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ings, ten appearing in arms, and seven for administering illegal oaths, making a total of fifty-four offences of an insurrectionary character. During the subsequent month, the number of crimes reported was only eight, making a diminution of sixty-five upon the whole, and of forty-six upon crimes of an insurrectionary description. In the proclaimed baronies of the county of Westmeath, the crimes during April were twenty-one; the district was proclaimed on the 14th of May, and during that month the crimes were only three. Letters containing inquiries as to the expediency of renewing the act had been addressed by the Irish government to the inspectors general of police; and all the answers contained assurances of the benefits which it had produced, and urgently pressed on the govern ment the necessity of renewing it. It was determined, however, not to renew those parts of the bill which provided for the trial of offenders in certain cases by courts-martial; government being of opinion that this part of the existing law, which had never been acted on, might be dispensed with. But there were other provisions in the bill, which the agitators of Ireland viewed with still greater dislike, because they interfered with the working of their own engines of influence and agitation. These were the powers which the act conferred to prevent the holding of meetings of a dangerous character, or so conducted as to be injurious to the public peace. It was by these meetings that the leaders of the Catholic party were enabled to work on the ignorance and passions of the multitude; it was there that they recommended and en
couraged combined resistance to the law; it was from these sources that the troubled waters of discord and rebellion went abroad over the country. To escape from these restrictions was to O'Connell and his followers an object of much greater importance, than that the lower disturbers, whom they misled, should be tried only by the regular tribunals of the country. That a peasant should have the benefit of a jury, or of an investigation by a civil magistrate, availed nothing, so long as the corn exchange was not suffered to re-echo with the inflammatory harangues of the member for Dublin. The lordlieutenant of Ireland had recommended that the whole act should be renewed, with the exception of the clause relative to the courts martial; but on the 23rd of June, lord Grey received from him a letter, which suggested that the clause against public meetings might likewise be dispensed with. What influence or suggestions had been brought to bear on the marquis Wellesley, in order to induce him to this change of opinion, became afterwards the subject of much discussion. Members of the cabinet, without the knowledge of lord Grey, had been corresponding with the marquis. The object of these communications had been, not to insure more certainly the tranquillity of Ireland, but to smooth the way of ministers in the house of Commons by concessions to O'Connell and his adherents. Lord Grey stated in the house of Lords (July 9th) that the letter in question appeared to have been written by the lordlieutenant, not so much from any original view of his own regarding the state of Ireland, as from certain considerations suggested to him by
others, which affected the political state of England, and which had been conveyed to marquis Wellesley without the knowledge or privity of the head of the cabinet. Lord Grey, who dissented entirely from these new views, immediately wrote to the lord-lieutenant to reconsider the matter, and to take nothing into account but what was necessary and fitting for Ireland. Some correspondence followed, the result of which was, that marquis Wellesley expressed an opinion that, if it would promote the accomplishment of other objects, the clauses regarding public meetings might be omitted, without endangering the safety of Ireland, and more particularly if, by means of the omission, an extension of the term could be obtained. The subject was brought before the cabinet, and the cabinet was divided in opinion. The minority, consisting of lord Althorp, Mr. C. Grant, Mr. Spring Rice, Mr. Ellis, and Mr. Abercromby objected to the renewal of the clauses in question; but they acquiesced in the determination of the majority that the bill should be proposed in the form in which lord Grey had now introduced it. In fact, lord Grey, on moving the first reading of the bill, stated his opinion, that it was not more indispensable to put down the combinations and excesses which assumed an almost revolutionary character, than to check the causes by which they were produced. It was vain, he maintained, to say that political agitation had no connexion with predial outrage. It was impossible that men should pursue a perpetual system of excitement and agitation, inflaming the passions and courting the prejudices of the people, and
continually reproaching them as slaves submitting to a tyranny which it was their duty to oppose, without stirring up a general spirit of resistance to the constituted authorities, and of disobedience to the laws. It would not be the part of a wise legislator, or of a just and humane man, to enact severe laws against actual crime, without taking measures to destroy the causes to which, in a great degree, they were to be ascribed.
On the second reading of the bill (July 4), lord Durham having objected to the clauses which regarded public meetings, Earl Grey declared his dissent from him to be absolute, that if he could not have proposed the renewal of this bill with these clauses, he would not have proposed it at all. Without them the bill would be ineffectual, impolitic, and cruel; it would punish the miserable victims of delusion, and let those escape scotfree, who, from whatever motive, had of late years, supplied to Ireland the fuel of agitation and disturbance.-On the same occasion, the lord Chancellor expressed himself in equally strong terms, that the bill was absolutely necessary, and that the clauses in question were as necessary as any others. Finding himself compelled to admit, he said, that there was actual violence requiring to be suppressed, he had to ask himself, whether, being thus bound to suspend public rights as regarded predial outrages and popular commotions, he was entitled, in justice to those who called for protection, and consistently with the nature of the measure itself, to draw a distinction between disturbances in the country and dangerous meetings in towns?
