from office, and which had resulted in conferring place upon the present Ministry, while it had vested all real power in the irresponsible hands of the most extreme and violent portion of their nominal supporters. His noble Friend (Lord Clements) seemed to have built up castles for the mere pleasure of demolishing them, for neither the right hon. Baronet nor any one on that side of the House had used the expression "British dominion" as applied to Ireland, and the term "concessions" had been familiarly used by all parties in respect to Roman Catholic disabilities, without—for anything he had ever heard before that night — giving offence to the most fastidious. He must certainly concur with his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) in saying, that it was the unexpected speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, which had provoked the present premature, and, perhaps, not very regular discussion. He (Mr. Shaw) was at a loss to conceive what new light had broken in upon the noble Lord, or whether he had received any new instructions since the very question involved in the amendments 1107 made by the House of Lords had been discussed in that House and dealt with by the noble Lord in so very different a tone and temper from what he had evinced that evening. It was a fallacy unworthy of a noble Lord to contend that the Bill, as originally sent from that House, would not completely and entirely have extinguished the existing corporations of Ireland. That such was the fact was admitted by the Prime Minister in another place, and the real and only question was stated by him to be, as in truth it was, what should be the substitute? Could the noble Lord be serious when he said the people of Ireland should consider that they were stigmatized, and (as the language of the noble Lord would almost imply) be justified in seeking a Repeal of the Union, if they did not receive a precisely similar measure of legislation with England, when the Government, of which the noble Lord was the leader in that House, had, in respect of the administration of justice, of the constabulary, of the police, and of the Parliamentary franchise itself, dealt with them in a manner altogether different from that pursued with regard to England? Nothing could be more absurd than to suppose it possible to legislate upon mere general and abstract principles, without reference to the peculiar circumstances of the country to which you attempted to apply them. He maintained, that the Bill, as it had passed that House, was not, as stated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, calculated to introduce good and peaceable Government into the cities and towns of Ireland; but, on the contrary, to lead to excessive political excitement, and the utmost party and religious animosity. He wished for peace and repose to all parties. As to justice, real and impartial justice to Ireland, nobody desired it more sincerely than he did; but, then, let the term "justice" be defined and understood. They must recollect that there was no injustice or tyranny that had not at one time or other been perpetrated under the sacred name of justice. The noble Lord should bear in mind that those who urged him on, and whose sentiments in respect of the House of Lords the noble Lord seemed that night so nearly to adopt, were equally clamourous for an organic change in that branch of the Legislature—for the adoption of short Parliaments, universal suffrage, and Vote by Ballot, as for the present Bill as it had left that House, giving 1108 new Municipal Corporations and what they termed justice to Ireland. The simple question on that measure had been over and over again stated in that House and elsewhere, and it was this—will you do away self-election in the Irish Corporations in order to substitute individual nomination? Will you altogether put an end to exclusiveness, or only transfer it from one of the great parties in that country to the other? He was willing at any time to discuss that question dispassionately and coolly; he felt, however, that any discussion of that nature had on the present occasion been prematurely provoked by the observations of the noble Lord; and he could not but think that the noble Lord's speech was meant to serve some other purpose than that which appeared on the surface of it, which was the mere formal one of moving that the Lords' amendments should be printed with a view to their future consideration. The noble Lord was much mistaken if he suppossed that, separated from party or political motives, there rose any real feeling in this country or in Ireland in favour of new Irish Corporations instead of the removal of a fruitful source of discord in their extinction.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
