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Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, Volume 1 by John Bright

Part 5 out of 9

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under it. Now, if we are agreed--and I am keeping you still to
Lancashire and to its interests for a moment longer--that this vast
industry with all its interests of capital and labour has been standing
on a menacing volcano, is it not possible that hereafter it may be
placed upon a rock which nothing--can disturb?

Imagine--what of course some people will say I have no right to imagine--
imagine the war over, the Union restored and slavery abolished--does
any man suppose that there would afterwards be in the South one single
negro fewer than there are at present? On the contrary, I believe there
would be more. I believe there is many a negro in the Northern States,
and even in Canada, who, if the lash, and the chain, and the branding-
iron, and the despotism against which even he dared not complain, were
abolished for ever, would turn his face to the sunny lands of the South,
and would find himself happier and more useful there than he can be in a
more Northern clime.

More than this, there would be a migration from the North to the South.
You do not suppose that those beautiful States, those regions than which
earth offers nothing to man more fertile and more lovely, are shunned by
the enterprising population of the North because they like the rigours
of a Northern winter and the greater changeableness, of the Northern
seasons? Once abolish slavery in the South, and the whole of the
country will be open to the enterprise and to the industry of all. And
more than that, when you find that, only the other day, not fewer than
four thousand emigrants, most of them from the United Kingdom, landed in
one day in the city of New York, do you suppose that all those men would
go north and west at once? Would not some of them turn their faces
southwards, and seek the clime of the sun, which is so grateful to all
men; where they would find a soil more fertile, rivers more abundant,
and everything that Nature offers more profusely given, but from which
they are now shut out by the accursed power which slavery exerts? With
freedom you would have a gradual filling up of the wildernesses of the
Southern States; you would have there, not population only, but capital,
and industry, and roads, and schools, and everything which tends to
produce growth, and wealth, and prosperity.

I maintain--and I believe my opinion will be supported by all those men
who are most conversant with American affairs--that, with slavery
abolished, with freedom firmly established in the South, you would find
in ten years to come a rapid increase in the growth of cotton; and not
only would its growth be rapid, but its permanent increase would be

I said that I was interested in this great question of cotton. I come
from the midst of the great cotton industry of Lancashire; much the
largest portion of anything I have in the world depends upon it; not a
little of it is now utterly valueless, during the continuance of this
war. My neighbours, by thousands and scores of thousands, are suffering,
more or less, as I am suffering; and many of them, as you know--more
than a quarter of a million of them--have been driven from a subsistence
gained by their honourable labour to the extremest poverty, and to a
dependence upon the charity of their fellow-countrymen. My interest is
the interest of all the population.

My interest is against a mere enthusiasm, a mere sentiment, a mere
visionary fancy of freedom as against slavery. I am speaking now as a
matter of business. I am glad when matters of business go straight with
matters of high sentiment and morality, and from this platform I declare
my solemn conviction that there is no greater enemy to Lancashire, to
its capital and to its labour, than the man who wishes the cotton
agriculture of the Southern States to be continued under the conditions
of slave labour.

One word more upon another branch of the question, and I have done. I
would turn for a moment from commerce to politics. I believe that our
true commercial interests in this country are very much in harmony with
what I think ought to be our true political sympathies. There is no
people in the world, I think, that more fully and entirely accepts the
theory that one nation acts very much upon the character and upon the
career of another, than England; for our newspapers and our statesmen,
our writers and our speakers of every class, are constantly telling us
of the wonderful influence which English constitutional government and
English freedom have on the position and career of every nation in
Europe. I am not about to deny that some such influence, and
occasionally, I believe, a beneficent influence, is thus exerted; but if
we exert any influence upon Europe--and we pride ourselves upon it--
perhaps it will not be a humiliation to admit that we feel some
influence exerted upon us by the great American Republic. American
freedom acts upon England, and there is nothing that is better known, at
the west end of this great city--from which I have just come--than the
influence that has been, and nothing more feared than the influence that
may be, exerted by the United States upon this country.

We all of us know that there has been a great effect produced in England
by the career of the United States. An emigration of three or four
millions of persons from the United Kingdom, during the last forty
years, has bound us to them by thousands of family ties, and therefore
it follows that whatever there is that is good, and whatever there is
that is free in America, which we have not, we know something about, and
gradually may begin to wish for, and some day may insist upon having.

And when I speak of 'us,' I mean the people of this country. When I am
asserting the fact that the people of England have a great interest in
the well-being of the American Republic, I mean the people of England. I
do not speak of the wearers of crowns or of coronets, but of the twenty
millions of people in this country who live on their labour, and who,
having no votes, are not counted in our political census, but without
whom there could be no British nation at all. I say that these have an
interest, almost as great and direct as though they were living in
Massachusetts or New York, in the tremendous struggle for freedom which
is now shaking the whole North American Continent.

During the last two years there has been much said, and much written,
and some things done in this country, which are calculated to gain us
the hate of both sections of the American Union. I believe that a course
of policy might have been taken by the English press, and by the English
Government, and by what are called the influential classes in England,
that would have bound them to our hearts and us to their hearts. I speak
of the twenty millions of the Free North. I believe we might have been
so thoroughly united with that people, that all remembrance of the war
of the Revolution and of the war of 1812 would have been obliterated,
and we should have been in heart and spirit for all time forth but one

I can only hope that, as time passes, and our people become better
informed, they will be more just, and that ill feeling of every kind
will pass away; that in future all who love freedom here will hold
converse with all who love freedom there, and that the two nations,
separated as they are by the ocean, come as they are, notwithstanding,
of one stock, may be in future time united in soul, and may work
together for the advancement of the liberties and the happiness of

* * * * *





I will not attempt to follow the noble Lord in the laboured attack which
he has made upon the Treasury Bench, for these two reasons:--that he did
not appear to me very much to understand what it was he was condemning
them for; and, again, I am not in the habit of defending Gentlemen who
sit on that bench. I will address myself to the question before the
House, which I think the House generally feels to be very important,
although I am quite satisfied that they do not feel it to be a practical
one. Neither do I think that the House will be disposed to take any
course in support of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the resolution
now before us.

We sometimes are engaged in discussions, and have great difficulty to
know what we are about; but the hon. Gentleman left us in no kind of
doubt when he sat down. He proposed a resolution, in words which, under
certain circumstances and addressed to certain parties, might end in
offensive or injurious consequences. Taken in connection with his
character, and with the speech he has made tonight, and with the speech
he has recently made elsewhere on this subject, I may say that he would
have come to about the same conclusion if he had proposed to address the
Crown inviting the Queen to declare war against the United States of
America. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is known not to be very
zealous in the particular line of opinion that I have adopted, addressed
the hon. Gentleman in the smoothest language possible, but still he was
obliged to charge him with the tone of bitter hostility which marked his

On a recent occasion the hon. Member addressed some members of his
constituency--I do not mean in his last speech, I mean in the speech in
August last year--in which he entered upon a course of prophecy which,
like most prophecies in our day, does not happen to come true. But he
said then what he said to-night, that the American people and Government
were overbearing. He did not tell his constituents that the Government
of the United States had, almost during the whole of his lifetime, been
conducted by his friends of the South. He said that, if they were
divided, they would not be able to bully the whole world; and he made
use of these expressions: 'The North will never be our friends; of the
South you can make friends,--they are Englishmen,--they are not the scum
and refuse of the world.'

Mr. Roebuck: 'Allow me to correct that statement. What I said I now
state to the House, that the men of the South were Englishmen, but that
the army of the North was composed of the scum of Europe.'

Mr. Bright: I take, of course, that explanation of the hon. and learned
Gentleman, with this explanation from me, that there is not, so far as I
can find, any mention near that paragraph, and I think there is not in
the speech a single word, about the army.

Mr. Roebuck: 'I assure you I said that.'

Mr. Bright: Then I take it for granted that the hon. and learned
Gentleman said that, or that if he said what I have read he greatly
regrets it.

Mr. Roebuck: 'No, I did not say it.'

Mr. Bright: The hon. and learned Gentleman in his resolution speaks of
other powers. But he has unceremoniously got rid of all the powers but
France, and he comes here to-night with a story of an interview with a
man whom he describes as the great ruler of France--tells us of a
conversation with him--asks us to accept the lead of the Emperor of the
French on, I will undertake to say, one of the greatest questions that
ever was submitted to the British Parliament. But it is not long since
the hon. and learned Gentleman held very different language. I recollect
in this House, only about two years ago, that the hon. and learned
Gentleman said: 'I hope I may be permitted to express in respectful
terms my opinion, even though it should affect so great a potentate as
the Emperor of the French. I have no faith in the Emperor of the
French.' On another occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman said,--not,
I believe, in this House,--'I am still of opinion that we have nothing
but animosity and bad faith to look for from the French Emperor.' And he
went on to say that still, though he had been laughed at, he adopted the
patriotic character of 'Tear-'em,' and was still at his post.

And when the hon. and learned Gentleman came back, I think from his
expedition to Cherbourg, does the House recollect the language he used
on that occasion--language which, if it expressed the sentiments which
he felt, at least I think he might have been content to have withheld?
If I am not mistaken, referring to the salutation between the Emperor of
the French and the Queen of these kingdoms, he said, 'When I saw his
perjured lips touch that hallowed cheek.' And now, Sir, the hon. and
learned Gentleman has been to Paris, introduced there by the hon. Member
for Sunderland, and he has sought to become as it were in the palace of
the French Emperor a co-conspirator with him to drag this country into a
policy which I maintain is as hostile to its interests as it would be
degrading to its honour.

But then the high contracting parties, I suspect, are not agreed,
because I will say this in justice to the French Emperor, that there has
never come from him in public, nor from any one of his Ministers, nor is
there anything to be found in what they have written, that is tinctured
in the smallest degree with that bitter hostility which the hon. and
learned Gentleman has constantly exhibited to the United States of
America and their people. France, if not wise in this matter, is at
least not unfriendly. The hon. and learned Member, in my opinion--indeed
I am sure--is not friendly, and I believe he is not wise.

But now, on this subject, without speaking disrespectfully of the great
potentate who has taken the hon. and learned Gentleman into his
confidence, I must say that the Emperor runs the risk of being far too
much represented in this House. We have now two--I will not call them
envoys extraordinary, but most extraordinary. And, if report speaks
true, even they are not all. The hon. Member for King's County (Mr.
Hennessy)--I do not see him in his place--came back the other day from
Paris, and there were whispers that he had seen the great ruler of
France, and that he could tell everybody in the most confidential manner
that the Emperor was ready to make a spring at Russia for the sake of
delivering Poland, and that he only waited for a word from the Prime
Minister of England.

I do not understand the policy of the Emperor if these new Ministers of
his tell the truth. For, Sir, if one Gentleman says that he is about to
make war with Russia, and another that he is about to make war with
America, I am disposed to look at what he is already doing. I find that
he is holding Rome against the opinion of all Italy. He is conquering
Mexico by painful steps, every footstep marked by devastation and blood.
He is warring, in some desultory manner, in China, and for aught I know
he may be about to do it in Japan. I say that, if he is to engage, at
the same time, in dismembering the greatest Eastern Empire and the great
Western Republic, he has a greater ambition than Louis XIV, a greater
daring than the first of his name; and that, if he endeavours to grasp
these great transactions, his dynasty may fall and be buried in the
ruins of his own ambition.

I can say only one sentence upon the question to which the noble Lord
has directed so much attention. I understand that we have not heard all
the story from Paris, and further, that it is not at all remarkable,
seeing that the secret has been confided to two persons, that we have
not heard it correctly. I saw my hon. Friend, the Member for Sunderland,
near me, and his face underwent remarkable contortions during the speech
of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I felt perfectly satisfied that
he did not agree with what his colleague was saying. I am told there is
in existence a little memorandum which contains an account of what was
said and done at that interview in Paris; and before the discussion
closes we shall no doubt have that memorandum produced, and from it know
how far these two gentlemen are agreed.