Whether he would bear with the whole weight of his loins on the peasant, but not lay even his little finger on those who, year after year, foolishly and mischievously continued to agitate an already settled question? When he saw that the conduct of these persons had a tendency to increase excitement, to nourish, propagate, and generalize the flame of local agitation, could he stop short without seeking a remedy for this evil? Must he not address his attention to the cause of excitement as well as to the parties excited? The clauses regarding public meetings no doubt were a suspension of rights; but so were all the other clauses of the bill, to which no objection was made even by lord Durham. To give power to prevent or to disperse public meetings, was no greater infraction of the constitutional rights of the people, than to enact, as the bill did enact, that no man should cross his threshold after sunset, or go about his business according to his own convenience, even though he was breaking no law. If he suspended one species of right, he felt it was equally necessary to suspend the other. The earl of Wicklow, having expressed his gratification at hearing the opinions of the prime minister, and of the lord chancellor, that this bill ought not to pass, unless it contained the clauses for the better regulation of public meetings, lord Brougham added, that originally he had wished that the public meeting clauses, as well as those respecting courtsmartial, should be omitted; but when he found the facts to be such as they appeared to be in the papers read by earl Grey on introducing the bill, he had formed the opinion which he had just expressed.
The bill was read a second time in the house of Lords without any serious opposition, and the committee was fixed for the 7th of July; but, in the meantime, disclosures were made in the house of Commons, which stopped its progress in its present shape, and overturned the minister who had proposed it. Mr. Littleton, the Irish secretary, instead of meeting O'Connell with bold defiance, as Mr. Stanley had done when he filled the same office, had betaken himself to the unhappy course of negotiating with him, soothing him, and even intrusting him with the views and determinations of the cabinet. He committed the still greater error of doing all this without the knowledge of his superior, the head of the government. It was certain that the opposition, which the agitator and his party had given to the tithe bill, would only assume a more virulent and determined character, when the interests of their own political importance came to be more directly concerned by any proposed renewal of the coercion act. O'Connell, in fact, had already declared open war, so soon as the intention of continuing the provisions of that measure was announced. A vacancy having occurred in the representation of the county of Wexford, O'Connell addressed a letter to the electors, on the 18th of June, calling upon them to return a repealer. He commenced thus :-" an audacious and imbecile ministry threaten to renew the act which annihilates constitutional rights in Ireland. The base and atrocious whig faction dare to threaten Ireland with slavery. Under the pretext of crimes which we hate more than they do, they would deprive Irishmen of that freedom which our
virtue and patriotic exertions have
bordinate, sentiment in lord
Grey's mind is hostility to Ireland,
in driving the present ministry from their places.
Threats and a temper like these ought to have been met with uncompromising hostility. Mr. Littleton preferred to make Mr. O'Connell a confidant, and give him assurances or at least, to encourage in him expectations, which he had no authority to cherish or to give. Mr. Littleton seems to have expected some communication from the lord lieutenant regarding the omission of the public-meeting clauses, and he resolved before the minister or the cabinet had come to any decision, and when, in point of fact, the opinion of his colleagues was for the retaining of those clauses, to communicate to Mr. O'Connell, under the seal of secrecy and confidence, the sentiments of the Irish government, and to communicate it as insuring a similar determination on the part of the ministry. He spoke of the propriety of doing so to lord Althorp, who saw no harm in it, but entreated of him to use extreme caution in his communication, and by no means to commit himself in what he said.* On the 20th of June, Mr. Littleton sent for Mr. O'Connell, and informed him that he had an agreeable communication to make to him, but that all that passed must be considered to be under the seal of entire secrecy and confidence. He then expressed to Mr. O'Connell his regret at that gentleman's letter to the electors of Wexford; told him that, though it was intended to renew the coercion bill under certain limitations, these limitations were not yet decided on, but would probably be fixed by a certain day; that he had himself
• Lord Althorp, 9 July.
the strongest aversion to that part of the bill which regarded public meetings, and did not think it likely that these clauses would be retained; that he would furnish him with the earliest intelligence of what was intended to be done; that the lord-lieutenant and himself were against the renewal of the bill of last year; that only a short measure for repressing agrarian disturbances would be brought in, and that if the coercion bill was to be proposed, it should not be introduced by him. Mr. O'Connell took his leave, having promised secrecy and confidence, and assured Mr. Littleton that none could be more anxious to assist the government in putting down these disturbances, and that they might reckon on his support, and that of the party to which he belonged, in accomplishing such a purpose. In consequence of this interview, Mr. O'Connell withdrew the repeal candidate whom he had started for the county of Wexford with great prospect of success.
Little was earl Grey aware, that, while he was making up his own mind to renew the coercion bill, omitting only the courts martial clauses, a subordinate official had been almost pledging the government to an opposite line of policy, and had, at least, been justifying political opponents in entertaining hopes, which it would now be almost equally dangerous to fulfil or to disappoint. Lord Grey stated openly in the house of Lords (July 4th,)" that any communications, which had taken place, were
This conversation is taken either from Mr. Littleton's own statement in
parliament, or from the statement of Mr. O'Connell, which so far as regarded what passed at the interview, the former gentleman admitted to be correct.-July 3,