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At the end of seventy years an administration the most liberal in profession that England has ever seen, is ruling Ireland by enactments more arbitrary than any previous ministry ever ventured to propose. A general disarmament of the nation is the only plan that can be devised for keeping the public peace. An Arms Act is indeed a permanent part of our happy Irish constitution, but the legislation of the last session has imported new contrivances into the well-stocked repertory of instruments of Irish oppression; or rather it has gone to distant ages and foreign countries to revive and to import and combine the rudest and the most refined modes of trampling down liberty. Towards the close of the 19th century, and under the ægis of England's glorious Constitution, we are ringing the curfew bell of the conquest, and imposing for a murder the blood-money of the Saxon kings. At the same time we are borrowing from French despotism the 'warning of the Press”—while we have given to the English Viceroy the power, at his pleasure, of destroying any newspaper he thinks fit.* This is liberal government in Ireland ! To justify these measures by saying they are necessary to maintain public order is only to pass the deepest condemnation on the system of government which has brought the country to such a pass.t
* We must do justice to English legislation. There is a formidable check upon
the exercise of this power. If the Lord Lieutenant wrongfully suppresses a newspaper, its proprietor can recover damages—BUT THEY ARE TO BE PAID OUT OF THE PUBLIC FUNDS !! It is, at all events, the first time in English legislation in which the principle has been laid down that Parliament is to indemnify the officer of the executive for violating the law.
† It were easy to multiply from the speeches of every liberal statesman since the Union-I mean liberal statesmen when in opposition—the most scathing denunciations of the system of meeting Irish discontent by penal laws. A speech of Mr. Brougham's lies accidentally before me, from
And all the while there is—I cannot say in spite of, but rather cherished and fostered by, all these measures of
repression, deep in the hearts of the people themselves—a sullen but fiery hatred of English rule, which most assuredly only needs a favourable opportunity to assume the form of a determination to get rid of it.
which I cannot help extracting some sentences not inappropriate to the present time:
“ Ireland with a territory of immense extent, with a soil of almost unrivalled fertility, with a climate more genial than our own, with an immense population of strong-built hardy labourers—men suited alike to fill up the ranks of our armies in war, or for employment at home in the works of agriculture or manufacture_ Ireland with all these blessings, which Providence has so profusely showered into her lap, has been under our stewardship, for the last 120 years ; but our solicitude for her has appeared only in these hours of danger, when we apprehend the possibility of her joining our enemies, or when, having no enemy abroad to contend with, she raised her standard, perhaps, in despair, and we tremble. for our own existence! It cannot be denied, that the sole object of England has been to render Ireland a safe neighbour. We have been stewards over her for this long period of time. I repeat, that we shall one day have to give an account of our stewardship—a black account it will be, but it must be forthcoming. We are driving six millions of people to despuir, to madness !
The greatest mockery of all—the most intolerable insultthe course of peculiar exasperation—against which I chiefly caution the House, is the undertaking to cure the distress under which she labours, by anything in the shape of new penal enactments. IT IS IN THESE ENACTMENTS ALONE THAT WE HAVE EVER SHOWN OUR LIBERALITY TO IRELAND! She has received penal laws from the hands of England, almost as plentifully as she has received blessings from the hands of Providence! What have these laws done? Checked her turbulence, but not stifled it. The grievance remaining perpetually, the complaint can only be postponed. We
may load her with chains, but in doing so, we shall not better her condition. By coercion we may goad her on to fury; but by coercion we shall never break her spirit. She will rise up and break the fetters we impose, and arm herself for deadly violence with the fragments.—Lord Brougham's Speeches, Vol. iv., p. 45.
I venture to add to this a passage, not from any spoken speech, but from Disgrace and danger to England in the present state of things.
