LORD J. RUSSELL
then rose, and spoke as follows:—Mr. Speaker, I stated two evenings ago that I would to-day give notice of the general course which Her Majesty's Government propose to pursue with respect to several of the Bills which are now before this House; and I will do so in moving the consideration of the Orders of the Day. I wish, in the first place, to give notice that I will on Monday next state the plan of the Government with respect to the Sugar Duties. I shall state that plan in Committee, and propose afterwards to adjourn the consideration of it until the Friday following — to-morrow week. We have now reached a period so late in the Session, that I must propose 1163 that early day for its consideration; and after this notice I hope the House will be enabled to take this course. As only a fortnight will elapse from next Monday till the expiration of the Sugar Duties, I shall at the same time propose a short Bill, similar to the last Bill, for the continuance of the Sugar Duties. [Several hon. MEMBERS: For how long?] I shall propose a Bill continuing the Sugar Duties for one month, or until Parliament shall otherwise provide. With respect to the Bills now before this House, the first of them that came under my observation is the Poor Removal Bill; but with regard to that Bill I have already stated my general views to the House, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will presently state what is proposed to be done with regard to it. The next is the Drainage Bill—a Bill to facilitate the improvement of land. A Member of the Government will undertake that Bill, with the hope of carrying it through in the present Session. The next most important class of Bills are those which were brought in by the noble Lord lately Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. One of these Bills, the most important, the Ejectment Bill, we propose to go on with; not exactly in the shape in which it is at present, but with some alterations, and preserving that clause, I think as it is in that Bill, which prevents distraint on growing crops. The Leases Bill we likewise propose to go on with. With regard to other Bills affecting Ireland, we found on looking attentively at the Tenants' Compensation Bill that its machinery is exceedingly complicated, and we wish to give further consideration to it, with a view of seeing whether we can hope to pass it this Session into a law. There are some other Bills affecting Ireland, with regard to which my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant will be able to answer any inquiries which may be made on the subject. I do not see that there is any necessity for me to notice them at present. There are some Bills in the House of Lords; one of them is called the Small Debts Bill, which is a Bill similar to one introduced by former Governments and by the late Government—a measure which has been repeatedly before Parliament. The present Government entirely approve of the general purport of that Bill. It is a measure of great length, and contains many provisions. The Bill is also one of great importance; and I 1164 do hope we may be enabled to obtain the consent of Parliament to it in the present Session. There is another Bill, which is likewise at present in the House of Lords, which the Government do not propose to take into their own hands, unless it be necessary, which I trust also will obtain the assent of Parliament—that is, the Bill called the Religious Opinions Bill. That Bill was introduced by a Member of the late Government, I believe in the name of the Government, as a Government measure; I trust the author of that Bill will continue to take charge of it; but if he should be of opinion that he cannot do it, some Member of the present Government will propose to conduct it in the shape in which it at present stands. There are many other Bills which are not measures of great importance, and which we propose to go on with. With respect to measures to be introduced, I will not give any detailed notice at present. I will only say, that looking to the improvement of the waste lands of Ireland as a subject of the very greatest importance, we shall endeavour to introduce preparatory measures, and if it be necessary to ask the aid of Parliament for any measure of that kind, we shall be prepared to ask it in the present Session; but, at all events, we shall endeavour to make preparation for the introduction of a general plan for the settlement of the waste lands in Ireland next Session. This, Sir, is the statement I have to make in moving the Order of the Day.
§ MR. J. E. DENISON
It is not my wish to press upon the House at this period of the Session any amount of labour which my noble Friend is willing to spare it. He has declared his intention of withdrawing from the Poor Removal Bill the provision for union settlements. I shall not attempt in the face of such a declaration to uphold that provision, nor shall I even trouble the House with my reasons for desiring to see it maintained. But I cannot help inviting the attention of the House, and of my noble Friend, to the position in which the Poor Removal Bill is left. Without the provision for union settlements, the author of the Bill, the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, has avowed his opinion that the measure must work a great amount of injustice. Is it wise to carry forward a measure so characterized? I beg to ask the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, whether it is to be a Bill of irremovability or settlement? As 1165 it stands, it is a Bill of settlement as well as irremovability; and if settlement is cut from it, it certainly cannot suit the views of the hon. Member for Finsbury. In the agricultural districts it will occasion, to say the least of it, great inconvenience. The word "irremovability" is not to be found in any dictionary. It describes a condition of life to be found in no law book; and before this new word has penetrated the understandings of half the people of England, the enactment will have been swept away. I hope, therefore, that my noble Friend will not ask us to proceed with this Bill; if he does, it cannot pass without observation and opposition; because, as I have said, it will not only produce great inconvenience in the agricultural districts, but work positive injustice. I hope that my noble Friend will, before the next Session, review his opinions as to future legislation upon this subject, and will not permit that the whole question of Poor Laws and settlement shall be thrown loose upon the House, and submitted to a Committee. I trust that the Executive Government will consider it its duty to undertake this most difficult and important matter. On the proper occasion I shall state more at length my objection to the Bill; but I may take this opportunity of saying a few words on the constitution of the Government of my noble Friend. There is in that constitution much that meets my entire approval. I entertain the highest opinion of many of the men of whom it is composed. I have great hopes as to their measures; and I have sanguine expectations of advantage to Ireland. But I think it right to tell my noble Friend that it has, in my opinion, one remarkable deficiency—one great defect. With many elements of power, there is one striking want — the want of a just and adequate representation of the landed interest of this country. The great towns are powerfully represented—the law is represented perhaps more than enough—the Anti-Corn-Law League is represented; but I look in vain for any powerful parties representing the interests of the land. London, Manchester, Halifax, Nottingham, Sheffield, Devonport, Lambeth, and Edinburgh are represented. I should not do justice to my own feelings if, in mentioning Edinburgh, I did not add that my right hon. Friend who represents that city as not less remarkable for his unrivalled talents than for his high and honourable independence, which render him the 1166 greatest ornament to any Administration. When I look to the House of Lords, I see there, indeed, Lord Lansdowne, whose name I mention with the highest respect. He is a great landed proprietor in England; and I believe a greater in Ireland. I see Earl Grey and Lord Morpeth; but Lord Morpeth has sunk his character as a representative of the land in his character as the representative of the commercial interests of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in his membership of the Anti-Corn-Law League. Earl Grey entertains upon these subjects extreme opinions — holding that, after the repeal of the Corn Laws, rents will be raised fifteen or twenty per cent. At present, therefore, he can only be regarded as a sanguine prophet: when the event he anticipates has arrived—when willing tenants pay an increased rent to not reluctant landlords—he will become a great authority with the agricultural interest. But, at this moment I cannot think that he represents either the opinions or the feelings of that class of the community. There is my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Charles Wood). I have looked at his speeches and at his late address, and I see in them no reference whatever to the landed interest. In the public papers, on the other hand, I find him spoken of as "Mr. C. Wood, well known as the ardent advocate of the commercial interests of the West Riding, and as the repealer of the tax upon wool." If what I have pointed out be a defect in any Administration, it is peculiarly so in the present, and at the present moment. The land has just received a rude shock at the hands of those from whom it had a right to expect different treatment. It requires to be conciliated to the Government; and, perhaps, I should not go too far were I to say that it requires in some degree to be reconciled even to our institutions. If, then, it be a defect at any time, it is especially so now. I have a right to speak on these points without being subjected to the imputation of desiring any exclusive privileges for the land, if any man has. When I thought that the landed interest asked for too great and too exclusive immunities, I was ready to throw my weight, such as it was, into the opposite scale. On this account I was considered an unnatural child of the soil, one faithless among the faithful; but now that the land has been deprived of all its exclusive privileges, I feel bound to support its just 1167 claims. How are its just claims to be supported, but by having a fair share of representation in the Cabinet? Have we a fair, just, and adequate proportion of the Government, representing the land? I think not. And there is another most important consideration. What are the questions likely to be brought immediately before us? Questions relating to the social condition of the people, in which the land is most deeply concerned: the Poor Laws generally, the settlement of the poor, highway rates, local taxation, and county rates. I want to know to whom, in the present Government, we are to look, as having given attention to these matters, or to matters connected with the administration of these laws? I need not tell my noble Friend (for I have given proofs of it, of which he is well aware) that I have done what lay in my power to conciliate support to his Administration. I am anxious that it should stand—that it should last. I think constant changes of Government injurious, since they tend to weaken the principle of Government itself. I trust that the Government of my noble Friend may long endure, and that his measures may counteract any unfavourable impressions caused by the one-sided constitution of his Cabinet. But it must be by measures that confidence will be conciliated. I speak openly before him, when I tell him that the constitution of his Government makes it impossible for me to give it that entire confidence which I should have been happy to have bestowed upon it by anticipation, and at once.