I now come to the proposition which the hon. and learned Gentleman has
submitted to the House, and which he has already submitted to a meeting
of his constituents at Sheffield. At that meeting, on the 27th of May,
the hon. and learned Gentleman used these words: 'What I have to
consider is, what are the interests of England: what is for her
interests I believe to be for the interests of the world.' Now, leaving
out of consideration the latter part of that statement, if the hon. and
learned Gentleman will keep to the first part of it, then what we have
now to consider in this question is, what is for the interest of
England. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has put it to-night in
almost as offensive a way as he did before at Sheffield, and has said
that the United States would not bully the world if they were divided
and subdivided; for he went so far as to contemplate division into more
than two independent sections. I say that the whole of his ease rests
upon a miserable jealousy of the United States, or on what I may term a
base fear. It is a fear which appears to me just as groundless as any of
those panics by which the hon. and learned Gentleman has attempted to
frighten the country.

There never was a State in the world which was less capable of
aggression with regard to Europe than the United States of America. I
speak of its government, of its confederation, of the peculiarities of
its organization; for the House will agree with me, that nothing is more
peculiar than the fact of the great power which the separate States,
both of the North and South, exercise upon the policy and course of the
country. I will undertake to say, that, unless in a question of
overwhelming magnitude, which would be able to unite any people, it
would be utterly hopeless to expect that all the States of the American
Union would join together to support the central Government in any plan
of aggression on England or any other country of Europe.

Besides, nothing can be more certain than this, that the Government
which is now in power, and the party which have elected Mr. Lincoln to
office, is a moral and peaceable party, which has been above all things
anxious to cultivate the best possible state of feeling with regard to
England. The hon. and learned Gentleman, of all men, ought not to
entertain this fear of United States aggression, for he is always
boasting of his readiness to come into the field himself. I grant that
it would be a great necessity indeed which would justify a conscription
in calling out the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I say he ought to
consider well before he spreads these alarms among the people. For the
sake of this miserable jealousy, and that he may help to break up a
friendly nation, he would depart from the usages of nations, and create
an everlasting breach between the people of England and the people of
the United States of America. He would do more; and, notwithstanding
what he has said tonight, I may put this as my strongest argument
against his case--he would throw the weight of England into the scale in
favour of the cause of slavery.

I want to show the hon. and learned Gentleman that England is not
interested in the course he proposes we should take; and when I speak of
interests, I mean the commercial interests, the political interests, and
the moral interests of the country. And first, with regard to the supply
of cotton, in which the noble Lord the Member for Stamford takes such a
prodigious interest. I must explain to the noble Lord that I know a
little about cotton. I happen to have been engaged in that business,--
not all my life, for the noble Lord has seen me here for twenty years,--
but my interests have been in it; and at this moment the firm of which I
am a member have no less than six mills, which have been at a stand for
nearly a year, owing to the impossibility of working under the present
conditions of the supply of cotton. I live among a people who live by
this trade; and there is no man in England who has a more direct
interest in it than I have. Before the war, the supply of cotton was
little and costly, and every year it was becoming more costly, for the
supply did not keep pace with the demand.

The point that I am about to argue is this: I believe that the war which
is now raging in America is more likely to abolish slavery than not, and
more likely to abolish it than any other thing that can be proposed in
the world. I regret very much that the pride and passion of men are such
as to justify me in making this statement. The supply of cotton under
slavery must always be insecure. The House felt so in past years; for at
my recommendation they appointed a committee, and but for the folly of a
foolish Minister they would have appointed a special commission to India
at my request. Is there any gentleman in this House who will not agree
with me in this,--that it would be far better for our great Lancashire
industry that our supply of cotton should be grown by free labour than
by slave labour?

Before the war, the whole number of negroes engaged in the production of
cotton was about one million,--that is, about a fourth of the whole of
the negroes in the Slave States. The annual increase in the number of
negroes growing cotton was about twenty-five thousand,--only two and a-
half per cent. It was impossible for the Southern States to keep up
their growth of sugar, rice, tobacco, and their ordinary slave
productions, and at the same time to increase the growth of cotton more
than at a rate corresponding with the annual increase of negroes.
Therefore you will find that the quantity of cotton grown, taking ten
years together, increased only at the rate of about one hundred thousand
bales a-year. But that was nothing like the quantity which we required.
That supply could not be increased, because the South did not cultivate
more than probably one and a-half per cent of the land which was capable
of cultivation for cotton.

The great bulk of the land in the Southern States is uncultivated. Ten
thousand square miles are appropriated to the cultivation of cotton; but
there are six hundred thousand square miles, or sixty times as much
land, which is capable of being cultivated for cotton. It was, however,
impossible that the land should be so cultivated, because, although you
had climate and sun, you had no labour. The institution of slavery
forbade free-labour men in the North to come to the South; and every
emigrant that landed in New York from Europe knew that the Slave States
were no States for him, and therefore he went North or West. The laws of
the United States, the sentiments of Europe and of the world, being
against any opening of the slave-trade, the planters of the South were
shut up, and the annual increase in the supply of cotton could increase
only in the same proportion as the annual increase in the number of
their negroes.

There is only one other point with regard to that matter which is worth
mentioning. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield will
understand it, although on some points he seems to be peculiarly dark.
If a planter in the Southern States wanted to grow one thousand bales of
cotton a-year, he would require about two hundred negroes. Taking them
at five hundred dollars, or one hundred pounds each, which is not more
than half the price of a first-class hand, the cost of the two hundred
would be twenty thousand pounds. To grow one thousand bales of cotton a-
year you require not only to possess an estate, machinery, tools, and
other things necessary to carry on the cotton-growing business, but you
must find a capital of twenty thousand pounds to buy the actual
labourers by whom the plantation is to be worked; and therefore, as
every gentleman will see at once, this great trade, to a large extent,
was shut up in the hands of men who were required to be richer than
would be necessary if slavery did not exist.

Thus the plantation business to a large extent became a monopoly, and
therefore even on that account the production of cotton was constantly
limited and controlled. I was speaking to a gentleman the other day from
Mississippi. I believe no man in America or in England is more
acquainted with the facts of this case. He has been for many years a
Senator from the State of Mississippi. He told me that every one of
these facts were true, and said, 'I have no doubt whatever that in ten
years after freedom in the South, or after freedom in conjunction with
the North, the production of cotton will be doubled, and cotton will be
forwarded to the consumers of the world at a much less price than we
have had it for many years past.'

I shall turn for a moment to the political interest, to which the hon.
and learned Gentleman paid much more attention than to the commercial.
The more I consider the course of this war, the more I come to the
conclusion that it is improbable in future that the United States will
be broken into separate republics. I do not come to the conclusion that
the North will conquer the South. But I think the conclusion to which I
am more disposed to come now than at any time since the breaking out of
the war is this,--that, if a separation should occur for a time, still
the interest, the sympathies, the sentiments, the necessities of the
whole continent, and its ambition also, which, as hon. Gentlemen have
mentioned, seems to some people to be a necessity, render it highly
probable that the continent would still be united under one central
Government. I may be quite mistaken. I do not express that opinion with
any more confidence than hon. Gentlemen have expressed theirs in favour
of a permanent dissolution; but now is not this possible,--that the
Union may be again formed on the basis of the South? There are persons
who think that possible. I hope it is not, but we cannot say that it is
absolutely impossible.

Is it not possible that the Northern Government may be baffled in their
military operations? Is it not possible that, by their own incapacity,
they may be humiliated before their own people? And is it not even
possible that the party which you please to call the Peace party in the
North, but which is in no sense a peace party, should unite with the
South, and that the Union should be reconstituted on the basis of
Southern opinions and of the Southern social system? Is it not possible,
for example, that the Southern people, and those in their favour, should
appeal to the Irish population of America against the negroes, between
whom there has been little sympathy and little respect; and is it not
possible they should appeal to the commercial classes of the North--and
the rich commercial classes in all countries, who, from the uncertainty
of their possessions and the fluctuation of their interests, are
rendered always timid and very often corrupt--is it not possible, I say,
that they might prefer the union of their whole country upon the basis
of the South, rather than that union which many Members of this House
look upon with so much apprehension?

If that should ever take place--but I believe, with my hon. Friend below
me (Mr. Forster), in the moral government of the world, and therefore I
cannot believe that it will take place; but if it were to take place,
with their great armies, and with their great navy, and their almost
unlimited power, they might seek to drive England out of Canada, France
out of Mexico, and whatever nations are interested in them out of the
islands of the West Indies; and you might then have a great State built
upon slavery and war, instead of that free State to which I look, built
up upon an educated people, upon general freedom, and upon morality in

Now there is one more point to which the hon. and learned Gentleman will
forgive me if I allude--he does not appear to me to think it of great
importance--and that is, the morality of this question. The right hon.
Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Gentleman who
spoke from the bench behind--and I think the noble Lord, if I am not
mistaken--referred to the carnage which is occasioned by this lamentable
strife. Well, carnage, I presume, is the accompaniment of all war. Two
years ago the press of London ridiculed very much the battles of the
United States, in which nobody was killed and few were hurt. There was a
time when I stood up in this House, and pointed out the dreadful horrors
of war. There was a war waged by this country in the Crimea; and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, with an uneasy conscience, is constantly
striving to defend that struggle. That war--for it lasted about the same
time that the American war has lasted--at least destroyed as many lives
as are estimated to have been destroyed in the United States.

My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, who, I think, is not in the
House, made a speech in Scotland some time last year, in which he gave
the numbers which were lost by Russia in that war. An hon. Friend near
me observes, that some people do not reckon the Russians for anything. I
say, if you will add the Russians to the English, and the two to the
French, and the three to the Sardinians, and the four to the Turks, that
more lives were lost in the invasion of the Crimea, in the two years
that it lasted, than have been lost hitherto in the American war. That
is no defence of the carnage of the American war; but let hon. Gentlemen
bear in mind that, when I protested against the carnage in the Crimea--
for an object which few could comprehend and nobody can fairly explain--
I was told that I was actuated by a morbid sentimentality. Well, if I am
converted, if I view the mortality in war with less horror than I did
then, it must be attributed to the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite
and on the Treasury bench; but the fact is, I view this carnage just as
I viewed that, with only this difference, that while our soldiers
perished three thousand miles from home in a worthless and indefensible
cause, these men were on their own soil, and every man of them knew for
what he enlisted and for what purpose he was to fight.

Now, I will ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and those who are of opinion with him on this question of
slaughter in the American war--a slaughter which I hope there is no hon.
Member here, and no person out of this House, that does not in his calm
moments look upon with grief and horror--to consider what was the state
of things before the war. It was this: that every year in the Slave
States of America there were one hundred and fifty thousand children
born into the world--born with the badge and the doom of slavery--born
to the liability by law, and by custom, and by the devilish cupidity of
man--to the lash and to the chain and to the branding-iron, and to be
taken from their families and carried they know not where.

I want to know whether you feel as I feel upon this question. When I can
get down to my home from this House, I find half a dozen little children
playing upon my hearth. How many Members are there who can say with me,
that the most innocent, the most pure, the most holy joy which in their
past years they have felt, or in their future years they have hoped for,
has not arisen from contact and association with our precious children?
Well, then, if that be so--if, when the hand of Death takes one of those
flowers from our dwelling, our heart is overwhelmed with sorrow and our
household is covered with gloom; what would it be if our children were
brought up to this infernal system--one hundred and fifty thousand of
them every year brought into the world in these Slave States, amongst
these 'gentlemen,' amongst this 'chivalry,' amongst these men that we
can make our friends?

