IRISH INSURRECTION BILL.
§ Mr. Speaker;—I do not feel, that the House will require from me any justification of my conduct, when I propose to it to adopt a different course of proceeding in respect to Ireland, from that which the right hon. gentleman has called upon it to pursue. Because, if ever there was a time when it was the duty of every member belonging to Ireland to come forward and offer his opinion to the consideration of the House, the present circumstances of that country call upon them to do so; and if I were to remain silent on this occasion, feeling as I do, that much more is absolutely necessary to be done than what the right hon. gentleman proposes to do, I should be guilty of nothing short of a great neglect of my public duty. Parliament is highly interested in every thing which may tend finally to put down disturbances, to compose discontent, and to conciliate the affections of the people of Ireland; and, therefore, let the merits of the motion be what they may, which I shall submit to the House, it will, by promoting discussion on the state of Ireland be productive of a good effect.
Before, Sir, I proceed to show the grounds on which I propose to amend the motion of the right hon. gentleman, by moving that a secret committee be appointed to inquire into the extent and object of the disturbances existing in Ireland, I beg to say, in order that my motives may not be misunderstood, that I do not wish to obstruct the passing of the Bill for continuing the Insurrection act. But when I say this, I by no means support it because I think it will have any permanent effect in putting down and preventing the renewal of disturbances; but because I believe that it is called for to afford protection to the lives and properties of the loyal inhabitants of the disturbed districts. I wish also to declare, that in moving this amendment I have no intention of casting the slightest reproach upon the administration of lord Wellesley: I feel the greatest confidence in his disposition and in his ability to serve his country, and to conduct the government to the best advantage amidst the great and numerous difficulties with which it is encompassed. I am ready to acknowledge, that lord Wellesley, du-* From the original edition printed for Ridgway, Piccadilly.1149 ring the short time he has been in Ireland, has brought forward several very valuable measures. The act for reforming the constables has proved of great utility, and promises to be completely successful. The revision of the magisracy is of great value, though the extent to which it has been carried is far short of what it ought to be, to make it a perfect measure. The bill for a composition of tithes I consider of the greatest importance; and a measure, that, in its amended state, will be easy to be carried into execution. But, above all, I think lord Wellesley is particularly entitled to praise for the efforts he has made to administer the laws impartially, and to check the violence of religious animosities.
But, Sir, it appears to me, that the present question is not one between parliament and lord Wellesley. It is his business to administer the laws such as he finds them; but we are now occupied in making a new law, and in legislating generally for the affairs of Ireland; and the question is, therefore, one between parliament and the government generally, and not fit to be confined within the narrow limits of a mere Irish question. It is, in fact, as much an English question as an Irish one. The dearest interests of Englishmen are included in it; and they are particularly concerned at this moment in taking care, that such a system of measures shall be adopted as are best calculated to establish tranquillity in Ireland.
I wish also, Sir, not to be considered as one of those, who make indiscriminate charges against his majesty’s ministers, for having done nothing for the advantage of Ireland. So far from thinking that this is the case, I give them credit for having effected a complete change in the administration of government in Ireland. From the time of the king’s visit to Ireland to the present moment I have seen but little to find fault with, that has been done in Ireland; and a great many beneficial measures have been passed, though not much taken notice of by the House. The acts, which have passed this session, for removing the duties upon the trade between England and Ireland, are measures of the greatest value. The act for consolidating the boards of revenue is of great value. As this measure goes to take from government the great patronage which has heretofore belonged 1150 to it in Ireland, of appointing to all the inferior revenue offices, the concession deserves to be considered as one highly creditable to them; and the new distillery bill is also a measure, which shows the anxiety of government to reform abuses in Ireland.
In respect, Sir, to the amendment I now submit to the House, I am aware, that the period of the session will afford to the right hon. gentleman the opportunity of objecting to it on that account. But I think, Sir, that if I had brought forward a motion for inquiry into the state of Ireland before the right hon. gentleman had communicated to the House what the plans of government were, I should have been justly liable to be complained of for not giving time to government to mature their plans; and since the right hon. gentleman has developed them, I appeal to the House whether the business that has been before it would have afforded me an earlier opportunity of bringing forward my motion. In such a case as this, it will ill become the, right hon. gentleman to set forth this old plea of the late period of the session. The state of Ireland is every day becoming worse; it is so bad as to lead the public mind to anticipate some dreadful calamity, and to excite universal alarm; and, therefore, if an inquiry would occupy the whole summer, the House ought to go into it, and not refuse it because, according to the common routine of parliament, the session would close in the month of July.
We now see, that all that is intended to be done by government is, to continue the Insurrection act. That is, after the experiment of having, recourse to it last year has completely failed, and after the disturbances are greatly extended, parliament is to separate with no better prospect of an improvement in the state of Ireland, than what this most severe, unconstitutional, and inefficient measure offers.
When, Sir, I examine what the state, of Ireland is this year, in comparison with what it was when the Insurrection act was passed last year, I consider, that it has become infinitely worse, and that the danger is much more formidable. Last year there was some reason for expecting, that this law might have produced, at least, a temporary restoration of tranquillity; but now, after we have had full experience of its powers, and of the persevering re- 1151 sistance which is made to it, no one can venture to say, that it will operate as a remedy of the disturbances. It is under these circumstances, so new and so formidable, that I feel it my duty to call upon the House not to separate, until it is in full possession of the actual state of Ireland. It is impossible to collect the necessary information from speeches in this House, or from despatches, and other documents. Nothing but a committee, exercising unlimited powers of inquiry, can effectually expose, in all their proper bearings, the nature, extent, and object, of the existing disturbances,
I might, Sir, I conceive, let my motion rest upon this general statement, as affording a sufficient parliamentary ground to justify me in calling upon the House to adopt it, but I consider the necessity of instituting an inquiry so urgent, that I feel myself called upon to set forth, in detail, every thing which can contribute to secure the concurrence of the House to the request I make, not longer to postpone this inquiry, I shall begin, by showing the extent of the disturbances, as they existed in the past and present year; and, in order to do this, I shall refer, in the first place, to the dispatches of lord Wellesley. In the dispatches of the 3d and 11th of January, 1822, lord Wellesley states, that disturbances have occurred in no less than sixteen counties, which he mentions by name, in the provinces of Leinster and Munster. He says, that in the province of Connaught the great body of the people have been sworn. And, in a dispatch of the 1st May, 1822, lord Wellesley says, “In Ulster strong indications have been generally manifested of resistance to the process of the law.”
In the next place, I refer to the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Goulburn), who, on the 22d of April, 1822, in speaking upon the state of Ireland, said, “the disturbances which then prevailed were such as had not been known for a considerable time past; such as had ultimately broken out into open insurrection against the government. He could not better describe the state of the south of Ireland, than by stating, that there was no county in which the police was sufficient to protect the peaceable.” And, on the 8th of July, 1822, the right hon. gentleman further said, “A general system of insubordination prevailed throughout Ireland: a general combination, conducted by secret 1152 association, collecting arms, and making proselytes, with a view to the complete extension of their principles throughout the country.”