did not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman into the wide field he had traversed; but with respect to the Poor Removal Bill, they ought first to hear how the right hon. Baronet meant to deal with it. The hon. Gentleman said, that he had supported the whole measure of his right hon. Friend, and that the Government were now about to abandon a part. He must set the hon. Gentleman right. The Bill, as it now stood, was not the Bill which had been promised to the poor. The Bill which had been promised was to prevent the poorer classes from being denied relief after they had resided for a number of years. There was not a word about union settlements, which were afterwards engrafted on the Bill by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Malton. For himself, he highly approved of the course taken by the Government with respect to this Bill. He would not go into the inquiry 1168 whether the landed interests or the commercial interests were sufficiently represented in the present Government, but he must remind the House of its being said out of the House that "the poor man was not represented within those walls;" and now they were upon a measure affecting the welfare of millions, let them not get into a discussion whether the land or trade had a little too much preponderance, or whether a few more landed proprietors ought to be engrafted on the present Government. But let them proceed at once with this Bill, which was to benefit the poor.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
had taken the liberty the other day to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, when he would be prepared to state to the House and to the country the principles on which his Government was formed, and the policy he intended to pursue. He had put that question, not to produce the irritation which seemed to be created in the mind of the noble Lord at the moment, but for the purpose of ascertaining the day and the time when the noble Lord's statement would be made to the House, because the noble Lord must be aware that on Monday last, in consequence of what had been stated in the public press and elsewhere, he was expected to come down to the House with an explanation of the principles on which his Government was about to act. People came down to that House, but their expectations were disappointed, for all they heard was about this Poor Law Removal Bill, and the withdrawal of another Bill by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham). The parties, therefore, went away very much disappointed. He was afraid they might meet with equal disappointment on some future day; and, to prevent that, he asked the noble Lord on what day he would make that explanation which the country had a right to expect, and on which the House, in the performance of its duty to the people, ought to insist? Why did he do this? He was satisfied there was sufficient around him to justify such a question. Let them look at the state of the House—no one knew exactly where he ought to sit. If they had a liberal Government, the Gentlemen who were about him, on the Opposition benches, were the natural allies of such a Government and ought to sit on the same benches with the Government. But he saw hon. Gentlemen who were the bitter opponents of the Ministers in former days sitting on 1169 the same side of the House with them, and he believed ready to support them, because it had been intimated that nothing but the extremes would be dissatisfied with the Government. That was even stated to be the case with regard to the sugar question. He said then, that this state of things required some explanation. According to all Parliamentary usage, when a new man became Prime Minister of this country, he had felt it a duty due from him to the country and to the people to explain to Parliament on the first occasion the principles on which his Government would be conducted. On that principle he had asked the noble Lord his question; and what was the answer he had received? There was nothing in that question to induce what he considered was rather a pettish answer at the time; but if he objected to the tone of that answer, he was still more astonished at its substance. The noble Lord replied that his Government "would be conducted on the principles on which he had always acted, and on the opinions he had always professed in that House." Now, he had asked many Gentlemen what interpretation could be put upon that reply, and what construction could be given to the words of the noble Lord; but he had not found any one able to put a construction on them. If the noble Lord had said that the principles of his Government were the principles of the Government of Lord Grey, he should have understood the noble Lord; or if he had said that the principles of his Government were the principles of Lord Melbourne's Government, he should have understood the noble Lord; but when he saw the new features of party in that House, and the different arrangement of seats, he was puzzled, and every one who heard the noble Lord's statement must have been puzzled also. At what period were the noble Lord's opinions to be taken; would he tell them any one year to which they were to refer? The noble Lord ought at least to fix the time of the principles on which he had always acted, and of the opinions he had always avowed. There was another question connected with the present. Rumour, for which in a very short time he would give an undoubted authority, declared that the noble Lord had applied to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) to lend him three of the most distinguished Members of the late Administration, Lord Lincoln, Mr. Sidney Herbert, and Lord Dalhousie; and perhaps their accession to the Government would have 1170 satisfied the hon. Member for Malton, since they were closely connected with the landed interest. Now he did not care a straw whether the Members of the Government were connected with the manufacturing, the commercial, the trading, or the agricultural interests. All he wanted to know was, their principles and the mode in which they intended to conduct the Government; and he would ask the noble Lord, whether he did apply directly or indirectly to the three Gentlemen connected with the late Administration? Since the noble Lord had given his former reply he had seen some of the noble Lord's influential constituents, and he had been told that if the noble Lord now went to Guildhall, flattering as his reception had recently been, it would notwithstanding be very different now. ["No!"] Let the noble Lord try—let him go there. And why was this? Because the electors considered the noble Lord's answer very unsatisfactory, and, to use one of the expressions, they thought they were to have the "old Whig dodge over again." He now came back, however, to the case of the three Gentlemen to whom the noble Lord had applied, and he wanted to know on what principles that application was made? At first the report was denied, and he did not believe it for some time. He had read it in the public papers; but he was not in the habit of believing all that he read in those papers. He had read in one paper, the Weekly Chronicle, where every thing was ably written and ably stated, as everything was able which proceeded from his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty, Mr. Ward—he had read this statement—Nothing can be more absurd than the rumours that have been circulated and continue to be circulated about the new Ministry. Every hour has its lie, and every lie its believers;" and then, after commenting on what had actually been done, the article went on to say, "One of our liberal contemporaries, the Sun, has the barbarity to suggest, that in addition to retaining Lord Dalhousie at the Board of Trade, for which it would be difficult to find a more efficient President, or one more universally respected, Lord John Russell should endeavour to secure the valuable services of Lord Lincoln in Ireland. We cannot comprehend these crotchets. A Peel-mania is bad enough; but a Lincoln-mania, or a Sidney Herbert-Mania, or a Granville Somerset-mania really passes our comprehension. Can any man point out to us, in the whole House of Commons, up to the 1st of November, 1845, a more decided monopolist than Lord Lincoln? Can any man understand or respect his conversion?Some hon. Gentlemen respected that conversion; but the hon. Gentleman the Se- 1171 cretary for the Admiralty did not respect it.Can any man fathom the mental process by which Mr. Sidney Herbert was induced to espouse free-trade opinions, as soon as he met Sir Robert Peel in London, in November last year, after making the most strenuous protectionist speeches in August to his constituents. No; if there is to be a fusion of parties, by way of making what is called a strong Government, give us Sir Robert Peel and Sir James Graham. We should then, at all events, have something for our money. But, with all respect for the Sun, we cannot conceive a system of Irish Government of which Lord John Russell should be the head and Lord Lincoln the confidential agent.Then in a few days he read another statement in a newspaper which he had been told was now to be considered the