« PreviousContinue »
urging that on all former occasions, a much longer time had been allowed for consideration, and that such breathless hurry was the conduct of men who were merely to decide as another dictated, rather than that of a Legislature, called to deliberate
POR a grave matter of public policy. The Duke answered, that the subject had been sufficiently discussed already, and that the public were anxious to obtain their Lordship's decision. Lord Holland justified him by referring to the haste with which the statutes about to be repealed, had been originally passed; and the motion was carried without a division.
On the 2nd of April the Duke of Wellington introduced the notion for the second reading, and as the speech which he then made, embodies all the arguments in favour of Catholic concession, and at the same time is explanatory of the line of conduct which the Ministers considered it to be their duty to adopt on one of the most important questions, which erer came before the Legislature of the country, we shall give it in its entire form.
The Duke of Wellington addressed their lordships as follows:
It was now his duty to move that their lordships would read this bill a second time, and to explain to their lordships the grounds on which he recommended the measure to their consideration. He might be under the necessity of requesting a larger portion of their lordship's attention on this occasion than he had bitherto been in the habit of occupying; but he assured their lordships that it was not his intention to take up one instant of their time with respect to himself, or his own conduct, in the transaction, any farther than to express his regret that he should differ in opinion on this subject from so many of those, for whom he entertained the highest respect and regard. He must, however, state, that he considered the part which he had taken as the performance of a public duty, absolutely incumbent on him; and he would say, that no private regard and respect for the opinions of any noble lord could induce him to depart from the course which he had considered it his duty to adopt. He must likewise say this—that
by comparing his own opinions with those of others on the subject, he had, during the period he had been in office, had an opportunity of forming a judgment which other persons had not possessed, and he might claim some confidence from the circumstance, that he would not have given the opinion which he had giveu, if he had not been intimately and firmly persuaded that that opinion was a just one.
The point which he would first bring under their lordships consideration was the state of Ireland. He knew it was by some considered that the state of Ireland had nothing to do with the question,--that it was a subject which ought to be left entirely out of its consideration. Those persons said that Ireland had been disturbed for the last thirty years—that to such disturbance we had been accustomed, and that therefore it did not all alter the circumstances of the case as they had hitherto appeared. It was perfectly true that Ireland had been disturbed during the long period which he had mentioned, but there had been circumstances of considerable aggravation in the course of the last year or two, which had just passed.
Political circumstances had in a considerable degree occasioned that aggravation; but, besides, he must say (though he had no positive legal proof of the fact, yet he had every reason to believe it) that there had been an organization of the people,-a consideable organization of the people,- for purposes of mischief. This organization he might take to be proved, not only by the declarations of those who formed it, but likewise by the effects which it had produced on the elections of churchwardens throughout the country—in the circumstances which attended the election for the county of Clare last year-in the circumstances which followed that election in the proceedings of a gentleman who went at the head of a body of men into the north of Ireland in the simultaneous proceedings of various bodies of men at Thurles, Clonmell, Templetown, and other places in the proceedings of another gentleman in the King's county—and in the recall of the former gentleman from the north of Ireland by the Catholic Association. In all those circumstances it was
obvious to him that there was an organization of the people, and that they were directed by some superior authority. This organization had certainly produced a state of society in Ireland which had not been heretofore witnessed, and which was an aggravation of all the evils that had before afflicted that unfortunate country. Later in the year a considerable town was attacked in the middle of the night by a body of armed people from a neighbouring mountainous district. This town (Augher) was attacked with arms, and the persons who attacked it were driven out with arms by the inhabitants of the town. This was a state of things which he thought their lordships must admit could hardly exist in a country where civilized society was established. Later in the year, still nearly a similar event occurred in the town of Charlewood (as we understood). Nearly at the same period, in the last autumn, the Roman Catholic Association was called upon to deliberate on the propriety of adopting measures for ceasing all dealings between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Was it possible to believe—supposing that this measure had been carried into execution, which he firmly believed was in the power of those who deliberated on it to have effected—was it possible to believe that those who could thus cease their deal ings, would not likewise have ceased to carry into execution the contracts into which they had entered? Would any man say, that people in that situation were not verging towards a state, in which it would be impossible to expect from them, that they would be able to perform the duties of jurymen, and to administer justice between man and man for the protection of the lives and property of His Majesty's subjects ? This was a state of society to which he wished to direct their lordhips attention, and for which he asserted it was necessary Parliament should provide a remedy.
Before he proceeded to consider what that remedy should be, he wished just to show their lordships what effect this state of society had upon the King's prerogative. His Majesty could not create a peer, and the reason why he could not was this:–His Majesty's servants could not venture to recommend