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REPEAL OF THE UNION.
SPEECH IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE 25TII OF APRIL, 1834.
The speech just spoken by the member for the county of Wexford has been received with acclamations, and if it were less able, the acclamation would not, perhaps, have been less enthusiastic, or less loud. Fortunate advocate, whose success depends as much at least on the predilections of the tribunal, as upon the merits of the cause! I have heard my honourable friend when he exhibited fully as much eloquence as upon this occasion, but never saw him received with such cordiality at the outset, or such rapture at the termination of any of his former harangues. With what clearness of exposition, with what irresistible force, for example, did he demand justice for the Irish people after the inassacre of Newtownbarry! He presented a picture of that atrocious transaction, compared to which, his accounts of the fatal effects of agitation are weak and inefficient indeed. The incidents which he described, and the picturesque diction in which his narrative was conveyed, ought to have produced a great impression upon his auditory yet how coldly did all that he then urged fall upon his hearers. You were then frigid and apathetic; you are now, in the highest degree, susceptible and alive to the accomplishments of the member for the county of Wexford. My honourable friend is now a devoted and unqualified antagonist of repeal. Was it always thus ? Did he not say—that if justice was not done to Ireland on the tithe question, he should, however reluctantly, become an advocate for repeal.
Mr. LAMBERT.-I do not recoilect having ever said so.
Mr. SHEIL.–At all events, he declared that the denial of justice with respect to the Irish Church, would have the effect of inducing the great inass of the population to embrace repeal. Whether he spoke of himself, or of the country, putting personal considerations out of view, the inference is nearly the same. He expressed a desire when he began, that the member for Dublin should be in attendance while he reviewed his conduct. The wish was gratified. The member for Dublin entered the house, (which the lionourable member for the county of Wexford never would have entered but for the member for Dublin,) and I own that I did not think that he had any cause to wince under the chastisement applied to him by the hon. member. But how, after all, are the real merits of this great question affected by these resentful references to incidents which have taken place outside this house? Is this the proper field for encounter between two honourable gentlemen? The member for the county of Wexford may have been wronged ;--language may have been applied to him by the member for Dublin with regard to his conduct on the Coercion Bill, which deserves condemnation. I regret it; but let him bear in mind that the obligation conferred upon him by the member for Dublin, ought to outweigh every injury. Though he has been smitten in the face, let him remember that the hand that struck him, struck bis fetters off. The honourable
member for Wexford has adverted to the remuneration, which the pea ple of Ireland have bestowed upon the member for Dublin. He should have considered the extent of the service, before he derided the reward l'or thirty years the member for Dublin has toiled in the cause of Iremind; he has been mainly instrumental in achieving the liberty of his tellow-countrymen ; he has relinquished great emoluments by abstract.ng himself from liis profession, and by making a dedication of his faculties to the interests of his country :-Ireland felt that it behove her to prove her gratitude for that freedom, which is above all price.
I turn from these painful topics to the subject presented to our deliberation. Not a word has as yet been said upon the amendment Many may conceive that the original proposition ought to be rejected, and yet will, I hope, pause before they adopt the sentiments contained in the address. The question before the house is, not merely whether a committee should be granted for the purpose of investigating a question on which the Secretary for the Treasury thought it not inexpedient to deliver an harangue, of which the length must be admitted to be unsurpassed, but whether we shall vote an address, which not only contains an approval of the Union, but states besides, that the policy adopted with respect to Ireland has been judicious, wise, and just. Observe what it is you are called upon to place on record ; mark the following paragraph :
“ We humbly represent to your Majesty that the Imperial Parliament have taken the affairs of Ireland into their most serious consideration, and that various salutary laws have been enacted since the Union for the advancement of the most important interests of Ireland, and of the empire at large.”