Government organ, The Times, with which some arrangement was said to have been made through the skilful negotiations of an hon. Baronet who was now a Member of that House, the hon. Baronet the Member for Worcester (Sir D. Le Marchant); and upon this he had to remark that it was due to the great leading journal, if the report were not correct, that nothing so injurious to its influence and character should go forth to the world as to have it said that it was the Government organ—to use the military terms of the Gazette, "vice the Chronicle superseded;" and the denial was due not only to the leading journal, but to the Ministers' old friend, to have a denial of the report. If there was no truth in it, it would be some consolation to the old friend, who had waded chin deep in the mire to support the Ministers, and had waited till the tide of victory had turned in their favour, to find that they had not neglected their old friend, and that it could still obtain the authority which it ought to have as the organ of the present Government. But when he read the paper he had referred to, and found it authoritatively stated that almost one of the first acts of the noble Lord was to apply to the right hon. Gentleman, the head of the late Government, for the loan of these three Gentlemen, and that—To this Sir Robert Peel is said to have replied, that he felt unwilling to interfere in so delicate a matter; that he would offer no opposition, but could certainly not recommend a step which would be liable to unfavourable comment, as indicating a too great tenacity of office on the part of those youthful statesmen;"—and when he found that they had no intention at present of accepting the offices offered to them, and that their places were then filled by the hon. Gentlemen who now sat on the benches opposite, he must say 1172 that he very much agreed with the Weekly Chronicle; and he asked, why did not the noble Lord apply at once to the heads of the late Government? The country had in them an excellent Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, it was admitted, discharged the duties of his office to the satisfaction of all, as far as the public interests went: the personal and private squabble he had with him could have nothing to do with the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman discharged his public duties, and could weigh only as a feather in the balance. Then there was the Chancellor of the Exchequer—an old and experienced Chancellor of the Exchequer—whose budgets for years had "braved the battle and the breeze," and who was at any rate to be preferred to a raw and inexperienced man, though he might come from Halifax. He said, then, at once, that it would have been better for the noble Lord and for the right hon. Baronet to have taken their places together. When he found these things stated by the leader of the press, would any one tell him that no explanation was required, and that the people were not entitled to some explanation from those who presumed to govern them? He should have thought that the noble Lord would have been only too anxious to have declared the principles on which he intended to conduct the Government. They were told that he meant to conduct it on the principles he had always advocated, and on the opinions he had always expressed in that House. Well, then, he wanted to know what were the noble Lord's intentions with respect to the Irish Church? What opinions did the noble Lord express with respect to that church last year? His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield moved as an Amendment on the Maynooth Bill—That it is the opinion of this House, that any provision to be made for the purposes of the present Bill ought to be taken from the funds already applicable to ecclesiastical purposes in Ireland.The noble Lord had voted in support of that Motion: was that the principle on which the Government of the noble Lord was to be conducted? If it were, he ought to let the country know. He had heard also of a dinner which he thought took place at Greenwich the other day, at which the noble Lord at the head of the Gentlemen who cheered, declared, amidst cheers which almost shook Greenwich Hospital to its foundation, that the principles of his party in 1846 were the principles 1173 of 1841. What were their principles in 1841 he should like to know. Did they not all, in 1841, come to this resolution?—That we feel it, however, to be our duty humbly to submit to your Majesty, that it is essential to the satisfactory results of our deliberations upon these and other matters of public concern, that your Majesty's Government should possess the confidence of this House and of the country; and respectfully to represent to your Majesty that that confidence is not reposed in the present advisers of your Majesty.And who were those advisers? They were the very men that he was told those hon. Gentlemen were now prepared to support, who were, at least, sitting on the same benches, and, at all events, they could not give their confidence to the Government if Ministers were going to act on those principles which, in 1845, they had declared with respect to the Maynooth Bill. The noble Lord had said that he supported the Maynooth grant only as a prelude to other measures which would lead ultimately to the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy; and Lord Howick, who was then in that House, had gone further, and said that he would take the revenues of the Protestant Church, and apply them, in the first instance, towards the payment of the Roman Catholics, whose original property they were. He wanted to know whether these were the principles on which the noble Lord's Government was to be conducted? He hoped that they were, for it would then receive an extensive popular support. Then they had heard a great deal of the improvements to be made in the social condition of the people; and he wished to learn whether the noble Lord would also take their political condition into consideration; and whether he was favourable to an extension of the franchise? There were many Gentlemen around the noble Lord, holding indeed subordinate situations in the Government, but who of course had not joined him without having the guarantee that they were to support an extension of the franchise, as they had hitherto done. Surely, they were not placed in the Government as men were placed in the last Government, where the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Edward Knatchbull were placed, that it might be said, "Surely such a Government must be the farmers' friends," but who were soon obliged to leave the Government; for he was satisfied his hon. Friends had not joined the Government for the purpose of leaving it when any Motion for an extension of the franchise should be proposed. 1174 He must ask, therefore, whether the noble Lord entertained his old opinions with respect to the finality of the Reform Bill, and whether he was now opposed to an extension of the franchise? Again, there was another question of great importance with respect to the social condition of the people—he meant the Bill for regulating the hours of labour in factories. The noble Lord had given a zealous support to that measure during the existence of the late Government; he was now at the head of the Government, and, as he (Mr. Duncombe) believed, the noble Lord had the means, by a great majority in that House, of carrying out the proposals he had supported; and the noble Lord would not tell him, he hoped, that the noble Lord left that measure in the hands of individual and independent Members of the House. He trusted that the noble Lord would take it out of their hands and bring it, as he could do, to a satisfactory issue. He looked to the composition of the noble Lord's Ministry, and he found sitting beside him the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), a violent opponent of the measure, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield; and what was he to think of it? Would any one say that this state of things did not require some explanation? It was the interest of all parties that they should not be any longer deceived, or allow themselves to be deceived. It was said, in defence of the late Prime Minister, when he was charged with deceiving his party, "No, he did not deceive them, he allowed them to deceive themselves;" and let not the present House fall into the same error with respect to the noble Lord. It was for the interest of all parties to know the truth; whether Tory, Whig, or Radical, they ought to know the worst they had to expect from this Government. If the noble Lord should give an answer which was satisfactory, as he believed the noble Lord would—if the noble Lord's measures were to be extensive—if his measures were to be liberal, there was no amount of popular support that he would not receive. He did hope and trust that such would be the fate of the noble Lord's Government, and that the noble Lord would that evening make such a statement to the House of the principles upon which his Government was to be conducted, that would not only be satisfactory to the House, but also to the country and the people, whose destinies the noble Lord aspired to direct.
