Sivut kuvina
PDF

ought to be as ready as those who had seceded from them to assert their principles, asked the House .to pledge itself to -an amendment that the surplus revenues of the Church should be applied to purposes of public utility. In the course of the debate which ensued, Sir Robert Peel drew attention to the different language used on the subject of appropriation by different members of the Cabinet, and, with an inaccuracy which was not usual in him,.declared that Lord John had stated that ‘the Church in Ireland’ is the greatest grievance of which any country ever had to complain. Lord John had no difficulty in correcting the inaccuracy.

I did not say, as the right hon. gentleman supposes, that the Church of Ireland was the greatest grievance that any country had ever suffered. So far from it, I stated that the revenues of the Church were too great for its stability, thereby implying that I desired and contemplated 'the future stability of the Church. , , _ That was my opinion then, and is now; I have seen no reason to alter it.

He went on to say that the necessity of Coercion Acts, measures ‘peculiarly abhorrent to those who pride themselves on the name of Whigs,’ imposed on Ministers the special duty of looking ‘deeper into the causes of the long-standing and permanent evils of that'country;’ and after an able argument on the nature of Church property, and on the right of the legislature to deal with it, he concluded—

I am well aware that on this subject, above all others, an attempt will be made to raise the cry of ‘The Church is in danger.’ \Vhatever success that cry may have, I am prepared to abide by the opinions which I have expressed. I am not prepared to continue the government of Ireland without fully probing her condition. I am not prepared to propose Bills for coercion and the maintenance of a large force of military and police without endeavouring to improve, as far as lies in my power, the condition of the people. . . . If the cry to which I have alluded should be raised and prove successful, and if that dissolution, which has been invoked with such loud cheers by many gentlemen opposite, should take place, let it come. . . . I will not be a Minister to carry on systems which I think founded on bigotry and prejudice. Bethe consequence what it may,

. . . I am content to_ abide by these opinions, to carry them out to their fullest extent, not by any premature declaration of mere opinion . _ , but by going on gradually, from time to time improving our institutions, and, without injuring the ancient and venerable fabrics, rendering them fit and proper mansions for a great, free, and intelligent people. ' 1

I In the whole of his previous career Lord John had never spoken with so much vigour; even in the debates on the Reform Bill his words had never elicited such hearty cheering. Mr. Ward, as the author of Appropriation, rose at once to beg Mr. O'Connell after these ‘manly declarations’ to withdraw his amendment; and, though Mr. O’Connell declined to do so, he expressed his ‘admiration of the sentiments of the noble" lord.’ Here is what a much older friend thought of Lord John’s speech :—

I cannot help hastening to tell you that you have relieved me from a most heavy weight of suspense and anxiety by your noble speech of Monday last. ‘Je reconnais mon sang,’ if I may apply such a quotation, roz‘urz'er as I am, to the blood of the Russells. But I do recognise in that speech all that I have ever admired and loved in you, and, let what will happen with others, you at least come safe and unsinged out of the furnace, and a devil of a furnace it is, to be sure. . . . The character of one such man as you is worth all the convocations of bishops and parsons that ever were yet—convocated. I have no other word for it. '

'Here is Lord john’s answer :—-—

' WHITEHALL: full: 28, 1834.

MY DEAR MOORE,—You cannot doubt that I am very much gratified by your letter. MY_friends in general, I am glad to say, have, both in the House and out of it, cheered me on with more praise than I deserve, and I believe, by dint of encouragement, they will at last make me what by nature I am not, namely, a g00d speaker. .

But there are occasions on which one must express one’s feelings or, sink into contempt. I own 'I have not been easy during the period for which I thought it absolutely necessary to suspend the assertion of my opinions in order to secure peace in his country. .

[ocr errors]

If there is no hesitation or shrinking among us at the helm, we shall still pass through the straits in safety; but if there is, I can see no seamark which can afford hope to the country.

Remember me kindly to Mrs. Moore—Ever yours truly,

.. / J. RUSSELL.

‘The straits,’ however, were very narrow, and, if there was no shrinking at the helm, there was grievous lack of discipline in the crew. On the day that followed that on which Lord John was writing, the council took place at which the Cabinet agreed to proceed with the Coercion Bill which the Irish Secretary, Mr. Littleton, had privately assured Mr. O’Connell should not be introduced in its integrity. Mr. O’Connell, declining to allow Mr. Littleton the advantage of secrecy, detailed the whole transaction publicly to the House of Commons, and, in the general confusion which followed, Lord Grey retired from office and was succeeded by Lord Melbourne. Lord John, in the heat of the crisis, acted in a manner which reminds the reader of his boyhood. ‘Seeing that nothing more was to be done that night, I left the Cabinet and went to the opera.’ '

It was Lord John’s hope—and’the wish was shared by Lord Melbourne and Lord Althorp—that the King, in accepting Lord Grey’s resignation, would have sent for Sir Robert Peel, and it was with much reluctance and heavy misgivings that the Ministers resumed the thankless task of carrying on the government. In_the short period which remained to them they succeeded in passing a modified Coercion Bill through both Houses of Parliament, and in carrying a modified Tithe Bill through the Commons. But the Tithe Bill was rejected by the Lords, and Ireland was thus deprived of the remedy which thoughtful and tolerant men like Lord John were anxious to secure her.