From these documents, we are able to ascertain to what an extent the disturbances existed in 1822 in the south of Ireland, and what was the general character of them. But it appears, that, while these disturbances were thus covering nearly the whole of the south of Ireland, a distinct secret conspiracy, carried on by the Ribbon-men, was establishing itself in six other counties, having the same general object in view, but working by more skilful and deep-laid means. The attorney-general of Ireland; in his speech on the trial of Michael Keenan, in Dublin, on the 4th of November, 1822, gives the following description of this Conspiracy:—”For some time past, I believe considerable more than for two or three years, a plan has been formed in Ireland for associating the members of the community, by unlawful oaths, to overthrow the established government. The machinery, by which it is sought to effectuate this purpose, is one of a very complicated nature, and evincing much consideration and contrivance. The association has at ready extended into several neighbouring counties” (five or six are the number mentioned, in a letter from the attorney general to lord Wellesley, dated November 26, 1822), “and is intended to embrace the whole kingdom if it is, however not connected with the outrages which have for some time disgraced the south of Ireland. The object of the association is rather the hatching of mischief, to be brought into future operation. They condemn the disturbances of the south, and regret their premature appearance: their design is to wait until some period of danger and difficulty, when they hope, by a vigorous and united effort, to be able to shake the whole foundation of our civil polity to its centre.”
The attorney general gives the following description of the manner in which this conspiracy is conducted.—”The course was, first to have lodges formed, the number of men in each of which was not limited, but seldom exceeded thirty or forty: each of these members was bound, by an oath, to be of the society to conform to its rules, not to reveal or divulge its secrets, and to obey the order of his superior reach of these lodges had a master, who was to represent his lodge 1153 in the baronial* commmittees: from these baronial committees delegates were appointed to represent the counties: and from these, delegates to attend provincial meetings: and from these, again, delegates to attend national meetings, thus finally composing a general association, affecting to represent the entire community.”
The House will not fail to remark, how formidable an association this must be, that has been going on for two or three years in five or six counties, having the city of Dublin for its focus, and governed in the way that has been described. If reports are to be credited, this association is not confined to five or six counties, but is spread over the whole of the province of Ulster, and over a great many of the midland counties; and, although no persons have as yet been discovered to belong to it of consequence or consideration, where there exists so much skill and method in contriving it, and so much natural talent among the people for conducting the operations of such an association, it appears to me to be much more formidable than those other associations, that are less organized, and more forward in committing open acts of outrage and disturbance.
The references I have made show the extent of the disturbances in 1822; I will now submit to the House what is their present character. Lord Wellesley, in a dispatch of the 29th Jan. 1823, expressed an opinion, that the country had become more tranquil; but, in another dispatch, dated the 8th of April, he says, “Subsequent events have disappointed that expectation; and, during the month of March, the system of outrage and terror has been pursued, in the parts of the province of Munster, with increasing activity and vigour, and has reached other parts of the country. In less agitated counties of Ireland, crimes of an insurrectionary character appear to be more frequent.”
The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Goulburn), when he moved for leave to bring in the bill for continuing the Insurrection Act, said, “There existed an emergency so alarming, as not to admit of time to inquire into it.” In corroboration of this description of the state of the country, as given by lord Wellesley and the right*A Barony in Ireland is similar to a hundred in England.1154 hon. gentleman, the accounts that daily come from Ireland show, that the disturbances are extending, and that the whole country is placed in a state of great apprehension of some desperate calamity befalling it. All my communications with the Irish representatives go to confirm these accounts.
If, Sir, these disturbances, which I have described, had commenced for the first time last year, formidable as they are, they would be much less alarming than they must appear to every one to be, who will take the trouble of examining how closely they resemble, in plan, spirit, and object, the series of disturbances which have for some years occurred in Ireland; because this similarity of circumstances indisputably proves, that some deep-seated evil must be at the bottom of so much national discontent, and such daring insurrection. The House will see, by looking into the details of former disturbances, that the existing disturbances can only be considered as one of a long series which in succession have broken out in different parts of Ireland.
In the year 1820, my hon. friend, the member for the county of Gal way (Mr. Daly), proposed to the House a motion* similar to that which I now am about to submit to it, founded upon the disturbances existing in the counties of Galway and Roscommon. He described the state of the south and west of Ireland in the following words:—”There never was a period, when the state of Ireland required a more prompt and vigorous interposition on the part of government; a period, when the disturbances were so extensive, and the outrages of so violent and dangerous a character.” His statement was corroborated by the speeches of my hon. friends, the members for the counties of Clare and Derry. These disturbances commenced in the autumn, of 1819, and have continued ever since, except for a short interval in 1821. In 1817, the Insurrection act was continued, in consequence of disturbances in the counties of Lowth, Tipperary, and Limerick. In 1816, the dispatches of lord Whitworth were laid before the House, which showed the existence of disturbances from 1810 to 1816. Lord Whitworth states—”A special commission was appointed in 1811, in consequence of the outrages* See Vol. 2. p. 91 of the present Series.1155 committed in the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Limerick, by bodies of men, who assembled in arms by night, administered unlawful oaths, prescribed Jaws respecting the payment of rents and tithes, and plundered several houses of arms. In the early part of 1813, and during the whole of that year, many daring offences were committed against the public peace in these and other counties, particularly in Waterford, Westmeath, Roscommon, and the King’s county, the nature of which sufficiently proved, that illegal combinations, and the same systematic violence and disorder, against which the special commission of 1811 had been directed, still existed. In consequence of the continuance and increase of disturbances, in March 1814, the Insurrection act was introduced.” In 1815, according to these dispatches, application was made by the magistrates to have the Insurrection act enforced in the counties of Clare, Meath, and Limerick. In 1816, it was enforced in Lowth; and it appears, that during 1814, 1815, and 1816, disturbances had existed in the Queen’s county, and county of Longford. The House will observe, that the description given by lord Whitworth of the disturbances in these years shows, that they were exactly similar in all respects to the disturbances which now exist. Secret oaths, obtaining arms, prescribing laws, are the characteristics of the present disturbances, as they were of those described by lord Whitworth.
In 1807, the Insurrection act was revived, and continued till 1810. In 1803, the conspiracy of Emmet occurred; and although it was instantly suppressed, there is no doubt that it was one embracing several counties, and that if the first effort had been successful, a general insurrection would have been the immediate consequence. A great number of country people had come into Dublin immediately previous to the explosion of the plot, and lord Redesdale, then Chancellor of Ireland, has stated, that several counties were ready to have embarked in it.
In 1801, a secret committee was appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland, and they say in their report, “The conspiracy of 1798 is not then subsided. It appears to be in agitation, suddenly, by means of secret confederacy, to call numerous meetings, in different parts of the country, at the same day and hour, to an extent, which, if not prevented, must 1156 materially endanger the public peace.” And in a second, report, the committee describe the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, Tipperary, and Limerick, as being particularly disturbed. We learn from the reports of both Houses of the Irish Parliament, in the years 1798, 1795, and 1793, that the country was in a continual state of disturbance, from 1792 to 1798.
