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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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closely allied with the spirit of Puritanism, and was mortally
hostile to the Papacy. Such men as Hampden, Vane, Milton, Locke,
though zealous generally for civil and spiritual freedom, yet
held that the Roman Catholic worship had no claim to toleration.
On the other hand, all the four kings of the House of Stuart
showed far more favour to Roman Catholics than to any class of
Protestant nonconformists. James the First at one time had some
hopes of effecting a reconciliation with the Vatican. Charles
the First entered into secret engagements to grant an indulgence
to Roman Catholics. Charles the Second was a concealed Roman
Catholic. James the Second was an avowed Roman Catholic.
Consequently, through the whole of the seventeenth century, the
freedom of Ireland and the slavery of England meant the same
thing. The watchwords, the badges, the names, the places, the
days, which in the mind of an Englishman were associated with
deliverance, prosperity, national dignity, were in the mind of an
Irishman associated with bondage, ruin, and degradation. The
memory of William the Third, the anniversary of the battle of the
Boyne, are instances. I was much struck by a circumstance which
occurred on a day which I have every reason to remember with
gratitude and pride, the day on which I had the high honour of
being declared one of the first two members for the great borough
of Leeds. My chair was covered with orange ribands. The horses
which drew it could hardly be seen for the profusion of orange-
coloured finery with which they were adorned. Orange cockades
were in all the hats; orange favours at all the windows. And my
supporters, I need not say, were men who had, like myself, been
zealous for Catholic emancipation. I could not help remarking
that the badge seemed rather incongruous. But I was told that
the friends of Catholic emancipation in Yorkshire had always
rallied under the orange banner, that orange was the colour of
Sir George Savile, who brought in that bill which caused the No
Popery riots of 1780, and that the very chair in which I sate was
the chair in which Lord Milton, now Earl Fitzwilliam, had
triumphed after the great victory which he won in 1807 over the
No Popery party, then headed by the house of Harewood. I thought
how different an effect that procession would have produced at
Limerick or Cork, with what howls of rage and hatred the Roman
Catholic population of those cities would have pursued that
orange flag which, to every Roman Catholic in Yorkshire, was the
memorial of contests maintained in favour of his own dearest
rights. This circumstance, however slight, well illustrates the
singular contrast between the history of England and the history
of Ireland.

Well, Sir, twice during the seventeenth century the Irish rose up
against the English colony. Twice they were completely put down;
and twice they were severely chastised. The first rebellion was
crushed by Oliver Cromwell; the second by William the Third.
Those great men did not use their victory exactly in the same
way. The policy of Cromwell was wise, and strong, and
straightforward, and cruel. It was comprised in one word, which,
as Clarendon tells us, was often in the mouths of the Englishry
of that time. That word was extirpation. The object of Cromwell
was to make Ireland thoroughly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. If he
had lived twenty years longer he might perhaps have accomplished
that work: but he died while it was incomplete; and it died with
him. The policy of William, or to speak more correctly, of those
whose inclinations William was under the necessity of consulting,
was less able, less energetic, and, though more humane in
seeming, perhaps not more humane in reality. Extirpation was not
attempted. The Irish Roman Catholics were permitted to live, to
be fruitful, to replenish the earth: but they were doomed to be
what the Helots were in Sparta, what the Greeks were under the
Ottoman, what the blacks now are at New York. Every man of the
subject caste was strictly excluded from public trust. Take what
path he might in life, he was crossed at every step by some
vexatious restriction. It was only by being obscure and inactive
that he could, on his native soil, be safe. If he aspired to be
powerful and honoured, he must begin by being an exile. If he
pined for military glory, he might gain a cross or perhaps a
Marshal's staff in the armies of France or Austria. If his
vocation was to politics, he might distinguish himself in the
diplomacy of Italy or Spain. But at home he was a mere
Gibeonite, a hewer of wood and a drawer of water. The statute
book of Ireland was filled with enactments which furnish to the
Roman Catholics but too good a ground for recriminating on us
when we talk of the barbarities of Bonner and Gardiner; and the
harshness of those odious laws was aggravated by a more odious
administration. For, bad as the legislators were, the
magistrates were worse still. In those evil times originated
that most unhappy hostility between landlord and tenant, which is
one of the peculiar curses of Ireland. Oppression and turbulence
reciprocally generated each other. The combination of rustic
tyrants was resisted by gangs of rustic banditti. Courts of law
and juries existed only for the benefit of the dominant sect.
Those priests who were revered by millions as their natural
advisers and guardians, as the only authorised expositors of
Christian truth, as the only authorised dispensers of the
Christian sacraments, were treated by the squires and squireens
of the ruling faction as no good-natured man would treat the
vilest beggar. In this manner a century passed away. Then came
the French Revolution and the great awakening of the mind of
Europe. It would have been wonderful indeed if, when the
happiest and most tranquil nations were agitated by vague
discontents and vague hopes, Ireland had remained at rest.
Jacobinism, it is true, was not a very natural ally of the Roman
Catholic religion. But common enmities produce strange
coalitions; and a strange coalition was formed. There was a
third great rising of the aboriginal population of the island
against English and Protestant ascendency. That rising was put
down by the sword; and it became the duty of those who were at
the head of affairs to consider how the victory should be used.

I shall not be suspected of being partial to the memory of Mr
Pitt. But I cannot refuse to him the praise both of wisdom and
of humanity, when I compare the plan which he formed in that hour
of triumph with the plans of those English rulers who had before
him governed Ireland. Of Mr Pitt's plan the Union was a part, an
excellent and an essential part indeed, but still only a part.
We shall do great injustice both to his head and to his heart, if
we forget that he was permitted to carry into effect only some
unconnected portions of a comprehensive and well-concerted
scheme. He wished to blend, not only the parliaments, but the
nations, and to make the two islands one in interest and
affection. With that view the Roman Catholic disabilities were
to be removed: the Roman Catholic priests were to be placed in a
comfortable and honourable position; and measures were to be
taken for the purpose of giving to Roman Catholics the benefits
of liberal education. In truth, Mr Pitt's opinions on those
subjects had, to a great extent, been derived from a mind even
more powerful and capacious than his own, from the mind of Mr
Burke. If the authority of these two great men had prevailed, I
believe that the Union with Ireland would now have been as
secure, and as much beyond the reach of agitation, as the Union
with Scotland. The Parliament in College Green would have been
remembered as what it was, the most tyrannical, the most venal,
the most unprincipled assembly that ever sate on the face of this
earth. I do not think that, by saying this, I can give offence
to any gentleman from Ireland, however zealous for Repeal he may
be: for I only repeat the language of Wolfe Tone. Wolfe Tone
said that he had seen more deliberative assemblies than most men;
that he had seen the English Parliament, the American Congress,
the French Council of Elders and Council of Five Hundred, the
Batavian Convention; but that he had nowhere found anything like
the baseness and impudence of the scoundrels, as he called them,
at Dublin. If Mr Pitt's whole plan had been carried into
execution, that infamous parliament, that scandal to the name of
parliament, would have perished unregretted; and the last day of
its existence would have been remembered by the Roman Catholics
of Ireland as the first day of their civil and religious liberty.
The great boon which he would have conferred on them would have
been gratefully received, because it could not have been ascribed
to fear, because it would have been a boon bestowed by the
powerful on the weak, by the victor on the vanquished.
Unhappily, of all his projects for the benefit of Ireland the
Union alone was carried into effect; and therefore that Union was
an Union only in name. The Irish found that they had parted with
at least the name and show of independence, and that for this
sacrifice of national pride they were to receive no compensation.
The Union, which ought to have been associated in their minds
with freedom and justice, was associated only with disappointed
hopes and forfeited pledges. Yet it was not even then too late.
It was not too late in 1813. It was not too late in 1821. It
was not too late in 1825. Yes: if, even in 1825, some men who
then were, as they now are, high in the service of the crown,
could have made up their minds to do what they were forced to do
four years later, that great work of conciliation which Mr Pitt
had meditated might have been accomplished. The machinery of
agitation was not yet fully organized: the Government was under
no strong pressure; and therefore concession might still have
been received with thankfulness. That opportunity was suffered
to escape; and it never returned.

