§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that he rose to move the Second Reading of the Bill now on their Lordships' table, for continuing for a limited period the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. In moving this Bill, he certainly felt himself under some degree of embarrassment, not from any apprehension that their Lordships would not see sufficient grounds to entertain the measure, but because, while he felt, on the one hand, that it would be most improper and unbecoming, whenever a measure infringing in any degree on the liberty of the subject, as this Bill undoubtedly did, was brought forward, for the Minister having charge of it to withhold all explanation with regard to the grounds upon which it was proposed, or for their Lordships to abstain from all consideration of the necessity for its enactment; yet, on the other hand, he felt that the grounds of this measure had been already so fully and so explicitly laid before them in the despatch from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, now on their Lordships' table, that he could have nothing to add to the statement contained in that despatch, which was in their Lordships' hands, and that any 1175 comments which he might be induced to make upon the Lord Lieutenant's statement would leave him exposed to the charge of rather taking from that statement than of adding to its force. However, even with that feeling, he still thought it to be his duty to recall to their Lordships' attention the fact, that, although the efforts of Her Majesty's Government, and the efforts of the loyal and well-disposed portion of Her Majesty's Irish subjects, had hitherto been successful in putting down that which none of their Lordships who had read the proofs and testimonies that they possessed on this subject could doubt had been a deliberate, systematic, and intended attempt at rebel-lion in that country, which only failed by the promptitude and energy with which it was met—feeling that their Lordships must be well convinced of that, he thought it was hardly necessary for him to suggest to them what the Lord Lieutenant had already so well laid before them—that it was impossible, after such a trial and such an agitation, that the wave of that agitation should be considered as having completely subsided; and that their Lordships were, therefore, not to be called upon, in some degree, to provide for the future as they had provided for the past. It resulted, however, from the nature of the case, that the very success of the experiment—if experiment it were—had deprived them of proofs of the necessity for its continuance; but, on the contrary, there were abundant proofs, up to the very latest moment, so far as there had been any expression of feeling on the part of the leaders in that rebellion, or of their followers, that they had seen reason, undoubtedly, to regret their failure, but not to regret their attempt. It was most desirable that every effort should be made to put an end to the state of agitation as well as to the depreciation which, from other circumstances, had, in the course of a recent period, prevailed in that part of the united kingdom, over the interests of which, and over the well-disposed and loyal portion of the inhabitants of which, it was their Lordships' bounden duty to watch. But, without dwelling on what their Lordships were aware was the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant on this question, he would wish to call their Lordships' attention to the manifestations of opinion on the part of those persons themselves, before, during, and after the recent trials in Ireland, and which manifestations proved the necessity which existed for the continuance of the present proposed safeguard 1176 of the peace of the country. They had, on this point, the evidence of some of those persons themselves. They had the evidence of one of the leaders in that rebellion, who had been induced to fly the country, and to cross the Atlantic, to avoid the danger which he apprehended from the well-known share that he had taken in the rebellion. That gentleman had gone to New York; and their Lordships had the advantage of learning from his testimony, not only what had been, but what still were, the sentiments and intentions of the leaders of sedition, rebellion, and treason, in that country. He trusted that their Lordships would bear with him for a few moments while he called their attention to some of the sentiments expressed by that individual, and to some matters disclosed by him at a public meeting held in New York. The meeting was numerously attended, and was held, as it appeared, for the purpose of presenting a rifle to a Lieutenant M'Cann, who was about to take his departure for California. At that meeting he found that Mr. Doheny used this language—And I came not here to despair, nor to live upon the good opinion of the past, but to repair, if I can, and wherever I can, the fortunes of my country. The first thing I desire to say is, that there is no cause for despair—that nothing was done on the late occasion of which any Irishman need be ashamed. There was no betrayal on the part of the Irish; there was not one among the starving and the miserable found base enough to accept a bribe. Circumstances unexpected occurred—we were separated in the country—we were forced on by the cunning of the Government—the movement was prematurely urged to a crisis which proved for the present ruinous to the cause of Ireland. That crisis became inevitable. A Bill was passed through the British Parliament by Government in one night. The same mail that brought the intelligence of its introduction, brought the Bill itself with the royal signature attached.…. Need it be wondered at that defeat attended our endeavours? There was no time for concert, not even an opportunity to meet and consult until the auspicious moment had passed away.