Do you forget the thousand-fold griefs and the countless agonies which
belonged to the silent conflict of slavery before the war began? It is
all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to tell me, to tell
this House--he will not tell the country with any satisfaction to it--
that slavery, after all, is not so bad a thing. The brother of my hon.
Friend the Member for South Durham told me that in North Carolina he
himself saw a woman whose every child, ten in number, had been sold when
they grew up to the age at which they would fetch a price to their

I have not heard a word to-night of another matter--the Proclamation of
the President of the United States. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke
somewhere in the country, and he had not the magnanimity to abstain from
a statement which I was going to say he must have known had no real
foundation. I can make all allowance for the passion--and I was going to
say the malice--but I will say the ill-will of the hon. and learned
Gentleman; but I make no allowance for his ignorance. I make no
allowance for that, because if he is ignorant it is his own fault, for
God has given him an intellect which ought to keep him from ignorance on
a question of this magnitude. I now take that Proclamation. What do you
propose to do? You propose by your resolution to help the South, if
possible, to gain and sustain its independence. Nobody doubts that. The
hon. and learned Gentleman will not deny it. But what becomes of the
Proclamation? I should like to ask any lawyer in what light we stand as
regards that Proclamation? To us there is only one country in what was
called the United States; there is only one President, there is only one
general Legislature, there is only one law; and if that Proclamation be
lawful anywhere, we are not in a condition to deny its legality, because
at present we know no President Davis, nor do we know the men who are
about him. We have our Consuls in the South, but recognizing only one
Legislature, one President, one law. So far as we are concerned, that
Proclamation is a legal and effective document.

I want to know, to ask you, the House of Commons, whether you have
turned back to your own proceedings in 1834, and traced the praises
which have been lavished upon you for thirty years by the great and good
men of other countries,--and whether, after what you did at that time,
you believe that you will meet the views of the thoughtful, moral, and
religious people of England, when you propose to remit to slavery three
millions of negroes in the Southern States, who in our views, and
regarding the Proclamation of the only President of the United States as
a legal document, are certainly and to all intents and purposes free?
['Oh!'] The hon. and learned Gentleman may say 'Oh!' and shake his head
lightly, and be scornful at this. He has managed to get rid of all those
feelings under which all men, black and white, like to be free. He has
talked of the cant and hypocrisy of these men. Was Wilberforce, was
Clarkson, was Buxton,--I might run over the whole list,--were these men
hypocrites, and had they nothing about them but cant?

I could state something about the family of my hon. Friend below me (Mr.
Forster), which I almost fear to state in his presence; but his revered
father--a man unsurpassed in character, not equalled by many in
intellect, and approached by few in service--laid down his life in a
Slave State in America, while carrying to the governors and legislatures
of every Slave State the protest of himself and his sect against the
enormity of that odious system.

In conclusion, Sir, I have only this to say,--that I wish to take a
generous view of this question,--a view, I say, generous with regard to
the people with whom we are in amity, whose Minister we receive here,
and who receive our Minister in Washington. We see that the Government
of the United States has for two years past been contending for its
life, and we know that it is contending necessarily for human freedom.
That Government affords the remarkable example--offered for the first
time in the history of the world--of a great Government coming forward
as the organized defender of law, freedom, and equality.

Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot be so ill-informed as to say that
the revolt of the Southern States is in favour of freedom and equality.
In Europe often, and in some parts of America, when there has been
insurrection, it has generally been of the suffering against the
oppressor, and rarely has it been found, and not more commonly in our
history than in the history of any other country, that the Government
has stepped forward as the organized defender of freedom--of the wide
and general freedom of those under its rule. With such a Government, in
such a contest, with such a foe, the hon. and learned Gentleman the
Member for Sheffield, who professes to be more an Englishman than most
Englishmen, asks us to throw into the scale against it the weight of the
hostility of England.

I have not said a word with regard to what may happen to England if we
go into war with the United States. It will be a war upon the ocean,--
every ship that belongs to the two nations will, as far as possible, be
swept from the seas. But when the troubles in America are over,--be they
ended by the restoration of the Union, or by separation,--that great and
free people, the most instructed in the world,--there is not an American
to be found in the New England States who cannot read and write, and
there are not three men in one hundred in the whole Northern States who
cannot read and write,--and those who cannot read and write are those
who have recently come from Europe,--I say the most instructed people in
the world, and the most wealthy,--if you take the distribution of wealth
among the whole people,--will have a wound in their hearts by your act
which a century may not heal; and the posterity of some of those who now
hear my voice may look back with amazement, and I will say with
lamentation, at the course which was taken by the hon. and learned
Gentleman, and by such hon. Members as may choose to follow his leading.
['No! No!'] I suppose the hon. Gentlemen who cry 'No!' will admit that
we sometimes suffer from the errors of our ancestors. There are few
persons who will not admit that, if their fathers had been wiser, their
children would have been happier.

We know the cause of this revolt, its purposes, and its aims. Those who
made it have not left us in darkness respecting their intentions, but
what they are to accomplish is still hidden from our sight; and I will
abstain now, as I have always abstained with regard to it, from
predicting what is to come. I know what I hope for,--and what I shall
rejoice in,--but I know nothing of future facts that will enable me to
express a confident opinion. Whether it will give freedom to the race
which white men have trampled in the dust, and whether the issue will
purify a nation steeped in crimes committed against that race, is known
only to the Supreme. In His hands are alike the breath of man and the
life of States. I am willing to commit to Him the issue of this dreaded
contest; but I implore of Him, and I beseech this House, that my country
may lift nor hand nor voice in aid of the most stupendous act of guilt
that history has recorded in the annals of mankind.

* * * * *



LONDON, JUNE 29, 1867.

[The following speech was made at a public breakfast given to William
Lloyd Garrison, in St. James's Hall, at which Mr. Bright occupied the

The position in which I am placed this morning is one very unusual for
me, and one that I find somewhat difficult; but I consider it a signal
distinction to be permitted to take a prominent part in the proceedings
of this day, which are intended to commemorate one of the greatest of
the great triumphs of freedom, and to do honour to a most eminent
instrument in the achievement of that freedom. There may be, perhaps,
those who ask what is this triumph of which I speak. To put it briefly,
and, indeed, only to put one part of it, I may say that it is a triumph
which has had the effect of raising 4,000,000 of human beings from the
very lowest depth of social and political degradation to that lofty
height which men have attained when they possess equality of rights in
the first country on the globe. More than this, it is a triumph which
has pronounced the irreversible doom of slavery in all countries and for
all time. Another question suggests itself--how has this great triumph
been accomplished? The answer suggests itself in another question--How
is it that any great thing is accomplished? By love of justice, by
constant devotion to a great cause, and by an unfaltering faith that
what is right will in the end succeed.

When I look at this hall, filled with such an assembly--when I partake
of the sympathy which runs from heart to heart at this moment in welcome
to our guest of to-day--I cannot but contrast his present position with
that which, not so far back but that many of us can remember, he
occupied in his own country. It is not forty years ago, I believe about
the year 1829, when the guest whom we honour this morning was spending
his solitary days in a prison in the slave-owning city of Baltimore. I
will not say that he was languishing in prison, for that I do not
believe; he was sustained by a hope that did not yield to the
persecution of those who thus maltreated him; and to show that the
effect of that imprisonment was of no avail to suppress or extinguish
his ardour, within two years after that he had the courage, the
audacity--I dare say many of his countrymen used even a stronger phrase
than that--he had the courage to commence the publication, in the city
of Boston, of a newspaper devoted mainly to the question of the
abolition of slavery. The first number of that paper, issued on the 1st
of January, 1831, contained an address to the public, one passage of
which I have often read with the greatest interest, and it is a key to
the future life of Mr. Garrison. He had been complained of for having
used hard language--which is a very common complaint indeed--and he said
in his first number:--

'I am aware that many object to the severity of my language, but
is there not cause for such severity? I will be as harsh as
truth, and as uncompromising as justice. I am in earnest, I will
not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retract a single
inch, and I will be heard.'

And that, after all, expresses to a great extent the future course of
his life. But what was at that time the temper of the people amongst
whom he lived--of the people who are glorying now, as they well may
glory, in the abolition of slavery throughout their country? At that
time it was very little better in the North than it was in the South. I
think it was in the year 1835 that riots of the most serious character
took place in some of the Northern cities: during that time Mr.
Garrison's life was in imminent peril; and he has never ascertained to
this day how it was that he was left alive on the earth to carry out his
great work. Turning to the South, a State that has lately suffered from
the ravages of armies, the State of Georgia, by its legislature of
House, Senate, and Governor, if my memory does not deceive me, passed a
bill, offering 10,000 dollars reward--[Mr. Garrison here said '5,000']--
well, they seemed to think there were people who would do it cheap--
offering 5,000 dollars, and zeal, doubtless, would make up the
difference, for the capture of Mr. Garrison, or for adequate proof of
his death. Now, these were menaces and perils such as we have not in our
time been accustomed to in this country in any of our political
movements, and we shall take a very poor measure indeed of the conduct
of the leaders of the Emancipation party in the United States if we
estimate them by that of any of those who have been concerned in
political movements amongst us. But, notwithstanding all drawbacks, the
cause was gathering strength, and Mr. Garrison found himself by-and-by
surrounded by a small but increasing band of men and women who were
devoted to this cause, as he himself was. We have in this country a very
noble woman, who taught the English people much upon this question about
thirty years ago: I allude to Harriet Martineau. I recollect well the
impression with which I read a most powerful and touching paper which
she had written, and which was published in the number of the
_Westminster Review_ for December, 1838. It was entitled 'The
Martyr Age of the United States.' The paper introduced to the English
public the great names which were appearing on the scene in connection
with this cause in America. There was, of course I need hardly say, our
eminent guest of to-day; there was Arthur Tappan, and Lewis Tappan, and
James G. Birney of Alabama, a planter and slave-owner, who liberated his
slaves and came North, and became, I believe, the first Presidential
candidate upon Abolition principles in the United States. There were
besides them, Dr. Channing, John Quincy Adams, a statesman and President
of the United States, and father of the eminent man who is now Minister
from that people amongst us. Then there was Wendell Phillips, admitted
to be by all who know him perhaps the most powerful orator who speaks
the English language. I might refer to others, to Charles Sumner, the
scholar and statesman, and Horace Greeley, the first of journalists in
the United States, if not the first of journalists in the world. But,
besides these, there were of noble women not a few. There was Lydia
Maria Child; there were the two sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke,
ladies who came from South Carolina, who liberated their slaves, and
devoted all they had to the service of this just cause; and Maria Weston
Chapman, of whom Miss Martineau speaks in terms which, though I do not
exactly recollect them, yet I know describe her as noble-minded,
beautiful, and good. It may be that there are some of her family who are
now within the sound of my voice. If it be so, all I have to say is,
that I hope they will feel, in addition to all they have felt heretofore
as to the character of their mother, that we who are here can appreciate
her services, and the services of all who were united with her as co-
operators in this great and worthy cause. But there was another whose
name must not be forgotten, a man whose name must live for ever in
history, Elijah P. Lovejoy, who in the free State of Illinois laid down
his life for the cause. When I read that article by Harriet Martineau,
and the description of those men and women there given, I was led, I
know not how, to think of a very striking passage which I am sure must
be familiar to most here, because it is to be found in the Epistle to
the Hebrews. After the writer of that Epistle has described the great
men and fathers of the nation, he says:--'Time would fail me to tell of
Gideon, of Barak, of Samson, of Jephtha, of David, of Samuel, and the
Prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of
fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong,
waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.' I
ask if this grand passage of the inspired writer may not be applied to
that heroic band who have made America the perpetual home of freedom?