In 1829, at length, concessions were made, were made largely,
were made without the conditions which Mr Pitt would undoubtedly
have demanded, and to which, if demanded by Mr Pitt, the whole
body of Roman Catholics would have eagerly assented. But those
concessions were made reluctantly, made ungraciously, made under
duress, made from the mere dread of civil war. How then was it
possible that they should produce contentment and repose? What
could be the effect of that sudden and profuse liberality
following that long and obstinate resistance to the most
reasonable demands, except to teach the Irishman that he could
obtain redress only by turbulence? Could he forget that he had
been, during eight and twenty years, supplicating Parliament for
justice, urging those unanswerable arguments which prove that the
rights of conscience ought to be held sacred, claiming the
performance of promises made by ministers and princes, and that
he had supplicated, argued, claimed the performance of promises
in vain? Could he forget that two generations of the most
profound thinkers, the most brilliant wits, the most eloquent
orators, had written and spoken for him in vain? Could he forget
that the greatest statesman who took his part had paid dear for
their generosity? Mr Pitt endeavoured to redeem his pledge; and
he was driven from office. Lord Grey and Lord Grenville
endeavoured to do but a very small part of what Mr Pitt had
thought right and expedient; and they were driven from office.
Mr Canning took the same side; and his reward was to be worried
to death by the party of which he was the brightest ornament. At
length, when he was gone, the Roman Catholics began to look, not
to cabinets and parliaments, but to themselves. They displayed a
formidable array of physical force, and yet kept within, just
within, the limits of the law. The consequence was that, in two
years, more than any prudent friend had ventured to demand for
them was granted to them by their enemies. Yes; within two years
after Mr Canning had been laid in the transept near us, all that
he would have done, and more than he could have done, was done by
his persecutors. How was it possible that the whole Roman
Catholic population of Ireland should not take up the notion that
from England, or at least from the party which then governed and
which now governs England, nothing is to be got by reason, by
entreaty, by patient endurance, but everything by intimidation?
That tardy repentance deserved no gratitude, and obtained none.
The whole machinery of agitation was complete and in perfect
order. The leaders had tasted the pleasures of popularity; the
multitude had tasted the pleasures of excitement. Both the
demagogue and his audience felt a craving for the daily
stimulant. Grievances enough remained, God knows, to serve as
pretexts for agitation: and the whole conduct of the Government
had led the sufferers to believe that by agitation alone could
any grievance be removed.

