Imágenes de páginas

the restoration of something like peace and tranquillity in that part of the United Kingdom. He wished further to address to their lordships a few observations on the question of Irish tithes. With regard to any measure which it might be the intention of his majesty's government to bring forward on that subject, he begged in the first instance to say this-that, as far as he could learn, the clergy of the church of Ireland were at present precisely in the same miserable situation in which they had been for the last seventeen or eighteen months. If such was the case, notwithstanding the measures which had been brought forward and passed on a former occasion in reference to the clergy of Ireland, he must say, that if that race of men was to be preserved at all, their lordships should lose no time in passing whatever measures were required to complete proper arrangements with respect to the church of Ireland. He believed, as he had already stated, that the clergy of the church of Ireland were at present in the most miserable and destitute condition. If, as he learned upon the best authority, they were reduced to the lowest ebb of distress,so much so that many of them had been obliged to let insurances, which they had formerly effected on their lives for the benefit of their families drop, and to abandon all the advantageous arrangements which, in several instances, they had in former years adopted with regard to their property, and that, in consequence of distress, many of them had been under the necessity of taking the boon which was held out to them them under most unfavourable circumstances by the government bill

of last session;-if, he repeated. such was the case, and he believed there was no doubt that it was so, their lordships, he was sure, would agree with him in thinking, that no time should be lost in bringing forward whatever measures were required to complete some arrangement with respect to the church of Ireland, and to rescue that most deserving race of men, the Irish Protestant clergy from such an unparalleled state of suffering and distress.

Earl Grey replied to the duke of Wellington's remarks upon his foreign policy, by stating, that don Miguel had not been recognised by his grace's administration;

that the ruin of Turkey was the consequence of the passage of the Balkan and the treaty of Adrianople; and that the still undecided question of the Netherlauds and Portugal was a legacy bequeathed by the late administration to the present. But when he dated the downfall of Turkish independence, from the treaty of Adrianople, he did not go far enough back. He ought to have called to mind the liberal achievements, diplomatic and belligerent, of the Cabinet of 1827-achievements which he had admired and approved. He ought to have remembered the treaty of London, and the triumph of Navarino, which opened to Russian armies the defiles of Mount Hamus and the gates of Adrianople. Great Britain could not take part in a war upon the Danube; but the administration of that day did interfere, as far as it might; it interfered by negotiation for the protection of the Porte; and secured terms to the Sultan which might still have preserved his empire free from Russian control,

had it not been for the connivance, not to say encouragement, afforded by the French and British governments of the last two years, to the rebellion of the pacha of Egypt. So with respect to Belgium, the charge against the ministry was, that during three years and three months nothing had been done to effect a settlement, and that this country had been placed in relations to Holland utterly inconsistent with our national interests and the obligations imposed by treaties. The defence of lord Grey was, that the duke of Wellington's administration had had two months to dispose of the Belgian question, and did not bring it to a close in that time.

On the subject of the church and of Ireland, the statements of the premier though vague, were somewhat more intelligible. He declared that he was a sincere friend, a devoted and zealous supporter of the church, and he would not for a single moment appear to encourage the theorists who were for separating church and state. Such designs he considered wild, extravagant, and dangerous. As far as real grievances were concerned, he felt anxious, and the heads of the church were also anxious, that any relief, which could reasonably be required, should be afforded to dissenters; but if the dissenters pressed for the destruction of the church establishment, he at once took his stand against them. For the sake of the church itself, he thought that the state of the establishment should be looked into, and that anything, of which complaints were justly made, should be corrected. But, at the same time, he well knew the difficulty of the subject, and his de

termination was, if he continued a member of the government when the period of reform arrived, to look at the matter with the utmost caution. The reform, which he contemplated, would be adopted with the view of supporting the establishment, and not for the purpose of injuring and destroying its foundations.