Sir, I rise to answer, not merely the statements and arguments, but the insinuations which, not very fairly, have been thrown out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. A more unmanly, a more disingenuous, a more unjustifiable attack I never heard made upon a public man than that which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has, by implication at least, made upon my noble Friend. Nothing can be more unjustifiable than the mode which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has adopted of ascribing motives, and then suggesting that they are the motives of my noble Friend and of his Majesty's Government. But such is the course which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends have long uniformly pursued. In order to avoid discussing the real merits of the question, the right hon. and learned Gentleman endeavoured to connect the expressions in a letter written by an hon. and learned Gentleman—who, if he were present, would, no doubt, have been able to answer for himself—with the opinions which he supposes are entertained by my noble Friend. Sir, this is only a part of that miserable, that unmanly system which our opponents. 1109 have for some time been in the habit of pursuing, and the adoption of which only shows the weakness of those who condescend to have recourse to it. The question is, whether we shall do right or do wrong, in adopting or rejecting the amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the Irish Municipal Corporations' Bill? That question ought to be treated argumentatively, and not by the suggestion of motives to any party. What right had the right hon. and learned Gentleman to hold my noble Friend responsible for the opinions expressed by another, that an organic change in the House of Lords was indispensable to obtain justice for Ireland, and a step to obtain universal suffrage, and to obtain vote by ballot. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman well know that such opinions are not participated in by my noble Friend? [Mr. Shaw: I never said that they were.] No; the right hon. and learned Gentleman never said that they were; but he implied it. Did he not say that such were the opinions professed by Gentlemen who were acting on our behalf? And what was the implication, but that his Majesty's Government participated in those opinions? And is it not for the purpose of meeting that statement, and to repel the right hon. and learned Gentleman's insinuations, that I now rise? Let us get rid of these miserable attempts to create a delusion—not indeed within these walls, for of that I have no apprehension—but possibly on some few weak and timid minds out-of-doors. I will now deal with the question more immediately before the House. The question for the House to consider—and it is a question of great importance— is, what is to be done with the new Bill—for a new Bill it essentially is—that has been sent to us by the other House of Parliament? In speaking upon this question, if my noble Friend had not stated what his feelings were with respect to it, he would have been deficient in candour, in common sense, and in consistency. But what has this to do with the letter which has appeared this morning? It is true that in that letter the extinction of Municipal Corporations in Ireland is reprobated. But is that a new doctrine? Is it not a doctrine, which a large majority of this House has sanctioned by its vote on the motion of the noble Lord, the Member for South Lanca- 1110 shire? At the time that the proposition to extinguish these Corporations was brought before us, did we not distinctly declare that we would not consent to their extinction? That refusal we are, I hope, prepared to repeat. Is that an unexpected declaration? In or out of this House, in any place whatever, such a result must have been supposed. Even the noble Lord himself, who framed the amendments could not have imagined that we should concur in them. For what is it that is proposed to us? To give the Bill precisely that very form which we have already negatived. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that we were going to ask the majority of the House of Commons, which had already passed their judgment on this very question, just to unsay all that they had said? But it has been said, that this is a premature discussion. To a certain extent that is the case; but it must be recollected that with reference to this Bill, as returned to us by the House of Lords, we are not in the condition in which we are placed with reference to Bills generally. In Bills, generally, there may be a discussion on the first reading, a discussion on the second reading, a discussion in the Committee, a discussion on the Report, a discussion on the third reading. But this Bill, which is essentially a new measure, we are called upon to swallow whole, without that previous caution and repeated consideration usually considered essential to legislative measures. It is a question for our future careful consideration whether we can got a good measure out of the Bill now sent to us; but I shall not discuss it now. The right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) is, it seems, an enemy to all concession. Concession, he says, is dangerous; and he has—I dare say, most astutely and wisely, all things considered—hazarded a judgment, that