Such, Sir, is the history of the rise and progress of the
disorders of Ireland. Misgovernment, lasting without
interruption from the reign of Henry the Second to the reign of
William the Fourth, has left us an immense mass of discontent,
which will, no doubt, in ordinary times, make the task of any
statesman whom the Queen may call to power sufficiently
difficult. But though this be true, it is not less true, that
the immediate causes of the extraordinary agitation which alarms
us at this moment is to be found in the misconduct of Her
Majesty's present advisers. For, Sir, though Ireland is always
combustible, Ireland is not always on fire. We must distinguish
between the chronic complaints which are to be attributed to
remote causes, and the acute attack which is brought on by recent
imprudence. For though there is always a predisposition to
disease in that unhappy society, the violent paroxysms come only
at intervals. I must own that I am indebted for some of my
imagery to the right honourable Baronet the First Lord of the
Treasury. When he sate on this bench, and was only a candidate
for the great place which he now fills, he compared himself to a
medical man at the bedside of a patient. Continuing his
metaphor, I may say that his prognosis, his diagnosis, his
treatment, have all been wrong. I do not deny that the case was
difficult. The sufferer was of a very ill habit of body, and had
formerly suffered many things of many physicians, and, among
others, I must say, of the right honourable Baronet himself.
Still the malady had, a very short time ago, been got under, and
kept under by the judicious use of lenitives; and there was
reason to hope that if that salutary regimen had been steadily
followed, there would have been a speedy improvement in the
general health. Unhappily, the new State hygeist chose to apply
irritants which have produced a succession of convulsive fits,
each more violent than that which preceded it. To drop the
figure, it is impossible to doubt that Lord Melbourne's
government was popular with the great body of the Roman Catholics
of Ireland. It is impossible to doubt that the two Viceroys whom
he sent to Ireland were more loved and honoured by the Irish
people than any Viceroys before whom the sword of state has ever
been borne. Under the late Government, no doubt, the empire was
threatened by many dangers; but, to whatever quarter the
Ministers might look with uneasy apprehension, to Ireland they
could always look with confidence. When bad men raised
disturbances here, when a Chartist rabble fired on the Queen's
soldiers, numerous regiments could, without the smallest risk, be
spared from Ireland. When a rebellion broke out in one of our
colonies,--a rebellion too which it might have been expected that
the Irish would regard with favour, for it was a rebellion of
Roman Catholics against Protestant rulers,--even then Ireland was
true to the general interests of the empire, and troops were sent
from Munster and Connaught to put down insurrection in Canada.
No person will deny that if, in 1840, we had unhappily been
forced into war, and if a hostile army had landed in Bantry Bay,
the whole population of Cork and Tipperary would have risen up to
defend the throne of Her Majesty, and would have offered to the
invaders a resistance as determined as would have been offered by
the men of Kent or Norfolk. And by what means was this salutary
effect produced? Not by great legislative reforms: for,
unfortunately, that Government, though it had the will, had not
the power to carry such reforms against the sense of a strong
minority in this House, and of a decided majority of the Peers.
No, Sir; this effect was produced merely by the wisdom, justice,
and humanity with which the existing law, defective as it might
be, was administered. The late Government, calumniated and
thwarted at every turn, contending against the whole influence of
the Established Church, and of the great body of the nobility and
landed gentry, yet did show a disposition to act kindly and
fairly towards Ireland, and did, to the best of its power, treat
Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. If we had been as strong
as our successors in parliamentary support, if we had been able
to induce the two Houses to follow in legislation the same
principles by which we were guided in administration, the Union
with Ireland would now have been as secure from the assaults of
agitators as the Union with Scotland. But this was not to be.
During six years an opposition, formidable in numbers, formidable
in ability, selected as the especial object of the fiercest and
most pertinacious attacks those very acts of the Government which
had, after centuries of mutual animosity, half reconciled the two
islands. Those Lords Lieutenant who, in Ireland, were venerated
as no preceding Lord Lieutenant had ever been venerated, were
here reviled as no preceding Lord Lieutenant had ever been
reviled. Every action, every word which was applauded by the
nation committed to their care, was here imputed to them as a
crime. Every bill framed by the advisers of the Crown for the
benefit of Ireland was either rejected or mutilated. A few Roman
Catholics of distinguished merit were appointed to situations
which were indeed below their just claims, but which were higher
than any member of their Church had filled during many
generations. Two or three Roman Catholics were sworn of the
Council; one took his seat at the Board of Treasury; another at
the Board of Admiralty. There was great joy in Ireland; and no
wonder. What had been done was not much; but the ban had been
taken off; the Emancipation Act, which had been little more than
a dead letter, was at length a reality. But in England all the
underlings of the great Tory party set up a howl of rage and
hatred worthy of Lord George Gordon's No Popery mob. The right
honourable Baronet now at the head of the Treasury, with his
usual prudence, abstained from joining in the cry, and was
content to listen to it, to enjoy it, and to profit by it. But
some of those who ranked next to him among the chiefs of the
opposition, did not imitate his politic reserve. One great man
denounced the Irish as aliens. Another called them minions of
Popery. Those teachers of religion to whom millions looked up
with affection and reverence were called by the Protestant press
demon priests and surpliced ruffians, and were denounced from the
Protestant pulpit as pontiffs of Baal, as false prophets who were
to be slain with the sword. We were reminded that a Queen of the
chosen people had in the old time patronised the ministers of
idolatry, and that her blood had been given to the dogs. Not
content with throwing out or frittering down every law beneficial
to Ireland, not content with censuring in severe terms every act
of the executive government which gave satisfaction in Ireland,
you, yes you, who now fill the great offices of state, assumed
the offensive. From obstruction you proceeded to aggression.
You brought in a bill which you called a Bill for the
Registration of Electors in Ireland. We then told you that it
was a bill for the wholesale disfranchisement of the electors of
Ireland. We then proved incontrovertibly that, under pretence of
reforming the law of procedure, you were really altering the
substantive law; that, by making it impossible for any man to
vindicate his right to vote without trouble, expense, and loss of
time, you were really taking away the votes of tens of thousands.
You denied all this then. You very coolly admit it all now. Am
I to believe that you did know it as well in 1841 as in 1844?
Has one new fact been brought to light? Has one argument been
discovered which was not, three or four years ago, urged twenty,
thirty, forty times in this House? Why is it that you have, when
in power, abstained from proposing that change in the mode of
registration which, when you were out of power, you represented
as indispensable? You excuse yourselves by saying that now the
responsibilities of office are upon you. In plain words, your
trick has served its purpose. Your object,--for I will do
justice to your patriotism,--your object was not to ruin your
country, but to get in; and you are in. Such public virtue
deserved such a reward, a reward which has turned out a
punishment, a reward which ought to be, while the world lasts, a
warning to unscrupulous ambition. Many causes contributed to
place you in your present situation. But the chief cause was,
beyond all doubt, the prejudice which you excited amongst the
English against the just and humane manner in which the late
Ministers governed Ireland. In your impatience for office, you
called up the devil of religious intolerance, a devil more easily
evoked than dismissed. He did your work; and he holds your bond.
You once found him an useful slave: but you have since found him
a hard master. It was pleasant, no doubt, to be applauded by
high churchmen and low churchmen, by the Sheldonian Theatre and
by Exeter Hall. It was pleasant to be described as the champions
of the Protestant faith, as the men who stood up for the Gospel
against that spurious liberality which made no distinction
between truth and falsehood. It was pleasant to hear your
opponents called by every nickname that is to be found in the
foul vocabulary of the Reverend Hugh Mcneill. It was pleasant to
hear that they were the allies of Antichrist, that they were the
servants of the man of sin, that they were branded with the mark
of the Beast. But when all this slander and scurrility had
raised you to power, when you found that you had to manage
millions of those who had been, year after year, constantly
insulted and defamed by yourselves and your lacqueys, your hearts
began to fail you. Now you tell us that you have none but kind
and respectful feelings towards the Irish Roman Catholics, that
you wish to conciliate them, that you wish to carry the
Emancipation Act into full effect, that nothing would give you
more pleasure than to place on the bench of justice a Roman
Catholic lawyer of conservative politics, that nothing would give
you more pleasure than to place at the Board of Treasury, or at
the Board of Admiralty, some Roman Catholic gentleman of
conservative politics, distinguished by his talents for business
or debate. Your only reason, you assure us, for not promoting
Roman Catholics is that all the Roman Catholics are your enemies;
and you ask whether any Minister can be expected to promote his
enemies. For my part I do not doubt that you would willingly
promote Roman Catholics: for, as I have said, I give you full
credit for not wishing to do your country more harm than is
necessary for the purpose of turning out and keeping out the
Whigs. I also fully admit that you cannot be blamed for not
promoting your enemies. But what I want to know is, how it
happens that all the Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom are
your enemies. Was such a thing ever heard of before? Here are
six or seven millions of people of all professions, of all
trades, of all grades of rank, fortune, intellect, education.
Begin with the premier Peer, the Earl Marshal of the realm, the
chief of the Howards, the heir of the Mowbrays and Fitzalans, and
go down through earls, barons, baronets, lawyers, and merchants,
to the very poorest peasant that eats his potatoes without salt
in Mayo; and all these millions to a man are arrayed against the
Government. How do you explain this? Is there any natural
connection between the Roman Catholic theology and the political
theories held by Whigs and by reformers more democratical than
the Whigs? Not only is there no natural connection, but there is
a natural opposition. Of all Christian sects the Roman Catholic
Church holds highest the authority of antiquity, of tradition, of
immemorial usage. Her spirit is eminently conservative, nay, in
the opinion of all Protestants, conservative to an unreasonable
and pernicious extent. A man who has been taught from childhood
to regard with horror all innovation in religion is surely less
likely than another man to be a bold innovator in politics. It
is probable that a zealous Roman Catholic, if there were no
disturbing cause, would be a Tory; and the Roman Catholics were
all Tories till you persecuted them into Whiggism and Radicalism.
In the civil war, how many Roman Catholics were there in
Fairfax's army? I believe, not one. They were all under the
banner of Charles the First. When a reward of five thousand
pounds was offered for Charles the Second alive or dead, when to
conceal him was to run a most serious risk of the gallows, it was
among Roman Catholics that he found shelter. It has been the
same in other countries. When everything else in France was
prostrate before the Jacobins, the Roman Catholic peasantry of
Brittany and Poitou still stood up for the House of Bourbon.
Against the gigantic power of Napoleon, the Roman Catholic
peasantry of the Tyrol maintained unaided the cause of the House
of Hapsburg. It would be easy to multiply examples. And can we
believe, in defiance of all reason and of all history, that, if
the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom had been tolerably well
governed, they would not have been attached to the Government?
In my opinion the Tories never committed so great an error as
when they scourged away and spurned away the Roman Catholics. Mr
Burke understood this well. The sentiment which, towards the
close of his life, held the entire possession of his mind, was a
horror,--a morbid horror it at last became,--of Jacobinism, and
of everything that seemed to him to tend towards Jacobinism, and,
like a great statesman and philosopher,--for such he was even in
his errors,--he perceived, and he taught Mr Pitt to perceive,
that, in the war against Jacobinism, the Roman Catholics were the
natural allies of royalty and aristocracy. But the help of these
allies was contumeliously rejected by those politicians who make
themselves ridiculous by carousing on Mr Pitt's birthday, while
they abjure all Mr Pitt's principles. The consequence is, as you
are forced to own, that there is not in the whole kingdom a Roman
Catholic of note who is your friend. Therefore, whatever your
inclinations may be, you must intrust power in Ireland to
Protestants, to Ultra-Protestants, to men who, whether they
belong to Orange lodges or not, are in spirit Orangemen. Every
appointment which you make increases the discontent of the Roman
Catholics. The more discontented they are, the less you can
venture to employ them. The way in which you treated them while
you were in opposition has raised in them such a dislike and
distrust of you that you cannot carry the Emancipation Act into
effect, though, as you tell us, and as I believe, you sincerely
desire to do so. As respects the offices of which you dispose,
that Act is null and void. Of all the boons which that Act
purports to bestow on Roman Catholics they really enjoy only one,
admission to Parliament: and that they would not enjoy if you
had been able three years ago to carry your Irish Registration
Bill. You have wounded national feeling: you have wounded
religious feeling: and the animosity which you have roused shows
itself in a hundred ways, some of which I abhor, some of which I
lament, but at none of which I can wonder. They are the natural
effects of insult and injury on quick and ill regulated
sensibility. You, for your own purposes, inflamed the public
mind of England against Ireland; and you have no right to be
surprised by finding that the public mind of Ireland is inflamed
against England. You called a fourth part of the people of the
United Kingdom aliens: and you must not blame them for feeling
and acting like aliens. You have filled every public department
with their enemies. What then could you expect but that they
would set up against your Lord Lieutenant and your official
hierarchy a more powerful chief and a more powerful organization
of their own? They remember, and it would be strange indeed if
they had forgotten, what under the same chief, and by a similar
organization, they extorted from you in 1829; and they are
determined to try whether you are bolder and more obstinate now
than then.