Thus, in spite of all that persecutions could do, opinion grew in the
North in favour of freedom; but in the South, alas! in favour of that
most devilish delusion that slavery was a Divine institution. The moment
that idea took possession of the South, war was inevitable. Neither
fact, nor argument, nor counsel, nor philosophy, nor religion, could by
any possibility affect the discussion of the question when once the
Church leaders of the South had taught their people that slavery was a
Divine institution; for then they took their stand on other and
different, and what they in their blindness thought higher grounds, and
they said, 'Evil! be thou my good;' and so they exchanged light for
darkness, and freedom for bondage, and good for evil, and, if you like,
heaven for hell. Of course, unless there was some stupendous miracle,
greater than any that is on record even in the inspired writings, it was
impossible that war should not spring out of that state of things; and
the political slaveholders, that 'dreadful brotherhood, in whom all
turbulent passions were let loose,' the moment they found that the
presidential election of 1860 was adverse to the cause of slavery, took
up arms to sustain their cherished and endangered system. Then came the
outbreak which had been so often foretold, so often menaced; and the
ground reeled under the nation during four years of agony, until at
last, after the smoke of the battle-field had cleared away, the horrid
shape which had cast its shadow over a whole continent had vanished, and
was gone for ever. An ancient and renowned poet has said--

'Unholy is the voice
Of loud thanksgiving over slaughtered men.'

It becomes us not to rejoice, but to be humbled, that a chastisement so
terrible should have fallen upon any of our race; but we may be thankful
for this--that this chastisement was at least not sent in vain. The
great triumph in the field was not all; there came after it another
great triumph--a triumph over passion, and there came up before the
world the spectacle, not of armies and military commanders, but of the
magnanimity and mercy of a powerful and victorious nation. The
vanquished were treated as the vanquished, in the history of the world,
have never before been treated. There was a universal feeling in the
North that every care should be taken of those who had so recently and
marvellously been enfranchised. Immediately we found that the privileges
of independent labour were open to them, schools were established in
which their sons might obtain an education that would raise them to an
intellectual position never reached by their fathers; and at length full
political rights were conferred upon those who a few short years, or
rather months before, had been called chattels, and things, to be bought
and sold in any market. And we may feel assured, that those persons in
the Northern States who befriended the negro in his bondage will not now
fail to assist his struggles for a higher position. May we not say,
reviewing what has taken place--and I have only glanced in the briefest
possible way at the chief aspects of this great question--that probably
history has no sadder, and yet, if we take a different view, I may say
also probably no brighter page? To Mr. Garrison more than to any other
man this is due; his is the creation of that opinion which has made
slavery hateful, and which has made freedom possible in America. His
name is venerated in his own country--venerated where not long ago it
was a name of obloquy and reproach. His name is venerated in this
country and in Europe wheresoever Christianity softens the hearts and
lessens the sorrows of men; and I venture to say that in time to come,
near or remote I know not, his name will become the herald and the
synonym of good to millions of men who will dwell on the now almost
unknown continent of Africa.

But we must not allow our own land to be forgotten or depreciated, even
whilst we are saying what our feelings bid us say of our friend beside
me and of our other friends across the water. We, too, can share in the
triumph I have described, and in the honours which the world is willing
to shower upon our guest, and upon those who, like him, are unwearied in
doing good. We have had slaves in the colonial territories that owned
the sway of this country. Our position was different from that in which
the Americans stood towards theirs; the negroes were far from being so
numerous, and they were not in our midst, but 4,000 miles away. We had
no prejudices of colour to overcome, we had a Parliament that was
omnipotent in those colonies, and public opinion acting upon that
Parliament was too powerful for the Englishmen who were interested in
the continuance of slavery. We liberated our slaves; for the English
soil did not reject the bondsman, but the moment he touched it made him
free. We have now in our memory Clarkson, and Wilberforce, and Buxton,
and Sturge; and even now we have within this hall the most eloquent
living English champion of the freedom of the slave in my friend, and
our friend, George Thompson. Well, then, I may presume to say that we
are sharers in that good work which has raised our guest to eminence;
and we may divide it with the country from which he comes. Our country
is still his; for did not his fathers bear allegiance to our ancient
monarchy, and were they not at one time citizens of this commonwealth?
and may we not add that the freedom which now overspreads his noble
nation first sprang into life amongst our own ancestors? To Mr.
Garrison, as is stated in one of the letters which has just been read,
to William Lloyd Garrison it has been given, in a manner not often
permitted to those who do great things of this kind, to see the ripe
fruit of his vast labours. Over a territory large enough to make many
realms, he has seen hopeless toil supplanted by compensated industry;
and where the bondman dragged his chain, there freedom is established
for ever. We now welcome him amongst us as a friend whom some of us have
known long; for I have watched his career with no common interest, even
when I was too young to take much part in public affairs; and I have
kept within my heart his name, and the names of those who have been
associated with him in every step which he has taken; and in public
debates in the halls of peace, and even on the blood-soiled fields of
war, my heart has always been with those who were the friends of
freedom. We welcome him, then, with a cordiality which knows no stint
and no limit for him and for his noble associates, both men and women;
and we venture to speak a verdict which, I believe, will be sanctioned
by all mankind, not only by those who live now, but by those who shall
come after, to whom their perseverance and their success shall be a
lesson and a help in the future struggles which remain for men to make.
One of our oldest and greatest poets has furnished me with a line that
well expresses that verdict. Are not William Lloyd Garrison and his
fellow-labourers in that world's work--are they not

'On Fame's eternal bead-roll worthy to be filed?'

* * * * *



[On April 3rd Sir Robert Peel proposed a Resolution for the improvement
of Maynooth College, the grant to consist of 26,000_l_. per annum.
It was suggested by some speakers, that the act would justify the
endowment of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and Lord John Russell
asserted that such a plan would be a larger, more liberal, and more
statesmanlike measure. Others objected to the grant on theological
grounds, others for the reason that it was a step towards endowing
another Church Establishment in Ireland. The Resolution was carried by
216 to 114. The debate on the Bill was resumed on April 10th, and was
continued on April 14th and 16th. The second reading was carried on the
last day by 323 votes to 176; on May 2nd the Bill passed through
Committee. It was opposed again on bringing up the Report, on May 5th,
and was finally passed on May 21st, by 317 to 184. The Bill, after
opposition, passed in the Lords on June 10th.]

I am anxious to make a few observations on the principle on which I
shall give my vote; because I shall be obliged to pass into the lobby
along with a number of Members of the House from whose principles I
entirely dissent; and after the speech of the noble Lord the Member for
Bandon, I think that any one who votes with him has need to explain why
he votes on his side, for anything more unlike the principles of the
present day, more intolerant, or more insane with respect to the policy
to be pursued towards Ireland, I have never heard; and I could not have
believed that any man coming from that country could have used such
language in addressing this House. I do not think that this question is
to be looked at in a favourable or unfavourable light because of the
party from which it comes. Some hon. Members have charged the right hon.
Baronet with inconsistency, and have in some degree thrown the blame of
his conduct on the measure which he has introduced. The right hon.
Baronet has, from unfortunate circumstances, been connected in
Opposition with a party of such a nature, that he could never promote
any good measure whilst in power without being charged, and justly, with
inconsistent conduct. But I will look at the measure as a measure by
itself, and if it be a good measure I will vote for it as willingly,
coming from the present Government, as if it came from the Government
which preceded it. But I object to this measure on the ground that it is
proposed to vote some of the public taxes for the purpose of maintaining
an institution purely ecclesiastical, and for the rearing and educating
of the priests of a particular sect. I am the more strongly against the
Bill, because, from all that has been said on both sides of the House,
and from all that I can learn from the public papers, and even from the
organs of the Government, I am convinced that there is no argument which
has been used in defence of this measure, which would not be just as
valid for the defence of further measures, not for the payment of
Catholic priests of the College of Maynooth only, but for the payment of
all the priests in Ireland or in England. I admit that the principles
and the arguments which have justified the original vote are good to
some extent to justify this vote. The right hon. Baronet in his opening
speech has stated that the principle was conceded, that it is but a
matter of a few thousand pounds. But if the principle were conceded now,
ten or twenty years hence some Prime Minister might stand up and state
that in 1795 the principle was conceded, and in 1845 that concession--or
rather, that principle--was again sanctioned; and then, arguing from the
two cases, it would be easy to demonstrate that it was no violation of
principle whatever to establish a new Church in Ireland, and add thereby
to the monstrous evils which exist there now from the establishment of
one in connection with the State. The right hon. Baronet has paid no
great compliment to the Irish Catholics in the possession of means and
property, when he has said that the 9,000_l_. now voted is just
sufficient to damp the generosity of the people of that country. If
9,000_l_. were enough in some degree to check their generosity, I
should think that a sum of 26,000_l_. is sufficient to destroy it
altogether. When I consider that the Catholic gentry of Ireland pay no
Income Tax and no Property Tax, and no Assessed Taxes, I do not think it
would be a thing altogether impossible, or to be unlocked for, that they
should have supported an establishment for the rearing of priests to
teach that religion to which they profess to be so much devoted.

But the object of this measure was just as objectionable to me when I
learned that it was intended by this vote to soothe the discontent which
exists in Ireland. I will look at the causes whence this discontent
arises. Does it arise because the priests of Maynooth are now
insufficiently clad or fed? I have always thought that it arose from the
fact that one-third of the people are paupers--that almost all of them
are not in regular employment at the very lowest rate of wages--and that
the state of things amongst the bulk of the population is most
disastrous, and to be deplored; but I cannot for the life of me conceive
how the grant of additional money to Maynooth is to give additional
employment, or food, or clothing to the people of Ireland, or make them
more satisfied with their condition. I can easily see how, by the
granting of this sum, the Legislature may hear far less in future times
of the sufferings and wrongs of the people of Ireland than they have
heard heretofore; for they may discover that one large means of
influence, possessed by those who had agitated for the redress of Irish
wrongs, is to be found in the support which the Irish Catholic clergy
has given to the various associations for carrying on political
agitation; and the object of this Bill is to tame down those agitators--
it is a sop given to the priests. It is hush-money given, that they may
not proclaim to the whole country, to Europe, and to the world, the
sufferings of the population to whom they administer the rites and the
consolations of religion. I assert that the Protestant Church of Ireland
is at the root of the evils of that country. The Irish Catholics would
thank you infinitely more if you were to wipe out that foul blot, than
they would even if Parliament were to establish the Roman Catholic
Church alongside of it. They have had everything Protestant--a
Protestant clique which has been dominant in the country; a Protestant
Viceroy to distribute places and emoluments amongst that Protestant
clique; Protestant judges who have polluted the seats of justice;
Protestant magistrates, before whom the Catholic peasant could not hope
for justice. They have not only Protestant, but exterminating landlords,
and more than that, a Protestant soldiery, who, at the beck and command
of a Protestant priest, have butchered and killed a Catholic peasant,
even in the presence of his widowed mother. All these things are
notorious; I merely state them. I do not bring the proof of them: they
are patent to all the world, and that man must have been unobservant
indeed who is not perfectly convinced of their truth. The consequence of
all this is, the extreme discontent of the Irish people; and because
this House is not prepared yet to take those measures which would be
really doing justice to Ireland, and to wipe away that Protestant
Establishment which is the most disgraceful institution in Christendom;
the next thing is, that they should drive off the watch-dogs, if it be
possible, and take from Mr. O'Connell and the Repeal Association that
formidable organization which has been established throughout the whole
country, through the sympathies of the Catholic priests being bound up
with the interests of the people. Their object is to take away the
sympathy of the Catholic priests from the people, and to give them more
Latin and Greek. The object is to make the priests in Ireland as tame as
those of Suffolk and Dorsetshire. The object is, that when the horizon
is brightened every night with incendiary fires, no priest of the paid
Establishment shall ever tell of the wrongs of the people amongst whom
he is living; and when the population is starving, and pauperised by
thousands, as in the southern parts of England, the priests shall not
unite themselves with any association for the purpose of wresting from
an oppressive Government those rights to which the people have a claim.

