Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

why Englishmen and Scotchmen, when they emigrated, did not, like Irishmen, carry with them an inveterate hatred to the Government and institutions of the land of their birth? He declared that it was not in human nature to live content under such institutions as existed in Ireland, and when this insurrection was suppressed there would still remain the seeds of another crop of disaffection. He believed there was a mode of making Ireland loyal, and he threw the responsibility of discovering it on the Government and on the Imperial Parliament. He did not oppose the Bill, but hoped that the Government would give some assurance that before long measures would be introduced which would tend to make Ireland as contented as Great Britain.

Mr. Roebuck characterized Mr. Bright's speech as being meant for mere mischief. He admitted that Ireland had been misgoverned in the past, but maintained that for the last thirty years every measure for her benefit had been carefully considered by Parliament, that Irishmen had enjoyed the same personal liberty as Englishmen, and that they had no grievances to complain of which were not common to the rest of the Empire. Englishmen, he said, had to put up with an Established Church which was not the Church of the majority; and with regard to tenant right, he asked why Irish and English proprietors should be put under a different law. He attributed much of the present discontent to the Roman Catholic priesthood, who for years had taught the people to hate English rule, but who, now that they found themselves threatened by this conspiracy, had become wondrous loyal, and he ridiculed the sentiment of nationality, showing that every great empire in the world's history had been made up of different nationalities. He called on Mr. Bright and those who thought with him, instead of vague declamations, to come forward with a programme of the measures which they thought ought to be carried.

Mr. Stuart Mill fully shared in the views of Mr. Bright, and expressed a hope that if these extraordinary, but, no doubt, necessary powers were granted, Parliament would not go to sleep for another eighteen years over the

grievances of Ireland. The O'Donoghue warned the House that this measure of coercion would create a panic in Ireland, augment disaffection and give an importance to Fenianism which it did not deserve. He asserted that the ordinary constitutional powers exercised with firmness and intelligence would have sufficed for the emergency; and in animadverting on the vacillation and weakness of the Irish Executive quoted from a speech of the Attorney-General to show that a few weeks ago they had not contemplated any such necessity.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after replying to Jr. Disraeli's criticism on the supineness of the Government in allowing the clause in the Act of George III, to be repealed, which he showed to be inapplicable to the present emergency, expressed the regret and pain with which he had listened to Mr. Bright's speech, many

of the propositions in which were open to question, and most illtimed. He protested against the fallacy involved in treating this question as if it were the application of force to Ireland by an English Parliament, maintaining that the British Parliament was the Parliament of Ireland as well as of England and Scotland. He declined to recognize the voice of Ireland except as conveyed through the mouths of her legally elected representatives, and congratulated the House on the general unanimity with which Irish members had acquiesced in the Bill, contrasting it with the scene which took place in the House eighteen years ago, when a similar proposal was made. The Government, he said, would be ready at a fitting time to consider any measures which might be proposed for the benefit of Ireland, but he impressed upon the House that their single duty to-day was to strengthen the hands of the Executive for the preservation of law and order.

On a division leave was given to introduce the Bill by 364 to 6 votes, and it subsequently passed through all its stages without further discussion.

The Bill having been immediately carried up to the House of Lords, which was then sitting, and having been read a first time, Earl Russell moved the suspension of the standing orders in order that the Bill might pass through all its stages at that sitting. In doing so Lord Russell expressed the regret which the Government felt at having to propose to Parliament a temporary suspension of the Constitution in Ireland ; but the necessity, he said, was great, and the step had been recommended by the experienced wisdom of the Irish Executive. The Fenian conspiracy, which had rendered this measure necessary, was notoriously directed to the overthrow of the Queen's authority, to the forcible transfer of property from its present possessors, and to the subversion of all religion. The conspiracy had been fomented and furnished with funds from the United States, where large numbers of persons of Irish birth and descent were settled ; and the conclusion of the civil war in that country had set free a large number of restless and active men, many of whom were now in Ireland as emissaries from the Fenian Brotherhood in America. The ordinary processes of law had been put in force by the Irish Government against a number of persons, and judges and juries had alike discharged their duties, but it had been found that other measures were required. The LordLieutenant had deferred as long as possible "any recommendation to depart from the Constitution, but it had been found that the conspiracy was still spreading, that fresh emissaries from America were continually arriving, and that large sums of money were being sent over for the purpose of exciting rebellion, and therefore Lord Wodehouse had been compelled to acquaint the Government that without greater powers than he ordinarily possessed he could not be responsible for the peace of Ireland. The Government could not hesitate for a moment to act upon that declaration, and therefore, although with regret, they had now to ask the House to

D

assent to this Bill, which would for a time suspend the operation of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, but would enable the Lord-Lieutenant to arrest the foreign agents who were now industriously engaged in seeking to mislead the Irish people, and to seduce the Irish soldiers from their allegiance. Objections might be taken that the Bill was simply a coercive one, and was unaccompanied by any remedial measure; but the maintenance of law and order, and the restoration of peace, was essentially a remedial measure, and other measures in that direction would be considered when a more fitting time presented itself.

The standing orders were then suspended; and upon the motion for reading the Bill a second time, Lord Derby admitted that this was not a time to enter upon a general discussion of the state of Ireland. That country, it was well known, was at the present moment in a most perilous position, and it was not the time to ask the Government to enter upon a special vindication of the step which they had now taken, although he could not forbear to notice that their language at the opening of Parliament a few days since, had been such as to convey the belief that, in their opinion, the ordinary process of law would be found sufficient for the occasion. If the Bill were necessary, then it was also necessary that it should pass through all its stages without delay, and, therefore, he gave his cordial assent to the measure, at the same time abstaining from entering upon any consideration of the causes which had led to the present condition of Ireland. He could not, however, admit that the Fenian conspiracy was entirely due to the closing of the American war, because he knew that in 1859 the Phænix conspiracy prevailed in Ireland, and had numerous branches in America. But the Government, upon their responsibility, having proposed this measure, and the House of Commons having passed it with a very insignificant minority of dissentients, he hoped their lordships would not hesitate to give it their unanimous support.

