« PrejšnjaNaprej »
devices being resorted to, in order meetings; but he very
much to keep within the letter, while doubted the propriety of such a the spirit of them was infringed. measure, for it must declare that Measures of that House had been every political meeting was illegal; defeated, and the intention to and if such a law were passed, and defeat them had been signified, every body left to enforce the proeven before they were passed. It visions of it, he confessed that, as was much better that they should Ireland now was, he could not say do nothing, and he would rather that they would not be improperly they did nothing, than that what enforced—that they would not be they did should be evaded. By the enforced for purposes, to say the act of 1825, it had been intended to least of them, very unjustifiable. suppress the Catholic Association, In his opinion, the more they and other assemblies of a similar departed, in legislating on a subcharacter, by an express enactment. ject like this, from the general The provisions of that act, however, principles of law, the more they were so wide, that they would have stood in danger of having their interdicted almost any meeting, enactments evaded. He proposed and it was therefore necessary that to meet this danger by the most some meetings should be excepted effectual means that occurred to from the operations of it. These him, while at the same time he exceptions consisted for the most opposed the strongest barrier to part of meetings for the purposes of individual abuse. It was his ineducation, agriculture, commerce,
tention to commit the enforcement religious worship, &c.
of the law to one person only ; to perfectly notorious how many ad- intrust to him, who was fully cogvantages had been taken of these nizant of the state of affairs in exceptions,-how many meetings Ireland, and who was also responfor political purposes were assem- sible for the tranquillity of that bled under the pretence of objects country, the new powers with quite foreign from those the per- which the House were now asked sons assembled had in view,-how to invest the executive governrepeatedly the technical enactments ment. He proposed to give to of that measure had been complied the lord lieutenant, and to him with, while the spirit of it was alone, the power of suppressing violated. It was clear, then, that any association or meeting, which they must enact a law more com- he might think dangerous to the plete and more binding than the public peace, or inconsistent with act to which he had referred. The the due administration of the law; exceptions in the proposed mea- together with power to interdict sure must be much less numerous the assembly of any meeting, of than they were in the last. He which previous notice should have was not insensible to the difficulties been given, and which he should of framing such an act, as, in the think likely to endanger the pubpresent state of Ireland, could not lic peace, or to prove inconsistent be evaded, unless, indeed, they with the due administration of the were to pass a law, which there law. In case it should be neceswould be no difficulty in framing, sary to enforce the provisions of that should effectually and at once the law by which these powers suppress the danger of illegal would be conferred, it was pro
posed that the lord lieutenant would put an end to the Associashould be farther empowered to tion without any statute; to reselect two magistrates for the pur- move the disabilities would be the pose of suppressing the meeting, only effectual act of suppression. and requiring the people immedi- It was not a corporeal being, ately to disperse. It was proposed, capable of being grasped by the moreover, to prohibit any meeting law. It was the people of Ireland. or association, which might be in- Its spirit was caused by the grievterdicted from assembling, or which ances of the nation, and its seat might be suppressed under this was the bosom of seven millions of act, from receiving and placing at its population. It was impossible their control any monies by the to deny that the present flourishing name of rent, or by any other prospects of the Catholic cause
This was the general out- were mainly owing to the labours line of the measure. He thought of the Association : in forwarding that moderate penalties would be that cause, it had done good to sufficient for the infringement of both parts of the empire, however this law; and he considered that foolishly individual members might it would be by no means necessary have indulged in absurd proposals, to propose any measures of a penal and extravagant, and irritating nature. He was decidedly, of language; and its suppression by opinion, too, that the measure enactments, which involved even ought to be limited.
the temporary exercise of arbitrary perfectly sure that parliament powers, could be justified only would not only continue these by regarding it as the price to be powers, but that they would in- paid for the final and complete crease them, if a case of necessity triumph of that object for which were made out. The late act had alone it had existed. been limited to two years ;
In the course of the discussions, posed to limit the present act to it was strongly pressed upon one year, and the end of the then ministers, why the suppression of next session of parliament.
this Association had not been sooner The bill passed both Houses accomplished? You justly describe without opposition; for, although this Association, it was said to its provisions were necessarily them, as a body, whose existence is somewhat arbitrary in their nature, incompatible with the due operathe friends of the Catholics voted tion of the powers of the regular in its favour as part of a system government. You represent Irewhich was immediately to termi- land as being in a state of agitation nate in emancipation. They all which can be soothed only by declared, however, that, if it had granting all that the Catholics been introduced as a substantive demand; and no man can doubt measure, they would have resisted that the Catholic Association, which it; and that they now consented exists only for purposes of agitato suppress the Association only tion, is the great fomenter of that on the understanding, that those dangerous and alarming spirit. claims, for the furtherance of which You say that it must be put down; the Association had been created, you ask extraordinary powers to were to be immediately conceded. put it down ; by doing so, you In truth, to grant emancipation grant that it may be put down.