I need scarcely say no Irishman ought to be satisfied with the present condition of affairs-Ought any Englishman? I am quite sure that the interests of England are more concerned than those of Ireland in a peaceful and equitable adjustment of the relations between the countries. To Ireland the day of deliverance, sooner or later, must come. The system of government which is now crushing down Ireland cannot last. It may be after years of suffering and struggle—it may be with the sacrifice of many a patriot life-it may be with more endurance in dungeons, more victims on the scaffold—it may be when all the present generation are sleeping in their graves, , but the emancipation of Ireland is certain one day or other to come. For England the question is a very different one. If Irish rights be won by a revolution the days of British power are numbered. I know the scorn and contempt with which men will receive or pretend to receive this language. But he is not a wise minister for England who defies the hostility of the Irish race. He is no wise statesman who dreams that an empire is safe which holds in its bosom onethird of its people as its foes. This is a subject upon which, for obvious reasons, I do not care to dwell. But the man, no matter in what seat of authority he sits, is a short-sighted fool who makes light of the danger with which Irish disaffection menaces English power. No one can tell the light which even a few days may throw upon the future course of European events. Even while I write victories may be won which may enable peaceful negotiations to terminate the terrible war in which two great and civilized nations are butchering each other—or new and unlooked for complications may point to a struggle in which every European nation must take part. What even a day may bring forth I know not; but one thing I do know, that if a war, such as is at least possible, does arise, and if England does go into that war with the guilt of Ireland's oppression hanging like a millstone round her neck, and the curse of Irish disaffection weakening her arm, the boldest may well look with trembling to the effect on her greatness of that struggle. It is, at least, within the limits of possibility that we may come out of that war, with Ireland a member of the great Western Republic, or an independent state with its nationality guaranteed by the joint protection, it may be, of America and Russia, or of all the European Powers.
a deliberate essay of Lord Brougham's, which would almost appear as if it had been written to apply to our new form of penal government, which is now the settled constitution of Ireland :
“It is remarkable how exactly the occasional deviations from its fundamental principles in a free constitution, and the temporary introduction of arbitrary power, liken it to the worst despotisms, and produce the
very abuses for which those bad systems are so renowned. To fancy that, because the suspension of any important right is but temporary, or because the uncontrolled authority conferred is to be exercised in a free state, the same abuses will not follow which are familiar to the inhabitants of Eastern nations, argues a great ignorance of human nature and a disregard of the facts which history presents to us."
“There is so little foundation for the arguments of those who dwell upon
the harmlessness of vesting large powers for temporary purposes in the government of free states, that on the contrary such powers are more dangerous and more likely to be abused than the habitual authority of the sovereign in despotic governments. This arises partly from the tendency of extraordinary privileges to be exercised in their full extent and with a violence proportioned to their novelty, and partly from the greater confidence and fearlessness of men who derive such powers from the public, and feel that they have an unquestionable title to them. But there is no argument more powerful against ever granting extraordinary powers than the tendency of such grants to be repeated, and the tendency of the powers bestowed to become part of the constitution. The people become accustomed to them; the rulers become fond of them, and believe that the affuirs of the state cannot be administered without them.”
The history of Ireland within the last five years confirms abundantly the wisdom of this passage. I say it with some knowledge—and I say
it solemnly, I am persuaded that more wrong, and misery, and suffering were inflicted upon innocent persons in Irish prisons during the periods of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act than were inflicted in Paris in any twenty years within the walls of the Bastile.
This language must not be misunderstood. I know that the best and wisest of Irish Nationalists believe with me that Ireland ought, by all possible means, to maintain her connexion with England. I believe that Ireland would be happier and better under a Federal Union with England than she would be either as a member of the American Confederation, or as an independent nation under the protection of any European power. I am quite sure that if England will aid our efforts by giving us the right of self-government in our own affairs, those who think thus have power and influence enough to control the passions of that section of our people whom long misgovernment has driven to believe in a separation from England as the only remedy for Irish wrong. The concession of a domestic Parliament would make the cry for separation powerless, even if it were ever raised. In a few years the wish would be forgotten. Under an Irish Government we would in seven years become more identified with England than we have in seven centuries of oppression. As the terrible barriers of separation which are raised by the exercise of tyranny and the sense of wrong disappeared, all the influences of union which are to be found in our near neighbourhood our common language-our common institutions--our thousand ties of kindred, of interest, and of trade, would have their fair and full operation in making us not in name but in reality, in interest, and affection, one united state.
But while I thus point to the fact that all the powerful elements of Irish opinion are on the side of the English connexion—while I say, unhesitatingly, that with the concession of an Irish Parliament we may safely trust to these influences to maintain the connexion, and more than the