§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, that he had stated on Tuesday last the motives which had led Her Majesty's Government to submit such a measure to the consideration of Parliament; and he would take that opportunity of remarking that, although he had listened to the speech of his noble Friend behind him (Lord Beaumont) with the utmost attention, yet his noble Friend had not shaken the opinion which he had formed of the necessity of the measure; and indeed he hardly collected from his noble Friend that he himself thought that the measure was wrong, for he seemed to admit that there might be circumstances that, for a limited time, and during the existence of these circumstances, would justify the Government in not affording unrestricted hospitality to all foreigners coming into this country. The noble Lord would admit that there might be exceptionable cases, and it was on that very principle that this Bill was founded. There were no means of ascertaining the exact number of persons that came into this country through the various channels that were in existence; still less to discriminate between the cases of those who came here from motives the most legitimate, and who might have been driven through distress and difficulties, out of their own countries, and those who came here with hostile intentions to the peace of this country; the application of any general rule was im- 265 practicable; and he thought that the object which was in view would be sufficiently gained by proposing a Bill conferring certain powers to be exercised by Her Majesty's Government on their responsibility. There had been a very great increase in the number of foreigners resident in every part of the United Kingdom; and the Government ought to know what portion of them had come to this country with the desire of taking part in any internal dissensions which might arise. He was convinced that for a time it was necessary that such a power as that conferred by the Bill should be somewhere lodged, not, undoubtedly, to be exercised capriciously against those who had apparently sought protection in this country—to be exercised, not with reference to their conduct elsewhere, but with reference to their conduct here. Under present circumstances it was necessary that power should be given to debar those persons from the power of abusing the hospitality they received, and endeavouring to excite throughout Her Majesty's dominions distrust of the Government of the United Kingdom—to provoke intimidation, or effect alterations in that Government. Although the results of the past Monday were sufficient to show that there was no necessity for such a measure, and no danger to be apprehended in this metropolis, he was not at all prepared to say that, although the result of that day's proceedings had shown the loyalty of the people, and their desire for the maintenance of the Crown and constitution of the realm, there might not be in some parts of the United Kingdom a disposition on the part of some persons to seek that foreign assistance, which, although not obtained, might, if obtained in any manner, add to the mischiefs of civil disturbance and civil war. And no one knew better than his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), who watched the events of the day in the sister country, that many weeks had not elapsed since the most strong and irrefragable proofs had been afforded of an anxiety to obtain that assistance which those persons now say they do not seek. ["Hear, hear!"] Ay, proofs that they sought and endeavoured to import that foreign aid into this country. And when there was evidence of such a disposition being evinced to introduce that assistance, be the amount of danger what it might, it was the duty of the Government, with the assistance of Parliament, to guard against it. He therefore, with that view, begged to lay upon 266 their Lordships' table a Bill, which was not intended to be permanent; it was intended to last for one year only; but by its means his noble Friend would be able to afford the country some security against such practices. His Lordship then went through the several provisions of the Bill. He concluded by saying, that the discretionary power of acting under the provisions of the Bill would be vested in the hands of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir George Grey), in whom the greatest confidence could be placed; and his discretion would be subject to the great control of publicity to which his acts would be submitted in the exercise of it.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH was perfectly disposed to agree to the second reading of the Bill. It was not too strong for the circumstances of the case. Looking at its provisions, he could not help remarking, that one of the greatest benefits which could be conferred on this country would be the burning of every copy of Hansard in existence, so as to prevent one party from referring to what they had said, and another from taunting them with former declarations. The present circumstances of the country were more grave than they had been on any former occasion. The Bill was not stringent enough. Under the Registration Act of 1830, the noble Marquess admitted that he was not able to tell how many aliens had landed in this country. The Act was then inoperative; its provisions were not sufficiently stringent to compel aliens to give their names and addresses, and to state the business which had brought them here. It was, indeed, provided that aliens should produce their passports and sign declarations setting forth their business, &. But what was the alternative? A fine of 40s. And how was the fine to be inflicted, when the alien had only to jump into a railway carriage and go to the interior of the country at once? But there would be no means of executing this measure, unless the most stringent provisions were introduced in reference to passports and registration. Under the last Alien Act, the arms of aliens might be seized—aliens might be directed to land at particular places—passports might be refused—aliens might be committed, and magistrates might require production of passports. What the noble Lord proposed was but a fractional part of that Act. The Bill would be utterly inoperative. He believed 267 the danger from aliens was much greater now than at any former time, although the French Republican Revolution had been accompanied with so little of that which excited horror in the minds of all on former occasions. There had been none of those calamities and dreadful bloodshed the contemplation of which on the occurrence of the first French revolution made people shudder. That had not yet come, though there had been ruin gradually operating through the folly of the rulers. The change had taken the form of successful resistance to oppression, and hopes and sympathies were thereby excited which had no existence before. He had not the least doubt that the noble Marquess, though unable to ascertain the number of foreigners in this country, was nevertheless perfectly justified in bringing the Bill before the House; and he would give the Bill his support, though he certainly went far beyond the noble Marquess in the view he took of the measure, which was absolutely necessary to meet the dangers to which the country was exposed.