If so, why has it been allowed to ing, that it was a matter of exgo on prospering and unimpeded treme difficulty to draw up a bill for years, till, having gained “a of indictment against 7,000,000 giant's stature and a tyrant's of people. He did believe, that strength,” it brings you crouching bafiled and hampered as the legal to its feet in trembling obedience advisers of the crown were, the to its mandates? In short, you ac- wisest plan, which they could purknowledge, that by a duc use of sue, was, to confess the real truth, power you might have prevented that it was a matter of extreme that state of things, in which, now difficulty to frame such an indictthat it has been allowed to grow ment. He had voted for the bill up, you seek an apology for desert- of 1825, but since that time there ing the policy to which you have had been a new parliament, and it been so long pledged. Above all, was by no means certain that the you asked and obtained, in 1825, present parliament would repose an Act for suppressing this very the same confidence in, or intrust Association. Yet it is since that similar powers to a ministry, unless time that it has become so for- some hopes were held out that the midable. If the powers given by coercive measure was to be immethat act were sufficient, why was diately followed by one of concesit not enforced ? If they were sion. The Solicitor-general, howinsufficient, why were more effec- cver, forgot that this very House of tive powers not demanded? for who Commons had refused, in 1827, to would have grudged any powers entertain sir Francis Burdett's necessary to put down an usurpa- motion for a committee. tion of the regular government of Mr. Iuskisson said, that' it the country?
would have been impossible, in the The Solicitor-general for Ire- way of definition and enactment, to land answered, that he had attend- have gone further than the act of ed to the debates of the Associa- 1825 went, without interfering tion with the closest anxiety; but, improperly with the rights and after all his vigilance, and all his privileges of the subject generally; anxiety, it was the unanimous and from the period in which that opinion of his colleagues on the act was passed, down to the period other side of the Channel, that it in which he ceased to have a share would have been an useless task in his majesty's councils, the to have undertaken a prosecution government had been most anxious against any individual for his con- to give full efficacy, as far as was duct in the Catholic Association, consistent with the liberty of the and that an abortive attempt at subject, to such provisions of it prosecution would have been worse as were intended to guard against than useless, inasmuch as it would the mischief of the Catholic Associhave irritated, without putting ation. When he first saw the down, the members of that Associ- mode in which that act was evaded ation. He could not, upon the in Ireland, his mind was made up present occasion, enter into a detail to this conclusion - that there was of all the circumstances, which, in no mode of terminating the danger his opinion, rendered it impolitic to arising from that Association withattack the Catholic Association out vesting in the government a he would contine himself to say. considerable portion of arbitrary power-indeed such a portion as it Catholic relief, which, though lost was now proposed to vest for a time in the upper House, must yet have in the government of Ireland. Now shown the people, that conciliation he would ask, whether the House was intended to accompany coerwas prepared to place such power cion. The act, then, of 1825, was in the Irish government perma- not the only measure, upon which nently? He was not at liberty to the House of Commons depended state to the House what passed for the tranquillity of Ireland, in his majesty's councils, during when they had recorded its accomthe period in which he had the paniment by the admission that honour of enjoying a seat at the Catholic disabilities ought to be council board, neither was it removed. These were the causes, necessary that he should do so: he which had prevented the effectual was at liberty, however, to state operation of the law of 1825. this,-that, having come to the The act passed: but the Associaconclusion which he had just tion rendered it unnecessary to declared to the House, he could not make use of the powers which it help coming to another conclusion bestowed.
