Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

there was

whether you vest any. commissioned ruffian with that discretion ? Here, then, the learned gentleman mis-stated what he was to argue upon; and then did he even argue fairly on that mis-statement ? No; for he takes that as impossible which I myself have known to have taken place. He says, such ruffians as I describe could never have been officially employed, and have made their office the pretence of wanton outrage ; but I have known such ruffians to have been employed, and such outrages to have been committed. That delicacy of the other sex has been grossly obtruded on and wantonly insulted; this was no . light matter ; more in that sentiment than a joke could do away: the honour of a female in any class must be held sacred, and it is wrong to make it the subject of parliamentary jocularity.

The Committee then divided : for the “ ten minutes,” 30; for the “reasonable time,” 71 : Majority 41.

Upon the period of “ two years, and to the end of the next session of Parliament,” being proposed for the duration of the act, Sir John Newport objected to it: he proposed it should be annual. This was opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Colonel Vereker, General Phipps, and Mr. J. C. Beresford. The amendment was supported by Mr. Windham and Lord Howick, who said that he did not mean to oppose the principle of the measure ; no change had taken place on the subject since his retirement from office. As to the particulars of the bill, the draught had been only sent to him from Ireland, immediately previous to the change of administration, and he had not had time to peruse it.

Mr. Grattan observed, that the period for the duration of the act was too long; that no reason could be given for, and many reasons could be given against a term of duration for longer than a year. That the bill was an act of power, for such he would still call it, and that the mild use of it would be best secured by making the term as short as possible; such was the case of the mutiny bill; such was the case of the first insurrection act; and such, in general, the case of similar acts passed, because necessary, and limited to a short period; because they suspended the operation of the common law. That he should vote for the bill notwithstanding; that it was not a new measure, but was the continuation of an old act with substantial mitigations, which act was in existence at present, and had been so for the last eleven years; the clause with regard to compulsatory oaths was indispensable; the clause with regard to the testimony of witnesses was also indispensable, and had appeared to be so on the late trials; that the clause regarding the trials of persons in proclaimed districts was most materially mitigated, for that, instead of a trial by

two justices, the jurisdiction is transferred to the bench of justices at their session, where an assistant barrister and a king's counsel must be present, and where no sentence, in case of a conviction, can be executed against the opinion of the king's counsel until the case shall be transmitted to the Lordlieutenant, and the sentence be by him approved and confirmed.

The bill, therefore, was not like the present insurrection bill, nor like martial law; it was, however, a very strong measure, and he voted for it, because he knew there were lately certain secret meetings in Ireland of a treasonable nature, tending to re-organize the country, and prepare for the reception of the French. He did not say these meetings were many or numerous, but he said they existed, and that if they should spread and re-organize the country, the country would be put under military government, and might, in the end, be transferred to France; further, there had been certain disturbances in the west of Ireland, and bodies of men assembled, not indeed connected with France, but capable of any impulse, and if the French were coming, more than capable of a French impulse: further, that France was now mistress of the greater part of the continent of Europe, had made peace with our allies, was making overtures (as appeared from the French bishop's prayer) to Ireland, and had a party in that country already: he desired distinctly to be understood, that he did not say the people of Ireland were turbulent or disaffected; shameful charges ! that he had ever condemned such charges as unfounded and unwarrantable, particularly after the recent instance they had given of their temper and good sense, but he did say, that such proceedings as he had stated above warranted the bill under consideration. The crown lawyers in Ireland thought so; they had been employed in different parts of the country, and, therefore, had a knowledge of her condition; the late and the present crown lawyers consulted by the government, united with that knowledge a very accurate and profound skill in the law, and had proved their regard for the constitution, and that, with that knowledge of the country, and skill in the law, and regard for the constitution, they framed or approved of the bill under your consideration. That the minister had stated that it receives the approbation of the present confidential lawyers of Ireland, and we know it was framed by those who preceded them; that the former Irish administration not only approved of the bill, but formed it, and that the most confidential person in that ministry (Mr. Plunket) was a leading character in the law, and distinguished for his regard to the constitution: that against such authority, and against the information already stated, it would be a bold assertion to maintain, that the government could with safety give up, totally and entirely, the power which, for the last eleven years, she had possessed, and trust to the common law to baffle French organization and French intrigue in Ireland. That such organization and intrigue should be the object on which this bill should act, that he did not think "government would venture now to use it for the purpose of party or religious resentment; he did allow, however, the powers given by this law might be abusecl, but, in the alternative, whether a French party shall abuse your privileges, or the government abuse its power, he thought there could be no doubt on which side the probability rested; besides, the powers of government may be abused, and a remedy remain; but, in the other case, considering the present power of France, if the abuse should be successful there would be no redemption. In short, no abuse of the powers of government could be equal to the danger of suffering France to hatch an organised force in the heart of the country to meet her when she comes to your shores.