any compromise on this question is quite hopeless. He thinks the establishment of Municipal Corporations, in certain parts of Ireland, is a proposition not to be entertained for a moment. Upon that, as upon all other occasions, I shall reserve my opinion; but, meanwhile, I perfectly concur in what my noble Friend has said, and conceive that we are doing no more than what we are absolutely called upon to do in the first instance, in declaring that we are not prepared to assent to a measure which pro- 1111 nounces the whole people of Ireland to be unfit and unworthy to exercise those rights and privileges which have been conceded to their brethren of England and Scotland. This is the principle which is averred in the Bill that has been laid upon the Table of the House. To that principle I declare my most direct opposition. The right hon. Member for Cumberland has pointed out to the House that the Catholic question was carried without producing tranquillity to Ireland —that the Parliamentary franchise was given to the Catholics of Ireland without producing tranquillity there—and that, finally, the last act of Catholic Emancipation brought no peace to that country. But what is the reason why these measures have not had the full effect of giving peace to that country, and repose to her people? It is not because much has been given, but because more has been withheld—it is not that the Catholics of Ireland are unconscious of the advantages which they have derived from these concessions, or ungrateful to those who promoted them, but they know, at the same time, that all of them have been granted with reluctance,—and would never have been granted at all, if those who did grant them had dared longer to refuse them. They know very well that even when the last great measure had been forced from the Ministers, it was rejected by the House of Lords, though within a twelvemonth after the House of Lords thought itself under the necessity of giving to the measure, when again before it, a reluctant consent. It was not concession that produced the evil; it was injustice; it was delay. The Irish nation, I repeat, have not been unconscious of benefits received, but they have been greatly disappointed that those benefits have not been followed up by others to which they were equally entitled. This is the evil which has hitherto prevailed, and which it is our desire, for the future, to avert; and I cannot, therefore, agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that because those concessions he has spoken of did not produce all the good that was expected, he and the House are called upon to pause ere they assent to any other concession, however calculated it may be to complete those benefits, and produce that tranquillity which the other measures of which he has spoken failed to bring about. Sir, if the course of legislation is 1112 to be stopped because some measure which has passed has happened not to produce the good results anticipated from it, the progress of legislation will be arrested altogether. The right hon. Gentleman is very earnest about what he calls making a stand; I have never heard this phrase made use of, except for the purpose of delaying some good results. What I say is, let us proceed on in the course of just, and even, and impartial legislation. I repeat, therefore, Sir, that I consider my noble Friend to have done no more than his duty. Sir, a great outcry has been made about "organic changes;" but his Majesty's Ministers have not spoken a word about organic changes; we have not attacked the exercise by the House of Lords of their privileges, in dealing with this measure as to them seemed meet. All we have to do is, to deal with the Bill as it comes to us without inquiring by whom it has been rendered such as it is; we have to deal with it just as if it were an entirely new Bill, now first introduced to the House, and there is no parliamentary restraint to prevent us from dealing with it as its present merits deserve, or from giving it every term of reproach which we may conceive it justly open to. We have fairly stated our opinion in reference to this Bill in its present state. We think it is inconsistent with the resolution of this House upon the subject. But with respect to the question whether it can be rendered more acceptable to this House, and can, at the same time, be put in a shape so as to pass the other House of Parliament, I may freely say, that if the measure can be put into such a shape as will ensure its success here and elsewhere, the right hon. Gentleman will find that so far from seeking a collision with another branch of the Legislature, I should say with respect to this Bill as I did with respect to the English Corporation Bill, that it is most desirable to avoid any collision or difference; but we hold that the best way to prevent any such collision or difference is, that whilst respecting the free opinions of the other House of Parliament, we maintain with the utmost freedom of discussion the rights, privileges, powers, and authority of the House of Commons.
