§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN said
Sir, I feel the impossibility of putting the important question to the noble Lord of which I have given notice, without some explanation of my motives for violating the ordinary rules of the House by prefacing it with a few words of introduction. I think it right to state to the House, that, looking at the present state of Ireland, I have thought it my duty, not only as a matter of justice but of public duty, to state to the noble Lord at the head of the Government the purport of the question which it is my intention to put. Indeed it was impossible to do otherwise at this time, when no man would wish to embarrass the Government charged with the administration of the affairs of Ireland; and I have to thank the noble Lord for the permission he has given me to put the question, because I believe the reply will be looked for with great anxiety by large masses of Her Majesty's loyal and faithful subjects in Ireland. I believe that the attention of the public, and of every Member of this House, must have been called in the course of the last few weeks to the language and conduct of certain individuals in Ireland. I believe there is not a single man in this House who has not seen with indignation 1204 and disgust the language of certain mischievous and traitorous men; avowedly with the object of overturning the institutions of the country—avowedly with the object of levying war upon Her Majesty's Crown, by exciting to overt acts of rebellion Her Majesty's subjects in that country. I believe it is with similar feelings that the public of this loyal country have seen that men have been found in Ireland, so void of their own and of all national honour, as to be at this moment seeking in a foreign country for foreign arms to carry out their traitorous purposes. I, as the representative of an English constituency, would call the attention of English representatives in this House to the effect which language and conduct of this kind has had upon certain dissatisfied individuals here. I know that the large majority of Her Majesty's subjects in this country are loyal and true; but still, if such doctrines and such language are allowed to pass unchecked, they will even here, in this loyal country, be productive of great mischief. I trust that the facts to which I have referred will be sufficient to plead my excuse for putting the question to the noble Lord. I think that this unnatural and this dangerous state of public affairs warrants me in asking the question. But when I use the word dangerous, I trust nobody will imagine I anticipate there is any real danger to the institutions of the country as they are established in Ireland. I believe Her Majesty's Crown rests upon a firmer basis than that of any other Crown in Europe. Her strength is not in the bayonets of her soldiers, but in the loyalty and the affection of her people; and I believe all the institutions of this country rest upon too sound and too broad a basis to be disturbed. It is satisfactory to the people of England, even now, to see the great German people, in their struggles for constitutional freedom, seeking to follow the example we have set them, and seeking to follow the model of the British constitution in preference to that of any other nation in the world. The danger, I apprehend, is to men who may be urged to acts of open treason against Her Majesty's Crown, by the language made use of by traitors and mischievous men. It is danger to those individuals, and not to the institutions of the State, which I apprehend. Fortunately for Ireland, we have at this moment at the head of the Government in that country a noble Lord who has rallied 1205 round him the united support of Protestant and Catholic. That noble Lord, by his energy and courage, has rallied round him all the loyal men of all political creeds. But whilst that noble Lord has stretched forth his arm in vindication of the law, he has not been enabled to put down this traitorous language, or to stop the progress of these mischievous men. It is the conviction of thousands of Her Majesty's loyal subjects in Ireland, that a continuance of this language must lead to bloodshed and hostile collision; and although they do not fear the result of such collision, yet they would deeply deplore the consequence. They have still in their memory the recollection of past bloodshed, and they know that years will not wipe away the blood which may be shed in civil contest; and in their name—in the name of those who would wish that by timely preparation civil war should be avoided from the shores of Ireland—I mean Her Majesty's loyal subjects, Protestant and Roman Catholic, I would ask the noble Lord whether he thinks that there is sufficient power still vested in the Government to crush in its birth this rebellious spirit; or whether he does not think that the time has come when some alteration should be made in that law which allows the instigator of rebellion to be at large, while the unfortunate victim of his doctrines may have condign punishment; or whether the time has not arrived when it is the duty of Parliament to give the Executive Minister in Ireland power to enable him to meet with vigour and effect whatever the emergency may require?
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I rise, Sir, with considerable anxiety to answer the question of the noble Lord. It is quite true that language of the nature he has described has been used in Ireland—language exciting to rebellion against the Crown—language exciting the people to acts of violence against persons and property, with a view to establish Ireland as a separate nation independent of the Crown of these realms. Such language may at some periods be passed over as the mere ravings of a distempered fancy, which can have no very dangerous effect. Unfortunately, it is not so at the present moment. I believe this effect has been produced partly by the excitable nature of those to whom such language has been addressed; partly by the very great distress which has been felt by all classes now during three years—a distress which naturally induced men 1206 to listen to any desperate remedy; and, thirdly, to the great excitement which has been occasioned by the events which have taken place in France and in other parts of the continent of Europe. But whatever may be the cause, certainly that language has been followed by the manufacture of pikes; by the formation of rifle clubs, and various other preparations, which are openly avowed by the press of that country with a view of creating a civil war in Ireland. Now, Sir, I cannot but agree with the noble Lord that whoever are the instigators of that civil war, it is not so much Her Majesty's Crown—it is not so much the institutions of the country that are in danger, as the peace of Ireland, the well-being of all classes, and especially those classes which are engaged in the occupations of trade and commerce. My belief certainly is, that those who have used the language to which I have adverted, have done so for the purpose of raising themselves, careless of the bloodshed and ruin they may cause. It is, however, a most difficult and most delicate matter for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to consider what steps he should take. The noble Lord, I think, has paid but a just tribute to my noble Friend at the head of the Government in Ireland. I hope I need not assure the House that whilst the Lord Lieutenant is anxious to put down disaffections and rebellion, it is his earnest wish to listen to complaints, and to apply, so far as is in his power, a remedy or an alleviation to any distresses or evils that exist. With respect to the means now at the disposal of the Government in Ireland for the purpose of meeting the conspiracy to which I allude, my noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant has been in constant communication with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and with myself, and he has informed us that, while on the one side there were evident preparations for rebellion, on the other side he had received the most gratifying assurances of loyal support from a great number of persons, both Protestant and Roman Catholic; from clergymen of the one, and priests of the other religion; from all classes—landlords and merchants—and, in fact, from a largo number of persons of all parties and classes in the country. The noble Lord opposite must excuse me if at the present moment I decline stating what further measures are in contemplation by the Lord Lieutenant and Her Majesty's Government in Ireland. I 1207 trust he will be satisfied with the assurance that both in this country and in Ireland we have most carefully looked into the law applicable to the case—that we have entered into the most constant daily communication with the Lord Lieutenant—and that should he be of opinion that further powers are necessary than those which have yet been obtained by the Government, I shall then feel it my duty—being convinced that such measures as he may ask can be no more than are necessary for the occasion—to come down to this House and ask this House to intrust the Government of this country with such powers. Sir, Lord Clarendon has to consider in any proposal he may make, and in any wish he may express, that if he should appear—or if there should be the least semblance of his appearing—to favour one religious denomination more than another, or of his favouring any particular class of the community above any other class, he would thereby lose a great deal of that support which he has hitherto obtained, and which has proceeded, as I have already said, from landlords and clergymen of the Protestant persuasion, and from priests of the Roman Catholic persuasion: all these have joined in giving their best assistance to him in the maintenance of peace. But the noble Lord may rest assured that it is the full determination of Her Majesty's Government, having the utmost confidence in Lord Clarendon, and in his administration of public affairs, to do all that is in their power to support the law in Ireland, and maintain the peace of that country; and furthermore, that we shall not shrink, should it prove necessary so to do, from asking this House for the grant of any further powers that may be requisite.