Such are the difficulties of this crisis. To a great extent they
are of your own making. And what have you done in order to get
out of them? Great statesmen have sometimes committed great
mistakes, and yet have by wisdom and firmness extricated
themselves from the embarrassments which those mistakes had
caused. Let us see whether you are entitled to rank among such
statesmen. And first, what,--commanding, as you do, a great
majority in this and in the other House of Parliament,--what have
you done in the way of legislation? The answer is very short and
simple. The beginning and end of all your legislation for
Ireland will be found in the Arms Act of last session. You will
hardly call that conciliation; and I shall not call it coercion.
It was mere petty annoyance. It satisfied nobody. We called on
you to redress the wrongs of Ireland. Many of your own friends
called on you to stifle her complaints. One noble and learned
person was so much disgusted by your remissness that he employed
his own great abilities and his own valuable time in framing a
new coercion bill for you. You were deaf alike to us and to him.
The whole fruit of your legislative wisdom was this one paltry
teasing police regulation.

Your executive administration through the whole recess has been
one long blunder. The way in which your Lord Lieutenant and his
advisers acted about the Clontarf meeting would alone justify a
severe vote of censure. The noble lord, the Secretary for the
Colonies (Lord Stanley.), has told us that the Government did all
that was possible to caution the people against attending that
meeting, and that it would be unreasonable to censure men for not
performing impossibilities. Now, Sir, the ministers themselves
acknowledge that, as early as the morning of the Friday which
preceded the day fixed for the meeting, the Lord Lieutenant
determined to put forth a proclamation against the meeting. Yet
the proclamation was not published in Dublin and the suburbs till
after nightfall on Saturday. The meeting was fixed for the
Sunday morning. Will any person have the hardihood to assert
that it was impossible to have a proclamation drawn up, printed
and circulated, in twenty-four hours, nay in six hours? It is
idle to talk of the necessity of weighing well the words of such
a document. The Lord Lieutenant should have weighed well the
value of the lives of his royal mistress's subjects. Had he done
so, there can be no doubt that the proclamation might have been
placarded on every wall in and near Dublin early in the forenoon
of the Saturday. The negligence of the Government would probably
have caused the loss of many lives but for the interposition of
the man whom you are persecuting. Fortune stood your friend; and
he stood your friend; and thus a slaughter more terrible than
that which took place twenty-five years ago at Manchester was