I am altogether against this system for any purpose, under any
circumstances, at any time whatever. Nothing can be more disastrous to
the best interests of the community, nor more dangerous to religion
itself. If the Government wants to make the priests of Ireland as
useless for all practical purposes as the paid priests of their own
Establishment, they should not give them 26,000_l_. merely, but as
much as they can persuade the House to agree to. Ireland is suffering,
not from the want of another Church, but rather because she already has
one Church too many; for with the present Church, having a small
community, overpaid ministers, a costly Establishment, and little work,
it is quite impossible to have peace and content in that country. If you
give the Catholic priests a portion of the public funds, as the
Government has given the _Regium Donum_ to the Presbyterians of the
North, they will unite with the Church as the Presbyterians did against
any attempt to overturn the old system of Church and State alliance in
that country.

The experience of State Churches is not of a character to warrant the
House in going further in that direction. In this country there is a
State Church, and I do not deny that there are many excellent ministers
in it; but from time immemorial it has been characterized by a most
deplorable and disastrous spirit of persecution, which even at this hour
still exists; for that Church is now persecuting a poor shoemaker at
Cambridge for non-payment of Church rates, and pursuing him from court
to court. That Church has been upheld as a bulwark against Catholicism,
and yet all the errors of Catholicism find a home and a hearty welcome
there. In Lancashire and Yorkshire, and in other counties, that Church
is found to be too unwieldy a machine, and altogether unfitted to a
population growing in numbers and intelligence like that of those parts
of the kingdom. Even in Scotland, where there is a model of the most
perfect Establishment which perhaps could be raised, there are the
Secession Church, the Belief Church, and the Free Church; that which the
State upholds being called by the complimentary name of the Residuary
Church. After the experience of such State Churches, which have done so
little good and so much evil, is this a time for establishing another
Church? If I approved of Church endowments by the State I would vote for
this Bill with all my heart, because it is calculated to create a kinder
feeling towards this country amongst the people of Ireland.

Two parties opposed to the Bill are represented by hon. Gentlemen on the
other side of the House. They state that the Roman Catholic religion
should not be established or helped by the State. But when their Church
is absorbing millions of the public money, while millions of their
countrymen refuse to enter its doors, how can they for a moment object
to the passing of a measure which will give some sort of show of
assistance to that Church to which millions of the Irish people belong?
The Nonconformist or Dissenting party in this country are opposed to the
measure; but by some of them a spirit is mixed up with their agitation
of this question which shows that they do not understand, or do not
value, the great principles of Nonconformity, for which their
forefathers struggled and suffered. I allude more especially to a
portion of the Wesleyan body, which, I believe, does not altogether
repudiate the principle of endowment.

But, with regard to the rest, I am persuaded that their agitation
against this measure is honest. If the Dissenters look back to all that
their forefathers have suffered, aye, even within a late period, they
will be recreant to their own principles, and merit the contempt of the
House and of the world, if they do not come forward manfully to uphold
their own principles, and dissent from and oppose the measure under the
consideration of the House. For myself, I shall oppose the Bill in every
stage, simply on one ground, that I believe the principle of endowment
to be most unjust and injurious to the country, and whatever may be the
effect on any Government, whether that of the right hon. Baronet or any
that has preceded or will succeed him, no strength of attachment to
party or Government will induce me to tamper with what I hold to be the
greatest and dearest principle which any man or any body of men can
assert. When I look back to the history of this country, and consider
its present condition, I must say, that all that the people possess of
liberty has come, not through the portals of the cathedrals and the
parish churches, but from the conventicles, which are despised by hon.
Gentlemen opposite. When I know that if a good measure is to be carried
in this House, it must be by men who are sent hither by the
Nonconformists of Great Britain; when I read and see that the past and
present State alliance with religion is hostile to religious liberty,
preventing all growth and nearly destroying all vitality in religion
itself, then I shall hold myself to have read, thought, and lived in
vain, if I vote for a measure which in the smallest degree shall give
any further power or life to the principle of State endowment; and, in
conclusion, I will only exhort the Dissenters of England to act in the
same way, and to stand upon their own great, pure, and unassailable
principle; for, if they stand by it manfully, and work for it
vigorously, the time may come, nay, it will come, when that principle
will be adopted by the Legislature of the country.

* * * * *




[Towards the conclusion of this year (1847) numerous crimes and outrages
of a serious character were committed in Ireland. They were chiefly
agrarian. In order to increase the powers of the Irish Executive,
Parliament was invited in the Queen's Speech (Nov. 23) to take further
precautions against the perpetration of crime in certain counties in
Ireland. The Bill was moved by Sir George Grey on Nov. 29, and leave was
given, by 224 votes to 18, was read a second time (296 to 19) on Dec. 9,
and passed (174 to 14) on Dec. 13. It was passed in the House of Lords
on Dec. 19. On July 31, 1848, the Irish Government proclaimed certain
districts in which rebellion had broken out. Smith O'Brien and the other
leaders of the insurgents were speedily arrested, tried, and convicted.]

I feel very much in the position of the hon. Member who has just
addressed the House, for I am in some degree compelled to speak before
this Bill is read a third time. I have presented a petition against the
Bill, signed by more than 20,000 persons, inhabitants of the borough of
Manchester, and I am unwilling to vote without briefly giving the
reasons which make it impossible for me to oppose this Bill. When I
recollect the circumstances attending the rejection of the Bill of 1846,
for the protection of life in Ireland, I am convinced that the
Government would not have brought forward the present measure if it had
not appeared to them absolutely necessary, and that, but for this
supposed necessity, it would never have been heard of.

The case of the Government, so far as the necessity for this Bill is
concerned, seems to me to be as clear and as perfect as it can be. From
the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Home
Department, from the unanimous statements of all the newspapers, and
from the evidence of all parties connected with Ireland, it is placed
beyond a doubt that in the disturbed districts of Ireland the ordinary
law is utterly powerless. The reason why the law is carried into effect
in England is, because the feeling of the people is in favour of it, and
every man is willing to become and is in reality a peace officer, in
order to further the ends of justice.

But in Ireland this state of things does not exist. The public sentiment
in certain districts is depraved and thoroughly vitiated. [Mr. J.
O'Connell, 'No! No!'] The hon. Member cries 'No, No;' but I maintain
that in the disturbed districts the public or popular feeling is as I
have described it. I do not mean to assert that all which the newspapers
contain is true, or that they contain all the truth; but I ask the hon.
Gentleman if he has not read accounts which are not contradicted, from
which we learn that on the occurrence of some recent cases of
assassination, whole districts have been in a state of rejoicing and
exultation? These assassinations are not looked upon as murders, but
rather as executions. Take the case of Mr. Lloyd, a clergyman, who was
recently assassinated. There was no show of vindictive feeling on the
part of his murderers; there was little of the character of ordinary
murders in it. The servant was allowed to depart unharmed; a boy who was
in the carriage was removed that he might not be injured; and the
unhappy gentleman was shot with all the deliberation and the calmness
with which a man would be made to suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
It is clear, then, that the ordinary law fails, and that the Government
have a case for the demand they make for an extension of the present
powers of the law.

I do not say the present Bill will certainly be effective, but it is the
less to be opposed because it does not greatly exceed or infringe the
ordinary law; and it is the duty of the Legislature, when called upon to
strengthen the Executive, to do so by the smallest possible infringement
of the law and the constitution. But, to leave the particular measure
now before us, I am bound to say that the case of the Government with
respect to their Irish policy in general is not as good as could be
wished. The Government has not shown the courage which is necessary to
deal effectually with the difficulties of Ireland. They should remember
what passed when the Poor-law was proposed for that country. They were
told it would be a failure--that it could not be worked; but
disregarding these statements, they passed the Bill; and I believe,
since the Act of 1829, no measure has passed this House of equal benefit
to Ireland. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has said that
all parties are to be blamed for the misgovernment of Ireland; but he
should remember the responsibility which is upon him, for he is now in
the position of dictator on Irish questions, and whatever he proposes
for that country, I verily believe, will find no successful opposition
in this House.

There is another fact to which I would call attention. The Irish Members
complain, and very justly, of the past legislation of this House; but
when we call to mind that there are 105 of them here, of whom 60 or 70
are of Liberal politics or opinions, and that about 30 of them are
Repealers, and hold very strong views with regard to the mismanagement
of Irish affairs in the Imperial Parliament, I think we have a right to
complain that they have not laid on the table of the House any one
measure which they believe to be necessary to the prosperity of their

I have been in this House more than four years, and I have never yet
seen the Irish Members bringing forward any proposition of a practical
character--nor am I aware that they have supported any measure they
deemed necessary for Ireland, with unanimity and earnestness, or with
anything like perseverance and resolution. I am sure that 105, or even
30 English Members, sitting in a Parliament in Dublin, and believing
their country had suffered from the effects of bad legislation, would,
by their knowledge of the case, their business habits, activity, union,
and perseverance, have showed a powerful front, and by uniting together,
and working manfully in favour of any proposition they might think
necessary to remedy the evils of which they complained, they would have
forced it on the attention of the House. But the Irish Members have not
done this. So far then, they are and have been as much to blame as any
other Member of this House for the absence of good government in

I will not, like them, complain of bad legislation, and propose no
remedy. What is the condition of Ireland? Last year we voted millions to
keep its population from starvation; and this year we have been asked
for a further sum, but have not granted it. We maintain a large army in
Ireland, and an armed police, which is an army in everything but in
name, and yet we have in that country a condition of things which is not
to be matched in any other civilised country on the face of the earth,
and which is alike disgraceful to Ireland and to us. The great cause of
Ireland's calamities is, that Ireland is idle. I believe it would be
found, on inquiry, that the population of Ireland, as compared with that
of England, do not work more than two days per week. Wherever a people
are not industrious and are not employed, there is the greatest danger
of crime and outrage. Ireland is idle, and therefore she starves;
Ireland starves, and therefore she rebels. We must choose between
industry and anarchy: we must have one or the other in Ireland. This
proposition I believe to be incontrovertible, and I defy the House to
give peace and prosperity to that country until they set in motion her
industry, create and diffuse capital, and thus establish those
gradations of rank and condition by which the whole social fabric can
alone be held together.

But the idleness of the people of Ireland is not wholly their fault. It
is for the most part a forced idleness, for it is notorious that when
the Irish come to England, or remove to the United States or the
Colonies, they are about the hardest working people in the world. We
employ them down in Lancashire, and with the prospect of good pay they
work about as well, and are as trustworthy, and quiet, and well-disposed
to the law as the people of this country. The great secret of their
idleness at home is, that there is little or no trade in Ireland; there
are few flourishing towns to which the increasing population can resort
for employment, so that there is a vast mass of people living on the
land; and the land itself is not half so useful for their employment and
sustentation as it might be. A great proportion of her skill, her
strength, her sinews, and her labour, is useless to Ireland for the
support of her population. Every year they have a large emigration,
because there are a great number of persons with just enough means to
transport themselves to other countries, who, finding it impossible to
live at home in comfort, carry themselves and their capital out of
Ireland; so that, year after year, she loses a large portion of those
between the very poorest and the more wealthy classes of society, and
with them many of the opportunities for the employment of labour.

I do not believe that the Bill for regulating the relations of landlord
and tenant, as recommended by the hon. Member for the County of
Limerick, will restore prosperity to Ireland. Such a measure may be
passed with great advantage; but if it be intended by a Bill with this
title to vest the ownership of the land in the present occupiers, I
believe this House will never pass it, and if it did, that it would
prove most fatal to the best interests of the country. I think we have a
right to blame the Government that as yet we have not seen the Bill for
the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland. I wish to ask why such a Bill
is not ready before this? [Lord John Russell: 'The Bill has been ready a
long time'] The noble Lord says the Bill has been ready long ago; but
that statement only makes the Government open to greater blame, for if
the Bill is ready, why has it not been brought forward before this? Last
Session the Bill was withdrawn, and the reason given was that landlords
and mortgagees did not like it. If the Government wait till the
landlords and mortgagees like it, it will never be brought forward at
all. Had they waited till the Irish landlords asked for the Poor-law,
there would have been no Poor-law in Ireland now.