§ EARL GREY was quite prepared to admit that the provisions of the present Bill were not such as to secure a complete register of all the foreigners who came to this country; but he was afraid it was impossible to contrive any system by which such a registration could be made complete, and which, at the same time, would not interfere with the ordinary affairs of life, and the ordinary pursuits of persons who had no criminal intentions. He believed, however, that if information was obtained that any particular aliens were abusing the privilege of coming to this country, and were engaged in stirring up civil strife, the Bill now before the House would, if passed into a law, give the most complete power to the Government to remove from the country all who thus abused the hospitality which they received. He firmly believed it was impossible for any number of foreigners so to act, and to enter into combinations for any purpose hostile to the Government, without their intentions being clearly ascertained; and he was also of opinion that the regulations now proposed to be enforced would be quite sufficient to protect the country against danger from such quarters. He strongly deprecated, at the same time, the adoption of any system which, however much acted upon in foreign countries, would be calculated to interfere with the laws, and privileges, and usages, which we, 268 in this country, were accustomed to observe.
§ LORD BEAUMONT did not consider that anything had occurred in Ireland or elsewhere to justify the introduction of an Alien Act, notwithstanding all that had been said about the empty boasting of two or three hairbrained individuals, who talked of 50,000 men coming over from a foreign country. It had been said, on a former evening, that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was in favour of such a Bill; and that circumstance he looked upon as the only good reason why the measure had been brought forward —a measure which, he was quite willing to admit, was by no means a very severe one; but though the opinion of the noble Earl at the head of the Irish Government commanded attention, he (Lord Beaumont) could not accede to the principle or acknowledge the necessity of this Bill. It gave the Secretary of State the power to deport a foreigner to please a foreign Government, instead of increasing the power to punish a foreigner who disturbed the peace in this country. We had not the same grounds of alarm as Continental Powers had; nor, in judging the conduct of foreign Governments, should we be unmindful of the difference of circumstances. He must say he deeply regretted that their Lordships had been called upon to listen to a speech delivered a few evenings ago by a noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham). At a moment when such extraordinary changes had taken place all over Europe, and when kingdoms were everywhere shaking to their centre, he regretted extremely that in their Lordships' House anything like a personal attack should have been made on any of those potentates who, in the present state of affairs, had been obliged to come forward and act a part in the politics of Europe. He regretted that the dead pages of history should have been dragged forth to enable the noble and learned Lord to produce a greater effect in the picturesque and exaggerated picture he drew of the character and motives of those who were now acting their part on the Continent of Europe. He contended that that noble and learned Lord was not justified in the attacks he had made either upon the Pope or the King of Sardinia; and he must say that in making that attack he seemed to have forgotten all that had passed within these few years, and never to have taken into consideration the great changes which had 269 occurred in the circumstances and position of the different States of Europe since the Treaty of Vienna was framed. He appeared to have entirely forgotten the acts of that Power he so much lauded, and whose most energetic efforts were always put forth to trample down without remorse the free States around it. Again and again, during the last twenty years, had Austria passed her frontiers and invaded the neighbouring States, pulling down and setting up Governments as she pleased. In 1831 she crushed the rising liberties of the Roman legations; at an earlier period she occupied Naples; her troops had held Parma and Modena in spite of their wishes; and the treaties which declared the independence of the Italian States had always been waste paper in the eyes of Austria. When the Pope gave to his people a Council of State, an amnesty for all those who had long been exiled from their country, and displayed a disposition to