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daronet Les again and again protested his strong anxiety to render liis measure acceptable to the great mass of the community, and to intruduce such modifications as should meet all just objections. I trust that his professions may be realized, and as he told us that he would send forth his bill in the hope that it would receive the public sanction and indicate that the “waters of strife had subsided,” let me be permitted to hope that he will associate with that image another incident coulnected with the primeval history of mankind, and bear in mind that every colour was united in distinctness without predominance, that token of peace which God set in the clou:l, as a covenant of his reconciliation with the work..
IRISH ARMS BILL.
SPEECII IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, MAY 19, 1843
!! I were convinced that the Arms Bill, even in its present most obnosious shape, was necessary for the repression of crime, I should reiuccently indeed, but strenuously, sustain it; but of its utter inefficiency for the attainment of that legitimate purpose, in which it is obligatory upon us all to concur, I am thoroughly persuaded. It is not to the want of an Arms Bill, such as this, it is to the imperfect, I am almost justified ir calling it the impotent administration of justice, that the atrocities, by which certain districts in Ireland are unfortunately characterized, are to de ascribed. In the county of Tipperary the prosecutions at the axisizes are begun, conducted, and terminated in such a manner as to secure inpunity to crime. How has it come to pass, that the offences which fall within the jurisdiction of the assistant-barrister, and are prosecuted by the local solicitor, have so signally diminished ? I attribute that remarkable decrease to two causes ; first, to the high judicial qualities, the talent, the firmness, the impartiality which has won the confidence of all parties, by which Mr. Howley, the assistant-barrister, is distinguished ; and in the next place, to the signal usefulness of the local solicitor for the crown (Mr. Cahill), who unites with great ability a perfect knowledge of the country ; has the best opportunities of ascertaining every incident connected with the cases in which he is concerned; is well acquainted with the character of every witness for the prosecution and the defence; never puts innocence in peril ; and never permits ruffianism to escape. But while minor violations of the law are prosecuted with so much effect, what course is taken at the assizes ? I beg most distinctly to state that nothing can be more remote from my intention than to speak in the language of personal depreciation of Mr. Kemuis, the crown solicitor for the Leinster circuit, or to suggest that a local solicitor should be employed in his place, without dding, that he should receive for any loss he may sustain the mosv ample compensation. But granting him to possess the highest professional qualifications, I have no hesitation at the same time in stating that the business of the crown cannot be efficiently carried on by a legal absentee, who knows nothing of the county, is utterly ignorant of the witnesses produced for or against the crown, is utterly unable, not from any want of capacity, but from his position, to suggest or advise the means by which truth can be substantiated, and falsehood can be confuted, is hurried from one assize town to another, and must get up his briefs with inevitable precipitation, for the information of counsel, who are opposed by the most skilful advocates, aided by a local solicitor for the defence, by whom every imaginable expedient for the frustration of the crown is employed. It is obvious that, under this system, you give to crime advantages incalculably great. Another suggestion I shall, from a sense of duty-from my solicitude for the public tranquillity-venture to make. You resort 10 uformers, azci you pay them largely for their corrupt contribution to the enforcement of the law, but to honest witnesses adequate protection is not given. Some years ago the house of a person of the name of Crawford was attacked, and he was beaten almost to death. He was afraid to prosecute. He lived in my neighbourhood. I obtained from the government an undertaking that he and his family should be sent te one of the colonies, and should be provided for. He was prevailed on to prosecute, and justice was done, and a most useful example made. If
you will pledge yourselves to protect the witnesses for the crown, by enabling them to emigrate, and by compensating them for the loss of their country, you will effect much more than by the unconstitutional proceeding which I am aware your high partisans invite you to adopt. It would be far more befitting in the landed proprietors to attend at the assizes, and perform their duty on criminal trials, than to call for a violation of a great public right. If there is a special commission got up with parade, and attended by the Attorney-General, with a retinuc of counsel, the chief gentlemen of the county do not think it inconsistent with their dignity to act on the petty jury; but at the assizes, though the crimes to be prosecuted are of the same class, the juries are wholly different. The petty jury is considered an ungenteel and low concern; the balance in whicli human life is trembling is committed to coarser and less aristocratic sustainments, and complaints are afterwards made of the constituion of juries by the very men who vote it, what they call, in their familiar parlance,“ a bore” to attend. There is nothing which 1 more strongly deprecate than the setting asiile of juries by the crown, except for the clearest and most indisputable reasons, but, on the other hand, I do think that the attendance of Roman Catholics and Protestunts, of station and influence, on the criminal jury, should be enforced, and that, if necessary, fines of £500 or £600 should be imposed upon them. The utmost care should of course be taken that the juries should not be exclusive, and that no ground for imputation should be afforded; but that precaution being adopted, it is clear that the verdicts found by that class of men, whether of acquittal or of condemnation, wouid meet the general sanction. I am very well aware that the gentry of the country will be very adverse to this proposition ; but they should bear in mind how large a stake they have in the tranquillity of the country, which will be far better promoted by these means than by an Arms Bill, which will take from honest men the means of defence, and will not deprive the turbulent and the lawless of the means of aggression. When murder becomes lucrative, it is not easy to deprive tho assassin of the tools of his profitable trade. If you could succeed in depriving him of his more noisy implements of death, you would bud teach him to substitute a more silent but not less efficacious weapon: but you cannot frame a law which he will not readily evade. The wretch who is not appalled at murder, will not tremble at an Arms Bili - your penalties of ten or twenty pounds will be scorned by men who put existence into habitual peril