From the statement that I have now submitted to the House, it appears, that a great extent of Ireland has, from time to time, since theu Union, been in a state of open disturbance. The following summary, which is taken from public documents, will accurately illustrate this important fact:—
Counties in which Disturbances have taken place, 1801. Wicklow, Wexford, Tipperary, Limerick. 1806. Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim. 1811. Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Limerick. 1813. Waterford, Westmeath, Roscommon, King’s county. 1814. Queen’s county and county of Longford, in addition to the last mentioned counties. 1816. County of Lowth also in addition. 1819. Galway, Roscommon, Kilkenny, Cork, Westmeath. 1822 Sixteen counties since 1821. All Connaught sworn. The association of Ribbon-men established in five or six counties.
Another way of judging of the state of disturbance in Ireland, is by referring to the Statute Book: from this it appears as follows:
Years That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1796 to 1802 6 That Martial Law was in Force from 1803 to 1805 2 That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1807 to 1810 3 That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1814 to 1818 4 That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1822 to 1823 1 Out of a period of 27 years, these laws were in force for 16
But in addition to these two acts, others of a similar unconstitutional kind have been passed within the same period. The Habeas Corpus act was suspended from 1797 to 1802: again, from 1803 to 1806 and again in 1822. The Arms act, allowing domiciliary, visits, and prohibiting the use of arms, was in force from 1796 to 11571801, and has been in force from 1807 to the present time, and now forms part of the standing law of the country. The Peace-preservation act, by which a regular gendarmerie was appointed, has been in force from 1814 to the present time. Taking together the periods of disturbances, as before mentioned, with the periods for which the Martial Law and insurrection Acts have been in force, we obtain the following table of actually existing disturbances in Ireland:—
Period. Years. 1. From 1792 to 1802 10 2. 1803 1805 2 3. 1607 1810 3 4. 1811 1818 7 5. 1819 1823 4 26
That is, out of a period of the last thirty-one years, no less than twenty-six years have been years of actual insurrection or disturbance. The following conclusions may be drawn from this case of Ireland, as to the means taken for suppressing disturbances. First, That as often as any disturbance has appeared, since 1795, it has been immediately followed by some new law of a severe and coercive character. Secondly, That a regular system has thus grown up, and been constantly acted upon, of dealing with discontent and disturbance with severe and coercive measures. Thirdly, That this system has completely failed; for, in place of discontent and disturbance being diminished, great as they were in 1795, they are still greater at the present moment.The only years of any thing like tranquility since 1792, have been from 1802 to 1803: from 1805 to 1806; from 1810 to 1811; and from 1818 to 1819. Four years; out of thirty-one! The government of Ireland, to use the language of a celebrated constitutional writer, referring to another government, has been but a continued scuffle between the magistrate and the multitude; And is this, Sir, I ask, the system of government the British parliament will passively submit to? Can it go on with impunity? Can it last for another thirty years; another twenty; ten; five; or one other year.
Let us examine what must be the consequences of persevering in this system. What is the present evil against which we have to contend? In the first place, in three provinces of Ireland, nearly every county habitually occupied with disturb- 1158 ances; and in the fourth province, the public peace continually violated by the contests of Orange-men and Ribbon-men. Secondly, almost the whole grown-up male population, under the age of forty years, regularly educated in insurrection. Thirdly, the disturbances and spirit of insurrection extending in every direction. Fourthly, the population increasing at a rate so as to double itself in forty-six years. Fifthly, the whole efforts of government to put down these disturbances by force, a complete failure.
This, Sir, I undertake to say, is a correct summary of the political circumstances of Ireland, belonging to the systematic confederacy of the people to obtain redress for the grievances they labour under: and it is in the face of so formidable a state of things, that all that government proposes for parliament to do is, to continue the Insurrection act. If the people of Ireland are suffered to go on increasing, both in number and in insurrection, it will become a very serious question, how England will be able to control them, and secure the connexion between the two countries. If six millions of discontented Irish are to become twelve millions, without any change being effected in their temper and habits, while they are every day learning how to evade the violences of coercive laws, and to make the system of secret association more general and more manageable, a power will grow up on the side of England of such magnitude as may be able to cope with the power of England, and involve England in all the calamities belonging to a new effort to conquer Ireland.
With a view, Sir, to form something like a correct judgment in respect to the object of these disturbances, I will state the evidence we have on that head, as contained in authentic documents, for it is by being fully acquainted with their object, that we can best judge of their causes, and best understand how to apply proper remedies. To begin with the year 1798: we all know, that the object of the conspiracy of that year was, to take possession of the country. The report of the secret committee of 1801 informs us, that the conspiracy of 1798, was not then abandoned; and that it was in agitation to rise suddenly, and destroy the government. In 1803, Emmet’s conspiracy had the same object. In 1806, the system of assembling in arms at night, of adminis- 1159 tering unlawful oaths, and of collecting arms by plunder, was carried on in several counties. In 1811, the same system was renewed and continued for six years. In 1819, it was again renewed, and has continued to the present time. In 1822, we learn from the attorney-general of Ireland, that the conspiracy of the Ribbon men hopes, by a vigorous and united effort, to be able to subvert the present law and government. These circumstances place beyond all doubt the principles, the motives, and the objects of the discontented. In 1798, 1801, 1803, and 1822, we have direct evidence of the intention of the disaffected to rise suddenly, and seize on the country. In 1806, 1811, and 1819, we have direct evidence of associations existing for years together, acting on such a scheme of confederacy by secret oaths, and of preparation by obtaining arms, that cannot be accounted for in any other way, but by supposing them the first steps towards a general rising of the people.
Now, Sir, I say, with so much evidence before us of the intention of the disaffected and with the knowledge we possess of the great extent of preparation which exists, and of the facility with which the lower orders may be collected together, it is, nothing short of exposing the lives and property of all the loyal and peaceable people to sudden destruction, if we close the session without a full inquiry into the state of Ireland, and without taking all those measures of precaution, and remedy, which the actual circumstances of the case may appear to require.
I have now, Sir, submitted to the House what appear to me to be sufficient parliamentary grounds to support my motion for appointing a secret committee. I have proposed a secret committee, in order to place the business of inquiry under a reasonable control on the part of government; and I have limited the instructions to inquire into the extent and object of the disturbances, in order to remove all objections, that might arise from calling upon a committee at this period of the session, to inquire into a matter so much controverted as the causes of the disturbances. An accurate knowledge of the objects of the disturbances will best lead to a correct judgment upon the causes of them, and, therefore, the proposed inquiry will in this way be indirectly an inquiry into these causes.
1160 But, although I have been, for these reasons, led to frame my motion, I should be sorry to see the discussion of this evening limited in the same way; for I think it is of essential importance, that the causes of the disturbances should be fully discussed. As far as discussion has, as yet, taken place, and as opinions have been formed concerning the causes of the disturbances, but little good has been done; on the contrary, I am inclined to think, that a great deal of harm has been the result of persons of authority taking very erroneous views of the circumstances of Ireland, and leading the public to form opinions upon the causes of its disorders, which are altogether erroneous, and in the way of a correct decision upon the most effectual remedy of them. The question, in point of fact, has been very superficially considered; and the great principles which govern mankind, and the proper objects of good government, have been too generally overlooked.