LORD J. RUSSELL
When the hon. Gentleman asked me the other night whether I were prepared to make a declaration of the principles upon which the Ministry of which I am at the head is to be conducted, I declined undertaking that task. I, however, took no offence, as the hon. Gentleman seems to suppose, at the question, though it did not appear to me to be necessary that a person who had taken a part, perhaps an unwise—perhaps, to the country, an injurious—part, in the discussions of this House, yet at least always an open part, should, after being called upon by Her Majesty to form a Government, and after having succeeded in inducing individuals who, in his opinion, are competent to conduct the affairs of the different departments, to share with him the responsibility of Government—make a general parade of opinions and principles—a parade which it is very easy to make of declarations which may combine the sentiments of a very large majority in this House; and yet, when that parade is made, may leave Members as ignorant as they were before as to the precise measures which the Government intend to introduce. I therefore did not think it necessary to make any such declaration; and though the hon. Gentleman has alluded to various persons who filled the situation I have now the honour to hold as having made such declarations, I am at a loss to call to mind when those general declarations were made, or who were the persons that made them, on assuming the government of the country. [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: Earl Grey did.] I do not remember that Earl Grey made, in the House of Lords, a general declaration of policy; or that Lord Melbourne or Sir R. Peel made any such general declaration. But my hon. Friend the Member for Malton (Mr. E. Denison), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury, have made various comments and criticisms on the composition of the Ministry. At least the hon. Memher for Finsbury has asked various questions, to some of which certainly I shall proceed to give an answer. But, first, with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Malton. He makes a criticism, which I own I do not think very just, as to the composition of the Ministry. I own that I think, considering the vast extent to which commerce and manufactures have proceeded of late times in this country—considering how vast a portion of the community depends on them—that it would be rather a juster criticism, if 1176 such criticisms are to be made, to say that there are too many Members of the present Administration who are connected by family entirely with land, than that there are too few. But I decline to enter upon any answer to that allusion, I think that we have heard enough, and more than enough, on the one side, of the importance of the landed interest, and how exclusively its interests ought to be considered; and, on the other hand, that the manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire are hereafter to govern the country. For myself, I deny the justice of either plan or principle. I hold, myself, that not for land, not for commerce or for manufactures, but for the benefit of the whole people of the united Empire, the Ministry ought to be constituted; and it will be according to the manner in which the Ministers shall discharge their functions—it will be according to the mode in which they can answer to their high trust, that their conduct must be judged, and not by any particular computation as to how much income one Gentleman may receive from, land, or how far another, who happens to hold the situation of Lord Chancellor, has been all his life connected with the profession of the law. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury proceeded to other questions; and he inquired, in the first place, whether in the construction of the Ministry I asked for the aid of three Gentlemen who were the Colleagues of Sir R. Peel in the late Government? The hon. Gentleman asks, in that vein of agreeable levity with which he sometimes entertains the House—"Did I ask Sir Robert Peel to lend me three of his Colleagues?" Let not that representation on the part of the hon. Gentleman be taken as any resemblance of the fact; but with regard to the fact itself, I do not deny that I did ask Lord Dalhousie, Lord Lincoln, and Mr. Sidney Herbert, to do me the honour to become Colleagues of mine in the Government which I was about to form. It was my opinion that I ought not to endeavour to procure the aid in office of persons from whom I widely differed in political sentiments; and that those who maintained, and honourably maintained, I admit, as had been lately declared by them the same opinions in 1846 as they held in 1841, and which opinions are entirely adverse to mine, could not properly be asked by me to assist me in the formation of the Government. But, at the same time, I did think it of consequence—of 1177 great consequence—to the honour and happiness of my Sovereign, and to the welfare of the country, that a Ministry should be formed which should combine as mnch as possible of support—some placing their confidence in some Members of the Government, and others placing their confidence in other Members of the Government—but all agreeing as to the general line of policy to be pursued. Now, with respect to great questions of late years—not certainly up to 1841, 1842, or 1843—but for the last two years, I have found myself sitting on the Opposition side of the House, agreeing in a great measure with those Gentlemen who were the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth. I agreed with them, and supported them when they brought forward measures for the advancement of what is called "free trade;" the taking away restrictions and abolishing monopolies. I agreed with them when they endeavoured to bring forward measures which I thought just in principle, if not wise in the moment of their introduction, for the conciliation of Ireland. Therefore, I did not see that there would be any sacrifice of honour on their part, or on ours, if they should join me in the Government. They expressed themselves, I must say, in terms personally very courteous to me, stating that they thought they could not take a part in the present Administration. That was a point entirely for them to form their own judgment upon; but I cannot reproach myself with failing in my duty to my Sovereign in making that proposition to them. The hon. Gentleman next alluded to what he had seen in the public newspapers, with respect to which I shall not follow him; for I think I am not responsible in any way for what is stated in the public papers. He then adverted to certain questions, with respect to which he wished to know the opinions of the Government. I will not deny that, though I should not have thought it necessary to make any such general or vague declaration as that to which I have alluded; yet being called on with respect to certain questions, I do think I am bound, as far as I can, to give my opinion as to the mode in which I think the Government ought to be conducted with respect to these particular questions. Now, in the first place, I think, as regards any Government to be formed at present or in future, but more especially as regards a Government to be formed of 1178 those who profess general liberal opinions, it is necessary to combine in office men who agree in general principles, who agree on those questions which are urgent questions of Administration of the day; but that it is not necessary that every Member of such Government should agree on every question which may come under the consideration of Parliament. Such was the mode in which, of old days, statesmen of great ability, and who have conducted the affairs of this country with great success, formed their Governments. Such was the mode pursued by Mr. Pitt, who formed a Government of great strength and duration in 1784. The Members of Government and of the Cabinet might entirely disagree with respect to Parliamentary reform—a very great question in those days, and at all times, until the Act of 1832 passed. Mr. Pitt had Colleagues in that Government who disagreed with him on the important question of the Slave Trade in their speeches and their votes. When Mr. Fox succeeded to Mr. Pitt, he formed a Government in which there were Members differing from him with respect to Parliamentary Reform and the Catholic question. When a Government was formed afterwards by Lord Liverpool, he comprised in his Cabinet Members who differed entirely on the Catholic question, and which became in the end the most important question of the day. With respect to this latter case, I think that that combination of men, differing on the Catholic question, was carried on too long; but yet I think, when there was a question of carrying on war with France—when there was a question of endeavouring to oppose resistance against a mighty military chief, who threatened the existence and independence of this country, that the head of the Administration was perfectly justified in placing in the several departments of the Government men who could act together on the essential questions of Administration, though they differed on particular questions connected with the internal policy of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, in forming his Government, certainly seems to have aimed at a much greater agreement of opinion, and at a much greater identity of conduct on the part of the Members of his Administration, and of his party generally, than was aimed at by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, or Lord Liverpool; but I own that though the right hon. Gentleman, from his great talents, great power in conducting a 1179 Ministry, from various circumstances, for a time succeeded in that attempt, I do not think that it is an attempt likely to be very successful again, or to be advantageous to the country. I say this, because there are several matters I will readily admit, on which Members of the Administration, of which I have the honour to be at the head, are not completely agreed in opinion. With respect, for instance, to the opinions of Earl Grey on the Irish Church, I do not concur in many of the statements made by that noble Lord in this and the other House of Parliament. Some Members of the Administration, again, may think that I have gone too far with respect to the statements I made with respect to the Irish Church. I will state, however, at once, what is my intention, and the intention of my Colleagues, with respect to the affairs of Ireland. We consider that the social grievances of Ireland are those