Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

tions were opened in every church and chapel of Great Chap. Britain; and no less than £350,000 was subscribed in a x' few weeks, and remitted to Dublin, to aid the efforts of the 1822local committees, by whom £150,000 had been raised for the same benevolent purpose. By these means the famine was stayed, and the famishing multitude was supported, till a favourable crop, in the succeeding year, restored the usual means of subsistence.*

Those awful scenes, in which the visitations of Providence were mingled with the crimes and punishment of suspension man—and both were met, and could be softened only, by beas Corpus the unwearied energy of Christian benevolence—excited, t^mt as well they might, the anxious attention of Governmenttiou Actand the British Parliament. Whatever the remote causes of so disastrous a state of things might be, it was evident that nothing but vigorous measures of repression could be relied on in the mean time. Justice must do its work before wisdom commenced its reform. Unfortunately only the first was energetically and promptly done; the last, from political blindness and party ambition, was indefinitely postponed. Lord Londonderry (Lord Castlereagh) introduced into the Lower House two bills, one for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act until the 1st August following. This was strongly resisted by the Opposition, but agreed to by a large majority, the numbers being 195 to 68. The Insurrection Act, which authorised the Lord-lieutenant, upon application of a

* "The distress for food, arising principally from the want of means to purchase it, continues to prevail in various districts ; and the Into accounts from the south and west are of the most afflicting character. Colonel Patrickson, whose regiment (the 43d) has recently relieved the 67th in Galway, reports the scenes which that town presents to be truly distressing. Hundreds of half-famished wretches arrive nlmost daily from a distance of fifty miles, many of them so exhausted by want of food that the means taken to restore them fail of effect from the weakness of the digestite organs, occasioned by long fasting." —Sir D. Baibd to Sir H. Taylor, 24th June 1822 ; Memoirs of Lord Wellesley, iii. 843, 344.

In June 1822 there were in Clare alone 99,639 persons subsisting on daily charity; in Cork, 122,000 ; in Limerick, 20,000, out of a population not at that poriod exceeding 67,000.—A nn. Reg., 1822, p. 40.

Chap. certain proportion of the magistrates of a district, to dcx' clare it by proclamation in a state of insurrection—and 1822- in that event gave extraordinary powers of arrest to the magistrates of all persons found out of their houses between sunset and sunrise, and subjected the persons seized, in certain events, to transportation—was next brought forward, and passed by a large majority, the numbers being 59 to 15. Two other bills were also passed, the one indemnifying persons who had seized gunpowder without legal authority since 1st November, and the other imposing severe restrictions on the importation of arms and ammunition. The lawless state of the country, and the constant demand of the nocturnal robbers for arms, rendered these measures absolutely necessary in this as they have been in every other disturbed period of Irish history, and the powers thus conferred were immediately acted upon by.the Lord-lieutenant. iH4ibs' more efficient measure of repression was adopted

Ann. Reg. by a great increase of the police, who were brought to 34.' ' that state of vigour and efficiency which they have ever since maintained.1

The Catholic claims were in this session of Parliament

124

Divisionaon again brought forward by Mr Canning, in the form of a d«iS«!hohc motion to give them seats in the House of Peers, and Apni 30. enforced with all the eloquence of which he was so consummate a mastei\* They were as strongly opposed by

* On this occasion Mr Canning made a very happy use of the late imposing ceremony of the coronation, the splendour of which was still fresh in the minds of his auditors. "Do you imagine," said ho, " it never occurred to the representatives of Europe that, contemplating this imposing spectacle, it never occurred to the ambassadors of Catholic Austria, of Catholic France, or of states more bigoted, if any such there be, to tho Catholic religion, to reflect that the moment this solemn ceremony was over, the Duke of Norfolk would become deprived of the exercise of his privileges among his fellow-peers— stripped of his robes of office, which were to be laid aside, and hung up until the distant (be it a very distant!) day, when the coronation of a successor to his present and gracious sovereign should again call him forth to assist at a similar solemnisation *. Thus, after being exhibited to the peers and people of England, to the representatives of princes and nations of the world, the Duke Mr Peel, who repeated his solemn assurances of indelible Chap.

hostility to the claims of that body. The progressive .—

change in the public mind on this question was evinced in 182a the increasing majority in the Commons, which this year rose to 12, the numbers being 235 to 223, the largest the Catholics had yet obtained in Parliament. The bill, as was anticipated, was thrown out, after a keen debate, in the House of Lords, by a majority of 42, the numbers being 171 to 129. But as the Cabinet was divided upon the subject, and its ablest members spoke in favour of the Catholic claims, and as the House of Commons, by having the command of the public purse, have the real command of the country, these divisions were justly considered by the Catholic party as decisive triumphs in J^^g* their favour, and as presaging, at no distant period, their 67.' admission into both branches of the legislature.1