The noble duke had called on his majesty's government to declare whether they intended to continue the coercive (it might be more properly termed the protective) law which was passed in the last session of Parliament. That question, lord Grey said, was to a certain extent answered by the speech from the Throne. Government had expressed their decided intention to maintain inviolate the legislative union between England and Ireland as a firm bond of our national strength and safety; and his majesty had called upon Parliament and all his subjects to join in the adoption of measures for " putting an end to a system of excitement and violence which, while it continued, was destructive of the peace of society, and if successful must inevitably prove fatal to the honour and safety of the United Kingdom." The protective measure passed last year would not expire till the 1st of August; so that there was plenty of time to apply for its renewal, if necessary. He had stated last year, on introducing this measure, that it was with pain and regret he proposed it to Parliament, and that it would be the happiest day of his life when he could say, that such a law was no longer required by the circumstances of the country. Circumstances admitting of the repeal of that measure, he was sorry to say, did not now exist; what might

be the state of Ireland a few months hence, he could not foresee, and he must decline answering as to the future conduct of government. This however he would say, that the king's government was determined to do its duty as hitherto, with the aid of Parliament, and supported by the country. When we considered, that at this very moment, notwithstanding the excitement referred to, and all the agitation and insecurity consequent upon it, the country was in a state of prosperity greater than any other country in the world-that trade and manufacture were improving -the prospect was of an encouraging nature. That the blessings of Providence should be marred and counteracted by a malignant spirit of disturbance, and that instead of prosperity, peace, and order, which were within our reach, the country should be subjected to the evils of excitement and violence, was not to be borne.

In the Commons the address was moved by Mr. S. Lefevre and seconded by Mr. Morrison, who gave a flattering picture of the prosperity of our manufactures. Colonel Evans complained, that the house and window taxes had not been repealed-applauded the neutrality of our Portuguese policy -expressed his hope that the commercial relations which Prussia was establishing with many of the German States, would not be allowed to have any injurious influence on our interests, and his dissatisfaction with the conduct of Russia in relation to Turkish affairs-and regretted that he had ever taken any part in supporting the government, more especially as in that house that reformed

[ocr errors]

house of Commons there were still upwards of 100 placemen, pensioners, and sinecurists.

Mr. Hume said, there was in the speech a good deal about the independence of Turkey, and something about Portugal, and something about regret; but of poor tax-ridden England not one word. This preface he followed up by a string of desultory remarks, in his usual style, on his usual topics; and concluded by moving as an amendment-"That the house would take into its immediate and serious consideration the state of the established church as regarded its temporalities and the maintenance of the clergy; and also with a view to the removal of those complaints which arose out of the mode in which tithes and church-rates were levied, in order to accomplishing such changes in them as might give effectual relief, not only to the members of the established church themselves, but to those conscientious dissenters who suffered under the present state of the law, thus carrying into effect the recommendation which proceeded from the throne at the commencement of the last session." The amendment was negatived by 191 votes to 39.

Mr. Hume then moved, that instead of the second paragraph in the address expressive of the satisfaction of the House at "uninterrupted enjoyment of the blessings of peace,' the following words. should be introduced:-" That this house pledges itself to cause such reductions to be made in all the civil, military, and naval establishments, as shall bring home to all his majesty's subjects an immediate and large reduction of taxation, the practical advantages and blessings of a continued peace,

which this house rejoices to learn is not likely to be disturbed." The motion was negatived without a division.

Mr. O'Connell next moved, that the clause beginning with "We fully participate with his majesty in feelings of deep regret and just indignation in seeing the continuance of attempts to excite the people of Ireland to demand a repeal of the union," should be omitted. After a discussion, in which Sir Robert Peel remarked, that experienced as he was in speech-making, he could not but admire the great skill with which the framers of the king's speech had on the present occasion avoided saying anything at all, the amendment was negatived by 189 votes to 23.