grant other privileges, the Austrian Government, misinterpreting the Treaty of Vienna, seized upon Ferrara in a way that involved a direct infringement upon the rights of the Roman State. Not yielding, however, to the threats of Austria, the Pope pursued his own course, and his example was followed by the other States of Italy, who now adopted a policy which they never had dared to take before, from the great dread they had of the Austrian Power. While the Italian States were in this position— when they had partially obtained free institutions, and merely asked that their independence should be secured from interference on the part of Austria, a revolution took place at Milan. The consequence of that revolution was to break up the Austrian empire in Italy. She no longer possessed the power of retaining Lombardy. The people of that country rose as one man, and threw off the yoke which had so long oppressed them. Radetsky withdrew his forces from the capital—a Provisional Government was installed; but though success crowned the first movement, the Milanese could not trust to their own unaided exertions for the permanent liberation of their country from Austrian dominion. They looked to France, and France would have been only too ready to answer the appeal. If the Piedmontese had been indifferent to the fate of their neighbours, and Austria had rallied her forces and marched on Milan, that appeal would have been made, and then would have commenced a war which 270 would soon have involved the whole of Europe. In these circumstances, when there was danger of interference on the part of France, the King of Sardinia had a right to look to the interests of his own State. It was naturally to be expected that war would arise on her frontier; and it was the undoubted privilege of a State, when war began on her frontier, to interfere on the side of one of the contending parties or the other, for her own protection. The Sardinian and Roman States foresaw the danger to which they were exposed. They saw the Milanese in actual and independent possession of their own country, with a Provisional Government regularly appointed, and acting independently of any foreign Power, and at that moment they interfered—and did so wisely, because they had only this choice—either so to interfere, or allow themselves to be endangered by a war between France and Austria. A regular Government, so far as circumstances would admit, was established at Milan, and they saw it their duty to recognise that Government, just as we had recognised the Provisional Government of France. The Austrian Government in Italy extended no further than the plot of ground their troops occupied. The authorities had abandoned or been driven from every town and village in Lombardy. The belligerents were not a revolted people fighting against their Government, but two independent nations struggling for dominion. One of those nations applied to Sardinia for assistance, because they had a common interest in preventing the Austrians from occupying the north of Italy. Sardinia could not, without injury to herself, remain neutral, and in self-defence she marched to the assistance of the Milanese. Sardinia in fact recognised the Government of Milan as an independent Government, and at the same time that she recognised the independence of the country, she gave it the aid of her arms. Was that anything like the condition of things which had been represented to the House the other night, when the King of Sardinia was spoken of as if he had, in the dead of the night and in perfect stillness, passed, in a hostile manner, the frontier of a neighbouring Power with whom he was on terms of amity and friendship? It could not be denied that Austria had received only retributive justice; she had trampled down freedom again and again in Italy. Her policy had done all in its power to perpetuate the disgraceful misgovernment 271 of the Papal States; her influence had dictated that tyranny which drove thousands into exile, and crowded the prisons to suffocation. It was Austria who set the example of interference; it was Austria, in fact, who first invaded the independence of the Italian Powers laid waste neighbouring States, and broke through all the restraints of the Treaty of Vienna. But that Power was now shivering to atoms—it was crumbling to pieces; and, while that was the case, had not the Pope and the King of Sardinia a right to look to what was most dear to them—the interests of their own people, and to act accordingly? He was aware that he could scarcely connect this subject with the Alien Bill. He had intruded, perhaps, at too great length; but, having done it, he hoped he should be forgiven by the House.