The Government should disregard the opposition of these parties, and
should take their stand above all class interests. They must refuse to
listen to the interested suggestions of one class or the other, and they
must remember that they are the Executive Government of the country, and
bound to act for the public good. There is an unanimous admission now
that the misfortunes of Ireland are connected with the question of the
management of the land. I have a theory that, in England as well as in
Ireland, the proprietors of the soil are chiefly responsible for
whatever bad legislation has been inflicted upon us. The ownership of
land confers more political power than the possession of any other
description of property. The Irish landowners have been willing parties
to the past legislation for Ireland, and they have also had the
administration and execution of the laws in that country. The encumbered
condition of landed property in Ireland is at this moment the most
pressing question. I am informed by a gentleman in Dublin, of the best
means of information and of undoubted veracity, that in the province of
Connaught there is not five per cent, of the land free from settlements
of one kind or other, and that probably not one per cent, is free from
mortgages. I have asked Irish Members of all parties if this be true,
and not one of them is disposed to deny it; and if it be true, I say it
is idle to seek elsewhere for the source of the evils of Ireland; and
every day, nay, every hour we allow to go by without taking instant
measures to remedy this crying mischief, only adds to the criminality
which rests on us for our past legislation.

Patchwork legislation will not now succeed; speeches from the Lord
Lieutenant--articles in the newspapers--lending to the landowners at 3
1/2 per cent. money raised by taxation from the traders of England, who
have recently been paying 8 per cent.--all will fail to revive the
industry of Ireland. I will now state what, in my opinion, is the
remedy, and I beg to ask the attention of the Government to it, because,
though they may now think it an extreme one, I am convinced that the
time will come when they will be compelled to adopt it.

In the first place, it is their duty to bring in a Sale of Estates Bill,
and make it easy for landowners who wish to dispose of their estates to
do so. They should bring in a Bill to simplify the titles to land in
Ireland. I understand that it is almost impossible to transfer an estate
now, the difficulties in the way of a clear title being almost
insurmountable. In the next place, they should diminish temporarily, if
not permanently, all stamp duties which hinder the transfer of landed
property, and they should pass a law by which the system of entailing
estates should for the future be prevented. [Laughter.] I can assure
hon. Gentlemen who laugh at this, that at some not distant day this must
be done, and not in Ireland only, but in England also. It is an absurd
and monstrous system, for it binds, as it were, the living under the
power of the dead.

The principle on which the law should proceed is this, that the owner of
property should be permitted to leave it to whomsoever he will, provided
the individual is living when the will is made; but he should not be
suffered, after he is dead, and buried, and forgotten, to speak and
still to direct the channel through which the estate should pass. I
shall be told that the law of entail in Ireland is the same as in
England, and that in Scotland it is even more strict. I admit it; but
the evil is great in England, and in Scotland it has become intolerable,
and must soon be relaxed if not abolished. Perhaps I shall be told that
the laws of entail and primogeniture are necessary for the maintenance
of our aristocratic institutions; but if the evils of Ireland spring
from this source, I say, perish your aristocratic institutions rather
than that a whole nation should be in this terrible condition. If your
aristocratic families would rear up their children in habits of
business, and with some notions of duty and prudence, these mischievous
arrangements would not be required, and they would retain in their
possession estates at least as large as is compatible with the interests
of the rest of the community. If the laws of entail and primogeniture
are sound and just, why not apply them to personal property as well as
to freehold? Imagine them in force in the middle classes of the
community, and it will be seen at once that the unnatural system, if
universal, would produce confusion; and confusion would necessitate its
total abolition.

I am thoroughly convinced that everything the Government or Parliament
can do for Ireland will be unavailing, unless the foundation of the work
be laid well and deep, by clearing away the fetters under which land is
now held, so that it may become the possession of real owners, and be
made instrumental to the employment and sustentation of the people. Hon.
Gentlemen opposite may fancy themselves interested in maintaining the
present system; but there is surely no interest they can have in it
which they will weigh against the safety and prosperity of Ireland? I
speak as a representative from a county which suffers extremely from the
condition of Ireland. Lancashire is periodically overrun by the
pauperism of Ireland; for a year past it has suffered most seriously
from the pestilence imported from Ireland; and many of the evils which
in times past have been attributed to the extension of manufactures in
that county have arisen from the enormous immigration of a suffering and
pauperized people driven for sustenance from their own country.

As a Lancashire representative, I protest most solemnly against a system
which drives the Irish population to seek work and wages in this country
and in other countries, when both might be afforded them at home.
Parliament is bound to remedy this state of things. The present
Parliament contains a larger number of men of business and of members
representing the middle classes than any former Parliament. The present
Government is essentially of the middle class--[a laugh]--and its
Members have on many occasions shown their sympathy with it. Let the
hon. Gentleman laugh; but he will not deny that no Government can long
have a majority in this House which does not sympathise with the great
middle class of this country. If the Government will manfully and
courageously grapple with the question of the condition of land in
Ireland, they will, I am convinced, be supported by a majority of the
Members of this House, they will enable the strength and skill of
Irishmen to be expended on their own soil, and lay the foundation of her
certain prosperity by giving that stimulus and reward to industry which
it cannot have in the present circumstances of that country. Sir, I feel
it impossible to refuse my vote in favour of the Bill now before us; but
I am compelled to say, that unless the Government will zealously promote
measures in the direction I have indicated, they cannot hope long to
retain the confidence of this House or of the country.

* * * * *




From the speeches that have been delivered in this debate, and from what
we know of Ireland, it is clear that Ireland is so entirely
disorganised, that it is extremely difficult to suggest any means by
which relief can be extensively given without causing two evils: first,
the waste of a great portion of the money which is granted; and next,
the demoralization of a large number of those to whom the relief is
given. It is on account of these difficulties that I am disposed to make
great allowance for the measures which the Government have undertaken,
as well as for any propositions which may be made by the hon. Member for
Stroud, even when they appear somewhat inconsistent with correct
economical principles.

As this is probably the last opportunity during this Session when the
question of the condition of Ireland can be discussed, I am anxious to
avail myself of it to offer a few observations to the House, and to
explain briefly what I conceive to be the course which ought to be taken
with regard to that country, to enable its population to place
themselves in a position of comfort and independence. The past of
Ireland is known to us all; it is a tale of idleness, and poverty, and
periodical insurrection; the present of Ireland is like the past, except
that at this moment all its ordinary evils are exhibited in an
aggravated form. But there are one or two points with regard to this
subject to which I wish especially to ask the attention of the House.
Have you ever fully considered the effect which this state of things in
Ireland has upon the condition of certain districts in England? We have
had some threatenings of disturbances in England, and of disaffection--I
hope it is not wide-spread--here and there in various parts of the
country. Take the county of Lancaster as an example, and you will see
something of the consequences of a large influx of the Irish population
into that district. In Liverpool and Manchester, and in all the belt of
towns which surround Manchester, there is a large Irish population--in
fact, there is an Irish quarter in each of these towns. It is true that
a great number of these persons are steady, respectable, and
industrious, but it is notorious that a portion of them are, in some
degree, the opposite of all this. They bring to this country all the
vices which have prevailed so long in Ireland; their influence on the
people of Lancashire is often of an unfavourable character, and the
effect of their example on the native population must necessarily be
injurious. We find that crimes attended with violence prevail too
generally in Lancashire and Yorkshire. These crimes to a large extent
are committed by persons who are not natives of those counties, but who
come from Ireland, because it is impossible for them to find subsistence
in that country.

There is another point which seems to me important. Driven forth by
poverty, Irishmen emigrate in great numbers, and in whatever quarter of
the world an Irishman sets his foot, there stands a bitter, an
implacable enemy of England. That is one of the results of the wide-
spread disaffection that exists in Ireland. There are hundreds of
thousands--I suppose there are millions--of the population of the United
States of America who are Irish by birth, or by immediate descent; and
be it remembered, Irishmen settled in the United States have a large
influence in public affairs. They sometimes sway the election of Members
of the Legislature, and may even affect the election of the President of
the Republic. There may come a time when questions of a critical nature
will be agitated between the Governments of Great Britain and the United
States; and it is certain that at such a time the Irish in that country
will throw their whole weight into the scale against this country, and
against peace with this country. These are points which it is necessary
to consider, and which arise out of the lamentable condition in which
Ireland is placed.

When we reflect for a moment upon the destitution which millions of our
countrymen suffer in that unfortunate island, the conclusion is
inevitable that either the Government or the people of Ireland are in
fault. I think both are in fault. I think the Government has been
negligent of Ireland. I do not mean the present Government in
particular; for they are fully as anxious for the welfare of Ireland as
any former Administration has been--but I think the Government generally
has been negligent of Ireland. It is a common thing to hear it said, and
especially by Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury bench, that the remedy
for Irish evils is difficult, and that the difficulty seems
insurmountable; but the House may rest assured that no difficulty can be
so great as that which must be met if no remedy is applied. To do
anything that can be effectual, must be infinitely less dangerous than
to do nothing.

Now I believe the real difficulties which beset this question do not
arise from anything in Ireland, so much as from the constitution of the
Government. This House, and the other House of Parliament, are almost
exclusively aristocratic in their character. The Administration is
therefore necessarily the same, and on the Treasury benches aristocracy
reigns supreme. No fewer than seven Members of the Cabinet are Members
of the House of Lords; and every other Member of it is either a Lord by
title, or on the very threshold of the peerage by birth or marriage. I
am not blaming them for this; it may even be that from neither House of
Parliament can fourteen better men be chosen to fill their places. But I
maintain that in the present position of Ireland, and looking at human
nature as it is, it is not possible that fourteen Gentlemen,
circumstanced as they are, can meet round the Council table, and with
unbiassed minds fairly discuss the question of Ireland, as it now
presents itself to this House, to the country, and to the world.

The condition of Ireland requires two kinds of remedies--one political,
the other social; and it is hard to tell where the one ends and the
other begins. I will speak first of the political remedies. At present,
there prevails throughout three-fourths of the Irish people a total
unbelief in the honesty and integrity of the Government of this country.
There may or may not be good grounds for all this ill feeling; but that
it exists, no man acquainted with Ireland will deny. The first step to
be taken is to remove this feeling; and, to do this, some great measure
or measures should be offered to the people of Ireland, which will act
as a complete demonstration to them that bygones are to be bygones, with
regard to the administration of Irish affairs, and that henceforth new,
generous, and equal principles of government are to be adopted.

I have on a former occasion stated my opinions on one or two subjects,
and I will venture again briefly to explain them to the House. Ireland
has long been a country of jars and turmoil, and its jars have arisen
chiefly from religious dissensions. In respect of matters of religion
she has been governed in a manner totally unknown in England and
Scotland. If Ireland has been rightly governed--if it has been wise and
just to maintain the Protestant Church established there, you ought, in
order to carry out your system, to establish Prelacy in Scotland, and
Catholicism in England; though, if you were to attempt to do either the
one or the other, it would not be a sham but a real insurrection that
you would provoke. There must be equality between the great religious
sects in Ireland--between Catholic and Protestant. It is impossible that
this equality can be much longer denied.

It is suspected that it is the intention of the Government to bring
forward at no distant day, if they can catch the people of England
napping, a proposition for paying the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland.
On more than one ground I should object to any such scheme. In the first
place, I believe the Government cannot, from any funds they possess, or
from any they can obtain, place the Catholic priests on an equality with
the ministers of the Protestant Church; and if they cannot do that in
every respect, the thing is not worth attempting. They will, I think,
find it infinitely more easy, and it will certainly be much more in
accordance with political justice, and with the true interests of
religion, to withdraw from Ireland the Church Establishment which now
exists there, and to bring about the perfect equality which may be
secured by taking away so much of the funds as are proved to be totally
unnecessary for the wants of the population. I do not mean that you
should withdraw from the Protestant Church every sixpence now in its
possession; what I mean is, that you should separate it from the State,
and appropriate all the funds of which it might justly be deprived to
some grand national object, such as the support and extension of the
system of education now established in Ireland; an appropriation of
money which would, I am sure, produce in the minds of the people of
Ireland an entire change of feeling with regard to the legislation of
Parliament in relation to their country.