On the following day (5th Feb.) there arose, on the bringing up of the report on the address, an incidental discussion on the coercion bill of last session; and, in the course of that discussion, Mr. O'Connell introduced a topic, which, though of no public interest, excited a much greater degree of attention than it merited. In the preceding November there had appeared in several of the newspapers a report of a speech addressed by Mr. Hill, one of the members for Hull, to his constituents, in which that gentleman was represented, in justifying his support of the coercion bill, to have expressed himself in the following manner:-"It is impossible for those not actually in the house to know all the secret machinery by which votes are obtained. I happen to know this (and I could appeal, if necessary, to a person well known, and much respected by yourselves), that an Irish member, who spoke with great

[ocr errors]

violence against every part of that bill, and voted against every clause of it, went to ministers and said, Don't bate one single atom of that bill, or it will be impossible for any man to live in Ireland.' 'What,' said they, this from you, who speak and vote against the bill? Yes,' he replied, that is necessary, because if I do not come into parliament for Ireland, I must be out altogether, and that I do not choose.' (Cries of 'name,' and no.') Consider for a moment, can I do it? (No; Yes.') That is a point for my consideration. I have a great respect for every one here; but if every one in the room was to hold up his hand for it, I would not do it. The secret is not my own. If he had told it to me, I would have said, 'mark, I will keep no such secret as this; I will publish it to the world. But if I name the member, I put it in the power of the individual who made that declaration to know the gentleman who told me."" This statement, as soon as it appeared in print, excited the indignation of the Irish members; and many of them purged themselves from the charge by solemn and vehement denial. Mr. Hill, being called upon to name his informant, refused; but to each one who wrote to him to know whether he was the individual alluded to, an answer in the negative was given. Mr. O'Connell, after reading Hill's statement, now put two questions to the chancellor of the exchequer, first, whether he or any other member of the cabinet had ever stated that an Irish member had acted in the manner described, and secondly, whether any Irish member ever went to the noble lord, or any other minister, and made the

statement which had been imputed to him? Lord Althorp said, that, to the first of these questions, he could answer positively for himself, and to the best of his belief, for his colleagues, that no such assertion, as had been referred to, had ever been made by him or them. With respect to the second question,-namely, whether any Irish member who voted and spoke against the coercive bill ever made any statement to the administration similar to that which had been referred to-he was prepared to say that, as far as he was aware, no Irish member who voted and spoke against the coercive bill had made any such statement to a cabinet minister. (The noble lord placed a strong emphasis on the word "cabinet," which was remarked by the house, and elicited loud cries of "hear.") Lord Althorp added, that he should not act a manly part if he did not declare that he had good reason to believe that some Irish members (certainly more than one), who voted and spoke with considerable violence against the bill, did in private conversation use very different language.

Mr. O'Connell, starting up, exclaimed, "The noble lord is shrinking state the names of those members?"

[blocks in formation]

up my authority. I am answerable for what I say, and I believe I have no right to shift the responsibility upon others. With respect to naming the Irish members to whom I have alluded, I am perfectly ready to do so, if they choose to call upon me; but unless they do so, I think I should not be justified in doing it.

Mr. O'Connell,-I am authorized by every Irish member now present in the house ("No!")then I will take another course:I ask the noble lord whether I am one of the members to whom he alludes.

Lord Althorp.-No.
Mr. Finn. Am I one?
Lord Althorp-No.

Several other Irish members rose from their seats with the view of putting the same question to lord Althorp; when the Speaker rose and expressed his regret, that the noble lord had felt it his duty to answer the questions which had been proposed to him. Even subjects infinitely less calculated to excite the feelings of the public and of individuals could not be dealt with by them, unless they assumed a public character, and came before them as questions of privilege, being defamatory of a member or members. Could that which a member had said out of the house or in private, form the basis of public discussion?

Mr. O'Connell insisted, that it deeply concerned the constituency of Ireland to know whether any of their representatives had behaved in the manner alleged; and that an opportunity of explanation ought not to be denied to those who sought it. Mr. Henry Grattan declared, that if the investigation were not prosecuted, he would bring the matter forward as a case

« AnteriorContinuar »