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Irish Affairs—Slate of Ireland under the Repeal Agitalion—The Irish Arms Bill introduced by the Government—Long and vehement opposition to that measure—Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill —Speech of the Secretary for Ireland—Mr. Sharman Cranford, seconded by Lord Clements, moves the rejection of the Bill—Speeches of Mr. Bateson, Mr. Sheil, the Attorney General for Ireland, Lord John Russell, Wiscount Bernard, Mr. W. Smith O'Brien, Mr. C. Buller, Mr. Shan, Sir James Graham, Mr. Roebuck, Sir H. Barron, Sir David Roche, and Sir Robert Peel—The Second Reading is carriedly 270 to 105—An amendment moved by Mr. Smith O'Brien is rejected—Protracted Discussions on the Bill in Committee—Discussions in the House of Lords on the Dismissal of Magistrates and other Irish Affairs—Motion of Marquis of Clanricarde on the case of Lord Ffrench—Remarks of the Duke of Wellington—General Discussion on the Repeal Meetings, and the conduct of the Government -Lord Clanricarde again moves, on the 14th July, resolutions con
domalory of the Dismissal of the Irish Magistrates—The Duke of Wellington vindicates the course pursued by the Lord Chancellor of
Ireland—The resolutions are negatived after a Debate by 91 to 29– Debate in the House of Lords on the presentalion of a Petition from the North of Ireland by Lord Roden–His Speech—Ansner of the Duke of Wellington—Speeches of Lord Winchilsea, Lord Brougham, Marquis of Clanricarde, and other Peers—Mr. Smith O'Brien's Molion in the House of Commons for a Committee on Irish grievances -General character of this discussion—It is continued for five nights—Able and temperate Speech of Mr. O'Brien—The Motion is seconded by Mr. Wyse—Opposed by Lord Eliot–Some of the Conservative Members speak in favour of the Motion—Speeches of Mr. C. Wood, Sir Honard Douglas, Captain Rous, Viscount Hon'ick, Mr. M. J. O'Connell, Mr. Smythe, Mr. Colquhoun, Mr. Sharman Cranford, Mr. R. Bateson, Sir R. Peel, Lord John Russell, Mr. B. Roche, Lord Palmerston, Lord Stanley, and other Members— The Second Reading is carried by a majority of 79–The Third Reading is carried by 66, after a Debate on the 9th of August -Speeches of Mr. Sheil, and Sir Robert Peel—Debate on the Second Reading in the House of Lords—Speech of Lord Camoys—He avon's his hostility to the Protestant Church—DisClosion upon the construction of the Roman Catholic Oath—Severe Remarks of Lord Brougham on Lord Camoys's Speech—Speeches of Marquess of Lansdonne, Marquess of Clanricarde, Earls of Win.
chilsea, Shrensbury, and Wicklon, Lords Beaumont and Campbell, — The Bill read a Second time without Division–Brief Discussion in Committee—The Bill is passed.
O Session has passed by for several years, without a large portion of time being occupied in the discussion of the affairs of Ireland. The Session with which we are now engaged formed no exception to this rule. The debates on Irish questions were not only as long, and as copious, but several of them were as much signalised by party animosity and excited feeling, as those of preceding years. Towards the latter part of this Session, indeed, the unusually agitated state of the country, produced by the Repeal movement, to which it will be necessary to allude more fully in a subsequent chapter, lent an additional element of exasperation to the debates in Parliament. The measures of repression which the Government deemed it necessary to adopt in this emergency, were met by the advocates of the popular party in the House of Commons, with all the resources which an angry and determined spirit of resistance could supply for their urpose. Towards the latter part of May a Bill was proposed by the Ministry, nearly similar to one which had been passed by the Whig Cabinet in one of the trou. bled pe iods under their rule, requiring the registration of firearms, and restricting the importation of arms and ammunition. This Bill was opposed by some of the Irish Members with an unusual vehemence and pertinacity, every stage of its progress was obstinately though vainly resisted, nor did it finally pass into a law, untila great ‘deal of the latter part of the Sesision had been consumed in reiterated discussion of the same too.