He agreed with those, who said Ireland should be won by conciliation, and, therefore, he had been for every mild

He had stated, repeatedly, the necessity of the principle of mild government; but he had done more; for, if he had done that only, he had done but little; he stated, or brought forward the particular measures of conciliation, but he would never agree that the disappointments and resentments of the country should be rendered fatal to herself, and that a foreign power should take advantage of them; measures to .prevent such an event, are not measures taken against conciliation, but against seduction. He agreed the country was quiet, but, that the peace of the country, and its organization might go on together. The French party had not broken out into tumult most certainly, but, that in order it should not do so, in order that the country should continue undisturbed, and that the French party should not proceed on its organization, such a measure was advisable and would perhaps render the proclaiming any district unnecessary, by holding over that party, the power contained in this bill. He was aware, that the disturbances in the west had been subdued without the application of the proclaiming power given by the act, and he thought the government had acted wisely; but that the disturbances in the west appear, from the report of the trials, to have proceeded on an opinion, that laws against tumultuous risings had expired; and further, that no man could say, that if the French were coming, such an insurrection could have been speedily put down, and effectually kept down, without some such power; or rather, would any man select such a moment for giving up the power totally and entirely, just after an insurrection had been suppressed, and when an invasion was apprehended.

measure.

He was against measures and acts of coercion; and those who thought with him in the last administration, had discontinued the bill suspending the habeas corpus act; had declined to execute the powers given by the insurrection act, and had in the bill under your consideration mitigated that act most materially; but he should never pronounce a bill, in fact tending to prevent the raising a French force in Ireland, a measure of coercion ; particularly when you are to fight for these islands on your own ground. We are now, perhaps, to make a last effort; sensible of this, the gentlemen of the side of the House I speak from supported the measure: the situation of Ireland is at this moment, in the scale of empire, every thing. We make no doubt her understanding and conduct would be equal to that situation. She might perhaps save, but she certainly could destroy both herself and the British empire. Petty insurrections would disgrace and ruin her: I am sure her good sense would keep down and deter such practices in any body of men whatever ; if she now took a prompt and decided part, she could command her own redress. Ministers should have acceded to the Catholic petition long ago; but the Catholics now, by joining hand and heart, could secure ultimately the object of it; because, no minister in time to come could pretend, that a body of men were dangerous to the state, who, at a critical moment, had contributed to her salvation, and had given a practical answer to all their enemies: thus were their destinies in their own hands, and good sense on either side might save these realms.

It would be wise in gentlemen of property in Ireland, to go to that country, mix with their tenantry, and as they canvass for an election, canvass now for a greater object : they should take care that the people were not oppressed or seduced; that the bill was not abused, and, by their presence, prevent the tyranny of petty magistrates. As to the objection, that there was no information regarding the ground on which the bill was introduced, I beg to observe, that the former ministry had information; the present ministry had the same information.

It was also a mistake to say, that the Irish Parliament, in 1796, had proceeded on the report of a committee. There was no committee at that time, nor was the bill grounded on the report of any committee.

In consequence of my support of the bill, I have received much anonymous and very shameful abuse.

I hope my countrymen will put on my conduct a just construction; but if voting for this bill, and on the principles I have stated, should deprive me of the love of my fellow-citizens, I shall feel the loss as the greatest misfortune of my life, and only to be borne with the fortitude which belongs to integrity. I shall vote for the bill, and share the odium.

The committee then divided : for the original clause 68, against it 21 ; Majority against the duration of one year 47.

IRELAND.

MR. SHERIDAN'S MOTION RESPECTING IRELAND.

August 10. 1807. MR. SHERIDAN, this day, made his promised motion on the

state of Ireland. He entered at length into the affairs of that country, and stated the cause of this motion was the introduction of coercive bills with regard to Ireland ; these measures (viz. the Insurrection Act and Arms' Bill

) were adopted at a time when it was said that Ireland was quiet. The Irish judges and grand juries, at the late assizes, had congratulated the country on the peaceable state in which it was. That there was a French faction in Ireland was true ; there always had been a French faction in Ireland since the time of Elizabeth, and there had also been an Irish faction in France. This was the consequence of the bad and wicked laws that had been passed against the people of Ireland; these acts of tyranny and oppression had degraded every fine feeling of human nature. As to the measures in question, no proof had been adduced of their being necessary ; such suspensions of the constitution, as these acts contained, were dangerous, and he was always adverse to them; he observed that not one of the promises held out by the union had been realized; in particular that of Catholic emancipation, so decidedly held out by Mr. Pitt, who had, in opposition to his own pledge, come into power without that question. He wished that Ireland should be convinced that every care and attention would be shown to her interests, and therefore he would move, “ That the House will, immediately on the meeting of the ensuing session of Parliament, proceed to take into their most 'serious and solemn consideration, the state and condition of Ireland, in the anxious hope that such measures and remedies may be safely adopted, in regard to the discontents alleged to exist in that country, as may render unnecessary the continuance of those provisions which the legislature of the United Kingdom has deemed it expedient reluctantly to adopt at the

« ÖncekiDevam »