Mr. Dillon Brown
did not rise to discuss the general merits of the Bill or of the subject upon the present occasion, 1113 nor did he rise to discuss the general merits of the House of Lords. What he rose to express was, his conviction, that if equal justice were longer denied to Ireland, which would be the practical result of this Bill being received in its present form, the whole Irish nation would demand the repeal of the Union; and he for one, if justice were refused to Ireland, would return whence he came, and agitate that question. He had stated to his constituents that he would take the first opportunity that offered of voting for a reform of the House of Lords, and he could not but think that the disposition which had been evinced by that House in its treatment of this measure, showed to the country that there ought to be some alterations in the constitution of the House in question. Impressed with this conviction, he would therefore at once declare, that if no other Member of the House of Commons came forward with a motion to that purpose, he himself would stand up, and propose a measure which should produce some organic change in the House of Lords.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
rejoiced that the hon. Member who had just addressed the House for the first time had signalized himself by manfully stating to the House that he would propose an organic change in the constitution of the country. He, however, was convinced that such a course, instead of preserving the institutions of the country, would in a very short time, lead to the establishment of a democracy. He acknowledged the manliness of the hon. Member, who had openly avowed what his intentions were. It was not his wish to say much on the present subject, in the then thin state of the House, particularly after what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the latter part of whose speech he entirely concurred. It was the duty of that House, when a measure was brought down from the other branch of the Legislature, to consider its enactments, not with reference to the particular parties by whom they had been proposed, but with reference to their own merits. As the present, however, was not the proper time for discussing the nature of the amendments which had been added to the Bill, he should not say another word on the subject. But he begged leave to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he must 1114 not be surprised if hon. Members, after reading the letter which had been published that day by the late hon. Member for Dublin, connected the acts of the Government with the sentiments of that learned and influential person; because it frequently happened, that he, both in his speeches and his letters, stated that a compact and alliance had been entered into on the part of the Ministry of a most intimate nature—that the Whigs of the present year were not the Whigs of last year—that the Whigs, whom he had called base and bloody, were no longer the same Whigs. It was undoubtedly true, that that learned individual now eulogized the Whigs, though no later ago than the latter end of the year 1834 he stigmatized them as the worst enemies of Ireland, and as the promoters of worse measures with regard to that country than had ever been brought forward by the Peels and the Goulburns. That learned individual not only made a general charge against the Whig party, but he specifically alluded to individuals, and he declared that the noble Lord, the present Secretary for the Home Department, and Lord Grey, were, in consequence of the scantiness of the reform they gave to Ireland, the most malignant enemies of that country. He would not enter into a detail of all that had been said by that learned individual respecting his power over the Government; but he could not help thinking that it was only natural for hon. Members to give that learned individual credit for possessing some of that influence, which it was notorious he professed to have. Still he (Sir Henry Hardinge) was glad to acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had disclaimed entertaining any desire to make an organic change in the constitution of the House of Lords; and whenever the hon. Member for the county of Mayo brought forward his proposition on that subject, he would, if he ventured to divide the House on it, find himself followed by the smallest imaginable tail. The hon. Member for Middlesex had spoken of the tyrannical and oppressive conduct of the House of Lords. In what way was such conduct shown? Had not the House displayed its readiness to abolish the exclusive system of Corporations in Ireland and to do justice to that country. And was the House of Lords to be censured because, when it got rid of one exclusive system, it refused 1115 to erect another, equally exclusive, in its place? It was very easy for the hon. Member to attack the motives of those who refused their assent to measures of which he approved, and to say that equal justice was not done to Ireland. He was of opinion, looking at the state of that country, and the great influence of the Catholic priesthood, that it was impossible to place Ireland at the present moment on the same footing as England, and no longer ago than last night the House passed a government measure of a peculiar nature—the Irish Constabulary Bill— showing that the condition of society in Ireland was entirely different from the state of the population of England. When this was the case, it was rather too hard for hon. Members on the ministerial benches to blame Gentlemen opposed to them, for refusing to extend on every occasion, and without distinction, the same legislative measure to Ireland and England.