pics to the postponement of several other Government measures of importance, nor until both Parliament and the country had become wearied with a controversy so tedious and unsatisfactory, All the grievances which the Irish people or their advocates had to urge against the English Government were canvassed and contested in these discussions, and all the details of the policy of the existing Government, and of theWhig Cabinets which preceded it, were contrasted at the utmost length and with quite the usual amount of acerbity and party-feeling. It would require the larger part of this volume to follow the course of the numerous discussions on these subjects, and present even an abridged summary of the arguments which were used on either side. It will, however, be sufficient for the purpose of exhibiting the main grounds on which the policy of the Government was supported and opposed, to give some passages of the more important and effective speeches that were delivered, and to notice the few more striking features of a discussion, for the most part remarkably destitute of novelty and attraction: The second reading of the Bill was moved on the 29th May by Lord Eliot, the Secretary for Heland. In introducing the subject, the noble Mover gave a short history of the origin and successive renewal of the Irish Arms Acts, beginning with the 33rd Geo. III. ch. 2. and ending with the billintroduced by Lord Morpeth, in 1838. He admitted that all such enactments were, in some degree, restraints upon the liberty of the subject, and in that respect objectionable; but he urged that the present state of Ireland made it necessary to impose them. The reports of the leading persons conhected with the constabulary force contained important evidence respecting he propensities of the Irish peasantry to violence and intimidation, and their extreme asidity for the possession of arms. Now the possession of fire-arms facilitated the assassinations which had unhappily been so numerous of late years, and murders committed with such weapons were more difficult to be traced, than where death had been inflicted in any other way. He referred, by way of example, to the cases of the late Lord Norbury, and of several other victims, whose murderers had never been detected, and to a great number of attacks made upon houses with a view of procuring arms. He then explained some of the provisions of the bill. All fire-arms, for whatever purpose, in the possession of individuals, were to be registered and their owners licensed, under certain regulations, with penalties for non-compliance. With respect to the possession of unlawful arms, as pikes and daggers, the existing law imposed a punishment of a twelvemonth's imprisonment for the first offence, and transportation for the second, without discretion to the Judge: by the bill, a disCretionary power would be given to the Judge, as no minimum of punishment would be fixed; and if the accused could show that the arms were deposited in his house without his knowledge or sanction, he would be altogether exempt. instead of the warrant of two Jastices in order to search districts
for arms, which is required by the existing law, and which in practice has been found inconvenient, one Justice is to grant a searchwarrant ; in which, however, the Police, to whom it is intrusted, are to be named. And it was proposed to give to the Lord Lieutenant power to issue his warrant to certain members of the constabulary force not below the rank of Sub-Inspector, which was that of an officer in a regiment. The existing law forbids the purchase of more than two pounds of gunpowder at a time, of any one dealer, but does not prevent the purchase of that quantity from each of any number of dealers ; the bill would abolish that restriction, but would impose a penalty on the selling of gunpowder to any person not licensed to purchase it. The term of imprisonment on the non-payment of such fines would be reduced from two to one month. The debate thus commenced was continued for three successive nights. Mr. Sharman Crawford led the opposition to it, by moving that it be read a second time that day six months. He said the time was come when Ireland should be governed by good legislation and not by coercion; but the bill, providing that license to possess firearms should only be granted on certificate from two householders, would have the effect of placing it in the power of Protestant householders to prevent the Catholics from procuring arms. Mr. Craw'ford proceeded to condemn as unjust and oppressive other parts of the bill ; the requiring every person in whose possession arms are found to disprove a guilty knowledge; the inquisition by constaoble, meeting persons with arms in their hands; the power to commit persons to gaol on merely being accounted suspicious; the penalty for the indefinite offence of possessing “any weapon capable of being used as a pike or spear; ” and in all these cases the evidence of one witness would suffice to convict | Lord Eliot had shown himself to be influenced by the most superficial views respecting the state of Ireland; why should the people desire to have arms ? was it judicious to war with the symptom instead of destroying the cause A far better plan than an Arms Bill would be to ameliorate the condition of the people ; and the evil lies in the relation of landlord and tenant. What other causes of complaint have been removed P. There is still the saw Church, with tithes : a Poor-law has been attempted, but calculated to give no satisfaction. Mr. Crawford urged the certainty that Ireland would be best subdued by equal laws, good institutions, kindness, and impartiality of legislation. Lord Clements seconded the amendment. He regretted that it was so moderately worded, for he would gladly have supported a proposal that the Serjeant should be ordered to kick the Bill out of the House. He thanked Lord Eliot, however, for having introduced the monster in its proper shape, for, in former years, the course had been to bring in a mere continuation-bill of half-adozen lines, whereas now the abomination appeared entire on 1he face of the Bill. There were a variety of measures needed for Ireland, none of which were brought forward by Government; tolls, grand-juries, registrations, manor-courts, and many other subjects required legislation, but