which are most prominent, and to which it is most likely to be in our power to afford, not a complete and immediate remedy, but some remedy, some kind of improvement, so that some kind of hope may be entertained that some ten or twelve years hence the country will, by the measures we undertake, be in a far better state with respect to the frightful destitution and misery which now prevail in that country. We have that practical object in view. We shall endeavour to undertake it—we will endeavour to apply our whole minds to the subject; and we will not be led away from it by any differences on other subjects, not calculated to effect any immediate good. I say, secondly, with respect to the franchise in Ireland, that it is my opinion that it is a great mistake to suppose, as some persons seem now to suppose, that there is no immediate connexion between the political franchise and the social condition. My opinion is, that in proportion as men are raised by the enjoyment of those franchises which belong to a free state, their energy and industry are promoted; and they aspire to better things and to a higher condition. And so, seeing that I agree with those who have been the greatest lights and ornaments to this House, as, if I went into matters of detail, I could presently show, I shall endeavour to obtain for the people of Ireland, the enjoyment of equal franchises with the people of England. My hon. Friend said that it is necessary that I should make some declaration of principle, and that is the answer I give him. But is it necessary for me to make any declaration? In 1836 I contended success- 1180 fully in this House, with respect to municipal franchises, that the people of Ireland ought not to be abased or placed on a lower level than the people of England. What I contend for in 1846 is exactly conformable with what I contended for in 1836; and I do look to be able to complete more fully than I did then the measures I had in contemplation, because I have heard from many of those who were then opposed to me in opinion the most ample concessions, the fullest and freest admissions that the franchises of the people, both of England and Ireland, ought to be perfectly equal. On this subject, then, I have better hopes than I formerly had; and it is but honourable in those who have changed their opinion on the subject, and who now think that this equality ought to exist, to avow that change of opinion, and to aid us in the endeavour to procure the desired equality. With respect to the Church in Ireland, and the endowment of the Roman Catholic clergy, I voted with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield in favour of providing for the establishment of Maynooth out of the funds of the Established Church. We were defeated by a great majority, the opinion of the House being adverse to that proposition. I afterwards continued to the end to give a zealous support to the Bill which provided for the establishment of Maynooth out of the Consolidated Fund. I made no difficulty in supporting that Bill, because the Motion of my hon. Friend was not carried. Well, I now say, that I retain my opinions with respect to the Protestant Church, and with respect to Roman Catholic endowment; but I do not think that it is necessary that I should urge these opinions at the present moment, for I should be doing that which I must confess at the present moment to be impracticable. I believe that with respect to what some have proposed, viz., the destruction of the Protestant Church in Ireland, there could be no worse or more fatal measure sanctioned by Parliament. I believe that it would be politically injurious, because I believe that many of the most loyal in Ireland—many of those the most attached to the connexion with this country, would be alienated by the destruction of that Church, to which they are fondly attached. I believe that in a religious point of view, it would be the commencement of a religious war; that there would be that which does not at present prevail—the most violent and vehement attack on the Roman Catho- 1181 lic religion; and that the Roman Catholics themselves would be the first to complain of the destruction of the Protestant Church. Can you found or endow the Roman Catholic Church? It is quite evident from Mr. Pitt's speeches, and the memoranda left by his friends, that he was of opinion that it was possible to endow or to make some provision for the Roman Church by the State. My belief is, that if Mr. Pitt had carried that measure, he would have carried a measure conducive to the welfare of Ireland, to the maintenance of the Union, and to the peace of the United Kingdom. In conformity with that opinion I gave my vote in 1825, twenty-one years ago, in favour of a Motion made by Lord F. Egerton, now the Earl of Ellesmere, who moved that a provision be made for the maintenance of the Roman Catholic Church. But what do I find at this moment? I see, generally speaking, that the Church of England, that the Dissenters of England, that the Established Church of Scotland, that the Free Church of Scotland, that the Established Church in Ireland, that the Protestant Association in Ireland, and lastly, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland themselves, are all vehement in opposition to such a plan. I received only this morning a placard from Edinburgh, in which the Roman Catholics of Edinburgh declared that they would resist, to the utmost of their power, any plan for the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy. I cannot see, then, that that is a measure which I am bound, consistently with my duty, to bring under the consideration of the House, until I see some kind of more favourable disposition towards it on the part of the people. I should say, if that measure, or any other measure were urgent, that, though impracticable, I might still be bound, by my duty to the Crown, to propose it and resign office if I should not carry it; but I must confess that with respect to ecclesiastical questions in Ireland, admitting as I do that neither the state of the Protestant Establishment, as affecting the South of Ireland, nor the voluntary system, as affecting the Roman Catholics, is satisfactory to my mind, yet I do see that there is not that cause of urgency that any immediate measures need be proposed with respect to them. There are many questions which are more beneficial to Ireland, and more practicable; and therefore I do not see the necessity of urging forward those questions, which I confess to be impracticable. 1182 If any Member of this House chooses to express or feel and act upon a want of confidence in my Administration, on the ground that I am not disposed to rest for ever satisfied with the present condition of ecclesiastical affairs in Ireland, or inclined to say that the state of these affairs is consistent with justice, and that it must be kept up in perpetuity on the principle of endowment for the Protestant minority, and of trusting to the voluntary principle for the support of the Roman Church—the church of the majority—if any persons are disposed to favour a vote of want of confidence in our Administration on that account, I cannot help their acting on such an opinion. But I cannot, in my own mind, say that I am satisfied perfectly with that condition of affairs. I cannot pledge myself if I find the people of England and Scotland disposed to what I think a more just and useful arrangement—I will not pledge myself to be an opponent of such arrangement. My hon. Friend went on to ask whether I should promote an extension of the franchise in this country; and he alluded to that word which has been often thrown in my teeth by those who wished to diminish any reputation I might have with the people, namely, the word "finality." Now, the word "finality," be it remembered, was no word of mine, it was a word invented for the purpose of expressing a system to which I never, I think, gave any countenance. What happened was this, that my Lord Grey and my Lord Althorp, the one in the other House of Parliament, and the other in this, had brought forward a great measure of Parliamentary reform; and when they were told by many persons "We shall be ready to support this reform if you intend to stop here, but we cannot support it if you mean it to be a step to some other scheme of Parliamentary reform which is immediately to follow it;" they said, "No, we do not intend any other scheme to follow this; we consider this as a final measure; this is the only measure we propose." I repeated in this House that such had been their language, and that I did not think it would be consistent with what they had said—I did not think, sitting by my late noble Friend, Lord Althorp, and consenting to his language, it would be consistent or honourable in me immediately to propose some other large scheme of Parliamentary reform. I never said that the whole Reform Bill should be kept just as it was in all parts; I said I could not be a party to 1183 any large and new scheme of representation. I said, "It may be that the people of England differ from me; they may wish to have a new Reform Bill; they may wish to have household suffrage or universal suffrage; they may wish to have Triennial Parliaments or Annual Parliaments. If that is the case I think it is far better that scheme should be brought forward by some one who thiuks it would be beneficial, and not by me, who sat by Lord Althorp when he made this declaration." With regard to that, I am of the same mind still. I am for improvement—I am for any improvement that can be made—I am for improvement with regard to all subjects; but as to intending to bring forward a new scheme of Parliamentary representation—as to introducing either household suffrage, or (what I believe my hon. Friend favours) the "five points" of the Charter, I will do no such thing. If I lose my hon. Friend's confidence I am sorry for it; but if he brings forward the five points of the Charter, I shall think it necessary to give my decided opposition to such a plan. [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: I asked about the extension of the franchise, not the five points.] What my hon. Friend says now is, the extension of the franchise; but what he actually brought forward was a Motion founded upon a petition for a reform, a petition most numerously signed, but for that specific object of which he is the advocate. As to "extension of the suffrage," I must beg to wait till I hear my hon. Friend's proposition upon the subject—till I know what it is that he proposes under those very vague and indefinite