. These are among my reasons for thinking that the Arms Bill will not be in any degree conducive to the purpose it has ostensibly in view, while by its enactment, without obtaining any countervailing benefit, you commit a manifest trespass upor one
of the chief constitutional rights which the bill, deriving its designation from those rights, nas received. But my main objection to this bill is founded upon the distinction which it establishes between England and Ireland. • Repeal the Union-restore the Heptarchy!". Thus exclaimeu George Canning, and stamped on the fioor of this house as he gave utterance to a comparison in absurdity, which has been often cited. But that exclamation may be turned to an account, different from that to which it is applied. Restore the heptarchy-repeal the union. Good. Put take up the map of England, and mark the subdivisions into which this your noble island was once distributed, and then suppose that in this assembly of wise men—this Imperial Parliament--you were to ordain that there should be one law in what once was the kingdom of Kent, and another in what once was the kingdom of Mercia—that in Essex there should be one municipal franchise, and in Sussex there should be another ; that among the East Angles there should be one parliamentary franchise, and in Wessex there should be another; and That while through the rest of the island the Bill of Rights should be regarded as the inviolate and inviolable charter of British liberty, in the kingdom of Northumberland, an Arms Bill, by which the elementary principles of British freedom should be set at nought, should be enacter -would you not say that the restoration of the heptarchy could scarcely be more preposterous ? What a mockery it is, what an offence it is to our feelings, what an insult to the understanding it is to expatiate upon the advantages of the union, and bid us rejoice that we are admitted to the great imperial co-partnership in power, while you are every day making the most odious distinctions between the two countries, establishing discriminating rights which are infinitely worse than discriminating duties, and furnishing the champions of repeal with pretences more than plausible, for insisting that if for England and for Ireland different laws are requisite, for Ireland and for England different lawgivers are required My chief, my great objection to this measure is, that it is founded upon the fatal policy to which Englishmen have so long adhered, and from which it is so difficult to detach them, of treating Ireland as a inere provincial appurtenance, instead of regarding her as part and parcel of the realm. You are influenced by a kind of instinct of domination, which it requires no ordinary effort of your reason to overcome. I do not think that by Englishmen an Arms Bill like this would be endured. That observation does not rest on mere conjecture ; in the year 1819 this country was in a most perilous condition. It appeared from a report made by a secret committee of which the present Lord Derby was the chairman, that large bodies of men were trained to the use of arms in the dead of the night, in sequestered places; that a revolutionary movement, to be accomplished by disciplined insurrection, was contemplated, and that revolt was organized for war. In this state of things an English Arms Bill, one of the Six Acts, was proposed. Lord Castlereagh was then leader of the House of Commons, but although he had served his apprenticeship in Ireland—although he had dissected in Ireland before he attempted to operate in England ; and although his hand was peculiarly steady, and lie was admitted on all hands not
to be destitute of determination, still he did not think it prudent to propose for England such a bill as for Ireland you have thought it judicious to introduce. There is the English Arins Bill of 1819. It is comprised in a siugle page, look at it; the ocular comparison will not be inappropriate; here is the Irish Arms Bill, a whole volume of coercion, in which tyranny is elaborated in every possible diversity of form which it was possible to impart to it. In the English Arms Bill no penalty whatever vas inflicted for the possession of arms: in your Arms Bill, an īrishman can be transported for seven years for having arms in his possession. But although the English Arms Bill was moderate when compared with the Irish, yet Lord Grey denounced it in the House of Lords.* In the House of Commons, Mr. Henry Brougham exclaimed : “ Am I an Englishman ? for I begin to doubt it, when measures so utterly abhorrent from the first principles of British liberty are audaciously propounded to us:” That great orator then proceeded to offer up an aspiration that the people would rise up in a simultaneous revolt and sweep away the government by which a great sacrilege upon the constitution had been perpetrated. What would he have said-how would Lord Castlereagh have been blasted by the lightning and appalled by the thunder of his elequence if a bill had been brought forward, under which the blacksmiths of England should be licensed, under which the registry of arms was made dependent on a bench of carricious magisterial partisans, under which an Englishman might be transported for seven years, for exercising the privilege secured to him by the Bill of Rights; and every pistol, gun, and blunderbuss was to be put through that process of branding, the very motion of which, in 1831, made by the noble lord opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, the then Secretary for Ireland, produced an outburst of indignation. It is said that this bill has rothing new. That is a mistake—it contains many novelties in despotism, many curiosities in domination. My friend the member for Rochdale has pointed them out. But supposing that everything was old in this biil, does not your defence rest on a perseverance in oppression, on that fatal tenacity with which you cling to a system, to which your experience should tell you that it is fully to adhere? This bill, it was observed by the noble İord the Secretary for Ireland, was found, in 1807, in the portfolio of the Whig Secretary. The Whigs had prepared a measure of coercion ind of relief. The Tories turned them out on the measure of reliet, aud of the measure of coercion took a Conservative care. The Secretary for Ireland stated that the first Arms Bill was introduced in 1807 by Sir Arthur Wellesley. Sir Arthur Wellesley! The transition which has taken place from Sir Arthur Wellesley--from the official of Dublin Castle to the warrior, by whose fame the world is filled—is not greater than the transition of the country which gave him birth, from enslaved und degraded to enfranchised and liberated Ireland, who has grown too gigantic for your chains, and dilated to dimensions which your fetters will no longer tit. But although the project of an Arms Bill was w.fortunately found in the Whig portfolio, that measure was condemned
* Mr. Shell reud Lord Grey's protest against one of the Six Acts iz 1819