§ LORD BROUGHAM said, that his noble Friend seemed to be well satisfied that he had done, and, perhaps, their Lordships would be also equally satisfied that he had done. Whether the Sovereigns of Italy would be equally glad, when they heard the result of the defence which his noble Friend had offered on their behalf, might perhaps admit of question. His noble Friend had made, no doubt, a most eloquent speech: but if he (Lord Brougham) might use such a figure, it was a most singular specimen of dislocation. His noble Friend, after letting the proper occasion pass without saying a word, had contrived to discuss, on the second reading of an Alien Bill, the affairs of Tuscany, Lombardy, Sardinia, and the Ecclesiastical States. There was an old saying, that it was a good thing to leave well alone; but another saying was equally deserving of attention, namely, that it was no bad thing to leave ill alone, for fear of making bad worse. If the Holy Father was as infallible in temporal as he was in spiritual matters, he would not thank his noble Friend for the manner in which he had taken up the cause of his Holiness. He believed, also, that the King of Sardinia would participate in the sentiments of the Pope on this subject. His noble Friend said that he (Lord Brougham) had no notion, when he attacked those princes, of the circumstances of compulsion under which they had acted, and that he ought to have recollected what had instigated the King of Sardinia to pursue the course which he had followed, and what had compelled the Pope to act as he had done. He (Lord Brougham) did not state what 272 had induced those Sovereigns to take the steps on which he had animadverted, out of respect to them; but there was no doubt that, as far as the King of Sardinia was concerned, he was actuated by two motives: the one, to avoid danger from the side of his Genoese subjects who abhorred his yoke; the other, to make himself King of the North of Italy. With regard to the Pope, he attributed what his Holiness had done, in the first place, to a vain and mischievous love of popularity, and next, to the fear of a Roman mob; which was the basest and most pernicious of all motives that could sway a sovereign ruler. If there was anything that could draw down the scorn and almost the execration of mankind on those who were entrusted with temporal power, it was their not daring to do their duty from a fear of popular censure. The whole history of Europe, for the last half century and upwards, bore testimony to the evils which had resulted from the truckling of Sovereigns to the mob; and he was, therefore, in consequence of his noble Friend's statement regarding the compulsion under which the Pontiff acted, compelled to rank the Pope of Rome among those Sovereigns who had thus betrayed the most sacred duties of their great office. As to the King of Sardinia, it was no fault of his that he did not reign over the Milanese. He had obtained his own consent; but, in the first place, Marshal Radetski was before him with an Austrian army. The King of Sardinia had to fight Radetski—a thing not very much in accordance with what the French called the "antecedents" of Charles Albert. He might advance, no doubt, and engage the Marshal's army; but if the movement called a retreat were in question, he (Lord Brougham) should have the most undoubting and unhesitating confidence in the capacity of Charles Albert—not for fighting battle after battle, to protect his rear, but for making as quick a movement as possible out of the way. One of these two operations, either of advancing and beating Marshal Radetski, or of retreating and letting Radetski beat him, the King of Sardinia must execute before he could get possession of the Milanese. Although he (Lord Brougham) had originally been opposed to the Treaty of Vienna, yet after it had been in force for 33 years, and had become, as it were, the statute law of Europe, it must involve the greatest possible peril to move a single stone of that fabric. If, indeed, he could 273 see, without danger to the peace of Europe, Italy safe from the Austrian yoke, and particularly if such a result could be brought about by a treaty between the Milanese and their Sovereign no man in Italy, or at any rate no man on this side of the Alps, would more heartily rejoice than himself. With respect, however, to the occupation of Ferrara by Austria, it was a great mistake to suppose that she had not a perfect right to do as she had done; and it was the ill-advised interference of the Pope which had been the source of all the ill feeling which had been engendered by that proceeding. The Austrians had as much right, by the Treaty of Vienna, to hold the fortress of Ferrara, as the Pope had to occupy the castle of St. Angelo at Rome. He closed this topic with expressing a hope that his noble Friend would receive absolution from the Pope for the mischief which he had done to his cause; and from the merciful disposition of the Holy Father, he had no doubt he would receive it. He might be permitted to say a few words on another topic. In consequence of what he had said, or rather had been represented to have said, the other night—for if he really had used the language attributed to him, it did not convey his meaning—he had received a communication from a friend of his, a French gentleman, complaining of the harsh language which he was said to have used towards M. Lamartine, in consequence of the reception given to the Irish deputation by that gentleman. If it was so, the error had arisen from the misapprehension of the terms which he had used, or the confusion of his expressions. He had said nothing disparaging of M. Lamartine. On the contrary, he had spoken highly of that gentleman; but he had said, the best thing that he could have done would have been to have asked those gentlemen whether they came to him with the sanction of the British Embassy. Such a course as that pursued by M. Lamartine would not have been followed by his (Lord Brougham's) friends, Messrs. Molé, Guizot, or 'Tiers; but there was now another state of things, and M. Lamartine was in the hands of a power behind the republican Throne, greater than that exercised by the Throne itself. He had never intended to offer a word of disrespect to that eminent individual. If he was compelled to give an answer, it was impossible for hint to have given a better one than he did, for it was 274 a complete rebuff and rebuke; but still he (Lord Brougham) held that the best course would have been not to receive Irish traitors at all.