words. [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: Indefinite!] Yes, they are very vague and indefinite. [Mr. T. DUNCOMBE: What! extension of the franchise?] Why, I myself, at the time that I made that declaration, which was so much attacked, stated that there were certain matters—that there were other classes of voters who I thought might be introduced consistently with the Reform Bill. I will not say whether those schemes were wise or not; but what I opposed was, any new scheme of representation which was to supersede the Reform Bill. Sir, I must confess that, generally speaking—and my hon. Friend may take advantage of that declaration if he likes—that with regard to great measures that have been under the consideration of Parliament, whether you speak of the Reform Act of Lord Grey, whether you speak of the Roman Catholic Relief Act, whether you 1184 speak of the Repeal of the Corn Laws which has only passed the other day, I hold that it is wise in this House, it is wise in Parliament to rest satisfied with the settlement which has been made after long deliberation by the Legislature; that there is not a gain to be acquired by the people equivalent to the stirring up of agitation consequent on the revival of subjects which have been once settled by the deliberations of Parliament. But now, with regard to the Factories Act: I have already stated what I think should be the latitude allowed by persons who in the present day meet together in a Cabinet. I have given my vote in favour of shortening the hours in factories. I stated, I believe, on the last discussion upon that subject, that if we went into Committee I should be in favour of shortening the time to 11 hours by law. If such a measure is introduced again, I shall give my vote in conformity with those that I have previously given. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey), is, I believe, of the same opinion; every sentiment I have ever heard from him agrees with my opinion upon that subject. My right hon. Friend who sits near me, the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Labouchere), has studied the subject likewise; he has studied it very attentively; he has formed a deliberate and conscientious opinion that such a law would be injurious. Sir, I do think that an Administration can be carried on usefully with regard to the general interests of the country, usefully with regard to many topics of administration, and yet not have identical views upon this question of the factories. I mean to give my vote in favour of such a Bill, if introduced. I shall not expect my right hon. Friend who sits near me, or others who differ from me, to make their opinions bend to mine upon that subject. Sir, I have now stated, I believe, what are my opinions with regard to the questions that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury asked me. He has mixed with those questions a great deal of pleasantry, in which I certainly have been unable to follow him. I consider that I have undertaken a very grave and deep responsibility. Not being able to make up my mind that the Protection of Life Bill, introduced by the late Government, would be efficient for its purpose, or that it would contribute to the protection of life in Ireland, I felt myself compelled, being asked whether I would agree to that Bill, to answer "No" upon the second reading. I was compelled to 1185 decide one way or other upon that question; it was brought forward by the late Government; they considered it their duty to bring it forward; I could not avoid my duty in forming an opinion on it, and acting according to the best of my judgment. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government resigned; and after having given that vote, after having been a party to that decision, when Her Majesty called upon me to endeavour to form a Government in the place of that which had resigned power into Her Majesty's hands, I conceived that it was my duty to endeavour to see if, in conjunction with others, I could carry on public measures for the benefit of the country. On Monday next I shall have the opportunity of stating to this House the measure that we propose to introduce with respect to a very important subject; that measure will be founded upon the opinions which I have stated from 1841 to this time upon the subject of free trade—upon the subject of restrictive duties. It will be for this House to consider whether that measure be suited to the interests of the country; it will be for this House to consider whether there are any reasons which will induce them to withhold their approbation from that measure. But this I am determined upon—as I told the hon. Gentleman the other day, and taking no offence I must tell him plainly and decidedly, I will act according to the principles that I have professed in this House—according to the principles upon which I acted when I sat on the opposite side of the House, and upon which alone I could consent to take office at any time. I am determined, whether I sit on this side of the House or on the other, to act according to those principles which I think the most for the advantage of the country. I have now been for more than thirty years a Member of this House, proclaiming and declaring my opinions on almost every occasion; and I do not think that my principles need now be any secret to the House. They are principles which, as I think, tend to increase the commerce, to set free the industry of this country, to promote the union, not merely by a legislative Act, but in heart and affection, between this country and Ireland. My opinions are such as tend, as I think, to promote, to maintain, and to extend the principles of religious liberty, which, together with its civil liberty, have made this country conspicuous as one of the greatest nations of the world.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
, although not parti- 1186 cipating in the criticism passed by the hon. Member for Malton (Mr. E. Denison) upon the formation of the present Government, did not think the noble Lord had done justice to the objection taken by that hon. Member. With regard to the questions put by the hon. Member for Finsbury, the House and the country were under great obligations to him for having been the means of eliciting the declarations now made by the noble Lord. What might be the effect out of the House of those declarations on the subject of the policy to be pursued towards Ireland, he (Mr. B. Osborne) was not prepared to state; but he must distinctly tell the noble Lord, that if those declarations had been made when they (the Ministerial Members) sat on the opposite benches, a considerable portion of those who now sat behind the noble Lord would have followed the right hon. Baronet at present out of office. For the life of him he could not see what difference there was "'twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee." The noble Lord had always led those who voted with him to suppose that the great point of difference between the parties was "the Appropriation Clause" of 1836; but now he had announced that he would give Ireland some few social reforms, but would not touch the question of the Irish Church, at least until the "pressure from without" was so strong as to compel him. Why, if the noble Lord would do it on the ground of abstract justice, why not say at once, "The principle of my Government is to reform that Church?" He agreed with the noble Lord in not wishing to destroy it; but in its present condition it was a disgrace to the country; yet the noble Lord, on taking office, had discovered that it was not a pressing question. In fact, the old game of the Appropriation Clause was about to be played again. He must say that he looked back with considerable pain to the effect of his vote the other night in turning out the late Government, apparently merely to change one set of men for another, the former also being very able men, for the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary were men not to be equalled in their conduct of public business. It seemed now that there was no difference of principle between the two Cabinets; that they had always agreed; and there might even be some understanding "under the rose," to walk across the House for a time, and then walk back again. Why, the more honest proceeding would have been for the noble Lord to take 1187 office under the right hon. Baronet. All questions, it seemed, were to be open questions—the Cabinet were agreed upon none, except the thorough drainage question. They had resolved themselves into a set of commissioners of sewers. But the country had a right to look for something more than a few sanatory regulations from the Government. He would give them an early opportunity of testing their sincerity upon the subject of the Irish Church, by moving the resolution formerly brought forward by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward), whose appointment to office ought to be hailed with unmitigated pleasure, and would very much conciliate those who might be called "of extreme opinions." There was also another very judicious appointment, on which he could compliment the Government, and which had greatly induced the support of the Repeal party in Ireland; for the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in departing from his former rule of excluding from office Gentlemen who entertained repeal opinions. But the vote by which the late Government were thrown out was to a certain extent discreditable; for the new appointments comprised men who in the other House had supported the Coercion Bill, and who, according to the uncontradicted statement of a noble and learned Lord, had called on the late Government for even more stringent measures. The Gentleman worst used in the whole business was the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam worth. He was always given to understand that that right hon. Baronet was the great upholder of abuses, and that the noble Lord was to be looked to as his great opponent and rival; he had now found out his mistake; and he would say that the parting speech of the right hon. Baronet, in which he had signified that he would no longer "give up to party what was meant for mankind," held out great hope for the future government of this country. He (Mr. B. Osborne) knew not whether the right hon. Baronet contemplated ever returning to office—power he had never quitted; but if he was prepared to carry out the principles indicated in that parting speech, he must at no remote period be returned to office with the confidence and support of the middle classes of this country.