What other object can there be for this assertion, but to declare that the course pursued by parliament has been such, as not to make it requisite that any change should be adopted. Suppose that in the year 1827, when Mr. Canning was Prime Minister, and so many members of the present cabinet were associated with him, the noble lord, the Paymaster of the Forces had introduced the question of parliamentary reform, which Mr. Canning declared he would resist, -not “to the death,” but to the last moment of his life, and that the Conservative party had introduced an address against reform similar to this address against repeal, would not all the arguments advanced in support of this address have applied as forcibly to that which I have hypothetically suggested ? The Conservative address against reform might have run thus :-“: We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons in parliament assembled, feel it our duty humbly to approach your Majesty's throne, to record, in the most solemn manner, our fixed determination to maintain, unimpaired and undisturbed, the constitution of parliament—(I substitute it for · legislative union'), which we consider to be essential to the strength and stability of the empire, to the continuance of the connexion between the two countries, and to the peace, and security and happiness of all classes of your Majesty's subjects. In expressing to your Majesty our resolution io maintain the constitution inviolate, we humbly beg leave to assure your Majesty, that we shall
persevere in applying our best atterition to the removal of al just causes of complaint, and to the promotion of all well-considered measures ut improvement.”
Had such an address been proposed, how would it have been denounced' Would it not have been considered as amounting to a sanction of all the policy pursued by the boroughmongering administrations? In that light it would, beyond doubt, have been represented by that Whis party, which, after having passed their political lives iu reprobating the conduct of their opponents while they were in power, call on the bouse to pronounce upon the measures of the last thirty-four years ar unqualified panegyric. I shall, in the course of the observations I mean tu make, revert to this view of the amendment, which I have only suggested, in order that the house might see exactly what it was called on to do, and the extent of the proposition which has been made by the government. I return to the original motion. The member for Dublin demands a committee to inquire into the results of the Union, and the probable consequences of its continuance. I should at once grapple with the argument derived from the alleged likerihood of separation, but that it belongs to the prophetic part of the case ;-it is better to deal with facis before we indulge in predictions; and, before we look forward, to look back. Before the year 1782, Ireland lay prostrate. The foot of England was upon her neck, and was applied with the pressure which, in such an attitude, is habitually employed. Why do I revert to a period so remote ? I call up your ancestors in order to show you that you have preserved a resemblance to them—in the pictures of your predecessors a national likeness may be traced. Between an Irish Parliament under the direct control of an English, and an Imperial Parliament, in whichi I: ish members are overwhelmed by English majorities, there is some distinction, but not much difference to be found. Was Ireland justified in demanding her independence ? Few will deny it. Yet its advocates were aspersed with contumelies as foul as is now poured from high places on the champions of repeal.
The tract of Molyneux was burned by order of the British House of Commons, and the office was performed by an appropriate representative of the feelings of Englishmen towards the sister country. sition was treated as a wretched absurdity, or a base expedient. It Wils denounced as impracticable, events converted the impossibility into fact. When the Irish Parliament had acliieved its independence, how did it employ the noble instrument which it had so gloriously won? Free trade, the independence of the judges, the Habeas Corpus Act, conces. sions to the Roman Catholics, were the measures associated with inuependence. The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Spring Rice, lias cited thie authority of Mr. Grattan, for the purpose of showing that Mr. Grat. tan condemued the proceedings of the Irish Parliament from the year 1782, up to the time of the Union. I could cite the authority of Mr. Grattan on the other side ; but I will not occupy the time of the house with prolixities of this sort, nor refer to a multitude of authorities. To one, howerer, I cannot refrain from adverting, that of Edmund Burke, because it must weigh beyond every other, in the mind of the Secretary
for the Treasury, as Edmund Burke considered England his adopted, and (he had good cause to do so) his dearer country. It is not wonderful that Edmund Burke should have given a preference to England ; - where a man hath his treasure, there also he hath his heart.” I shall not molest the house with long extracts; it is enough to refer to Edmund Burke's speech on conciliation with America, and to his letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, for glowing descriptions of the rapid and wide advances made by Ireland after 1782. The course adopted by the government is singular,—they tell us in the first place, that all reference to events before the Union is inapplicable, and that our encomiums on the Irish Parliament are out of place, and afterwards they themselves resort to every petty anecdote connected with our parliament, and disinter from oblivion every derogatory circumstance, to make out a case against us. The argument is this :—the Irish Parliament was often under the influence of the populace—its proceedings were interrupted and controlled, and therefore it ought not io exist. Might I not say, Cromwell broke into this house, bade a rude soldier take away “ this bauble” on which I now lay my hand, therefore there ought not to be a House of Commons ! The reasoning against the Irish Parliament is the same.