§ The EARL of GRANVILLE wished only to make one observation. They were in a discussion on the Alien Act, but they had got into a subject quite alien to it. What he rose to say was, that he hoped that it would not be supposed that the noble and learned Lord had expressed the unanimous feelings of the Protestant Peers as to the conduct of the Pope. In the worst governed country in Italy he had adopted many improvements, and given a constitution to his people; and it was not to be supposed, either at home or abroad, that, in doing so, he was solely influenced by a disgraceful and ill-considered love of popularity.
§ LORD STANLEY said, that at the same time that he gave his hearty and cordial support to the principle of this Bill, he most entirely concurred with his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Ellenborough) in thinking, not only that Her Majesty's Government had not erred from overhaste, but that they had been over-slow in the introduction of this and other measures, and also that the measure itself was not likely to prove so efficient as it might have been made. His noble Friend had pointed out that if the provisions of the Registration Act had not been and could not be strictly complied with, it was impossible that this Bill could be worked efficiently; and no answer whatever had been given to the observations of his noble Friend by the noble Earl who succeeded him on the part of the Crown. The noble Earl admitted that these provisions did not enable the Government to exercise an efficient control over aliens; but he said that anything which would give such a control would be of so vexatious a character, and would so interfere with privacy and domestic comfort, and the ordinary business of foreigners visiting this country, that he hoped the House would not sanction such an interference. But this Bill was avowedly an interference with the principle of the British constitution, because he held the principle of that constitution to be the giving the utmost freedom that could be given, not only to our own subjects, but to refugees from other countries. It was an interference with the rights of hospitality, and therefore the Government had properly made it a temporary measure. But then 275 it must be recollected that the measure was deemed necessary for the safety of the country, and the preservation of the peace of the realm, as well as of the lives of the citizens who might be misled by the intrigues of foreigners; and these were circumstances which might well justify an interference with private comfort, and quite set aside the reasons given by the noble Earl. One of two things ought to be done: either the Government ought not to interfere with the existing law, or if they did interfere, they should take care to interfere to a sufficient extent to effect their object. He said just now that the Government were justly chargeable with delay in bringing forward this as well as other measures. He said so, because he believed that long and long ago public opinion went before the Government in these respects, and because at the moment when these measures were introduced, they were approaching a period of the Session when it was usual to separate for the Easter recess, and therefore the House of Lords and the House of Commons would not have the power, because they would not have time, of duly considering the details of the Bills in question. The present Bill was of a temporary nature, but, nevertheless, the details of this measure deserved a most careful examination of the existing state of the law, and of the practical working of the Bill itself. Their Lordships would probably also receive another Bill in a few days, and be asked to suspend the Standing Orders of the House, under an intimation that, unless they did so, an important measure for the peace of the country would be delayed, and that their Lordships would be responsible for that delay. The Bill to which he now alluded was not a temporary measure, but, on the contrary, was a great and permanent alteration in the law of treason and sedition in this country. Could there be a graver subject for mature deliberation? and had not their Lordships a right to complain that they should be called upon in two days to make a permanent alteration in the law of sedition and treason, or be responsible for the consequences of further delay? He contended that they were not responsible for those consequences, though he did not ask their Lordships to take upon themselves the shadow of responsibility by delaying any measure which, in the present state of the country, Her Majesty's Government might think necessary for the 276 preservation of the public peace. But he said, looking at the state of affairs in this and the sister country, that Her Majesty's Government were responsible for not having brought forward these measures till within one week of the Easter recess. He had a right to complain of the delay on the part of Her Majesty's Government in bringing forward this and other measures, having for their object the preservation of the peace of the country, when they might have known for a certainty that they might have relied not merely upon the forbearance but upon the cordial co-operation of their political opponents; which would have enabled them to meet any opposition they might have had to encounter from their political friends. Although he believed this to be an inefficient measure, still he was willing to give it his support, because it might have a beneficial tendency, and because the Government considered it to be a power necessary to be vested in them for the preservation of the public peace. There was another subject on which he felt he had a further right to complain. He did not