§ (Mr. Heron, Mr. Pim, Mr. Bagwell.)
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HERON
, in moving "That the Bill be now read a second time" said, the object of it was to allow all local and personal Acts to be dealt with in their respective localities in Ireland, instead of bringing them before Committees of Parliament. The House of Commons had from time to time given up great portions of its jurisdiction, and had recently parted with it in election matters, and he proposed the establishment of machinery similar to that of the Election Judges, which should virtually have the jurisdiction now exercised by Committees. That measure was one vitally affecting the commercial interests of Ireland, and, in now moving its second reading, he trusted that its opponents would allow the division upon it to be taken that afternoon.
§ MR. SMYTH
, in rising to second the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tipperary County (Mr. Heron), said, he hoped he should receive the kind indulgence of the House, in addressing it for the first time as the Representative of a great and virtuous constituency, the liberty of every man among whom was at that moment at the mercy of any policeman who chose to suspect him. He wished to take advantage of that opportunity to call attention to the larger question of self-government for Ireland, and he took that course with entire respect for the House, and in discharge of what he deemed to be his duty both to his constituents and to his country. The feudal barons who went from England to settle in Ireland, in the reign of Henry II., carried with them such notions of political liberty as at that time prevailed in England, and attempted to form a Constitution for Ireland on a 1540 similar basis to the one existing in the country they had just left. Down to the time of Henry VII. the Irish Parliament, such as it was, with occasional interruptions on the part of England, exercised the right of legislating in the same manner as in this country; but a law then passed, and which was afterwards enlarged and explained reversed the course of Irish legislation, and the Irish Lords and Commons were deprived of the right of framing and proposing Bills. According to the construction of these statutes a Bill had first of all to be framed by the Deputy and Council of Ireland, then transmitted to the King and Council of England, and then presented to the Irish Parliament, to which was left simply the privilege of agreeing to the whole Bill, or of rejecting it. However degrading to the character of a people was such a law, it still represented the idea of a distinct power legislating for a distinct country—claimed as a right, not held by mere sufferance. By the Act passed in 1719, the 6 George I., it was declared and enacted that the British Parliament had, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the kingdom and people of Ireland. That Act naturally created great discontent among the Parliament and people of Ireland, and they protested against that claim on the part of the English Parliament as an usurpation. The Act of 6 George I. was repealed by the 22 George III., c. 52, and by a subsequent Act, the 23 George III., c. 28, the English Parliament renounced for ever the right to bind Ireland by its laws, and recognized its right to have its laws passed by its own Parliament, with the assent of the Sovereign. The House would perceive from this brief resumé that in the demand which the people of Ireland now made for a distinct Legislature they were supported by precedent and by charter. Even if it were not so, they could appeal to principle, and remind this great English nation that their Revolution of 1688 derived its vindication from the principle that the will of the people was the only rightful foundation of government, as had been explained by Locke. It would not be denied that the Union was carried by iniquitous means against the wishes of the Irish people, and that that Parliament did not rule Ireland with the 1541 consent of that country. From the year 1800 down to the present time the repeal of the Union had been the one object, filling the measure of every patriot heart. In 1830, Mr. O'Connell proclaimed the desire for the repeal of the Union as the first utterance of the emancipated Catholics.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have been very unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member for Westmeath, and I hope he will think I have permitted him able opportunity of expressing his opinion; but I must invite his attention to a Rule of this House, that he must speak to the question now before us, which is a question quite different from that which has been occupying him thus far. I beg now that he will speak to the question immediately before the House.
§ MR. SMYTH
resumed, and said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair and the House would understand that he had not intentionally ignored the Rules of the House. He had wished to support the Bill of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Heron), and, at the same time, he had been anxious to call attention to the larger question which, he thought, was connected with it. He was disposed to give all due credit to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who had had the courage to grapple with this great difficulty; but he had felt it his duty, in his first appearance in that Parliament, to call attention to the obvious fact that the difficulty became day by day more and more of an impossibility. He bowed to the decision which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair; but there was one further remark which he wished to make, and that was, that he believed the change now proposed could be effected without derogating from the authority or tarnishing in any degree the splendour of the Crown. Whether it should be accomplished by a simple repeal of the Union, or by a federal arrangement, was immaterial, provided that to Irish hands should be exclusively intrusted the management of Irish affairs. He recollected reading with pleasure the rebuke administered by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) to some Irish gentlemen who spoke of Ireland as a conquered country. But why was Ireland ruled as a conquered country, and in the spirit of conquest? He himself denied the fact of the conquest, 1542 and if that fact were proved he would deny that conquest gave any title to allegiance. To an assumed right of conquest he would oppose the rights of man, and to an assumed fact of conquest he would oppose the Irish Act of the 33rd year of Henry VIII., and the first Article of the impeachment of Lord Strafford—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House has listened with attention to the expressions of opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westmeath; but the Rules of the House cannot be extended too far, and the hon. Member at present has not addressed a single observation to the subject now before the House. Should he continue his remarks, I must request that he will now address himself to that subject.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Heron.)
§ MR. VANCE
said, he must compliment the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Smyth) on the sincerity with which he had expressed the views he was sent there to advocate, but he thought the hon. Gentleman ought to have brought forward a formal Motion for the repeal of the Union, instead of declaring his views on that question in a Bill of that character. The constituents of the hon. Member for Tipperary would not be satisfied with the homœopathic dose of home rule contained in that Bill. They wanted a great deal more, and would believe that if that Bill passed it would postpone the consideration of the question which the hon. Member for Westmeath was so anxious to bring before the House. ["Question!] He was speaking to the question raised by the hon. Member for Westmeath, and his own opinion was that "home rule" in Ireland would prove to be "Rome rule." If he (Mr. Vance) had been a Member of the Irish Parliament, he should have voted against the Union, but—
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
rose to Order. He submitted that if it was not competent for an Irish Member to advocate the 1543 right of his country to home rule, it was not competent for another hon. Gentleman to advocate the opposite view.
SIR JOHN ESMONDE
said, he was strongly opposed to the Bill, which seemed to have for its object the creation of new work for the Irish Judges. The legal profession in Ireland was already too prominent, and excluded the great body of the people, and that exclusion and the power of the legal profession would only be increased by that Bill.
§ MR. BOUVERIE moved the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday, 9th August.