§ MR. HUME
, referring to his Notice on the Paper, of a Motion for an Address to the Crown for a Commission to inquire whether the Government of Ireland, under 1188 its present form, ought to be continued, or whether the Lord Lieutenant and other officers might not with advantage be dispensed with, wished to ask the noble Lord whether he were prepared to take the subject into consideration, or to give any opinion, or hold out any hope on the subject. After what had passed, he was anxious to let the noble Lord be tested by his future acts, and not to press the matter hastily upon him; but really Dublin Castle was the focus of faction, and caused more mischief and differences than any one would suppose. Ireland, indeed, was afflicted with all the vices attending colonial government, and the abolition of this office would be one of the first steps towards improving the social condition of Ireland.
LORD J. RUSSELL
could only say, in answer to the question, that his present opinion was, that the Government of Ireland could not be advantageously carried on, if the office of Lord Lieutenant were abolished.
§ MR. B. ESCOTT
submitted to the hon. Member for Finsbury that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was no new man at all. In the course of the last two Sessions of Parliament he (Mr. Escott) had felt it to be his duty to consider pretty closely the conduct of the noble Lord, and he had observed that upon all the great questions which had come before that House, not only had the noble Lord given a distinct enunciation of his own opinions, but an enunciation of opinions which he believed to be such as were in accordance with the general opinion of the people of this country, and also in accordance with the true interests of the people. He should be inclined to say that the conduct of the noble Lord in the present Session, both as regarded the great question of free trade in corn, and other measures of vital importance, entitled his Government, at all events, to a fair trial, and a candid consideration, at the hands of the House. But if there was one reason more than another which would induce him (Mr. Escott) to give a fair trial to the Government of the noble Lord, it was the vote of the noble Lord upon the Irish Coercion Bill, which was the immediate cause of the eviction of the late Government. He, for one, had followed that Government with respect, and watched their political measures always with attention, and generally with admiration; but if ever there was a blunder committed by any Government in this country, it was committed by them when 1189 they endeavoured to force upon the House of Commons, in the year 1846, a Coercion Bill—such a Bill as destroyed the Government of Lord Grey thirteen years ago. He, therefore, honoured the noble Lord for the opposition he had given to the Government on that question; and he said that this was not the time when comparisons ought to be drawn between the late Government and their successors, to the disparagement of the noble Lord, on account of that or any other vote which had been mentioned. In some of the observations which the noble Lord had made to-night, he undoubtedly could not profess entire acquiescence. The task which the noble Lord had to perform was, he admitted, very difficult. He had to allude to the state of Ireland, which had been the destruction of the late Cabinet; and he knew that if he at once propounded those measures which he in his conscience believed at that moment to be necessary for the salvation of that country, and for the future peace of the United Kingdom, he would himself destroy whatever amount of power he now possessed to carry his intentions into effect. He hoped that in his future administration the noble Lord would take care to avoid that which had been the stumbling-block of former Whig Governments. Why was it that former Whig Governments had been Governments of professions and promises rather than of performance? It was because they had frightened the people of this country by announcing principles which were new to the nation, and thereby stirring up a spirit of resistance. Instead of enabling the Government to carry great measures, the announcements had disabled them from carrying into practice the benevolent intentions of their own hearts and the wise suggestions of their own political principles. What was it that had given the Government of the right hon. Gentleman its extraordinary advantage over those who now occupied the Treasury bench? It was that for many years before the right hon. Baronet belonged to a party which had not made those professions. The very fact that he was called "a traitor" by those who now sat opposite, was an explanation of the source of that power which had enabled him to benefit the country. The right hon. Gentleman had never frightened the Conservative people of England by announcing principles for which they were not prepared—it was because he waited until the time had come when the prin- 1190 ciples which others had announced could be practically carried into execution, that he was, what he would ever be remembered for, the great practical reformer of the age in which he lived. He hoped the noble Lord would follow the right hon. Barenet's example; that he would himself proceed from little beginnings to greater undertakings, until he had raised for himself the same name, and that high character which he had in a great measure already anticipated in the speech he had just delivered to the House; and also that he would find no improper resistance from the representatives of the people in carrying into effect great and useful reforms for their benefit. In so doing he would combine the character of a Conservative and a reforming statesman, and act consistently with the progress of the times in which he lived, and the requirements of the people whose affairs he was called upon to administer.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that for some time past he had been puzzled, but now he confessed that he was regularly bewildered. His hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. T. Duncombe), who had made a speech to-night so admirable in itself and so well suited to the occasion, called upon the noble Lord to state in definite, distinct, and easily understood terms, the principles upon which his Government was to be conducted. It was a strictly correct Parliamentary proceeding. It was just. It was applicable to the occasion. It was due to this House that it should be done by somebody; and it was due to the country that an answer should be given clearly and effectually. The noble Lord in the course of his reply alluded to the vague mode in which his hon. Friend mentioned an extension of the suffrage; but the noble Lord seemed to forget at the time the very vague and indistinct terms in which he himself was answering the questions of his hon. Colleague. "But," said the noble Lord emphatically, "why should I declare to the House and the country the principles upon which my Administration is to be conducted? I am going to act upon the principles which have always regulated my conduct. I have been in Parliament thirty years. My principles are well known to the House and the country, and upon those principles I shall act." Well, they were the old Whig principles. He (Mr. Wakley) had had some experience of them. He would not say anything particular about them at this moment, how- 1191 ever; but during the time those principles were in operation, when Whig Administrations were in existence, what was his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Escott) doing? Why, if there were one man who was a more vehement opponent of the Whigs than another throughout the west of England, or who was a more effective or more eloquent opponent than another, that hon. and learned Gentleman was the man. When the farmers used to meet in the west, they asked, "Who shall we have here to abuse the Whigs?" "Oh," was the reply, "send for Escott; he will do it. Send for Bickham. Where is he? Find him out, and we will give 'em the most terrible thrashing and belabouring that they ever had." Why, the hon. and learned Gentleman was the life, and soul, and spirit of all the Anti-Whig parties which for a series of years were held throughout the west of England. Well, then, who had changed? What was the meaning of this? He confessed that he could not comprehend it. The noble Lord said, "My principles are well known;" and without stating specifically what was to be done, he said, "I shall adhere to those principles, and my Government will be regulated by those principles;" and the hon. and learned Gentleman, the great Anti-Whig, was delighted! Surely then there was some curious change somewhere. Now, he must say that he quite agreed with those who wondered why it was the right hon. Baronet was out of office. The answer was, because he brought in a Coercion Bill. Yes; but what had the Minister done who had taken his place? Why, the first thing he did was to ask the noble Lord who brought in that Bill to take office. The first thing he did was to go to Lord Lincoln and say, "Will you take office with me?" He again said, that this was a species of bewilderment. He contended that a little more pressure should be placed on public men, The noble Lord's speech of to-night ought to have been made a month ago; had it been, he would not have had the trouble imposed upon him of subsequently crossing to the opposite side of the House. The public out of doors were extremely puzzled to ascertain why it was that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was not now in his place at the head of the Government. They saw that, at great personal sacrifice, with the loss of old friends, at the sacrifice of