understand the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Ireland. Considering the present state of Europe, and considering that it was necessary to resist a dangerous part of Her Majesty's subjects in that portion of the United Kingdom, who were confederated together, and had put forth an open declaration of their intentions, their hopes, their designs, and their expectations, he confessed he could not understand the conduct of the Government in Ireland, being content to stand by and see persons connected with those confederations inciting, advising, persuading—and successfully persuading—large bodies of their countrymen to take up, manufacture, and provide themselves with arms for the undisguised purpose of their being used in hostility to Her Majesty's Crown and Government. He did not understand a policy which, on the one hand, in the exercise of a particular power, checked the anxious desire on the part of a large portion of Her Majesty's loyal subjects to arm themselves for the purpose of maintaining law and order; while, on the other hand, it left another but a disloyal portion of the people, with perfect impunity, in the absolute and entire possession of arms of all descriptions; and, above all, left untouched and uninterrupted the open and undisguised manufacturing of a description of weapon which could be re- 277 quired for no legitimate purpose, but which, on the contrary, had been avowed to be intended for rebellious objects. He confessed he could not comprehend why the Irish Government should be content to see going on before their eyes, in every part of Ireland, the manufacture of pikes, to be used in hostility to the Government and the Sovereign of these realms. He might be inclined to join in the wish of his noble Friend (the Earl of Ellenborough) that the past pages of Hansard could be obliterated, for he could not but think that Her Majesty's Government had prepared the remedy which they most conscientiously believed to be necessary to meet the unsettled state of Ireland, upon considerations of what had been their conduct on former occasions, when they resisted, and successfully resisted, all measures restrictive of the right to carry arms in Ireland. For the first time—he would not say since the Union, but long before the Union—under the authority and by the direct intervention of the Government, all restrictions upon the right of carrying arms in Ireland had been taken off; they had been boastfully and ostentatiously taken off, and declarations had been made to the Irish people that they had a perfect right to carry arms, and that it would be an act of injustice on the part of any Government to interfere with that right. They had now before them evidence of the consequences resulting from the absence of those restrictions, and of the difficulties in which the Government of Ireland was placed by reason of the previous declarations made upon this subject by those now constituting that Government; and it was with regret that he saw a continuance of those evils, arising, as he firmly believed, from the apathy, or apparent apathy, of the Government in applying a remedy to that state of things. It might be said that these remarks had no strict reference to the Bill then before their Lordships; but when they were passing a measure restrictive of liberty, and founding the necessity of that measure upon the ground that it was required for the preservation of the peace of the country, he thought no subject could be foreign to a discussion of that nature, which had also for its object the preservation of the peace of the country, by depriving of the means of disturbing that peace those who were inclined to break it for certain purposes which they had in view. He regretted that the Govern- 278 meat had not asked for larger powers, and he further regretted that they had not given effect to those measures, however inefficient, which had been passed during the present Session for preserving peace in Ireland. It was true certain districts had been proclaimed, arms had been called in, and some had been surrendered and some seized; but the number was inconsiderable in comparison with the arms possessed in those districts which had not been proclaimed. He looked with alarm and apprehension at what appeared to him to be a great and growing evil in Ireland. If they were to have—which God forbid!—an outbreak in that part of Her Majesty's dominions, it appeared to him an act of inconceivable and incomprehensible folly not only to make no preparation against such outbreak, but not even to take such measures as should insure, when that outbreak came, that the loyal portion of the population should be well armed, and the disaffected portion of the population ill armed; but that, on the contrary, the Government should give to the disaffected—of whose intentions that Government had full warning— power and time to procure arms, not even offering any discouragement to their manufacturing arms. With respect to the present measure, he should offer no opposition to it in Committee. He considered it ineffectual, but the responsibility would rest on Her Majesty's Government. But, considering that they were approaching the recess, before which they had not only to pass this Bill, but also another important measure, probably without discussion, he thought he should not have discharged his duty if he had not taken the opportunity of calling the attention of their Lordships and the country to a state of things which he considered fraught with present evil and future danger, and of expressing an earnest hope that no time would be lost before measures were taken for preventing the general arming with avowed hostile intentions which was now going on in Ireland.