The noble lord, who is at the head of his majesty’s government, has, on every occasion when the state of Ireland has been under discussion, very confidently expressed his opinions upon the causes of the disturbances in Ireland. In alluding to the noble lord, I do so, feeling the highest respect for the purity of his political conduct, and believing that he is sincerely desirous to improve the condition of Ireland; but I must say, from all the experience I have had of the people and of the circumstances of Ireland, that nothing can be more untenable than the doctrines of lord Liverpool, concerning the causes of her disorders, and the remedies that are fit to be applied to them. The noble lord says, and very truly, that it was, owing to the source of the evil being mistaken, that an effectual remedy had not yet been applied: but when the noble lord goes on to say, what is, in his opinion, the source of the evil, he shows, that he does not comprehend, in the most remote degree, the character of the people, or those circumstances belonging to the disturbances, which must always be taken into consideration, in endeavouring to ascertain the real source of them.
The noble lord lays down this position, “that all the insurrections in Ireland, with the exception of that of 1798, have been directed against property, and not against the government of the country.” This position has been so frequently in- 1161 sisted upon by the noble lord, and so little has been said to controvert it, that it has become indispensably necessary to examine it, in order to prevent the injurious consequences which may flow from it. The first great mistake on which this opinion is founded consists in the assumption, that the lower orders of the people of Ireland have no kind of interest in the state of the penal laws under which they live; that they do not concern themselves at all with politics; that they are Only influenced by the consideration of matters of property—tithes, rent, and taxes. Now Sir, I can assure the House, that nothing is more unfounded than this assumption. Feeling the importance of ascertaining, by every means in my power, what the real state of the case is, I have for several years made it my business to obtain information upon it. I have conversed with and examined a great many individuals of the lower orders: I have consulted their bishops and their clergy: I have obtained the opinions of the best informed Catholics in every profession; and I have myself had the advantage of witnessing the fullest expression of popular feelings on two severely-contested elections, in which the whole population took a most lively interest: and the opinion that I have formed, as the result of all my experience, is, that the whole mind of the people is occupied with politics; that they thoroughly comprehend every law and every measure of government which relates to them; that they have a very: accurate knowledge of all the privations to which they are exposed; and that they not only know, that they live as a class placed in a condition of inferiority in respect to a small party in the country, but that they practically feel inconvenience from this condition of inferiority. I believe, therefore that the disturbances are altogether political; that although many local provocations immediately produce the first overt acts, the principle which serves to give them continuance, extension, and power, is a political principle.
The noble lord has endeavoured to illustrate his position by referring to the feelings expressed towards his majesty on his visit to Ireland. But really nothing can be more unfortunate than this illustration: for the whole spirit of the expression of those feelings consisted in this, that it was universally believed, that the king came to Ireland to give relief to the 1162 people from the long-established by stem of a local Irish government, that made the interests of the people subservient to those of an exclusive ascendancy party. The people said, they had at last got a king of their own—this was the emphatic way in which they drew the distinction between the king and the castle. The people know the king has all his life been their friend; and if he were now to go into the south of Ireland, they would instantly abandon their insurrectionary practices; but not because those practices were wholly against property but because they would calculate upon change in the laws and in the measures of government, as a certain consequence of his majesty’s becoming personally acquainted with their condition.
Another way of showing that the disturbances are of apolitical character is by referring to the evidence I have laid before the House, of the nature and objects of the disturbances The object of the disturbance in 1801 is described by a committee to be, a sudden rising, and the seizing of the possession of the country. The object of Emmet’s conspiracy was, to put down the government The object of the Ribbon-men is the same; and in respect to the disturbances which have existed in regular succession, is it consistent with common reasoning to infer, that they are solely leveled against property, when they are carried on by administering secret oaths, and for the purpose of arming the whole of the population?
But a circumstance, which fully shows, that the pressure of tithes, rent, or taxes, is not the cause of these disturbances, is, that they never Were more general, according to the dispatches of lord Whitworth, than in the years 1811,1812, and 1813, when the market prices of landed produce were so high, and labourers wages so great, that the people felt no pressure whatever from the Circumstances of the times, as connected with property.
The same noble lord has also said “that the real question had never been considered: and why? Because it was the interest of faction to give a direction to grievances entirely different from that which actually caused them; to represent evils as growing out of the measures of government; to trace disturbance and discontent to the conduct of this or that administration.” But the noble lord seems to have for gotten, that it is decidedly the interest of government to say, the insuf- 1163 rections are not against government; and thus, as would say to give a direction to grievances entirely different from that which actually caused them. Nothing can be more convenient to government than to have this doctrine believed in; for then they are wholly freed from all responsibility. They can say, we really have nothing to do with these disturbances, but to quell them as well as we can: it is with the landlords to remove the causes of them.
But upon this point, “who, or what party gives the wrong direction to grievances?” we possess a method of bringing it to a test; and that is, by referring to the opinion of persons of unquestionable authority in all matters of this kind. The authority to which shall refer is that of Mr. Burke; and I think the House will, when they hoar his opinion, admit, that nothing can be more applicable to the present case of Ireland than his words are, as contained in his “Thoughts on Popular Discontents.” He says, “In all disputes between the people and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favour of the people”—”When popular discontents have been very prevalent, it may well be affirmed and supported, that there has I been generally something found amiss in the constitution and in the conduct of government. The people have no interest in disorder. When they do wrong, it is from error, and not from crime; but with the governing part of the state it is far otherwise.” Here is the opinion of Mr. Burke, and one more applicable to show the futility of the position of the noble lord, and to direct the House how to judge correctly upon the disturbances of Ireland, could not exist. The length of time for which popular discontents have j been prevalent in Ireland shows, beyond; all doubt, that they are not directed against property, but that there is something amiss in the constitution and in the conduct of government.
But Sir, however unfounded the doctrine may be, that the insurrections are wholly against property, it is no doubt true there exist many appearances to make this doctrine seem to be correct; particularly with those who are not locally acquainted with Ireland, or who do not possess the means of unravelling circumstances of a very complicated and almost incomprehensible nature. It is quite true, that the first outrages of the insurgents 1164 are uniformly directed against the owners of property, or the laws for regulating it; and the commencement of every disturbance may almost always be traced to some matter of rents or tithes. In the manner of managing these descriptions of property in Ireland, there frequently occur great provocations to excite the resistance and the revenge of the lower orders. But their efforts very soon cease to be limited to the mere objects of retaliation and redress, as connected with the immediate and pressing grievance. The disturbance, that begins on one estate, spreads rapidly over the parish, then over the country then over the adjoining counties; and no connection at last is to be traced between the settled course of disturbances and the original provocations. This is the regular progress of the disturbances: and the true point to ascertain is, why local commotion spreads so rapidly? This readiness to embark in insurrection; the practice of administering secret oaths, that meets with so much support and protection, though exposing the parties to transportation; the associating together under engagements to be ready to come forward when called upon, and to use every means of obtaining arms; the long succession of disturbances, all managed on the same plan; and the open insurrections, which have actually taken place against the government; all serve to place it beyond dispute, that something, as Mr. Burke says, is amiss in the government, and that some deep-seated discontent possesses the minds of the whole people.