But you were incorrigible. No sooner had you, by strange good
luck, got out of one scrape, than you made haste to get into
another, out of which, as far as I can see, you have no chance of
escape. You instituted the most unwise, the most unfortunate of
all state prosecutions. You seem not to have at all known what
you were doing. It appears never to have occurred to you that
there was any difference between a criminal proceeding which was
certain to fix the attention of the whole civilised world and an
ordinary qui tam action for a penalty. The evidence was such and
the law such that you were likely to get a verdict and a
judgment; and that was enough for you. Now, Sir, in such a case
as this, the probability of getting the verdict and the judgment
is only a part, and a very small part, of what a statesman ought
to consider. Before you determined to bring the most able, the
most powerful, the most popular of your opponents to the bar as a
criminal, on account of the manner in which he had opposed you,
you ought to have asked yourselves whether the decision which you
expected to obtain from the tribunals would be ratified by the
voice of your own country, of foreign countries, of posterity;
whether the general opinion of mankind might not be that, though
you were legally in the right, you were morally in the wrong. It
was no common person that you were bent on punishing. About that
person I feel, I own, considerable difficulty in saying anything.
He is placed in a situation which would prevent generous enemies,
which has prevented all the members of this House, with one
ignominious exception, from assailing him acrimoniously. I will
try, in speaking of him, to pay the respect due to eminence and
to misfortune without violating the respect due to truth. I am
convinced that the end which he is pursuing is not only
mischievous but unattainable: and some of the means which he has
stooped to use for the purpose of attaining that end I regard
with deep disapprobation. But it is impossible for me not to see
that the place which he holds in the estimation of his countrymen
is such as no popular leader in our history, I might perhaps say
in the history of the world, has ever attained. Nor is the
interest which he inspires confined to Ireland or to the United
Kingdom. Go where you will on the Continent: visit any coffee
house: dine at any public table: embark on board of any
steamboat: enter any diligence, any railway carriage: from the
moment that your accent shows you to be an Englishman, the very
first question asked by your companions, be they what they may,
physicians, advocates, merchants, manufacturers, or what we
should call yeomen, is certain to be "What will be done with Mr
O'Connell?" Look over any file of French journals; and you will
see what a space he occupies in the eyes of the French people.
It is most unfortunate, but it is a truth, and a truth which we
ought always to bear in mind, that there is among our neighbours
a feeling about the connection between England and Ireland not
very much unlike the feeling which exists here about the
connection between Russia and Poland. All the sympathies of all
continental politicians are with the Irish. We are regarded as
the oppressors, and the Irish as the oppressed. An insurrection
in Ireland would have the good wishes of a great majority of the
people of Europe. And, Sir, it is natural that it should be so.
For the cause of the Irish repealers has two different aspects, a
democratic aspect, and a Roman Catholic aspect, and is therefore
regarded with favour by foreigners of almost every shade of
opinion. The extreme left,--to use the French nomenclature,--
wishes success to a great popular movement against the throne and
the aristocracy. The extreme right wishes success to a movement
headed by the bishops and priests of the true Church against a
heretical government and a heretical hierarchy. The consequence
is that, in a contest with Ireland, you will not have, out of
this island, a single well-wisher in the world. I do not say
this in order to intimidate you. But I do say that, on an
occasion on which all Christendom was watching your conduct with
an unfriendly and suspicious eye, you should have carefully
avoided everything that looked like foul play. Unhappily you
were too much bent on gaining the victory; and you have gained a
victory more disgraceful and disastrous than any defeat. Mr
O'Connell has been convicted: but you cannot deny that he has
been wronged: you cannot deny that irregularities have been
committed, or that the effect of those irregularities has been to
put you in a better situation and him in a worse situation than
the law contemplated. It is admitted that names which ought to
have been in the jury-list were not there. It is admitted that
all, or almost all, the names which were wrongfully excluded were
the names of Roman Catholics. As to the number of those who were
wrongfully excluded there is some dispute. An affidavit has been
produced which puts the number at twenty-seven. The right
honourable gentleman, the Recorder of Dublin, who of course puts
the number as low as he conscientiously can, admits twenty-four.
But some gentlemen maintain that this irregularity, though
doubtless blamable, cannot have had any effect on the event of
the trial. What, they ask, are twenty or twenty-seven names in
seven hundred and twenty? Why, Sir, a very simple arithmetical
calculation will show that the irregularity was of grave
importance. Of the seven hundred and twenty, forty-eight were to
be selected by lot, and then reduced by alternate striking to
twelve. The forty-eighth part of seven hundred and twenty is
fifteen. If, therefore, there had been fifteen more Roman
Catholics in the jury-list, it would have been an even chance
that there would have been one Roman Catholic more among the
forty-eight. If there had been twenty-seven more Roman Catholics
in the list, it would have been almost an even chance that there
would have been two Roman Catholics more among the forty-eight.
Is it impossible, is it improbable that, but for this trick or
this blunder,--I will not now inquire which,--the result of the
trial might have been different? For, remember the power which
the law gives to a single juror. He can, if his mind is fully
made up, prevent a conviction. I heard murmurs when I used the
word trick. Am I not justified in feeling a doubt which it is
quite evident that Mr Justice Perrin feels? He is reported to
have said,--and I take the report of newspapers favourable to the
Government,--he is reported to have said that there had been
great carelessness, great neglect of duty, that there were
circumstances which raised grave suspicion, and that he was not
prepared to say that the irregularity was accidental. The noble
lord the Secretary for the Colonies has admonished us to pay
respect to the judges. I am sure that I pay the greatest respect
to everything that falls from Mr Justice Perrin. He must know
much better than I, much better than any Englishman, what
artifices are likely to be employed by Irish functionaries for
the purpose of packing a jury; and he tells us that he is not
satisfied that this irregularity was the effect of mere
inadvertence. But, says the right honourable Baronet, the
Secretary for the Home Department, "I am not responsible for this
irregularity." Most true: and nobody holds the right honourable
Baronet responsible for it. But he goes on to say, "I lament
this irregularity most sincerely: for I believe that it has
raised a prejudice against the administration of justice."
Exactly so. That is just what I say. I say that a prejudice has
been created against the administration of justice. I say that a
taint of suspicion has been thrown on the verdict which you have
obtained. And I ask whether it is right and decent in you to
avail yourselves of a verdict on which such a taint has been
thrown? The only wise, the only honourable course open to you
was to say, "A mistake has been committed: that mistake has
given us an unfair advantage; and of that advantage we will not
make use." Unhappily, the time when you might have taken this
course, and might thus to a great extent have repaired your
former errors, has been suffered to elapse.

Well, you had forty-eight names taken by lot from this mutilated
jury-list: and then came the striking. You struck out all the
Roman Catholic names: and you give us your reasons for striking
out these names, reasons which I do not think it worth while to
examine. The real question which you should have considered was
this: Can a great issue between two hostile religions,--for such
the issue was,--be tried in a manner above all suspicion by a
jury composed exclusively of men of one of those religions? I
know that in striking out the Roman Catholics you did nothing
that was not according to technical rules. But my great charge
against you is that you have looked on this whole case in a
technical point of view, that you have been attorneys when you
should have been statesmen. The letter of the law was doubtless
with you; but not the noble spirit of the law. The jury de
medietate linguae is of immemorial antiquity among us. Suppose
that a Dutch sailor at Wapping is accused of stabbing an
Englishman in a brawl. The fate of the culprit is decided by a
mixed body, by six Englishmen and six Dutchmen. Such were the
securities which the wisdom and justice of our ancestors gave to
aliens. You are ready enough to call Mr O'Connell an alien when
it serves your purposes to do so. You are ready enough to
inflict on the Irish Roman Catholic all the evils of alienage.
But the one privilege, the one advantage of alienage, you deny
him. In a case which of all cases most require a jury de
medietate, in a case which sprang out of the mutual hostility of
races and sects, you pack a jury all of one race and all of one
sect. Why, if you were determined to go on with this unhappy
prosecution, not have a common jury? There was no difficulty in
having such a jury; and among the jurors might have been some
respectable Roman Catholics who were not members of the Repeal
Association. A verdict of Not Guilty from such a jury would have
done you infinitely less harm than the verdict of Guilty which
you have succeeded in obtaining. Yes, you have obtained a
verdict of Guilty; but you have obtained that verdict from twelve
men brought together by illegal means, and selected in such a
manner that their decision can inspire no confidence. You have
obtained that verdict by the help of a Chief Justice of whose
charge I can hardly trust myself to speak. To do him right,
however, I will say that his charge was not, as it has been
called, unprecedented; for it bears a very close resemblance to
some charges which may be found in the state trials of the reign
of Charles the Second. However, with this jury-list, with this
jury, with this judge, you have a verdict. And what have you
gained by it? Have you pacified Ireland? No doubt there is just
at the present moment an apparent tranquillity; but it is a
tranquillity more alarming than turbulence. The Irish will be
quiet till you begin to put the sentence of imprisonment into
execution, because, feeling the deepest interest in the fate of
their persecuted Tribune, they will do nothing that can be
prejudicial to him. But will they be quiet when the door of a
gaol has been closed on him? Is it possible to believe that an
agitator, whom they adored while his agitation was a source of
profit to him, will lose his hold on their affections by being a
martyr in what they consider as their cause? If I, who am
strongly attached to the Union, who believe that the Repeal of
the Union would be fatal to the empire, and who think Mr
O'Connell's conduct highly reprehensible, cannot conscientiously
say that he has had a fair trial, if the prosecutors themselves
are forced to own that things have happened which have excited a
prejudice against the verdict and the judgment, what must be the
feelings of the people of Ireland, who believe not merely that he
is guiltless, but that he is the best friend that they ever had?
He will no longer be able to harangue them: but his wrongs will
stir their blood more than his eloquence ever did; nor will he in
confinement be able to exercise that influence which has so often
restrained them, even in their most excited mood, from proceeding
to acts of violence.