…. We travelled through a district of country where in one day 20,000 pikes were forged, fitted, and polished. With these means at our disposal, had we a lucky chance to obtain a single victory, old Ireland would have been a free nation, her Norman taskmasters would have ceased to pollute her sacred shore…… We are still turbulent—still disaffected. Either Ireland shall be free—a free republic, 'one indivisible and supreme' or the end of our turbulence is not in time…… If England's dissolution come not in ten or twelve years, it is inevitable, no matter how long delayed; and as sure as the returning spring assures us that nature asserts her sovereignty in the change of seasons, so sure will Irishmen establish in Ireland a republic, one and indivisible. …As for me, I confess I was never what is 1177 called a repealer. On the contrary, my belief was that the soil of Ireland belonged to her people, and that the 'golden link of the Crown' would be but another name for slavery; that in Ireland we should have a starred flag of our own, which, in the hour of peril to human liberty, would float beside that of the great republic.This had at least the merit of being frank and open, and was the language of one who had been in the counsels of that party that had agitated Ireland last summer, and who was ready, it appeared, to take the same part whenever the opportunity again offered. With that announcement, and with the declaration of the Lord Lieutenant before them, their Lordships could have no hesitation in declaring that for the security of that country, and for the prevention of disturbance, these leaders, on whom alone this Act would be and could be brought to bear, ought to be deprived of the power of again disturbing the peace of the country. He would say no more, but to add that he wished to guard himself against the supposition that this measure, or any measures of the like nature, were alone sufficient to provide for the future welfare of Ireland. Although he thought that measures such as this were indispensable as the foundation for future prosperity—as the only means by which alone any improvement in the state of property could take place—yet he was at the same time willing to admit that it was the bounden duty of the Legislature not to consider such enactments as the only panacea for the evils of Ireland, but from time to time to engage in the consideration of its social position, with a view to ascertain of what remedies it would admit, what improvements they could promote by laws, and, above all, what security they could give to the sober, the industrious, and the loyal inhabitants, occupiers and proprietors of that country. On these grounds he begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
said, the chief objection which he saw to the Bill was the limited period for which it was demanded, as he could perceive no grounds on which the Lord Lieutenant could hope that by the 1st of September or the 1st of August, or any such appointed near time, there Would be an end to Irish rebellion, though there might be an end to some of their Lordships' lives within that time. That was a matter, however, which his noble Friend had to take on his own responsibility. He wished merely to say one word on the nature of the mischief which they all so much deplored—first of all, because it plunged Ireland 1178 into her present abject state, aggravating all the social evils under which she suffered, and preventing, as it undeniably did, capital from going thither, the want of which was admittedly the great evil of which that country had to complain; and, secondly, because it rendered imperative the temporary suspension of the constitution—in itself a very great evil at all times. But the cause of all these evils was the agitation which had been allowed to prevail so long in that country. He did not blame the Government to which his noble Friend opposite belonged, or the Government of which he had been himself a Member, or the late Government of Sir Robert Peel, or the Government of his noble and gallant Friend at the table (the Duke of Wellington). He did not blame any one of those Governments in particular, but he thought they were all chargeable with great neglect in this particular. He said this in the presence of his noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Marquess of Anglesea), who had been one of the most able of Irish Viceroys, as he was one of those who was least to blame in this respect, having closely followed the steps of his illustrious predecessor, his (Lord Brougham's) lamented friend. Lord Wellesley. The system with all Governments had been to let agitation go on until it came to so fearful a height that it was scarcely possible to put a stop to it. They had allowed successions of meetings to be held, finances to be extorted from the pockets of the starving people, and agitators, lay and clerical, to work upon the minds of the multitude to such an excess, that at length it became necessary to take such steps as the present to prevent the efforts of the agitators from going further, and overturning the Government. Agitation was the cause, and rebellion was the result. They allowed agitation to be sown, and rebellion was the fruit which they should be prepared to gather. Agitation had become a trade. It was as much a trade as any other trade in the sister country, and was much more actively followed than any other. The natives of Ireland had shown themselves most industrious in this trade, though they might, perhaps, not excel in the ordinary branches of industry as much as the natives of some other parts of the united kingdom. The consequence was most melancholy; but it was only what, according to the most obvious principles of economic science, they had to expect—namely