But even if the doctrine were correct that the disturbances of the south of Ireland are wholly directed against property, what is the source of the spirit of insurrection, which belongs to the association of Ribbon-men, that is wholly distinct and unconnected with these’ disturbances? This society has been growing up for several years: a great portion of the people are embarked in it. The plan of it is well adapted to the management of the physical force of the country. It is founded on the plan of the conspiracy of 1798, and has the same objects. It is making a progress, that, unless something be done to suppress it, the whole country will be formed into a secret conspiracy against the government. This, in point of fact, is a conspiracy a vast deal more formidable than the open disturbances in the south of Ireland, and therefore the more particularly requiring the attention 1165 of government and of parliament; but no one can show a single instance in which it is directed against rents, tithes, or taxes, or any description of property.
The great importance, Sir, of every thing that is said by the first minister of the country, in respect to the affairs of Ireland, makes it necessary for me to refer to the remedies which he proposes for its disorders. The noble lord says, “Amelioration is to be accomplished by education of the lower orders, by inculcating principles and encouraging habits of order and tranquillity.” “All experience,” his lordship says, “shows, that this was the best and only remedy.” The modus operandi, which is to accompany this remedy, is what I really cannot comprehend. How is education to bring about this amelioration? The body, on which it is to be applied, consists of millions of people, highly educated already in all the mysteries and practices of insurrection; with their minds full of established hatreds and animosities; too old to go to school, and too hardened in long established habits to be influenced by good advice and admonition. Education, it is very true, cannot be too much cultivated and extended in Ireland; but its use will be through its influence on the rising generation, and limited to their improvement.
But the noble lord, in proposing education as a proper remedy, not only proposes what is impracticable as a remedy, as it relates to the actual participation in the existing disturbances, but advances a doctrine, that is not to be supported by any sound principle, of government. Because all experience, and the authority of all the best writers on government, establish this maxim, that the manners of a people are always formed by the laws under which they live. To the laws, therefore, the noble lord should look for the sources of the existing manners of the people of Ireland; and to an alteration of these laws for that amelioration in the condition of that people, which he says is to be accomplished only by education.
An hon. member (Mr. John Smith), who on all occasions, when Ireland is the subject of debate, expresses such liberal arid kind feelings for its welfare, mentioned Scotland, in the last debate on the Insurrection act, as illustrative of the effect of education in correcting the savage, and insurrectionary manners of a people; but, the hon. member is not historically accurate in connecting effects 1166 with their proper causes. The case of Scotland is this: Fletcher of Saltoun relates, that the lower orders, about the end of the seventeenth century, were in a condition of perfect barbarism and law lessness; but the frightful catalogue of vices which he enumerates, were to be traced, and have always been traced, to the misconduct of government. The state of society which then existed was the natural consequence of arbitrary government, and of the attempts which were made to subvert the religion of the people by the roost cruel persecutions. This was the source of the evil. The remedy was not education; but such a change in the laws, as restored and established the religion of the country. It was this act of conciliation and concession, that put an end to the civil commotions of; Scotland, and laid the foundation for that state of order and tranquillity, which has since made the union between Scotland arid England so great a blessing to both countries. It is no doubt very true, that education has had a great share in civilizing Scotland; but without the preparatory measure of removing political discontent, every one must see that education could have done but little.
But again, in respect to Scotland, let it be remembered, that the education of that country is confided to the management of the Scotch people, and their own clergy; and that no minister has yet pro posed to form a plan for educating the people of Ireland, by giving the necessary means to the Catholics, and to the Catholic clergy.
Some statesmen have not hesitated; to; say, that the source of all the disorders of Ireland was to be found in her absentees; but this is a very loose way of accounting for an evil of so great; magnitude. This case of the absentees has been very much misrepresented and exaggerated. In the first place, it is a great mistake to say, that the absentees injure Ireland in respect to her improvement in wealth, because it is precisely the same thing, whether articles of the produce of Ireland are purchased by the landlord in Ireland, or purchased to be exported, to meet his drafts for his rents. It is true, the country suffers; from absentees, by losing their assistance as magistrates, and their example as men of education. But in a great many parts of Ireland, their places are supplied by resident landlords or by respectable agents.
1167 It is not rich resident landlords that are wanting in Ireland, so much as making the middle classes satisfied with their situation, and inducing them to take that active part in society, which enables them so effectually to assist in the administration of the laws, and in preserving the habits of the people. There is, through out Ireland, a very numerous and respect able middle order of people; but they are highly discontented with the laws, and neutral between the people and the government. In respect to the absentees, this may be farther observed, that, in the counties at present the most disturbed, there are more resident gentlemen than in any other part of Ireland. But, in proportion as the number of absentees is an evil, so is it of importance to establish tranquillity, as nothing contributes so much to make new absentees as these disturbances.
There another description of statesmen, who say, that the only way of putting down disturbances in Ireland is by finding employment for the people. But these statesmen overlook all the great principles of political science, and of political economy, upon which the general employment of the people depend. There must exist funds for paying them; but how are these to be created? Not by private subscriptions, or grants of parliament: these are ridiculous inventions for finding employment for a population of seven millions. Funds for employing the people of Ireland depend upon her markets, the profits of capital, and the accumulation of capital. The process of acquiring them is necessarily slow. Nations rise only by degrees out of poverty, and struggle for many years before such a state of things arrives, as admits of a full employment of the whole people. England herself cannot find employment for her whole people. All we can do, in regard to Ireland is, to remove obstructions in the way of industry, of trade, and of the investment of English capital in Ireland. And the most direct way of doing this is, by composing discontents, reconciling the people to the government, and establishing security of persons and property in Ireland.
So much stress is laid upon these supposed causes of disturbances, by persons of name and authority, and so much in jury is the result of erroneous theories concerning them, particularly when they govern the conduct of several members of 1168 the cabinet, that too much pains cannot be taken to expose their true character, and to get the public mind to come to a correct judgment upon the real causes of the disorders. The common error, which is made by the authors and supporters of these theories, is, that they take a very superficial view of the circumstances of Ireland, and build their conclusions on local and temporary outrages. They judge from the proximate excitements of disturbance, and connect only the apparent existing grievance with the consequent outrage belonging to it. They do not take into account the prepared state in which the minds of the people are to join in any commotion, whatever may be the casual or peculiar incident that has occasioned it. They never take into their consideration this question, which was so ably put last year by the right hon. gentleman, the member for Inverness (Mr. C. Grant), in his excellent speech on the state of Ireland*—What is the reason why local commotion spreads so rapidly in Ireland? They wholly forget, that this case of national disease may be one of the mind, of strong feelings, and even of wounded pride. They also make this great mistake, that they think the whole difficulty consists in keeping down the lower orders, because they see only the lower orders concerned in the disturbances; whereas the middle classes are in point of fact, a main part of the question; for in Ireland, as in all other countries, it is by the aid of the middle classes only that the lowest are governed, and brought either to oppose, or to be con tented with the laws.