Turn where we will, the prospect is gloomy; and that which of all
things most disturbs me is this, that your experience, sharp as
it has been, does not seem to have made you wiser. All that I
have been able to collect from your declarations leads me to
apprehend that, while you continue to hold power, the future will
be of a piece with the past. As to your executive
administration, you hold out no hope that it will be other than
it has been. If we look back, your only remedies for the
disorders of Ireland have been an impolitic state prosecution, an
unfair state trial, barracks and soldiers. If we look forward,
you promise us no remedies but an unjust sentence, the harsh
execution of that sentence, more barracks and more soldiers.

You do indeed try to hold out hopes of one or two legislative
reforms beneficial to Ireland; but these hopes, I am afraid, will
prove delusive. You hint that you have prepared a Registration
bill, of which the effect will be to extend the elective
franchise. What the provisions of that bill may be we do not
know. But this we know, that the matter is one about which it is
utterly impossible for you to do anything that shall be at once
honourable to yourselves and useful to the country. Before we
see your plan, we can say with perfect confidence that it must
either destroy the last remnant of the representative system in
Ireland, or the last remnant of your own character for

About the much agitated question of land tenure you acknowledge
that you have at present nothing to propose. We are to have a
report, but you cannot tell us when.

The Irish Church, as at present constituted and endowed, you are
fully determined to uphold. On some future occasion, I hope to
be able to explain at large my views on that subject. To-night I
have exhausted my own strength, and I have exhausted also, I am
afraid, the kind indulgence of the House. I will therefore only
advert very briefly to some things which have been said about the
Church in the course of the present debate.

Several gentlemen opposite have spoken of the religious discord
which is the curse of Ireland in language which does them honour;
and I am only sorry that we are not to have their votes as well
as their speeches. But from the Treasury bench we have heard
nothing but this, that the Established Church is there, and that
there it must and shall remain. As to the speech of the noble
lord the Secretary for the Colonies, really when we hear such a
pitiable defence of a great institution from a man of such
eminent abilities, what inference can we draw but that the
institution is altogether indefensible? The noble lord tells us
that the Roman Catholics, in 1757, when they were asking to be
relieved from the penal laws, and in 1792, when they were asking
to be relieved from civil disabilities, professed to be quite
willing that the Established Church should retain its endowments.
What is it to us, Sir, whether they did or not? If you can prove
this Church to be a good institution, of course it ought to be
maintained. But do you mean to say that a bad institution ought
to be maintained because some people who have been many years in
their graves said that they did not complain of it? What if the
Roman Catholics of the present generation hold a different
language on this subject from the Roman Catholics of the last
generation? Is this inconsistency, which appears to shock the
noble lord, anything but the natural and inevitable progress of
all reform? People who are oppressed, and who have no hope of
obtaining entire justice, beg to be relieved from the most
galling part of what they suffer. They assure the oppressor that
if he will only relax a little of his severity they shall be
quite content; and perhaps, at the time, they believe that they
shall be content. But are expressions of this sort, are mere
supplications uttered under duress, to estop every person who
utters them, and all his posterity to the end of time, from
asking for entire justice? Am I debarred from trying to recover
property of which I have been robbed, because, when the robber's
pistol was at my breast, I begged him to take everything that I
had and to spare my life? The noble lord knows well that, while
the slave trade existed, the great men who exerted themselves to
put an end to that trade disclaimed all thought of emancipating
the negroes. In those days, Mr Pitt, Mr Fox, Lord Grenville,
Lord Grey, and even my dear and honoured friend of whom I can
never speak without emotion, Mr Wilberforce, always said that it
was a calumny to accuse them of intending to liberate the black
population of the sugar islands. In 1807 the present Duke of
Northumberland, then Lord Percy, in the generous enthusiasm of
youth, rose to propose in this House the abolition of slavery.
Mr Wilberforce interposed, nay, I believe, almost pulled Lord
Percy down. Nevertheless in 1833 the noble lord the Secretary
for the Colonies brought in a bill to abolish slavery. Suppose
that when he resumed his seat, after making that most eloquent
speech in which he explained his plan to us, some West Indian
planter had risen, and had said that in 1792, in 1796, in 1807,
all the leading philanthropists had solemnly declared that they
had no intention of emancipating the negroes; would not the noble
lord have answered that nothing that had been said by anybody in
1792 or 1807 could bind us not to do what was right in 1833?

This is not the only point on which the noble lord's speech is
quite at variance with his own conduct. He appeals to the fifth
article of the Treaty of Union. He says that, if we touch the
revenues and privileges of the Established Church, we shall
violate that article; and to violate an article of the Treaty of
Union is, it seems, a breach of public faith of which he cannot
bear to think. But, Sir, why is the fifth article to be held
more sacred than the fourth, which fixes the number of Irish
members who are to sit in this House? The fourth article, we all
know, has been altered. And who brought in the bill which
altered that article? The noble lord himself.

Then the noble lord adverts to the oath taken by Roman Catholic
members of this House. They bind themselves, he says, not to use
their power for the purpose of injuring the Established Church.
I am sorry that the noble lord is not at this moment in the
House. Had he been here I should have made some remarks which I
now refrain from making on one or two expressions which fell from
him. But, Sir, let us allow to his argument all the weight which
he can himself claim for it. What does it prove? Not that the
Established Church of Ireland is a good institution; not that it
ought to be maintained; but merely this, that, when we are about
to divide on the question whether it shall be maintained, the
Roman Catholic members ought to walk away to the library. The
oath which they have taken is nothing to me and to the other
Protestant members who have not taken it. Suppose then our Roman
Catholic friends withdrawn. Suppose that we, the six hundred and
twenty or thirty Protestant members remain in the House. Then
there is an end of this argument about the oath. Will the noble
lord then be able to give us any reason for maintaining the
Church of Ireland on the present footing?