that other trades 1179 had been abandoned for the more lucrative, and exciting, and popular trade of agitation. Yet he found that in a part of the country where great distress prevailed, 1,000l. had been collected for the purpose, not of relieving the poor and necessitous, or of enabling persons to exist who are dying of hunger, but to send to his Holiness the Pope, who began the agitation in Italy, and had reaped the fruit he sowed himself. Things must be much out of joint in a country where such transactions occurred. He could not look on the 1st of September as a proper limit to fix for the duration of this Bill: when he looked at the letter of his excellent Friend, Lord Clarendon, who had so admirably administered the government of Ireland during the last two eventful years, a longer suspension seemed rather to be recommended than repudiated. Consider for a moment the state in which the administration of justice in Ireland was placed. Gracious God! Only think of a juror getting up in the jury-box, clapping his hands, and crying "hurrah!" at an observation of the counsel for the prisoner! Such a country is wholly unfit for jury trial if scenes like these are suffered. Why, you might as well have an African jury; greater indecency could never be witnessed in the worst kraal of Hottentots to be met with in Africa. When he perceived that a juror had clapped his hands and hurraed—when he read that he said there would be no verdict, and there was accordingly no verdict—the oath told the juror that he should well and truly try the case submitted to him—but the man who took the oath and so conducted himself, showed that he was but little prepared to keep it. Belonging to their Lordships—as a Member of that Supreme Court—he could not express to them the indignation which he felt in finding that such scenes could take place, and which tended to prove that the country in which it occurred was unworthy of that which was felt to be a prime blessing—trial by jury. The indignation, too, that he felt against this conduct, was also caused by the consideration that it was setting such a bad example to witnesses; for if a witness saw a juror in respectable circumstances, as he understood that person to be—the owner, as he understood, of one of the principal inns in Dublin—[A Noble LORD: The Shelburne.] Why, he had said that this person had, by his name, brought disgrace upon one great name, 1180 but he should be sorry to think that by his calling he was able to bring disgrace upon another. Here, then, was a respectable man in point of station; and when poor persons were brought forward as witnesses, and saw that person thus trifling with his oath, as by his conduct he showed he did, and encouraging them to disregard theirs, he said they could not expect those poor persons to behave better as witnesses than their betters did as jurors. As to the other measures which the noble Marquess had said he hoped would accompany or follow this Bill, all he would say as to such measures was, that it was easier to express a hope than to entertain an expectation.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
quite agreed with his noble and learned Friend, that it would have been desirable to extend the limits of the term for which this Bill was to last. A longer duration would have accorded better with the course recommended by Lord Clarendon, whilst the short time of six months taken in the present Bill might lead to serious Parliamentary inconvenience. The Bill might come on for renewal at the latest period of the Session, when it might stand in the way of other more urgent legislation. In reference to the observations of his noble and learned Friend on the juries in Dublin, he would venture to put in a claim for other parts of Ireland, where the people had shown they were possessed of manliness, of courage, and of impartiality in the performance of their duty—other parts of Ireland, where no impediments were thrown in the way of justice. While upon such a painful subject, he must call their Lordships' attention to one grievous defect in the law relating to Ireland—that was, in the law relating to the possession of arms in that country. To the state of the law upon that subject was to be attributed much of the crime and much of the agitation which disgraced Ireland; and it was also dangerous to the existence of the connexion between the two countries. For the first time for many years they had no law on the Statute-book for putting a restraint on the possession of arms. Such a state of the law ought not to be allowed, because it was dangerous to the loyal man, and gave great advantage to the disaffected to carry out their designs. One argument used against the enactment of an Arms Bill was, that it gave the power of domiciliary visits. Was that system at an end now? No. Domiciliary visits were now frequent, but they were made, not by the 1181 officers of the law, but by the Ribbonmen—by the sworn disturbers of the public peace. Many men who were in the rightful possession of arms had been despoiled of them by the robber, who turned them against the law. During the last four years the number of offences in the robbery of arms had increased from 159 to 1606. That was the number of offences, having no reference to the number of arms taken, or of persons engaged in the depredation; and out of so many offences there had been no more than seventy-nine prosecutions and only twenty-six convictions. This was not a state of the law which their Lordships could allow to continue, if they hoped for a restoration of public tranquillity in Ireland. No other remedy would be so effectual to put down the rebellious spirit as a good Arms Bill.
§ On Question, resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a: Committee negatived; Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.