§ LORD DENMAN thought Her Majesty's Government had a fair right to come down to Parliament and ask for powers for the purpose of extruding dangerous persons, aliens to this country, out of the kingdom. He (Lord Denman) did not pay much regard to the vapouring threats that had been uttered by certain individuals, whose monotonous ravings were hardly worth the 279 notice of any reasonable man; but having seen applications made to Powers on the other side of the water which if left unchecked might lead to outbreaks here, and that these, though not successful, yet could not fail to be full of mischief and injury to personal safety and to the peace of the community, he considered the Government were perfectly justified in the course they were now pursuing. Still, he wished to see a code of regulations for aliens in the shape of a law, capable of being enforced at all times by the public tribunals; and he certainly could not see a Bill of this sort introduced without expressing his very great regret that it was found necessary to give to any Government a power of such enormous extent—a power which would enable any individual to ruin his enemy by secret information to the Secretary of State, if he should feel himself bound to act upon the information conveyed to him. The occasion, therefore, must be great indeed to induce him to assent to a measure that would involve a danger of so alarming a nature. He did not wish to refer to old Parliamentary debates in order to justify himself in expressing this opinion; but, in former days, when the battle was fought against an Alien Bill year after year in the House of Commons, it was his pride to have been coneected with those who contended against it. When the Bill was finally repealed, in 1826, Sir Robert Peel, on whose Motion it was abrogated, was received by those who generally were opposed to him with such shouts of applause as would not soon be forgotten by him. Such a power, however necessary in exceptional cases, could not exist in conjunction with a free Government, or with that state of things which every Englishman must desire to see established in this country. He believed that, at the present time, there existed an exceptional case. But he must say that, in his humble opinion, none of these Bills ought to be dealt with in periods of excitement, disturbance, and alarm, but that, in a time of peace, the Government and Parliament ought to consider what was the best mode of governing the country when any dangerous crisis should arise. If he wanted any proof of this, he found it in the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, who had been condemning the Government for the course they had lately pursued with regard to Ireland. Attacks so powerful and so operative, even if just, upon the Government, 280 at the very time when extraordinary powers were required to be entrusted to that very Government, would tend to impair the exercise of those powers by disparaging the hands that wielded them. But, in his opinion, Government were entitled to the general thanks of the country, especially for the manner in which the public business had been conducted within the last few days; and if they had not hitherto applied to Parliament for additional powers for the protection of the people in another part of the empire, he thought the experience of the last few days ought to convince their Lordships that some good prudential reason might exist for not doing so on this occasion. With respect to the Bill now under discussion in the House of Commons, it had long been his opinion that the gap was too wide between the crimes of sedition and of treason, and that an intermediate offence might properly be enacted. He hoped the Bill to which he was alluding would be found adequate to the present exigency, and be deemed useful as a permanent portion of our legal system; and that it would undergo such careful revision and improvement, where necessary, as to be fit to pass their Lordships House without lengthened debate. He must again say one word with regard to what had recently occurred in this metropolis. Though clearly of opinion that the Government not only possessed the right to stop the procession taking place, but to have dispersed the meeting itself by the direct application of force, yet he most heartily rejoiced at the forbearance that was exhibited, thus avoiding dangerous collisions, which leave angry feelings behind them, and enabling the great mass of the loyal people to show their own power of self-protection, and that without the interposition of force on the part of the Government.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSD0WNE wished to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from a noble Lord opposite, for the purpose of again distinctly stating—for he had stated them before—the grounds on which this Bill was introduced. The noble Lord had assumed that the object of the Bill was different from that which had been stated. The object of the Bill was not to establish a system of passports, or to prevent the entrance of a number of persons into the country ; but the object was to do that which would effect with certainty the ex- 281 clusion of persons from this country who by their conduct proved they did not deserve to be tolerated here, or to be permitted to reside here. The noble Lord told them they should go further; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) knew that by going much further, and by adopting much more strong and unconstitutional means, they might entitle themselves to the more cordial support of the noble Lord; but he had yet to learn that the opinion of the noble Lord must necessarily be the opinion of all England, or that if they adopted his opinion they would at once entitle themselves to the support of every class of the people. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) contended that in a measure of this description it was of the utmost importance to carry with them the universal opinion of all the well-thinking classes of society, and to show that the Government were not anxious to alter or suspend any part of the constitution of the country without a necessity for doing so. The noble Lord had also made some observations with respect to Ireland; but was he not aware that when a noble Earl opposite had, in the course of the evening, called attention to the subject, that an arrangement was made that the question should be discussed on Monday? Although such was the case, the noble Lord was not able to restrain his ardour, but, on the contrary, after the question was thus disposed of, entered into the subject, and gave expression to his own opinions for the purpose of prematurely condemning the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) must accept the condemnation of the noble Lord; but in doing so he had the pleasure of thinking that he had the approbation of his noble Friend who had just left the House. He had expressed his conviction that the Government must have good reason for abstaining from asking for more powers than they had asked for, and that their conduct showed they were sufficiently alive to the exigencies of the case. When Monday arrived, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should state, in answer to the question of the noble Earl, the intentions of the Government in respect to Ireland. He agreed with the noble Lord, that the state of Ireland continued to be such as ought to engage the attention of Her Majesty's Government; but at the same time he was not quite so prepared as the noble Lord appeared to be, hastily to adopt measures in reference to it without carefully considering the diffi 282 culties they had to encounter, with a view of ascertaining what intermediate course it might be necessary to adopt. So much he considered himself called upon to state, after the opposition which the noble Lord had offered, not indeed to the measure before their Lordships, but the presumed opposition he had exhibited to the course adopted by the Government. In proposing this measure he admitted that he had concurred in calling for the repeal of the Alien Act in former times, and under different circumstances from the present; but he did not think that he should be exposed to imputation in reference to any of his previous acts. Those exceptional laws were not to be judged by a reference to each other. They were all founded on the peculiar circumstances of the times. The greatest necessity would exist for them at one time; there might be no necessity for them at another time; a milder law might answer the purpose at one period, and a more severe one might be necessary at another. Those who had the direction of the councils of the country must be prepared, without reference to precedents, to shape their course to the particular exigencies of the times. If ever there was a time that had peculiar characteristics to distinguish it from another, it was this moment at which they were called upon to legislate. Therefore, they had disregarded all reference to precedents, because they felt bound not to look to former periods, but to act upon the exigencies of the occasion, and to what the occasion required at the moment when it was called for. The noble Marquess intimated, in conclusion, that when the Bill was in Committee, he would propose an Amendment, giving a right of appeal to the Privy Council.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY thought it a strange return for the support which had been given to the Government by its political opponents, that the noble Marquess should now say that noble Lords at his side of the House supported this measure because it was unconstitutional. They supported this Bill, and even asked for this Bill, because they were aware of the dangers to which the country was exposed, and were not actuated by any other motives. But if they were ready to share the odium of this measure, they were also entitled to say this measure should be effectual. They were entitled to say it was not effectual, if they thought so; and the noble Marquess had no right to say he would have a stronger support from them 283 if the measure were more unconstitutional.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE disclaimed the intention of casting any imputation upon the noble Lords opposite.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND was of opinion that those persons knew very little of the British Army who thought they would yield to an undisciplined mob. Did they think that the Army could be so defeated that had beaten the veteran troops of the Emperor Napoleon? He (the Duke of Richmond approved of this Bill because he thought prevention was better than cure, and he wished the Bill had been more efficient. Looking to what took place in other countries, he was not prepared factiously to oppose the Government; but on every occasion in his power he would give them his feeble but hearty support to enable them to carry on the Government of the country.
§ After a few words from Lords REDESDALE and CLANRICARDE,
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.