Another question—that of parliamentary reform— ]2s made a still more important stride in this session of Par- increasing liament; and the increasing numerical strength of the the minority majority, as well as weight of the names of which it was mJ^rj' composed, indicated in an unequivocal manner the turn TM£0TM29. which events were ere long to take on that vital question. Several important petitions had been presented on the subject, both from boroughs and counties, and Lord John Russell was intrusted with the motion. He dwelt in a peculiar manner on the increasing intelligence, wealth, and population of the great towns, once obscure

of Norfolk, highest in rank among the peers, the Lord Clifford, and others like him, representing a long lino of illustrious and heroic ancestors, appeared as if they had been called forth and furnished for the occasion, like the lustres and banners that flamed and glittered in the scene; and were to be, like them, thrown by as useless and temporary formalities: they might, indeed, bend the knee and kiss tho hand; they might bear the train and rear the canopy; they might perform the offices assigned by Roman pride to their barbarian forefathers, 'Purpurea tollant aulaa JSritanni;' but with the pageantry of the hour their importance faded away as their distinction vanished: their humiliation returned, and he who headed the procession to-day could not sit among them as their equal to-morrow."—Canning's Speech, 80th April 1822; Pari. Deb., vii. 232, 233.

Chap. villages, which were unrepresented, and the impossibility x' of permanently excluding them from the share to which

1822- they were entitled in the legislature. Mr Canning as decidedly opposed him, resting his defence of the constitution on the admirable way in which it had practically worked, and the incalculable danger of substituting for a system which had arisen out of the wants, and moulded itself according to the wishes of the people, one more specious iu theory—one -which, on that very account, would in all probability be found on trial to be subject to some fatal defect in practice. As the arguments on this all-important question will be fully given in a future volume, they need not be here anticipated; but the peroration of Mr Canning's splendid reply deserves a place viUM, lis! in history, as prophetic of the future career both of the noble mover and of the country.1

"Our lot is happily cast in the temperate zone of Peroration freedom—the clime best suited to the development of ning's0"1 the moral qualities of the human race, to the cultivation *peoch. of their faculties, and to the security as well as improvement of their virtues—a clime not exempt, indeed, from variations in the elements, but variations which purify while they agitate the atmosphere which we breathe. Let us be sensible of the advantages which it is our happiness to enjoy. Let us guard with pious care the flame of genuine liberty—that fire from heaven, of which our constitution is the holy depository; and let us not, for the chance of rendering it more intense and more brilliant, impair its purity or hazard its extinction. That the noble lord will carry his motion this evening, I have no fear; but with the talents which he has already shown himself to possess, and with, I hope, a long and brilliant parliamentary career before him, he will no doubt renew his efforts hereafter. Although I presume not to expect that he will give any weight to observations or warnings of mine, yet on this, probably the last opportunity I shall have of raising my voice on the question of parliamentary 1822.

reform,* while I conjure the House to pause before it Chap. consents to adopt the proposition of the noble lord, x' I cannot help adjuring the noble lord himself to pause before he again presses it upon the country. If, however, he shall persevere, and if his perseverance shall be successful, and if the results of that perseverance shall be such as I cannot help anticipating, his be the triumph to have precipitated these results, be mine the consolation that, to the utmost and the latest of my power, I have opposed them." The motion was thrown out by, a majority of 105 only—the numbers being 269 toTM. 135. 164.1t

Sir James Mackintosh continued his benevolent and important efforts this year for the reformation of our cri- sir James minal law, and contrasted with great effect the state of tosh's noOuT code, which recognised two hundred and twenty-three iig\hegcn-* capital offences, with that of France, which contained only mmal law* six. In this country, the convictions in the first five years after 1811 were five times greater in proportion to the population than in France; in the second five years they were ten times greater. "This increase," he added, "though in part it might be ascribed to the distress under which the country had groaned, and continued to groan, was also iu part caused by the character of our penal code. The motion to take the subject into serious

* Mr Canning at this period expected to proceed immediately to India, as Governor-general, a prospect which was only changed by his being soon after appointed Foreign Secretary.

t Lord John Russell on this occasion brought forward a very curious and important statement in regard to the newspapers published in the three kingdoms in 1782,1790, and 1821, which clearly indicated the necessity of a concession to the great towns, where their principal readers were to be found. It was as follows:—

[merged small][table]
« ForrigeFortsett »