§ Mr. David Roche
did not rise to prolong the discussion, but to protest against the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, that the Protestants of Ireland would accept with pleasure the amended Bill. Such might be the feeling of Orangemen, but he denied that the Irish Protestants generally would derive any gratification from the destruction of the Corporations. In the town which he had the honour to represent, the Roman Catholics constituted the majority of the population, but he could conceive no reason why they should not be allowed to manage their own local affairs. The right hon. Member for Cumberland had spoken of Ireland as he might have done of Jamaica or any dependency of the Crown of England; he denied that Ireland was a dependency; it was part of the United Kingdom, and he claimed for it perfect equality with England. If Irishmen were driven to look for justice to a Repeal of the Union, he would not shrink from advocating the repeal. But he believed that, though a majority of the House of Lords was opposed to the interests of Ireland, the majority of the people of England and of Scotland were anxious to see justice done to that country.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, that the Bill as originally introduced had reference to rights which belonged to Irishmen as free subjects, and if by any act of theirs they implied they were not entitled to them, they 1116 at once admitted that they were unworthy of the name, not only of Irishmen, but of free men. He lost his seat in Parliament by his opposition to the Repeal of the Union; and he could tell hon. Members opposite that that question had been advanced not by the eloquence of the hon. Gentleman, the late Member for Dublin, not by the concessions to the Catholics in 1829, nor by the Reform Bill, but by their own conduct—by the withholding of concessions so long, that when at last they were granted, it was known that they were granted through fear. When the question before the House came to be fully discussed, he was sure that the people of Ireland would express their sentiments in the strongest possible manner through their representatives. The proper way to put the question was simply this:—whether the people of Ireland were to be united with the people of England in all senses, or whether the Union was to be interpreted after the fashion of hon. Members opposite? Ireland would not rest calmly with anything less than a perfect equality with England; and if Irishmen were to be told that they were not to hope for that equality, then they would have to consider how they could obtain it by their own exertions.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
lived in one of the most Protestant parts of Ireland, and was sure that the Protestants were not adverse to the enjoyment, on the part of the people of Ireland, of political rights. He expressed his satisfaction at the general tone of the noble Lord's (Russell's) speech, but there was one part of it which had filled him with dismay. He was sorry to have heard the noble Lord hint at the possibility of a compromise, by a limitation of the franchise, or by a reduction of the number of corporate towns in Ireland. For his part, he rejoiced that the Bill had been sent back in its present shape, which put all compromise out of the question. The Legislature would in vain endeavour to give satisfaction to Ireland by compromising the rights of that country, for Ireland would be content with nothing less than perfect equality with England. The letter of a learned gentleman had been alluded to, and in his absence he, though often dissenting from the views of that Gentleman, felt called on to say, that with the sentiments expressed in that letter he cordially concurred. He was not anxious for a Repeal of the Union, but if 1117 justice could not be otherwise obtained for Ireland, he would most cordially join in the demand for a separate legislature.
§ Dr. Bowring
felt some surprise that the declaration of the hon. Member for Mayo had been received with such coldness and indifference by the House. That declaration, be it remembered, was the latest testimony to the state of the public mind in Ireland; and that public mind would soon find abundant echoes in this country, unless Ireland were really and truly raised to the equality she had a right to occupy. When the question of a Repeal of the Union was last debated, none but Irish Members were willing to advocate it; but if the present system were persisted in, if a perpetual injustice towards Ireland were perpetrated, the question of the Repeal of the Union would not be left alone to Irish representatives, for many of the representatives of England and Scotland would unite in demanding the repeal, unless equal justice were obtained for Ireland. He did not understand what was meant by the word collision. He knew the duty of an honest representative. It was to proceed in a straight-forward path—it was to remove abuses—it was to redress wrongs — it was to obtain good and cheap government for the people. If this were prevented by those who were blind and deaf to the state and to the power of public opinion, on them and them alone must the responsibility rest. And as the subject of organic changes had been referred to, he wished the House to know that the organic change which he and those who thought with him insisted on—aye and would obtain in spite of all resistance—was the organic change from bad to good government. If in the struggle for this great end impediments threw themselves in the way, those impediments would be removed, and the consequences, be they what they might, would be solely attributed to those who placed them there.
§ Lords Amendments were ordered to be printed.