nothing useful would ever be enacted while the Government of Ireland was left in the hands of the clerks of Dublin Castle. The present measure, if it passed, would pass against the sense of the majority of the Irish Members. Sir R. Peel had declared himself generally adverse to extraordinary measures of coercion, as widening the breach between the higher and lower classes, and weakening the efficacy of the ordinary law. Now all these evils would be produced by the present Bill, and a milder measure would have effected all the really legitimate objects of it. Since the year 1792, there had never been a period when Ireland was so long without coercive measures as she had now been. There had been times at which the Arms Act was suffered to expire, and to lie unrenewed for two or three years together, and he did not find that in those intervals all Ireland had been a scene of bloodshed. Lord Clements, at very great length, went on through the list of the enactments passed from time to time for the preservation of the public peace in Ireland, marking the circumstances under which each had been respectively passed, its date and its duration. The present Bill, he said, contained a clause respecting the arms of the Yeomanry Corps. These corps, though they called themselves loyal Protestants, had refused to give up their arms at the order of Government when disbanded. They had since, in many cases, sold those arms into the worst of hands, and thus it was, that an Arms Bill had now come to be thought necessary. Mr. Bateson considered that Lord Clements's speech itself proved the necessity for this Bill. This was not really so much a measure of coercion, as of protection for those who stood in need of being protected, and it was a merciful measure for those whom it would savefrom beinghurried into crimes, by agitators as cowardly in fact as they were blustering in speech, He wished that those who talked 50 loudly about dying for their Country, would take to the easier o more useful duty of living for er,
Mr. Sheil delivered a vehement and brilliant harangue against the Bill, which he was persuaded would prove wholly inefficient. The spiit of outrage which prevailed in that county with which he was best acquainted, Tipperary, arose, not from the want of an Arms Bill, but from the want of a due administration of justice. The Crown Solicitor who conducted the prosecutions at the assizes was not resident in the county, but at Dublin; he knew nothing of the parties or witnesses, and thus was easily foiled by the legal assistants of the prisoners, men who were acquainted with everything and everybody there. Again, it was the practice of the Crown to bribe informers, but to leave witnesses unprotected. Thirdly, the higher classes were averse to serve on the petty juries at the assizes: the Only remedy for such reluctance would probably be a fine of 500l. or 600l. But he objected to the principle of this Bill: it took from the honest the means of defence; it could not take from the ruffian the means of annoyance; and even if it could deprive him of his most noisy weapon, it would still leave to him the more silent and fearful engines of death. But his main objection to the Bill was founded On the distinction between Ireland
and England which it established. “Repeal the Union — restore the Heptarchy!" Thus exclaimed George Canning, and stamped his foot as he gave utterance to what he regarded as a comparison in absurdity which has been often cited. But that exclamation may be turned to an account different from that to which it is applied. Restore the Heptarchy — repeal the Union. , Good. But take up the map of England, and mark the Saxon subdivisions into which this, your noble island, was once distributed; and then suppose that in this assembly of wise men —this Imperial Parliament—you were to ordain that there should be one law in what once was the kingdom of Kent, and another in what once was the kingdom of Mercia; that in Essex there should be one municipal franchise, and in Sussex there should be another; that among the East Angles there should be one Parliamentary franchise, and in Wessex there should be another; and that while through the rest of the island the Bill of Rights should be regarded as the inviolate and inviolable charter of British liberty, in the kingdom of Northumberland an Arms Bill, by which the elementary principles of British freedom should be set at nought, should be enacted : would you not say that the restoration of the Heptarchy could scarcely be more prepos. terous? Nor would the English endure such a measure. In 1819, an English Arms Bill, one of the Six Acts, was proposed by Lord Castlereagh; it was comprised in a single page ; while Lord Eliot's bill wasawhole volume of coercion : in the English Act no penalty was inflicted for the possession of arms; under the Irish Bill an