I have dwelt, Sir, at some length upon the examination into the causes, which may be called the popular causes, that are so generally set forth to account for the disturbances in Ireland, because I am convinced, that the case of Ireland will never be rightly understood, until the whole of them are exposed and abandoned.* See Vol. vi, p. 1500, of the present Series. Mr. Grant, having filled the office of chief secretary to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland for three years, is in every respect fully qualified to come forward as a witness upon the nature and causes of the disturbances in Ireland. His speech contains a most able exposition of them, and should be read by every one anxious to become acquainted with the affairs of Ireland. The great difference that exists in the Opinions of the chief secretary and the present prime minister is peculiarly striking.1169 By serving to present something like a proper explanation of the sources of the evil, they do great harm, in as much as they prevent inquiry from being carried sufficiently far to be able to discover what are the true sources. Tithes, rents, want of education, absentees, unemployed poor, each and all of them no doubt serve to aggravate the evil; each is a great provocation, but they are not the causes of it. For let us suppose all to be done that can be done to afford relief in each particular case can any one feel the smallest confidence, that an end would be put to the disturbances of Ireland? In point of intelligence and wealth, the country would certainly be greatly improved; but, unless the political condition of the people be changed if they continue to, think they are placed in a condition of political inferiority and exclusion, will not this increased intelligence and wealth make them still more formidable than they now are?
To arrive at the source of the evil, and to understand what us likely to prove a proper remedy, more enlarged principles must be referred to, arid the state of the Irish people must be examined according to those rules which the experience of what has occurred in all other countries has established us safe and sound rules for governing mankind. Among those persons who have taken a public part in the affairs of Ireland, there is a class who differ altogether from those to whom I have been alluding in the way of accounting for the disturbances in Ireland but unfortunately, in my opinion, they have been but too little attended to This class conceives the long-continued series of disturbances, resembling each other so entirety in character and execution, must necessarily be the offspring of some uniform, continual, and universal national feeling, originally excited, and afterwards established, by political events having one general influence upon it; and they look back to the history of Ireland for an explanation of those events, and for the cause of this national feeling.
This historical case may be stated in a very few words, without any risk of in accuracy, or any possibility of refutation:—Beginning from the year 1600, we know, that the whole of that century was a century of war, bloodshed, and spoliation: during that century, nearly the whole landed property of the island changed masters by confiscation. The 1170 entire area of Ireland is reckoned at twelve millions of Irish acres: and of that number, lord Clare states, that eleven millions and a half underwent confiscation in the course of the century. The necessary consequence of these events was, that the seventeenth century closed by leaving the deepest discontent and hatred towards England. By this reference to history, the first fact is, established, of great consequence in tracing the causes of the existing disturbances; namely, that at the end of the last century the people of Ireland were possessed of the most fixed and most general feelings of discontent and hatred towards England; and, this being the case, I ask what has been done, what change of system has taken place, since that period, at all calculated to remove this discontent and haired?
Certainly, nothing took place during the first seventy eighteenth century, to alter the feelings of the people of Ireland, but, on the contrary, a vast deal, father to exasperate them. For, immediately after the final conquest of Ireland by William 3rd, that code of laws was commenced which formed that abominable anti-catholic code, which had for its object to deprive the Catholics of all political power and privileges, of the means of acquiring and pre serving property, of education and of religion. And as no change in this policy of governing Ireland was made until the year 1778, it is evident that no alteration, up to that time, could have taken place in the feelings of discontent and hatred of England, which: existed at the end of the seventeenth century.
But, Sir, the tendency of this penal code to keep alive discontent and hatred towards England was greatly aggravated by the direct violation, which these penal laws effected, of the treaty of Limerick, under which Ireland was surrendered by the generals of James to king William. The House, and the people of this country, should always remember, that the conquest of Ireland by William was not complete, until he entered into terms with the Irish general and through them with the people of Ireland. The conquest of Ireland occupied William two years and two moths: several severe battles were fought, and the first siege of Limerick has failed. Until it surrendered, a great portion of Ireland adhered to James. The besieged were in a condition 1171 to have held; out longer; and, had they done so, they would have been relieved by large reinforcements from France a French fleet having arrived in Dingle Bay three days after the capitulation. Had William failed in obtaining possession of Ireland just when he did, it is possible that he would never have surmounted the difficulties of establishing the Revolution; so that, in point of fact, the surrender and treaty of Limerick are very much connected with the success of that great measure.
I will now explain to the House the terms of this treaty. By the first article, “The Roman Catholics of this kingdom (Ireland) shall enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of Charles 2nd: and their majesties, as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such farther security in that particular as may preserve them from any disturbance on account of their religion.” Now, Sir, in the reign of Charles 2nd, the Catholics sat in parliament, and could fill all the civil offices of the state; they were excluded only from corporations.
The ninth article of the treaty is to this effect: “The oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as shall submit to their majesties government, shall be the oath aforesaid, and no other;” namely, the oath of allegiance made in the first year of the reign of William and Mary.*
As the penal laws against the Catholics derive all their force, by requiring oaths and declarations which are wholly different from this oath of allegiance, namely, the oath of supremacy, and the declaration against transubstantiation, it is quite evident they were direct violations of the treaty. No one can doubt, that the object of the Irish generals, who proposed the conditions of the treaty, was, to secure the rights and privileges of the constitution: this was the consideration for which they surrendered Ireland to William and to England; and such would have been the necessary consequence of* a fair fulfilment of it. But in place of this result, the penal laws excluded the Catholics* “I, A. B., sincerely and solemnly swear, that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to their majesties king William and queen Mary. So help me God.1172 from the constitution, and left it only in the possession of the Protestants, thereby not only taking away what the Catholics had a right to have, but giving to the Protestants a superiority over them, and every kind of arbitrary power to enforce the penal laws with rigour against them. This is the basis on which the government of Ireland was formed at the Revolution. The same system of government has existed ever since: a government established on the principle of excluding six millions of the people from those rights and privileges which had been guaranteed to them by the solemn act of a king of England. May I not ask, is it not very probable, that all the misfortunes which have befallen Ireland during the last 130 years, and which now afflict, her, would have been prevented had faith been kept with the Roman Catholics?
I am very well aware, Sir, that the construction which I am now giving to the treaty of Limerick is not the construction given to it by some other persons. A Mr. Browne, formerly representative of the university of Dublin, and Dr. Duigenan, published laboured, pamphlets to endeavour to show, that all that was guaranteed to the Catholics was the toleration of their religion: but let those gentlemen who wish to see the treaty fully explained, read in Curry’s Civil Wars of Ireland the arguments of sir Theobald Butler, Mr. Malone, and sir. Stephen Rice, at the bar of the Irish House of Commons, against the popery laws, and they will see how full of sophistry these writings are of Mr. Browne and Dr. Duigenan.