political power, and immense personal sacrifices, he had proposed and 1192 carried a measure which in his conscience he believed to be for the good of the community. The right hon. Gentleman could not be charged with any corrupt motives. That was quite out of the question; but for carrying that measure the right hon. Gentleman had lost his place at the head of the Government. Well, were the principles which were to regulate the present Government the same that regulated the Government of the right hon. Gentleman? If they were, why he again asked, had any change been made? He would now, as an old reformer, tell the noble Lord, unhesitatingly, that his speech was by no means satisfactory. If a Minister intended to carry measures, he ought to have the boldness to announce his intentions. He believed that the noble Lord had that boldness. What, then, was to be inferred from his silence? Why, that there were no great measures which it was the noble Lord's intention to carry for the benefit of the people of this country. He was compelled to entertain that belief, because, from the candour of the noble Lord's character, and from his public spirit, if he had such intentions, he was confident that the noble Lord would have unhesitatingly made them known. With reference to the Church of Ireland, he feared that the speech of the noble Lord would be most unsatisfactory in that country. The noble Lord feared to propose measures which he could not carry. That was not becoming a great mind. The noble Lord should encounter difficulties; he should be prepared to encounter difficulties; for there was no credit whatever in merely carrying measures which were to be supported by a convenient majority, always ready to follow at the tail of the Minister of the Crown. If the noble Lord had intended to introduce a reform in the Church of Ireland that would give satisfaction to the Irish people, he would have made a declaration to the House to that effect; but as no such declaration had been made by the noble Lord, he inferred the very worst from the indistinctness with which the noble Lord had spoken on that subject. In fact, the noble Lord had stated that he did not at present intend any change with reference to the Irish Church. What did the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Ward) say? That hon. Gentleman was now in the Government; but he recollected the discussions which took place in this House in the year 1835 upon the Appropriation 1193 Clause in the Irish Church Bill. Was there, then, he asked, to be a change in regard to that Establishment which would give satisfaction to the minds of the millions of Ireland? The present Government held out no such prospect; and again he said, therefore, that he was utterly at a loss to understand why it was that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) had left his place in the Cabinet, and given up his situation to others who were scarcely prepared to carry out the liberal principles which the right hon. Baronet professed in the last speech that he delivered in that House. On all such occasions as this the public had a distinct right to comprehend what were the ruling principles of men in power. At that moment, Sir Robert Peel was the most popular man in the kingdom. He was beloved, he was almost adored by the masses, who believed that no Minister before him had ever made such sacrifices as he had made on their behalf; and he could assure the noble Lord and the present Administration, that if they did not act upon the principles which the right hon. Baronet laid down in the speech he last addressed to the House, their continuance in office would be but for a very short period. He lamented the course which the Government seemed inclined to pursue—that apathetic and do-nothing course which obtained so much odium for them when they were in office before, and deprived them of the confidence of the people. If the noble Lord and his Colleagues adopted the old course, they would share a similar fate, and Sir Robert Peel would return to power upon the shoulders of the people, and would remain there just as long as he pleased.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that as no county Member had risen to address the House, and after the pointed allusions made by the hon. Member for Malton (Mr. E. Denison) he should perhaps be excused for saying a few words. Among the many county Members whom he had met, he had heard no complaints with regard to the constitution of the present Administration, as not comprising Members who were connected with the landed interest of the country. For himself, he believed that the landed interest had learnt so bitter a lesson, that they were determined henceforth to act for themselves, to guard their own interests, and to trust rather to themselves than to any Administration. The hon. Member for Finsbury lamented that the noble Lord had not made larger promises, and said that he failed in comparison with the right 1194 hon. Baronet lately at the head of the Government, because his professions were not so ample. The hon. Member said that the right hon. Baronet professed and acted upon his professions; but he (Mr. Newdegate) begged to observe, that had that right hon. Gentleman always acted upon his professions, and adhered to the principles that he had long enunciated, he would not have forfeited the confidence of those who now had to lament the loss of his great talents and great power. He (Mr. Newdegate) professed no confidence in Her Majesty's present Government. He stood there an independent Member of Parliament, to guard the interests of those who had sent him there. He thought the noble Lord could not congratulate himself upon the support he had received from the hon. Gentlemen who were lately in power. They had not shown such a disposition to give him fair play as had those who were by their principles and professions perhaps his most determined opponents. He could not say that he thought the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) gained much by the praise he had received to-night. It was all based upon the principles announced in his last speech in this House; and he regretted to say—for he felt no personal animosity towards that right hon. Baronet — that if any speech or declaration had ever utterly shaken the confidence of this country in the right hon. Baronet, it was that memorable speech; and he thought that the fact of the adherents whom the right hon. Gentleman gained by it being those who professed extreme opinions, and advocated ultra changes, was the best justification of the course adopted by the party with which he acted in giving a firm, consistent, and successful resistance to the right hon. Baronet's longer continuance in office.
§ MR. WARD
hoped, that as he had been pointedly alluded to in the course of this discussion, he might be permitted to address a few words to the House. He believed that even the hon. Member for Finsbury would admit that he had never concealed his opinions with reference to the Irish Church question, in order to obtain the position in which it had pleased the noble Lord at the head of the Government to place him; and he could assure the House that he did not mean to conceal them for the purpose of retaining that position. Hon. Members would recollect, that at a time when none of those visions of office floated before his eyes, he had stated distinctly his conviction that the so- 1195 cial grievances of Ireland were the most pressing evil that the Legislature had to deal with; and that, although the Irish Church question was one which no English statesman could lose sight of, and with which, eventually, any Government in power must be prepared to deal, he thought that other questions stood first as claiming the attention of the Government. Having twice brought this question of the Irish Church before the House, and been twice defeated upon it, every Irish Member in the House was aware that it was not his intention to bring it forward again in the course of the present Session; but whenever it came before the House again, his hon. Friend (Mr. Wakley) would find that he had not changed upon the question.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that there had been several speeches criticizing the constitution of the Government, and censuring the character of the noble Lord. He could not reconcile those remarks with his sense of justice. In his opinion, when the noble Lord, in reply to the hon. Member for Finsbury, said he had no new principles to profess, and when he referred the House to his previous career, he gave the answer most becoming to himself, which conduced most to the honour of the House, which was most intelligible to them, and gave the most security to the country. The noble Lord had shown no anxiety to obtain office; and the circumstances under which he took office eminently entitled him to the considerate indulgence of the House. The hon. Member for Malton had criticized severely the constitution of the Government; but he could not agree with that hon. Member. In the first place, it was a Government in accordance with the principles which he professed; in the second, he had the most perfect confidence in the noble Lord at the head of the Government; and thirdly, the construction of the Cabinet, as regarded its subordinate offices, was so judicious as to give the fullest confidence in the whole Administration. He believed it was the opinion of ths people of England, who were a just and generous people, that if the Government was to be conducted on the principles of the noble Lord, it was fit and proper that it should be entrusted to his hands, and he had no doubt that that Government would be so conducted as to lead to the most useful results.