Their parliamentary also ; and that was, that, consist- friends had pointed out to them, ently with his public duty, he could that, as matters stood, with the not grant to the government that government pledged to emancipaarbitrary power which was neces- tion, their continuing together as sary to put down the Catholic a body could only do mischief ; Association, without putting an and the Association, even before the end, at the same time, to the cruel bill had completed its hasty prosystem of exclusion which called gress, declared itself dissolved. It that Association into existence. was plain, however, even from the Either in or out of office, he never explanations given by ministers would have agreed to such a mea- theniselves, that the Association sure of coercion, if assured it was had been allowed to bully the goto be a permanent measure, unless vernment into submission, and that it had been accompanied at the the present act for its suppression same time by an assurance, that was mere legislative mockery—the the evil system, which the Associa- ridiculous assumption of a threattion sought to remedy, was going ening gesture to cover and conceal to be abandoned.
their impotence. The Association Mr. Peel said, that to state the had demanded emancipation, une reasons why hedid not enforce qualified emancipation, and nothing the act of 1825, would make it else. It had said to the governnecessary to go into the whole ment, give us emancipation, and history of affairs in Ireland dur- we exist no more ; refuse us what ing the last four years, which we ask, and we defy your power would lead to the conclusion that, either to restrain or to resist us. amid the divisions and conten- The question between it and the tions which prevailed, the real government had never been, wheabatement of faction was impossi- ther it would be quiet, if the goble. Moreover, it should be bornevernment gave all that it demandin mind how the act of 1825 was
ed—but whether or nó the governfollowed up by the same parlia- ment could compel it to be quiet, ment which introduced it. It hud
It hud even though it should get nothing. been followed up by a bill for In such circumstances, when one hand held a bill for suppressing the claims had been one main ground Association, while the other con- on which the University had made tained a bill granting all that the him its representative, and tenderAssociation demanded, to speak of ing his resignation.* His resignahaving suppressed the Association was an abuse of words. It was as The following is Mr. Peel's letter: if a man should boast of his victory -To the reverend the vice-chancellor
of Oxford. over a highwayman, to whom he
Whitehall, Feb. 4. exclaims, when the pistol is at his
My dear Sir,-) take the very first breast, “down with your pistol, sir, opportunity of which I am at liberty to for there are my purse and my avail myself, to make a communication watch.” The robber would have
to you which is most distressing to my
feelings. the best of it, and so had the As
I have considered it to be my duty, sociation.
as one of the responsible advisers of the The bill, which commemorated king, humbly to signify to his majesty this wretched triumph, received the opinion which I have formed, in the royal assent on the 5th of entire concurrence with all my colleaMarch; and on the same day Mr. is arrived when his majesty's servants
gues in the government, that the period Peel moved in the House of Com- must take, in their collective capacity, mons, that the House should go some decisive line with regard to the into a Committee on the laws
state of Ireland, and to the various subwhich imposed disabilities on the
jects affecting the tranquillity of that Catholics. But he no longer rose
country, which are involved in what is
called the Catholic question. as member for the University of After maturely weighing the present Oxford. That honourable rank he position of affairs, and the prospects of had reached, and had retained, as
the future-adverting to the opinions
repeatedly expressed by majorities in the firm opponent of Catholic cn- the House of Commons-to the difficulcroachments; the University had ties which must arise, in the present sent him forth to defend the civil state of Ireland, froin continued division and religious institutions to which in the councils of his majesty, and dis
union between the two Houses of Parshe was attached, and hitherto liament—it has appeared to his majesty's he had done his part faithfully government that there is less of evil and and well. A few short months less of danger, under the existing cirhad converted him into a leader of cumstances of the country, in the atCatholic aggression, and found him tempt to make some satisfactory adjust
ment of the Catholic question, than in zealously employed in creating any other course which we can suggest. every one of those dangers, which In the offer of my advice to his majesty, his life had been spent in detecting
as one of his contidential and responsible and resisting. If the change was
servants, I have been compelled to exjustified by his duty as a statesman,
clude every consideration but that of
the interests and necessities of the he could not, in common decency country. or honesty, retain his seat as mem- No sooner, however, had I fulfilled ber for Oxford. On the 4th of the obligations of my duty to his maFebruary, the day before the meet
jesty, than I began maturely to reflect
on the relation in which I stand to the ing of parliament, he addressed a
University of Oxford. letter to the Vice-chancellor of the I cannot doubt that the resistance University, announcing the new
which I have hitherto offered to the views of policy by which he was
claims of the Roman Catholics has been about to be guided, acknowledging have been entitled to the contidence and
one of the main grounds upon which I that his resistance to the Catholic support of a very large body of my cons