I hope, Sir, that the right honourable Baronet the first Lord of
the Treasury will not deal with this subject as his colleagues
have dealt with it. We have a right to expect that a man of his
capacity, placed at the head of government, will attempt to
defend the Irish Church in a manly and rational way. I would beg
him to consider these questions:--For what ends do Established
Churches exist? Does the Established Church of Ireland
accomplish those ends or any one of those ends? Can an
Established Church which has no hold on the hearts of the body of
the people be otherwise than useless, or worse than useless? Has
the Established Church of Ireland any hold on the hearts of the
body of the people? Has it been successful in making proselytes?
Has it been what the Established Church of England has been with
justice called, what the Established Church of Scotland was once
with at least equal justice called, the poor man's Church? Has
it trained the great body of the people to virtue, consoled them
in affliction, commanded their reverence, attached them to itself
and to the State? Show that these questions can be answered in
the affirmative; and you will have made, what I am sure has never
yet been made, a good defence of the Established Church of
Ireland. But it is mere mockery to bring us quotations from
forgotten speeches, and from mouldy petitions presented to George
the Second at a time when the penal laws were still in full

And now, Sir, I must stop. I have said enough to justify the
vote which I shall give in favour of the motion of my noble
friend. I have shown, unless I deceive myself, that the
extraordinary disorders which now alarm us in Ireland have been
produced by the fatal policy of the Government. I have shown
that the mode in which the Government is now dealing with those
disorders is far more likely to inflame than to allay them.
While this system lasts, Ireland can never be tranquil; and till
Ireland is tranquil, England can never hold her proper place
among the nations of the world. To the dignity, to the strength,
to the safety of this great country, internal peace is
indispensably necessary. In every negotiation, whether with
France on the right of search, or with America on the line of
boundary, the fact that Ireland is discontented is uppermost in
the minds of the diplomatists on both sides, making the
representative of the British Crown timorous, and making his
adversary bold. And no wonder. This is indeed a great and
splendid empire, well provided with the means both of annoyance
and of defence. England can do many things which are beyond the
power of any other nation in the world. She has dictated peace
to China. She rules Caffraria and Australasia. She could again
sweep from the ocean all commerce but her own. She could again
blockade every port from the Baltic to the Adriatic. She is able
to guard her vast Indian dominions against all hostility by land
or sea. But in this gigantic body there is one vulnerable spot
near to the heart. At that spot forty-six years ago a blow was
aimed which narrowly missed, and which, if it had not missed,
might have been deadly. The government and the legislature, each
in its own sphere, is deeply responsible for the continuance of a
state of things which is fraught with danger to the State. From
my share of that responsibility I shall clear myself by the vote
which I am about to give; and I trust that the number and the
respectability of those in whose company I shall go into the
lobby will be such as to convince the Roman Catholics of Ireland
that they need not yet relinquish all hope of obtaining relief
from the wisdom and justice of an Imperial Parliament.




An attempt having been made to deprive certain dissenting
congregations of property which they had long enjoyed, on the
ground that they did not hold the same religious opinions that
had been held by the purchasers from whom they derived their
title to that property, the Government of Sir Robert Peel brought
in a bill fixing a time of limitation in such cases. The time
fixed was twenty-five years.

The bill, having passed the Lords, came down to the House of
Commons. On the sixth of June 1844, the second reading was moved
by the Attorney General, Sir William Follett. Sir Robert Inglis,
Member for the University of Oxford, moved that the bill should
be read a second time that day six months: and the amendment was
seconded by Mr Plumptre, Member for Kent. Early in the debate
the following Speech was made.

The second reading was carried by 307 votes to 117.

If, Sir, I should unhappily fail in preserving that tone in which
the question before us ought to be debated, it will assuredly not
be for want either of an example or of a warning. The honourable
and learned Member who moved the second reading has furnished me
with a model which I cannot too closely imitate; and from the
honourable Member for Kent, if I can learn nothing else, I may at
least learn what temper and what style I ought most carefully to

I was very desirous, Sir, to catch your eye, not because I was so
presumptuous as to hope that I should be able to add much to the
powerful and luminous argument of the honourable and learned
gentleman who has, to our great joy, again appeared among us to-
night; but because I thought it desirable that, at an early
period in the debate, some person whose seat is on this side of
the House, some person strongly opposed to the policy of the
present Government, should say, what I now say with all my heart,
that this is a bill highly honourable to the Government, a bill
framed on the soundest principles, and evidently introduced from
the best and purest motives. This praise is a tribute due to Her
Majesty's Ministers; and I have great pleasure in paying it.

I have great pleasure also in bearing my testimony to the
humanity, the moderation, and the decorum with which my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford has
expressed his sentiments. I must particularly applaud the
resolution which he announced, and to which he strictly adhered,
of treating this question as a question of meum and tuum, and not
as a question of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. With him it is
possible to reason. But how am I to reason with the honourable
Member for Kent, who has made a speech without one fact, one
argument, one shadow of an argument, a speech made up of nothing
but vituperation? I grieve to say that the same bitterness of
theological animosity which characterised that speech may be
discerned in too many of the petitions with which, as he boasts,
our table has been heaped day after day. The honourable Member
complains that those petitions have not been treated with proper
respect. Sir, they have been treated with much more respect than
they deserved. He asks why we are to suppose that the
petitioners are not competent to form a judgment on this
question? My answer is, that they have certified their
incompetence under their own hands. They have, with scarcely one
exception, treated this question as a question of divinity,
though it is purely a question of property: and when I see men
treat a question of property as if it were a question of
divinity, I am certain that, however numerous they may be, their
opinion is entitled to no consideration. If the persons whom
this bill is meant to relieve are orthodox, that is no reason for
our plundering anybody else in order to enrich them. If they are
heretics, that is no reason for our plundering them in order to
enrich others. I should not think myself justified in supporting
this bill, if I could not with truth declare that, whatever sect
had been in possession of these chapels, my conduct would have
been precisely the same. I have no peculiar sympathy with
Unitarians. If these people, instead of being Unitarians, had
been Roman Catholics, or Wesleyan Methodists, or General
Baptists, or Particular Baptists, or members of the Old Secession
Church of Scotland, or members of the Free Church of Scotland, I
should speak as I now speak, and vote as I now mean to vote.

Sir, the whole dispute is about the second clause of this bill.
I can hardly conceive that any gentleman will vote against the
bill on account of the error in the marginal note on the third
clause. To the first clause my honourable friend the Member for
the University of Oxford said, if I understood him rightly, that
he had no objection; and indeed a man of his integrity and
benevolence could hardly say less after listening to the lucid
and powerful argument of the Attorney General. It is therefore
on the second clause that the whole question turns.

The second clause, Sir, rests on a principle simple, well-known,
and most important to the welfare of all classes of the
community. That principle is this, that prescription is a good
title to property, that there ought to be a time of limitation,
after which a possessor, in whatever way his possession may have
originated, must not be dispossessed. Till very lately, Sir, I
could not have imagined that, in any assembly of reasonable,
civilised, of educated men, it could be necessary for me to stand
up in defence of that principle. I should have thought it as
much a waste of the public time to make a speech on such a
subject as to make a speech against burning witches, against
trying writs of right by wager of battle, or against requiring a
culprit to prove his innocence by walking over red-hot
ploughshares. But I find that I was in error. Certain sages,
lately assembled in conclave at Exeter Hall, have done me the
honour to communicate to me the fruits of their profound
meditations on the science of legislation. They have, it seems,
passed a resolution declaring that the principle, which I had
supposed that no man out of Bedlam would ever question, is an
untenable principle, and altogether unworthy of a British
Parliament. They have been pleased to add, that the present
Government cannot, without gross inconsistency, call on
Parliament to pass a statute of limitation. And why? Will the
House believe it? Because the present Government has appointed
two new Vice Chancellors.