The Bill was then read a second time, and subsequently passed through all its stages.

The next step was to obtain the Royal assent, which, as Her Majesty was then at Osborne, was a matter requiring some time. As soon as the Bill passed the House of Lords a telegram was sent to Earl Granville, who was at Osborne, announcing the result, upon the receipt of which Her Majesty's signature was affixed to the document authorizing the commissioners to give the Queen's assent to the Bill. In order to allow time for bringing this document to London, the sittings of the Houses were suspended until eleven o'clock p.m., by which time it was calculated the special train would arrive in London. Time, however, rolled on, the hour of midnight struck, a quarter past, half-past twelve, and then there entered a clerk bearing a despatch-box, which the Chancellor opened, and took out the long-delayed document. Then came the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Bessborough

1

bearing his wand of office, also wearing their peers' robes, and sat upon the Ministerial benches. Another quarter of an hour passed, and then the clerk entered, carrying the Royal Commission. The Lord Chancellor then directed the Usher of the Black Rod to summon the Commons to hear the Royal assent given to the Bill in question, and shortly after the Speaker, accompanied by about fifty members of the House of Commons, appeared at the bar of the House. To them the Lord Chancellor, now seated on a bench in front of the throne, with the two other peers, made known the commands of Her Majesty. And at twenty minutes to one o'clock on the Sunday morning the Bill became law. Probably no statute was ever passed with so much celerity as this, the first Act of the new Parliament.

The powers of the new Act were put into operation in anticipation of its passing, and on the 16th a large number of arrests were made in Dublin and its vicinity. The suspension of the ordinary law led also to another consequence, scarcely less salutary, in the hurried departure of numerous emissaries from America, and active agents of the insurgent party, who thought it prudent to place themselves as speedily as possible beyond the operation of The stringent powers now vested in the Executive, and left Ireland with great precipitancy. By these events the alarms of the peaceable and well-affected part of the community were much allayed. From this time the insurrectionary spirit began to show signs of decline-the idea that any armed outbreak would take place during the winter faded away, and confidence in the stability of the Queen's Government and the continuance of tranquillity gained ground. That a serious shock had been given to that sense of security, without which Ireland never can enjoy prosperity or expect progress, was unfortunately too true. The mischief done by the alarms of this period was irretrievable, but with the cessation of active movements on the part of the disaffected, a feeling of contempt for the conspiracy and its boastful leaders took the place of alarm, and the country appeared to subside into its usual outward tranquillity. Nevertheless, as will be related hereafter, the Administration in office at the latter part of the session found it necessary to apply to Parliament for a renewal of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, and were able to show a state of facts which induced the Legislature to comply with their demands. And again towards the close of the year the malady of Fenianism appeared in all its former virulence, compelling the Irish Executive to adopt extraordinary precautions, and keeping the owners of property and peaceably-disposed inhabitants of the country in state of anxious suspense. In the mean time, however, several interesting discussions on the condition and grievances of Ireland took place in both Houses of Parliament, and measures were proposed, - which, however, failed to produce any legislative result,for the removal of some of the evils complained of. On the 26th of February Lord Lifford, a resident Irish landed proprietor,

[ocr errors]

called the attention of the House of Lords to the condition of the sister country. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, he said, had been assented to because it was necessary; but the question remained, What were the causes of the disaffection which rendered such a measure necessary ? After pointing out that the Irish people possessed the same rights, while they were subject to a Iesser amount of taxation than the people of Scotland or of England, Lord Lifford expressed his opinion that the hope of transferring the ownership of the land to the tenants was the great cause of Fenianism. He blamed the Government for slighting the landowners, who were to a man loyal, but who were not permitted to have any control over the police, or any of that local influence which English magistrates exercised so beneficially. Referring to the Church Establishment, he noticed that a portion of the funds belonging to it might legitimately be applied to educational purposes, and he advocated some provision being made for the support of the Roman Catholic priesthood, who had rendered the State good service in discountenancing the Fenian movement, as they had done formerly in reprobating the Riband conspiracy. He concluded by asking whether the Government intended to propose a State provision for the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland, and also moved for certain returns.

Earl Russell, after reviewing the attempts made by Mr. Pitt and others to settle the question of State payments of the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland, pointed out the difficulties which presented themselves at the present day to such a course. There was a large body of persons who objected to all State endowments for ecclesiastical purposes, and the Roman Catholic Clergy themselves were indisposed to a course which would certainly tend to lessen their influence over their flocks. The Government, therefore, did not intend to make any proposal on that subject. Neither did the Government intend to introduce a measure for the purpose of applying any portion of the funds belonging to the Established Church to educational uses. Adverting to the evils which were now complained of in Ireland, Lord Russell remarked that some of those evils were of very long standing, and it was impossible by measures passed in one session of Parliament to remedy the grievances of Ireland and restore its people to happiness and prosperity. Since 1829 various beneficial measures had been passed, such as the scheme of National Education, the Poor Law, and the Encumbered Estates Act, and every disposition had been evinced by Parliament to promote the welfare of Ireland.

The Marquis of Clanricarde argued in favour of State provision for the Roman Catholic clergy, and denied that the bulk of the people of Ireland were disaffected or disloyal, although they were certainly discontented, for which they had many reasons.

The gentry were not allowed any share in the government of the country, which was left to the Lord-Lieutenant and the police. The people were discontented because no measures of improvement

« AnteriorContinuar »