That the Catholics considered and. complained of the penal laws as a violation of this treaty is proved by the effort they made, with the assistance of these learned and able counsel, to stop them from passing. Their endeavours were in vain; for the Irish parliament, in defiance of all faith and decency, broke through all the engagements under which Ireland had been surrendered to England. But the publication of Mr. Burke’s posthumous works has put an end to all controversy concerning the treaty of Limerick, as it is impossible to refute the arguments which he sets forth to prove the violation of it. In the Tracts on the Popery Laws, he says, “It will now be seen, that even if these laws could be supposed agreeable to those of nature in these particulars, on another, and almost as strong a principle 1173 they are yet unjust, as being contrary to positive compact, and the public faith most solemnly plighted. On the surrender of Limerick and some other Irish garrisons, in the war of the Revolution, the lords justices of Ireland, and the commander-in chief of the king’s forces, signed a capitulation with the Irish, which was afterwards ratified by the king himself by inspeximus under the great seal of England. It contains some public articles relative to the whole body of the Roman Catholics in that kingdom, and some with regard to the security of the greater part of the inhabitants of five counties. What the latter were, or in what manner they were observed, is, at this day, of much less public concern. The former are two, the 1st and 9th: the 1st is of this tenour: The Roman Catholics of this kingdom (Ireland) shall enjoy such privileges, in the exercise of their religion, as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of Charles the 2nd; and their majesties, as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such farther security in that particular, as may preserve them from any disturbance on account of their religion.’ The 9th article is to this effect: ‘The oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as submit to their majesties’ government shall be the oath aforesaid, and no other,’ &c. viz. the oath of allegiance, made by an act of parliament in England, in the first year of their then majesties, as required by the second of the articles of Limerick.” “Compare,” says Mr. Burke, “this latter article with the penal laws, and judge whether they seem to be the public acts of the same power, and observe whether other oaths are tendered to them, and under what penalties. Compare the former with the same laws, from the beginning to the end, and judge whether Roman Catholics have been preserved, agreeably to the sense of the article, from, any disturbance upon account of their religion: or rather, whether on that account there is a single right of nature, or benefit of society, which has not been either totally taken away or considerably impaired.”
“But,” proceeds Mr. Burke, “it is said that the legislature was not bound by this article, as it has never been ratified in parliament. I do admit it never had that sanction, and that the parlia- 1174 ment was under no obligation to ratify these articles by any express act of theirs. But still I am at a loss how they come to be less valid, on the principles of our constitution, by being without that sanction. They certainly bound the king and his successors. The words of the article do this, or they do nothing: and, so far as the Crown had a share in passing those acts (the penal laws), the public faith was unquestionably broken. But,” continues Mr. Burke, “the constitution will warrant us in going a great deal farther, and in affirming, that a treaty executed by the Crown, and contradictory of no preceding law, is full as binding on the whole body of the nation as if it had twenty times, received the sanction of parliament; because the very same constitution which has given to the houses, of parliament their definite authority, has also left to the Crown the trust of making peace, as a consequence, and much the best consequence, of the prerogative to making war. If the peace was ill made my lords Galway, Coningsby, and Porter, who signed it, were responsible, because they were subject to the community But its own contracts are not subject to it, it is subject to them: and the compact of the king, acting constitutionally, is the compact of the nation. Observe what monstrous consequences would result from a contrary position. A foreign enemy has entered, or a domestic one has arisen in the nation. In such events, the circumstances may be, and often have been, that parliament cannot sit. That was precisely the case in that rebellion of Ireland.” Vol. ix, p. 377.
With such an authority as that of Mr. Burke, I may with safety say, that there was a violation of the treaty of Limerick by the enactment of the popery, laws; and no one can doubt, that these lass must have contributed to the continuing that discontent and hatred to England, which had been established by the events of the seventeenth century. As new penal laws against the Catholics were passed through all the reigns preceding that of Geo, 3rd, and as no change whatever took place till the first act for giving relief, in 1778, it is therefore, correct to infer, that nothing had happened, up to that period, to abate the discontent and hatred of Ireland towards England.
I will now, Sir, examine, whether, from the year 1778 to the present time, any political occurrence have taken place 1175 of such a nature as to enable us to suppose, that at this moment there exist less discontent and less hatred to England in Ireland, than at former periods. It is, no doubt, true, that the late reign was distinguished by many very valuable concessions to Ireland. The act of 1793 was unquestionably a great favour conferred upon the Catholics. But the effects which ought to have followed those measures have never taken place. The liberal and kind intentions of the king, and of parliament have been intercepted by the old hostile spirit of exclusive government which has had possession, almost without interruption, of all power in Ireland; and the consequence has been, that new discontent has arisen, from no practical enjoyment being allowed of the benefits which were intended to have been given by the relief acts: so that the public mind has been occupied almost perpetually, with the numerous evils which have been the consequence of the efforts and insults of the Orange associations, rather than in estimating, very justly, the value of what has been conceded.
Besides, it has unfortunately happened, that, just when the system of legislation became more conciliatory, in respect to the popery laws, it became very sanguinary and severe in punishing popular excesses. The White boy act, the Tithe acts, the Insurrection and Martial-law acts, which in succession were passed during the late reign, have kept alive, in full vigour, all the old hatred and hostility to the English law and government; and, therefore, what between the effects of the administration Of the Irish government being in the hands of the Orange party, and of these sanguinary laws, we are obliged to draw this conclusion, in respect to the present temper and feelings of the people of Ireland towards England, that there exists no reason for supposing, that it is less hostile now than it was at the end of the seventeenth century.
In coming to this conclusion, Sir, I have the sanction of the authority of the present and last chief secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland. The late chief, secretary (Mr. C. Grant), in his speech last year, describes the vivid recollections of past history, and the force and intensity of mental associations, which distinguish the lower orders of the people. The present chief secretary (Mr. Goulburn), in his speech last year, on sir John Newport’s motion, gave to the House a very 1176 accurate description of the origin of the disorders of Ireland; and, had he followed out his own facts to their proper conclusion, he would have given the same description of the sources of the existing disorders as I now do. He said, “A bitter animosity existed to the English government, that had been handed down, since the conquest of Ireland, from father to son, and which at this moment pervaded the minds of the Irish peasantry.”—”Up to that very moment,” he said, “the conduct which had been pursued, in the conquest of Ireland, was referred to in that country as a just ground for hatred of the existing government.”
In addition to these authorities, I am able to refer to the Catholics themselves; for they say, in the late address, agreed upon to be presented by the Catholic body to the king, “The main vice of the system of misrule is the system of hostility to the law, in which it places the great majority of the people.” This hostility, this bitter animosity, this discontent and hatred, which were general in Ireland at the end of the seventeenth century, which were continued by the popery laws, and which have farther been continued by bad government, and by coercive laws, and which exist up to this very moment against England, form that deep-seated disease which is the source of all commotion and disturbance, and which we have now to attempt to cure. This is the evil we have to contend with, we must cure this, to put down disturbances. This is my opinion, after long deliberation, after seeing and knowing the people, tracing events, and examining them in all ways; an opinion, which, I feel confident, is borne out by the actual circumstances of Ireland.
Then, Sir, I feel that I may safely say, that none of those remedies, which are commonly proposed, can be of any avail; not any of them will serve to conciliate the feelings of the people, so long estranged to the English government. As to the Insurrection act, and measures of that kind, they can do no good; for measures of force have in no country removed discontent, when it has once got fast hold of the public mind; on the contrary, they have always increased it, and made the evil take deeper root.