With regard to the Parliamentary representation of Ireland, having
recently spent seventy-three days in an examination of the subject,
whilst serving as a Member of the Dublin Election Committee, I assert
most distinctly that the representation which exists at this moment is a
fraud; and I believe it would be far better if there were no
representation at all, because the people would not then be deluded by
the idea that they had a representative Government to protect their
interests. The number of taxes which the people have to pay, in order to
secure either the municipal or Parliamentary franchise, is so great that
it is utterly impossible for the constituencies to be maintained, and
for public opinion--the honest, real opinion of intelligent classes in
Ireland--to obtain any common or decent degree of representation in the
Imperial Legislature. I feel quite confident that in the next Session of
Parliament, the questions of religious equality in Ireland and of Irish
representation must receive a much more serious attention than they have
obtained in any past Session.

I come now to those social questions which must also receive the
attention of Parliament; for if they do not, the political remedies
will, after all, be of very little permanent use. I advocate these
political changes on the ground, not that they will feed the hungry or
employ the idle, but that they will be as oil thrown upon the waters,
and will induce the people no longer to feel themselves treated as a
conquered race. It is agreed on all sides that the social remedies which
are immediately possible to us, are those having reference to the mode
in which the land of Ireland is owned, or held and cultivated--perhaps
'not cultivated' would be a more correct expression. The noble Lord at
the head of the Government has alluded to parts of Ireland in which it
is impossible that the land as at present held, or the rates which can
be collected, can find relief or sustentation for the people. It is a
notorious fact, that there are vast tracts of land in Ireland, which, if
left in the hands of nominal and bankrupt owners, will never to the end
of time support the population which ought to live upon them. And it is
on this ground that I must question the policy of measures for expending
public money with a view to the cultivation and reclamation of these

The true solution of this matter is to get the lands out of the hands of
men who are the nominal, and not the real, possessors. But Parliament
maintains laws which act most injuriously in this particular. The law
and practice of entails tends to keep the soil in large properties, and
in the hands of those who cannot perform their duty to it. It will be
said that entails exist in Scotland and in England. Yes; but this
Session a law has passed, or is passing, to modify the system as it has
heretofore existed in Scotland; and in England many of its evils have
been partially overcome by the extraordinary, and, to some degree, the
accidental extension of manufacturing industry among the people. In
Ireland there are no such mitigations; a code of laws exists, under
which it is impossible for the land and the people to be brought, as it
were, together, and for industry to live in independence and comfort,
instead of crawling to this House, as it does almost annually, to ask
alms of the hardworking people of England.

The law and practice of primogeniture is another evil of the same
character. It is a law unnatural and unjust at all times; but in the
present condition of Ireland it cannot much longer be endured. Were I
called upon--and it is a bold figure of speech to mention such a thing--
but were I called upon to treat this Irish question, I would establish,
for a limited period at least, a special court in Ireland to adjudicate
on all questions connected with the titles and transfers of landed
property. This court should finally decide questions of title; it should
prepare and enforce a simple and short form of conveyance, as short
almost as that by which railway stock is transferred; and, without
regard to the public revenue, I would abolish every farthing of expense
which is now incurred in the duties on stamps, for the purpose of
facilitating the distribution of land in Ireland, and of allowing the
capital and industry of the people to work out its salvation. All this
is possible; and, more than this, it is all necessary. Well, now, what
is the real obstacle in our path? You have toiled at this Irish
difficulty Session after Session, and some of you have grown almost from
boyhood to grey-headed old men since it first met you in your
legislative career, and yet there is not in ancient or modern history a
picture so humiliating as that which Ireland presents to the world at
this moment; and there is not an English gentleman who, if he crossed
the Channel in the present autumn, and travelled in any foreign country,
would not wish to escape from any conversation among foreigners in which
the question of the condition of Ireland was mooted for a single moment.

Let the House, if it can, regard Ireland as an English country. Let us
think of the eight millions of people, and of the millions of them
doomed to this intolerable suffering. Let us think of the half-million
who, within two years past, have perished miserably in the workhouses,
and on the highways, and in their hovels--more, far more than ever fell
by the sword in any war this country ever waged; let us think of the
crop of nameless horrors which is even now growing up in Ireland, and
whose disastrous fruit may be gathered in years and generations to come.
Let us examine what are the laws and the principles under which alone
God and nature have permitted that nations should become industrious and

I hope the House will pardon me if I have said a word that can offend
any one. But I feel conscious of a personal humiliation when I consider
the state of Ireland. I do not wish to puff nostrums of my own, though
it may be thought I am opposed to much that exists in the present order
of things; but whether it tended to advance democracy, or to uphold
aristocracy, or any other system, I would wish to fling to the winds any
prejudice I have entertained, and any principle that may be questioned,
if I can thereby do one single thing to hasten by a single day the time
when Ireland shall be equal to England in that comfort and that
independence which an industrious people may enjoy, if the Government
under which they live is equal and just.

* * * * *



[On February 7, 1849, a proposal was made by the Chancellor of the
Exchequer that a sum of 50,000_l_. should be granted to certain
Irish Unions, in which distress was more than usually prevalent. The
resolution was passed on March 3. On March 27 the second reading of the
Bill founded on this resolution was moved, and the debate continued till
April 3, when the second reading was affirmed by 193 votes to 138. The
third reading was carried by 129 to 55, on April 30. The Bill passed the
House of Lords on May 18.]

I ventured to move the adjournment of the debate on Friday night,
because I was anxious to have the opportunity of expressing the opinions
which I entertain on this most important subject. I am one of the
Committee appointed by this House to inquire into the working of the
Irish poor-law, and on that Committee I was one of the majority--the
large majority--by which the resolution for a rate in aid was affirmed.
In the division which took place on the same proposition in the House, I
also voted in the majority. But I am not by any means disposed to say
that there are no reasons against the course which I take, or against
the proposition which has been submitted to the House by the Government.
On the whole, however, I am prepared to-night to justify that
proposition, and the vote which I have given for it.

As to the project of raising money for the purpose of these distressed
Unions, I think there can be no doubt in the mind of any Member of the
House, that money must come from some quarter. It appears to be a
question of life or money. All the witnesses who were examined before
the Committee; the concurrent testimony of all parties in Ireland, of
all the public papers, of all the speeches which have been delivered in
the course of this debate, go to prove, that unless additional funds be
provided, tens of thousands of our unfortunate fellow-countrymen in
Ireland must perish of famine in the course of the present year. If this
be true, it is evident that a great necessity is upon us; a grave
emergency, which we must meet. I am not prepared to justify the
proposition of a rate in aid merely on the ground of this necessity,
because it will be said, and justly, that the same amount of funds might
be raised by some other mode; but I am prepared to justify the
proposition which restricts this rate in aid to Ireland, on the ground
that the rest of the United Kingdom has, during the past three years,
paid its own rate in aid for Ireland; and this to a far larger amount
than any call which the Government now proposes to make on the rateable
property in Ireland.

We have taken from the general taxation of this country, in the last two
or three years, for the purposes of Ireland, several millions, I may say
not fewer than from eight to ten millions sterling. We have paid also
very large subscriptions from private resources, to the same purpose;
the sums expended by the British Association were not less, in the
aggregate, than 600,000_l_., in addition to other large amounts
contributed. The Irish, certainly, gave something to these funds; but by
far the larger amount was paid by the tax-paying classes of Great
Britain. In addition to this special outlay for this purpose, very heavy
local taxation has been incurred by several of the great communities of
this island, for the purpose of supporting the pauperism which has
escaped from Ireland to Great Britain. In this metropolis, in Glasgow,
in Liverpool, and in the great manufacturing town which I have the
honour to represent, the overflow of Irish pauperism has, within the
last two or three years more especially, occasioned a vast additional
burden of taxation. I believe the hon. Member for South Lancashire made
some statement in this House on a former occasion with respect to the
burden which was inflicted upon Liverpool by the Irish paupers, who
constantly flow into that town. As to Glasgow, the poor-rate levied last
year in the city parish alone, amounted to 70,000_l_.; and this
year, owing to the visitation of cholera and the poverty thereby
engendered, there will be an additional assessment of 20,000_l_.
The city parish contains only about 120,000 or 130,000 of the 280,000
residents in the mass of buildings known by the general name of Glasgow.
Of the sum levied as poor-rate in the city parish, it is estimated that,
on an average, two-thirds are spent upon Irish paupers. The ranks of
these Irish paupers are recruited to a comparatively small extent from
the Irish workmen, who have been, with their families, attracted by, and
who have found employment in, the numerous manufactories of Glasgow. The
Irish paupers, upon whom two-thirds of the Glasgow poor-rates are spent,
are principally squalid and destitute creatures who are brought over as
deck passengers, clustering like bees to the bulwarks and rigging, by
almost every steamer that sails from a northern Irish port. With respect
to the town of Manchester, I am able to give some more definite
particulars as to the burthen imposed upon the inhabitants for the
support of the Irish casual poor. In the year 1848, the sum expended in
the relief of the settled poor, which term includes the resident Irish
who are not distinguished by name from the English, amounted to
37,847_l_. The sum expended for the relief of the non-settled
English paupers in the town of Manchester, in the year 1848, was
18,699_l_. The amount expended for the relief of casual Irish poor
alone was 28,007_l_. The total assessment of Manchester is
647,568_l_., which, if divided by the amount required to relieve
the casual Irish poor, would amount to a rate of 10 1/2 _d_. in the
pound upon every pound of rateable property in the town of Manchester;
but if estimated according to the property really rated (as there are
great numbers of persons who, from poverty, do not pay the poor-rates on
the property they occupy), the amount of assessment for the relief of
the casual Irish poor alone will be from 15_d_. to 18_d_. in
the pound, and the charge upon the ratepayers of Manchester for the
relief of the Irish casual poor during the last year is not less than
2_s_. 1_d_. per head upon the whole population of that town.

Now, during the last year, Manchester had to struggle with very severe
difficulties, and the manufacturers there suffered most acutely from
various causes. The failure of the cotton crop of 1846, the panic in the
financial and commercial world in 1847, the convulsions in the European
States in 1848--all these contributed to bring upon Manchester enormous
evil; and in addition to this we had to bear an additional burden of
28,000_l_. for the maintenance of the casual Irish poor. I have
here an analysis of the poor-rates collected in Manchester during the
last four years, and I will briefly state the results to the House. In
the year 1845 the amount of rates collected expressly for the relief of
the casual Irish poor was 3,500_l_. In 1846 the cost of the casual
Irish poor imposed a burden upon Manchester of 3,300_l_.; in 1847
of 6,558_l_.; and in 1848 this item of expenditure reached the
extraordinary sum of 28,007_l_. The people of Manchester have
uttered no loud or clamorous complaints respecting the excessive burden
borne by them for the support of the Irish. They have sent no urgent
deputations to the Government on the subject of this heavy expense. But,
seeing that they have paid this money for the relief of Irish paupers,
and seeing also that the smaller manufacturing and other towns in
England have also paid no small sums for Irish paupers, they do think,
and I here express my conviction, that it will be seen and admitted that
we have paid our rate in aid for the relief of Ireland, and that it does
become the landowners and persons of property in that country to make an
effort during a temporary period to supply that small sum which is by
this Bill demanded of them.