The Secretary for the Treasury has quoted every bad act passed by the Irish-—he has quoted every good one passed by an Imperial Parliament. Why did he omit any the least mention of any one of the beneficial measures enacted by the parliament of his country? I should be justified in opening the Irisi Statutes, and going through the entire of its legislation. But this would be a tedious process. To one part only of the legislation of the Irish Parliament shall I call tlie attention of the house. Many a time has it been said that the Irish Parliament, left to itself, would never carry the Roman Catholic Question. Let us not judge by idle conjectures of what it was probable it would have done, but by a reference to what it actually did do. What was the conduct with respect to the Roman Catholics of the Irish and the English Parliaments at the same time? The English Parliament made some concessions, but excluded Roman Catholics from the Lviversities, from corporations, from the bencl. of magisterial justice, from grand juries, from petty juries, and from the hustings. What, on the other hand, was the conduct of the Irish Parliament ? It admitted Roman Catholics to the Universities, to corporations, to the magisterial bench, to the grand jury box, to the petty jury, and, above and gloriously paramount to all, it conferred upon them the elective franchise - furnished the fulcrum by which Ireland placed a mighty lever- gave the weapon with which the victory of peace was achieved-gave that which, being conceded, the noble residue of freedom could not be withheld. I shall, by and by, have occasion to compare the conduct of the Imperial Parliament with that of the Irish Parliament, with regard to the Catholic Question.
We are told that an Irish Parliament would be favourable to separirtion. The object of the rebellion was separation. How did the Tris) Parliament act? If it co-operated with the conspirators, or connived in their project, there wculd be some plausibility in the suggestiu. But
not only was there no party with a leaning to the insurgents, but therg was not a man in that assembly who did not concur in the suppression (if the revolt; and it was remarkable that the men who were most devoted to Irish independence, were equally attached to connexion with this country. Never did there exist a body which displayed a mo, e genuine and enthusiastic loyalty; and shall that great fact be held in no account? France saw in the Irish Parliament a representative of the intelligence of Ireland, whose moral influence co-operated with military power, and who rallied the nation round the standard of the King, by inculcating the great principle, that allegiance is but a modification of patriotism, and fidelity to our institutions a part of the love of country. L'ass in the Union. Of the infamy of the means by which it was carriec, it is unnecessary to say much, because the fact is undisputed. But
is said "of what consequence are the mears? Factum valet.” Convenient aphorism! By a judicious application of this canon in the Machiavelian casuistry, there is no atrocity which may not be turned to account. Lord Grey would not—God forbid !-have ever ac bbed Irela:id of her legislature, but he has no objection to become receiver of her spoliated rights. But let us put the ethics of the question, except so far as they are connected with expediency, out of the case ; yet have they no connexion with expediency? The means have mingled with the effects, because they have generated the feelings which would more than vitiate any good which the Union could produce. From a source so foul, the Irish people think that nothing pure can be derived. They think that no matter over what time it may pass, the current can never run clear. They look back with detestation to the venality and the turpitude by which their legislature was bartered—that which is an object of national abhorrence must be prolific of many evils, and barren of all good. Some one said that a fault was worse than a crime; a crime seldom fails to be a fault. The memory of the delinquency makes it a mistake. The consideration of the instrumentality by which the Union was accomplished is not irrelevant ; but let us consider the more direct and palpable effects of the measure. They are divisible into two heads,
-the fiscal and political. The Secretary for the Treasury has appealed to a great number of financial facts, to sustain the proposition that the Union has produced the prosperity of Ireland. In 1796 Edmund Burke published his letters on the Regicide Peace. In one of them, like the Secretary for the Treasury, he combines rhetoric and arithmetic together. He refers to the exports and imports, to the official returns respecting the revenue, the customs, taxes, excise, manufactures, and tonnage. and all the other materials of fiscal calculation. He concludes that 1 othing is so useful as war, and calls on England to fight on. But it the inference of Edmund Burke were wrong, is the inference of the member for Cambridge right? Look at Canada. Its prosperity may be demonstrated. Why should not Ireland prosper with a local govern31ent as well as Canada ? If you effected a "Union with Canada, would you not lose the country-would you keep it for three years ?
The Secretary for the Treasury says, that Ireland prospers because she enjoys a free trade. In the event of repeai would there nut be a