Thus, during the session of 1834, the Whig Ministry had been weakened by the secession of the Duke of Richmond, Lord Ripon, Sir J. Graham, and Mr. Stanley, and decapitated by the retirement of Lord Grey. It had failed to secure the measure dealing with tithes in Ireland, on which its existence

seemed at one time to be staked; and, though posterity owes it a deep debt of gratitude for passing the Poor Law of 1834, that reform rather tended to increase its unpopularity than to promote its credit. It was plain to every one that the Ministers could only retrieve their position by an earnest effort; and, though the session was protracted till August 15, Lord Melbourne, at the very commencement of the recess, consulted Lord John on the propriety of reassembling Parliament almost immediately. Here is Lord John’s answer :—

SALTRAM:1 Sept. 12, 1834.

DEAR MELBOURNE,—I received only last night your letter of the 81h. I quite agree with you that the question of assembling Parliament requires great consideration, and that the pros and cons are both of great weight. But I attach little consequence, I confess, to any arguments drawn from suppositions that Parliament will not go along with us. In the present actual state of afi'airs I own I think it the duty of Government .to adopt a decided course of policy and ask Parliament for their support; and I think from all I know of the House of Commons that they will be far more likely to support a Ministry so acting than one which pursues the wretched, wavering, blundering course of policy which was adopted last session. The House of Commons then naturally say, ‘These fellows don’t know what they’re about; we must take the affair into our own hands and manage it for them.’

I am aware that it will not do to propose coercion laws if there be no practical act on the part of O’Connell to justify it. The misfortune is that, having prepared in Tipperary and the other counties his whole means, he may open his battery in Dublin about November 20, when it is too late to call Parliament before Christmas. What I should be inclined to propose, then, is this: that Parliament should be called together to consider the tithe question, and that we should introduce a. Bill on the principle of that of last year, only clearly providing that all money paid by the Treasury should be repaid out of the property of the Church, and that livings, where there was not a. tenth of the population Churchmen, should be suspended when vacant for that purpose; that in proposing this measure Govern_ ment should declare that they were ready to protect the

[graphic][merged small]

Protestants of Ireland against any club government which should pretend to direct elections and intimidate juries; that, if necessary, a Bill would be brought in for that purpose ; if not necessary, the law would be strictly enforced against associations of this description, This course would be clear and intelligible, and would, I am sure, be successful in the House of Commons. The Lords probably would again reject the Tithes Bill; upon them let the responsibility rest.

Leaving this for your consideration, I will only add that I hope, “hatever independent members of Parliament may do, no member of the Government will seek any intercourse, or ask for any truce, from O’Connell. I could have “ished, I must say, that the chief Ministerial paper had not joined with O’Connell in condemning Lord Grey. .

Auckland comes here to-day, and 1 shall have some talk will him to-morrow, and then go back to Endsleigh. --Yours truly,

J. RUSSELL.

On the very day on which Lord John was thus urging the Prime Minister that no member of the Cabinet should have any intercourse with Mr. O’Connell, Mr. Abercromby, who had joined the Ministry as Master of the Mint only three months before, was sending to Lord Melbourne a long and confidential letter which he had received from the great Irish agitator imploring the Government to take some steps to break the Orange monopoly, and to seize the opportunity which a vacancy in the Irish Bench afl'orded them of conciliating the Roman Catholics.

I would suggest, first, that a judge should be moved from the Common Pleas to the King’s Bench. . . . Second, to give Blackburne the vacant seat thus created in the Common Pleas : his legal knowledge would be of use in this court, which is deplorably deficient. Third, if these suggestions be not attended to, I do implore you not to make the Solicitor-General a judge. He is utterly ‘unfit for it. . . . You will be disgraced in the eyes of every rational man in Ireland if you make . . . Crampton a judge. . . . If you appoint Blackburne, you take out of the office of Attorney-General the most decided Orange Tory that ever filled that office. If he refuse to accept the situation, you may then dismiss him without reproach. Reproach or no reproach, you ought to discontinue him as Attorney-General.

« EdellinenJatka »