I will now pay a few words regarding the province of Ulster. An hon.
Gentleman opposite, the Member for Londonderry, who made a not very
civil speech, so far as it regarded persons who entertain the same
opinions generally which I profess, seemed to allege that there was no
party so tyrannical as those who wished to carry this rate in aid, and
that no body of men on earth were so oppressed as the unfortunate
proprietors of Ulster. [Mr. Bateson: 'The farmers of Ulster'] I have
made a calculation, the result of which is, that, with the population of
Ulster, a 6_d_. rate would be 82,000_l_. a-year, or 164,000_l_. for the
two years during which they will be required to pay towards the support
of their fellow-countrymen in the south and west. If I were an Ulster
proprietor, I would not have raised my voice against such a proposition,
because it is not a state of things of an ordinary character, nor are
these proprietors called on to do that which nobody else has done before
them. Neither were they called upon before other sources had been
applied to. Had I been an Ulster proprietor, I would rather have left
this House than have taken the course they have pursued in denouncing
this measure. As to the farmers of Ulster, they would not have raised
this opposition had they not been instigated to do so by hon. Members in
this House, and by the proprietors in that province, whom they
represented. It appears by the reports of the inspectors under the poor-
law, that where there has been a difficulty in collecting rates, and the
people have refused to pay, they have followed the example of the higher
and landlord class; and the conduct of that class in many cases has been
such as to render the collection extremely difficult. [Mr. Bateson: 'Not
in Ulster'] I do not speak of Ulster particularly in this instance, but
the case has occurred in other places; but happily for Ulster the burden
has not proved so serious in that province.

I have heard a good deal said respecting the resignation of Mr.
Twisleton, who preferred giving up his situation to supporting the rate
in aid. But the reasons assigned by Mr. Twisleton destroy the importance
of his own act. He did not insist upon the question whether Ulster was
able to bear the rate in aid; but his objection was that Ulster was
Ulster, and more Ulster than it was Ireland. He said Ulster preferred
being united with England, rather than with Leinster, Connaught, and
Munster; in short, that Ulster was unwilling to be made a part of
Ireland. Now, if this Bill can succeed in making Ulster a part of
Ireland in interests and sympathies, I think it will be attended with a
very happy result, and one that will compensate for some portion of the
present misfortunes of Ireland.

But the hon. Member also, in another part of his speech, charged the
Government with having caused the calamities of Ireland. Now, if I were
the hon. Member, I would not have opened up that question. My opinion
is, that the course which Parliament has taken with respect to Ireland
for upwards of a century, and especially since the Union, has been in
accordance with the wishes of the proprietors of the land of that
country. If, therefore, there has been misgovernment in Ireland during
that period, it is the land which has influenced Parliament, and the
landowners are responsible. I do not mean to say that the House of
Commons is not responsible for taking the evil advice which the
landowners of Ireland have proffered; but what I mean to assert is, that
this advice has been almost invariably acted upon by the Government.
This it is which has proved fatal to the interests of Ireland; the
Ulster men have stood in the way of improvements in the Franchise, in
the Church, and in the Land question; they have purchased Protestant
ascendancy, and the price paid for it is the ruin and degradation of
their country. So much for the vote which I am about to give in support
of the rate in aid.

In the next place, I must observe that if an income tax were to be
substituted for a rate in aid, I think I could show substantial reasons
why it would not be satisfactory. In the first place, I take an
objection to the imposition of an income tax for the express purpose of
supporting paupers. This, I apprehend, is a fatal objection at the
outset. I understand that there has been a document issued by a
Committee in another place, which has reported favourably for the
substitution of an income tax in lieu of the rate in aid. I always find
that if a proposition is brought forward by the Government to impose a
new tax, it is always for a tax which is disliked, and I conclude, that
if an income tax for Ireland had been proposed instead of the rate in
aid, that would have been repudiated with quite as much vigour as the
proposition now before the House.

And now I will address a few words to the general question of Ireland,
which I think may be fairly entered upon in this debate after the speech
of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. What have we been
doing all the Session? With the exception of the Jewish Oaths Bill, and
the Navigation Laws, our attention has been solely taken up with Irish
matters. From the incessant recurrence of the Irish debate, it would
seem, either that the wrongs and evils endured by the Irish people are
incurable, or else that we lack statesmen. I always find that, whoever
happens to sit on the other side of the table, he always has some scheme
to propose for the regeneration of Ireland. The noble Lord on the
Treasury bench had his schemes for that purpose when he was seated
opposite. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth now has his
scheme to propose, and if he can succeed in it, he will not only have
the universal wish of the nation in his favour, but the noble Lord also
who is at the head of the Government will not, I am sure, object to give
way to any man who will settle the Irish question. But the treatment of
this Irish malady remains ever the same. We have nothing for it still
but force and alms. You have an armed force there of 50,000 men to keep
the people quiet, large votes are annually required to keep the people
quiet, and large votes are annually required to keep the people alive. I
presume the government by troops is easy, and that the

'Civil power may snore at ease,
While soldiers fire--to keep the peace.'

But the noble Lord at the head of the Government has no policy to
propose for Ireland. If he had, he would have told us what it is before
now. The poor-law as a means of regenerating Ireland is a delusion. So
is the rate in aid. I do not believe in the regenerating power either of
the poor-law or of the rate in aid. There may occur cases where farmers
will continue to employ labourers for the mere purpose of preventing
them from coming on the poor-rates, but these are exceptions. If the
desire of gain will not cause the employment of capital, assuredly poor-
rates wall not. A poor-law adds to pauperism, by inviting to idleness.
It drags down the man who pays, and demoralises him who receives. It may
expose, it may temporarily relieve, it will increase, but it can never
put an end to pauperism. The poor-law and the rate in aid are,
therefore, utterly unavailing for such a purpose.

It is the absence of all demand for labour that constitutes the real
evil of Ireland. In the distressed Unions a man's labour is absolutely
worth nothing. It is not that the Irish people will not work. I spoke to
an Irish navigator the other day respecting his work, and I asked him
why his countrymen did not work in their own country. 'Give them
2_s_. 8_d_. a-day,' said he, 'and you will find plenty who
will work.' There exists in Ireland a lamentable want of employment. The
land there enjoys a perpetual sabbath. If the people of Ireland were set
to work, they would gain their subsistence; but if this course is not
adopted, they must either continue to be supported out of the taxes, or
else be left to starve. In order to show how great is the general
poverty in Ireland, I will read a statement of the comparative amount of
legacy duty paid in the two countries. In England, in the year 1844, the
amount of capital on which legacy duty was paid was 44,393,887_l_.;
in Ireland, in 1845, the amount of capital on which legacy duty was paid
was 2,140,021_l_.--the population of the latter being nearly one-
half of the former, whilst the proportion between the capital paying
legacy duty is only one-twentieth. In 1844, the legacy duty paid in
England was 1,124,435_l_., with a population of 16,000,000; in
Scotland it was 74,116_l_., with a population of 3,000,000; whilst
Ireland paid only 53,618_l_., with a population of 8,000,000. These
facts offer the strongest possible proof of the poverty of Ireland.

On looking over the reports of the Poor-law Inspectors, I find them
teeming with statements of the wretchedness which prevails in the
distressed districts of Ireland. The general character of the reports
is, that starvation is, literally speaking, gradually driving the
population into their graves. The people cannot quit their hovels for
want of clothing, whilst others cannot be discharged from the workhouses
owing to the same cause. Men are seen wearing women's apparel, not being
able to procure proper clothing; whilst, in other instances, men, women,
and children are all huddled together under bundles of rags, unable to
rise for lack of covering; workhouses and prisons are crowded beyond
their capacity to contain, the mortality being very great in them.
Persons of honest character commit thefts in order to be sent to prison,
and some ask, as a favour, to be transported.

I know of nothing like this in the history of modern times. The only
parallel I can find to it is in the work of the great German author
(Mosheim), who, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, speaking of
the inroads of the barbarians into the Roman empire in the fifth
century, says that in Gaul, the calamities of the times drove many to
such madness, that they wholly excluded God from the government of the
world, and denied His providence over human affairs. It would almost
appear that this state of things is now to be seen in Ireland. The
prisons are crowded, the chapels deserted, society is disorganised and
ruined; labour is useless, for capital is not to be had for its
employment. The reports of the Inspectors say that this catastrophe has
only been hastened, and not originated, by the failure of the potato
crop during the last four years, and that all men possessed of any
intelligence must have foreseen what would ultimately happen.

This being the case, in what manner are the Irish people to subsist in
future? There is the land, and there is labour enough to bring it into
cultivation. But such is the state in which the land is placed, that
capital cannot be employed upon it. You have tied up the raw material in
such a manner--you have created such a monopoly of land by your laws and
your mode of dealing with it, as to render it alike a curse to the
people and to the owners of it. Why, let me ask, should land be tied up
any more than any other raw material? If the supply of cotton wool were
limited to the hands of the Browns and the Barings, what would be the
condition of the Lancashire manufactories? What the manufactories would
be under such a monopoly, the land in the county of Mayo actually is
under the system which prevails with respect to it in Ireland. But land
carries with it territorial influence, which the Legislature will not
interfere with lest it should be disturbed. Land is sacred, and must not
be touched.

The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will
understand what I mean when I allude to the Land Improvement Company
which the Legislature is ready to charter for Ireland, but which it
fears to suffer to exist in England, lest the territorial influence
which ever accompanies the possession of landed estates should be lost
or diminished. But one of the difficulties to which a remedy must be
applied is the defective titles, which cannot easily be got rid of under
the present system of entails. This is one of the questions to which the
House of Commons must very soon give its serious attention. Then there
comes the question of settlements. Now, I do not say there ought not to
be any settlements; but what I mean to say is, that they are so bound up
and entangled with the system of entails as to present insuperable
difficulties in the way of dealing with land as a marketable commodity.
I have here an Opinion which I will read to the House, which I find
recorded as having been given by an eminent counsel: it is quoted in
Hayes' work on Conveyancing, and the Opinion was given on the occasion
of a settlement on the marriage of a gentleman having a fee-simple

'The proposals extend to a strict settlement by the gentleman
upon the first and other sons of the marriage. It will appear
from the preceding observations, that where the relative
circumstances are such as in the present case, a strict
settlement of the gentleman's estate does not ordinarily enter
into the arrangement, which begins and ends with his taking the
lady's fortune, and imposing an equivalent pecuniary charge upon
his estate (for her personal benefit). The proposals seldom go
further, unless there is hereditary rank or title to be
supported, or it is in contemplation to found a family. The
former of those two circumstances do not exist in this case, and
the latter would require the settlement of the bulk of the
estates. The policy of such settlements is extremely
questionable. It is difficult to refer them, in the absence of
both the motives already indicated, to any rational principle.
The present possessor has absolute dominion; his character is
known, his right unquestionable. He is asked to reduce himself to
a mere tenant for life in favour of an unborn son, of whose
character nothing can be predicted, and who, if he can be said to
have any right, cannot possibly have a preferable right. At no
very distant period the absolute dominion must be confided to
somebody--and why should confidence be reposed in the unborn
child rather than the living parent? Such, a settlement has no
tendency to protect or benefit the father, whose advantage and
comfort ought first to be consulted. It does not shield him from
the consequences of his own imprudence. On the contrary, if his
expenditure should in any instance exceed his income, he--as a
mere tenant for life--is in danger of being obliged to borrow on
annuity, a process which, once begun, proceeds generally and
almost necessarily to the exhaustion of the life income. The son
may be an idiot or a spendthrift. He may be tempted to raise
money by _post obit_. If to these not improbable results we
add all the family feuds generated between the tenant for life
and remainderman, in regard to the management and enjoyment by
the former of that estate which was once his own, particularly
with reference to cutting timber, the disadvantages of thus
fettering the dominion will appear greatly to preponderate. At
best, a settlement is a speculation; at worst, it is the occasion
of distress, profligacy, and domestic discord, ending not
unfrequently, as the Chancery Reports bear witness, in obstinate
litigation, ruinous alike to the peace and to the property of the

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