To treat, therefore, the case of Ireland properly, we must begin by acknowledging, that the people have had great cause to be discontented, and to be hostile 1177 to the English law and English connexion; we must consider it as beyond all dispute, that this discontent and hostility exist, to as great a degree as ever, at the present moment; and we must adopt those measures which have been so often successful in this country when, similar disorders: have prevailed. The history of England, fortunately, is not without precedents to point out the proper remedy in such a case. This country has often been rent asunder by internal commotion; but, as the refusal or withdrawing of some constitutional right has always been the cause, so the concession of the right has always proved a remedy. The case of Wales resembles that of Ireland in a very remarkable degree. It was not considered a part of the realm. It was governed by lords marches in a very arbitrary manner. The people were fierce and uncultivated, and in constant disorder. Severe laws were passed, but to no purpose; until, in the reign of Henry the eighth, the English constitution was given to Wales, and then all disorder ceased, and the country became tranquil and happy.** As in the course of the debate it was asserted, that the case of Wales did not apply to that of Ireland, the following extract from Mr. Burke’s Speech on America will serve to refute this assertion. “I am sure,” says Mr. Burke, “I shall hot be misled, when, in a case of constitutional difficulty, I consult the genius of the English constitution;”—”and consulting at that oracle,” he says, “I refer to the example of Wales.” “This country,” he proceeds to say, “was said to be reduced by Henry the third. It was said more truly to be so by Edward the first. But though then conquered it was not looked upon as any part of the realm of England. Its old constitution, whatever that might have been, was destroyed, and no good one was substituted in its place. The manners of the Welsh nation followed the genius of the government; the people were ferocious, restive, savage, and uncultivated; sometimes composed, never pacified. Wales, within itself, was in perpetual disorder; and it kept the frontier of England in perpetual alarm. Benefits from it to the state there were none. Wales was only known to England by incursion and invasion.”—”Sir,” Mr. Burke says, “during that state of things parliament was not idle. They attempted to subdue the fierce spirit, of the Welsh by all sorts of rigorous laws. When the Statute book was not quite so much swelled as it is now, you find no less than fifteen acts of penal regulation on the subject of Wales. Here we rub our hands.—A fine body of precedents for the authority of parliament and the use of it! I admit it fully; and pray add likewise to these pre-1178 Now that every attempt that has hitherto been tried to put down disturbance and to check the spirit of insurrection in Ireland has failed, and that the disorders are increasing and. becoming most formidable, would it not be wise to change the system of governments, and see whether the giving to Ireland the constitution would not have the same good effect that it bad in Wales? This experiment has never yet been tried, though often promised, and surely there exist abundant reasons for no longer deferring it. But, Sir, when I intimate an opinion, that the proper remedy for the disorders of Ireland is the giving of the constitution, I am fully sensible that I tread on disputable ground: that there, are those who maintain, that Ireland possesses the English constitution; and, what is rather curious, they date the period of its origin at the Revolution, when the treaty of Limerick was violated by the passing of the popery laws.
Now, I have no hesitation in asserting,cedents, that all the while Wales rid this kingdom like an incubus: that it was unprofitable and oppressive burthen.” Your ancestors did, however, at length open their eyes to the ill husbandry of injustice. They, found, that the tyranny of a free people could, of all tyrannies, the least be endured; and that laws made against a whole nation were not the most effectual methods for securing its obedience Accordingly, in the 27th year of Henry the eighth, the course was entirely altered. With a preamble, stating the entire and perfect rights of the crown of England, it gave the Welsh all the rights and privileges of English subjects. A political order was established; the military power gave way to the civil; the marches were turned into counties. But that a nation, should have a right to English liberties, and yet no share at all in the fundamental security of these liberties, the grant of their own property, seemed a thing so incongruous, that eight years after, that is, in the thirty-fifth of the reign, a complete and not ill-proportioned representation by counties and boroughs was bestowed upon Wales, by an act of parliament. From that moment, as by a charm, the tumults subsided; obedience was restored; peace, order, and civilization followed in the train of liberty. When the day-star of the English constitution had arisen in their hearts, all was harmony within and without.—”Simul alba nautisStella refulsit,Defluit saxis agitatus humor:Concidunt venti: fugiuntque nubes;Et minax (quod sic voluere) pontoUnda recumbit.Parl. Hist. v. 18, p. 512.1179 in the most unqualified and positive manner, that Ireland does not enjoy the English constitution. Six-sevenths of the people are deprived of many of its most essential privileges, but particularly of that right which forms the fundamental security of English liberty—the right of representation. Nominally the constitution does exist in Ireland. The great bulwarks of English liberty are by law established there, but they exist only by name, except for the benefit of a few. There are juries, there are the Habeas Corpus act, the elective franchise, and representation by counties and boroughs: but let it be remembered under what exceptions and qualifications, and in what and in what way the constitution is administered! No one can deny, that the administration of it may totally alter its character and its character and its real efficacy. In point of fact, no one thing can be more unlike to another thing than the constitution as it exists in Ireland is to the constitution as it exists in England. Those great principles of morals and public virtue, which direct in England the constitution in all its operations are yet to be acquired in Ireland; and perhaps it may safely he said, that that party in Ireland, who have exclusively held the power of the state in their own hands, are distinguished beyond all other men by being little subject to the influence of these great and valuable moving principles.
But, Sir, the best tests in a question of this kind are the actual facts belonging to it. Take the Catholics of Ireland; do they really enjoy the practical benefits which all Englishmen enjoy under their constitution? How many rights are taken from them by law? What are the effects of those privations? Are they on a footing of equality with their fellow countrymen? Do they not really live subject to the tyranny of a part of the people; that is, to the worst of all tyrannies—the tyranny of a free people?
The truth is, that being deprived of representation by persons of their own persuasion, they are deprived of the fundamental security of English liberty. They are in that state in which Wales was described to be; a nation having a right to English liberties, and yet no share in the fundamental security of those liberties—the grant of their own property. True it is, that Catholics may Vote at elections, and send Protestant representatives to parliament but this 1180 sort of virtual representation is not sufficient. No Protestant can represent Catholics, in the spirit and meaning of English representation. There must be an actual identity and sympathy in all respects between the constituent and the representative; and the truth and importance of this intimate connection cannot be better illustrated than by the actual condition of the Catholics; for had Catholics been allowed to sit in parliament, would it have been possible to keep on the Statute book the numerous vexatious and grievous laws which still exist there? And could a small party of Irishmen have been allowed to exercise all the powers of government in the way they have done over six-sevenths of their countrymen? Mr. Burke illustrates the necessity of real representation by refers ring again to Wales, when speaking of America. He says, Wales Chester, and Durham were surrounded by abundance of representation that was actual and palpable. “But,” he adds, “your ancestors thought this sort of virtual representation, however ample, to be totally insufficient for the freedom of the inhabitants of territories, that are so near and comparatively so inconsiderable; how then can I think it sufficient for those which are infinitely greater and infinitely more remote?” Ireland, then, like Wales, Chester, and Durham, must possess the right of real representation, before, like them, she will properly possess the English constitution.
But, Sir, if what I have already advanced is not sufficient to establish the case, that Ireland does not possess the English constitution, and that the proper remedy for its disorders will be, the giving of the constitution to her, I shall be able, without the possibility of failure, to establish both these points by referring to what took place at the time of the Union. For I shall be able to show, that Mr. Pitt must have acted under the impression, that Ireland did not possess the Constitution; and also, that his main object in carrying that measure was, to give to Ireland the constitution.