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such an origin. The cause which had produced the corporations was still, for a time, to maintain them. The Municipal Reform Bill was lost in 1835, 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839—all the years we are interested in. In 1840 it passed rapidly through the Lower House, being supported by Sir Robert Peel; it was again attacked and amended in the Lords. When it was sent down to the Commons they demurred at the amendments, which were highly important; but they finally accepted them. The deteriorated and corrupted bill became law on the 10th of August 1840, leaving unremedied several of the crying evils which had led to its being proposed.
The Poor Law Bill had better success. It was founded on Mr Nicholl's report in 1836 on the state of the poor
in Ireland. This report stated that there were 2,385,000 persons in Ireland insufficiently provided with the common necessaries of life, and requiring relief for thirty weeks in the year, owing to want of work; and that the wives and children of many others were obliged to beg systematically, while mendicancy was the sole resource of the aged and impotent.* To meet a state of matters so deplorable, Government, in 1837, introduced their Irish Poor Law Bill. It was dropped in that year, with the other bills, on the death of the King. In 1838 it became law, in spite of stout opposition from the Tories, who declared it to be a virtual confiscation of property. The
* Mr Nicholl's view of the state of Ireland may be gathered from a single paragraph in his report :-“ Ireland is now suffering under a circle of evils, producing and reproducing each other,—want of capital produces want of employment-want of employment, turbulence and misery-turbulence and misery, insecurity—insecurity prevents the introduction and accumulation of capital, and so on. Until this circle is broken the evil must continue, and probably augment."
principle of the English Poor Law, said Lord Lyndhurst (giving a subtler shape to the objection) was that no one should perish from want. The pauper was saved in a poorhouse so uncomfortable that he would rather work than be so saved. “ How can that principle,” asked the noble lord, “ be extended to Ireland, where there is no work ?" The objection was unanswerable, and its point was that the Irish should be left to die. A majority of the Lords, however, passed the bill in spite of the principle. It could not, of course, though passed in 1838, come into operation till the following year. But by the 25th March 1839-so vigorously was the act carried out by Mr Nicholls—twenty-two unions were declared, and, in eighteen of these, guardians were appointed. In the course of 1840, 127 unions were declared, leaving only 3 to be formed, while 14 workhouses were already opened for the reception of paupers.
The measures of which the history has just been briefly given, for years fruitlessly occupied the time of the Legislature. Never was it truer than in this period that Ireland was the cardinal point in English domestic politics. The Ministry was kept in life by its Irish policy, but in a condition of partial paralysis. In a minority in the Lords, it owed its majority in the Commons to its alliance with the Irish-an alliance not very profitable to either party, though it was always something for the Irish to keep the Tories out. There was another cause for the alliance, so far as the Irish were concernedthe popularity (resting on the facts which we have already seen) of the Irish Administration.
While these Irish Bills were being bandied about between the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, events were occurring in Ireland which, springing out of the Ministerial failures, were to have a powerful reaction on the unsuccessful Ministers. The discontent of the Catholics, caused by the failure of the Government Tithe Bills, led, in the summer of 1836, to an agitation for the total abolition of tithes. This was the primary object of “The Petition Committee,” out of which speedily grew up “ The General Association,” which, with wider aims, rapidly extending itself, soon overlay the country with its rent-collectors and “pacificators.” “From the capital,” says the Tory writer in the “ Annual Register," “ the bloated and ferocious monster extended in all directions its monstrous and grasping limbs.” He maliciously adds (and somewhat discordantly, considering the image first employed), that the monster was left undisturbed by the Government in its den! It is hard to see how the Government could have interfered with a society, all whose objects were legal and declared, and proceedings public.
In the debate on " the Battle of the Diamond,” when Drummond was accused of reserving all his rudeness for the Orangemen, O'Connell declared that that was not so, and that on a recent occasion he had himself been taken to task by the Under Secretary as vigorously as Colonel Verner had been. The fact remained, however, that the relations of the Government to the agitators was full of delicacy and difficulty. The demagogic career of O'Connell was somewhat restrained by his being a supporter of the Government; while, by depending for its existence on his support, the Government was peculiarly exposed to the charge of conniving at his dangerous agitations.
This charge was the rallying cry of the Ascendancy, simultaneously become vigorous and persevering in agitations counter to those of the O'Connell party. We have their view of the political situation in a petition which they presented to the House of Lords in 1837:
“The dangers which threaten us are extreme, and are of a character to which the history of our country affords no parallel, unless it be found in the disastrous reign of James the Second. The establishment of our religion is assailed—the settlement of property within the realm is menaced [The allusion is to the appropriation clauses of the Tithe Bill and the projected Poor Law), and the parties who are conspiring the overthrow of both have acquired the power to do them harm, by solemnly abjuring any intent to subvert the one, and by swearing to the utmost of their power to defend the other.' Hostility thus unprincipled would cause alarm, if it sought the attainment of its ends by such means only as our free constitution allows; but the enemies of our national establishments have greatly augmented our danger by adopting means conformable, indeed, to the spirit of their designs, but repugnant alike to justice and humanity. They have persecuted, even unto death, several faithful ministers of our Church—they have habituated a large portion of the people to practices of dishonesty and fraudthey have taught them how legal rights may be successfully frustrated--they have convulsed the country by a most pernicious agitation [This from the 200,000 armed Orangemen of 1836], and they have organised a system of resistance to the laws which is daily becoming more extensive and more formidable.
“We grieve to say that the Government has not punished or opposed the authors of these cruel and audacious proceedings.
[The complaint is against the non-suppression of the General Association, and certain acts of clemency, of which mention has been made, on the part of Lord Mulgrave.]
“The results of this unnatural confederacy between legitimate power and a faction which makes lawlessness its practice and its boast, are, unhappily, notorious. The friends, advisers, and patrons of Her Majesty's Government, are those who recommend and have openly and successfully declared resistance to the laws which that Government has been appointed to administer.”
The consequence of this petition, and of the clamours of the Ascendancy party, was the virtual impeachment of the Mulgrave administration. A discussion of the principles of the administration in Ireland had taken place in February 1837, on the introduction of the Municipal Reform Bill in the House of Commons. Later in the year, it was renewed in the Lords, on a motion of the Earl of Roden for returns as to the state of crime in Ireland since 1835. There was another and similar discussion in December 1837, on the motion of Colonel Verner, which introduced the debate on the Battle of the Diamond. The discussion was renewed in both Houses in March 1839.
The circumstances which led to the renewal of the discussion were connected with the debate on Lord Roden's motion in the Upper House in 1837. In the course of that debate Lord Mulgrave (then Lord Normanby), and other speakers on the same side, declared that all inquiry led to the conclusion that the murders and manslaughter in Ireland were not owing to religious difficulties or political differences, but almost exclusively to agrarian grievances. Against this opinion the listening Orangemen and Irish landlords vehemently protested, the Duke of Wellington quoting the authority of the Marquess Wellesley to the effect that even the agrarian disturbances themselves were ascribable to political agitation. “From that time,” says Miss Martineau, “the Irish landlords and political chiefs on the Tory side seem to have taken for granted that the Government was a company of declared foes, who would keep watch on the management of their private affairs, and cast upon them the responsibility of all outrages perpetrated on the Irish estates."