Really, Sir, I do not know whether the opponents of this bill
shine more as logicians or as jurists. Standing here as the
advocate of prescription, I ought not to forget that prescriptive
right of talking nonsense which gentlemen who stand on the
platform of Exeter Hall are undoubtedly entitled to claim. But,
though I recognise the right, I cannot but think that it may be
abused, and that it has been abused on the present occasion. One
thing at least is clear, that, if Exeter Hall be in the right,
all the masters of political philosophy, all the great
legislators, all the systems of law by which men are and have
been governed in all civilised countries, from the earliest
times, must be in the wrong. How indeed can any society prosper,
or even exist, without the aid of this untenable principle, this
principle unworthy of a British legislature? This principle was
found in the Athenian law. This principle was found in the Roman
law. This principle was found in the laws of all those nations
of which the jurisprudence was derived from Rome. This principle
was found in the law administered by the Parliament of Paris;
and, when that Parliament and the law which it administered had
been swept away by the revolution, this principle reappeared in
the Code Napoleon. Go westward, and you find this principle
recognised beyond the Mississippi. Go eastward, and you find it
recognised beyond the Indus, in countries which never heard the
name of Justinian, in countries to which no translation of the
Pandects ever found its way. Look into our own laws, and you
will see that the principle, which is now designated as unworthy
of Parliament, has guided Parliament ever since Parliament
existed. Our first statute of limitation was enacted at Merton,
by men some of whom had borne a part in extorting the Great
Charter and the Forest Charter from King John. From that time to
this it has been the study of a succession of great lawyers and
statesmen to make the limitation more and more stringent. The
Crown and the Church indeed were long exempted from the general
rule. But experience fully proved that every such exemption was
an evil; and a remedy was at last applied. Sir George Savile,
the model of English country gentlemen, was the author of the Act
which barred the claims of the Crown. That eminent magistrate,
the late Lord Tenterden, was the author of the Act which barred
the claims of the Church. Now, Sir, how is it possible to
believe that the Barons, whose seals are upon our Great Charter,
would have perfectly agreed with the great jurists who framed the
Code of Justinian, with the great jurists who framed the Code of
Napoleon, with the most learned English lawyers of the nineteenth
century, and with the Pundits of Benares, unless there had been
some strong and clear reason which necessarily led men of sense
in every age and country to the same conclusion? Nor is it
difficult to see what the reason was. For it is evident that the
principle which silly and ignorant fanatics have called untenable
is essential to the institution of property, and that, if you
take away that principle, you will produce evils resembling those
which would be produced by a general confiscation. Imagine what
would follow if the maxims of Exeter Hall were introduced into
Westminster Hall. Imagine a state of things in which one of us
should be liable to be sued on a bill of exchange indorsed by his
grandfather in 1760. Imagine a man possessed of an estate and
manor house which had descended to him through ten or twelve
generations of ancestors, and yet liable to be ejected because
some flaw had been detected in a deed executed three hundred
years ago, in the reign of Henry the Eighth. Why, Sir, should we
not all cry out that it would be better to live under the rule of
a Turkish Pasha than under such a system. Is it not plain that
the enforcing of an obsolete right is the inflicting of a wrong?
Is it not plain that, but for our statutes of limitation, a
lawsuit would be merely a grave, methodical robbery? I am
ashamed to argue a point so clear.

And if this be the general rule, why should the case which we are
now considering be an exception to that rule? I have done my
best to understand why. I have read much bad oratory, and many
foolish petitions. I have heard with attention the reasons of my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford; and I
should have heard the reasons of the honourable Member for Kent,
if there had been any to hear. Every argument by which my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford tried
to convince us that this case is an exception to the general
rule, will be found on examination to be an argument against the
general rule itself. He says that the possession which we
propose to sanction was originally a wrongful possession. Why,
Sir, all the statutes of limitation that ever were made sanction
possession which was originally wrongful. It is for the
protection of possessors who are not in condition to prove that
their possession was originally rightful that statutes of
limitation are passed. Then my honourable friend says that this
is an ex post facto law. Why, Sir, so are all our great statutes
of limitation. Look at the Statute of Merton, passed in 1235; at
the Statute of Westminster, passed in 1275; at the Statute of
James the First, passed in 1623; at Sir George Savile's Act,
passed in the last century; at Lord Tenterden's Act, passed in
our own time. Every one of those Acts was retrospective. Every
one of them barred claims arising out of past transactions. Nor
was any objection ever raised to what was so evidently just and
wise, till bigotry and chicanery formed that disgraceful league
against which we are now contending. But, it is said, it is
unreasonable to grant a boon to men because they have been many
years doing wrong. The length of the time during which they have
enjoyed property not rightfully their own, is an aggravation of
the injury which they have committed, and is so far from being a
reason for letting them enjoy that property for ever, that it is
rather a reason for compelling them to make prompt restitution.
With this childish sophistry the petitions on our table are
filled. Is it possible that any man can be so dull as not to
perceive that, if this be a reason, it is a reason against all
our statutes of limitation? I do a greater wrong to my tailor if
I withhold payment of his bill during six years than if I
withhold payment only during two years. Yet the law says that at
the end of two years he may bring an action and force me to pay
him with interest, but that after the lapse of six years he
cannot force me to pay him at all. It is much harder that a
family should be kept out of its hereditary estate during five
generations than during five days. But if you are kept out of
your estate five days you have your action of ejectment; and,
after the lapse of five generations, you have no remedy. I say,
therefore, with confidence, that every argument which has been
urged against this bill is an argument against the great
principle of prescription. I go further, and I say that, if
there be any case which, in an especial manner, calls for the
application of the principle of prescription, this is that case.
For the Unitarian congregations have laid out so much on these
little spots of ground that it is impossible to take the soil
from them without taking from them property which is of much
greater value than the mere soil, and which is indisputably their
own. This is not the case of a possessor who has been during
many years, receiving great emoluments from land to which he had
not a good title. It is the case of a possessor who has, from
resources which were undoubtedly his own, expended on the land
much more than it was originally worth. Even in the former case,
it has been the policy of all wise lawgivers to fix a time of
limitation. A fortiori, therefore, there ought to be a time of
limitation in the latter case.

And here, Sir, I cannot help asking gentlemen to compare the
petitions for this bill with the petitions against it. Never was
there such a contrast. The petitions against the bill are filled
with cant, rant, scolding, scraps of bad sermons. The petitions
in favour of the bill set forth in the simplest manner great
practical grievances. Take, for instance, the case of
Cirencester. The meeting house there was built in 1730. It is
certain that the Unitarian doctrines were taught there as early
as 1742. That was only twelve years after the chapel had been
founded. Many of the original subscribers must have been living.
Many of the present congregation are lineal descendants of the
original subscribers. Large sums have from time to time been
laid out in repairing, enlarging, and embellishing the edifice;
and yet there are people who think it just and reasonable that
this congregation should, after the lapse of more than a century,
be turned out. At Norwich, again, a great dissenting meeting
house was opened in 1688. It is not easy to say how soon Anti-
Trinitarian doctrines were taught there. The change of sentiment
in the congregation seems to have been gradual: but it is quite
certain that, in 1754, ninety years ago, both pastor and flock
were decidedly Unitarian. Round the chapel is a cemetery filled
with the monuments of eminent Unitarians. Attached to the chapel
are a schoolhouse and a library, built and fitted up by
Unitarians. And now the occupants find that their title is
disputed. They cannot venture to build; they cannot venture to
repair; and they are anxiously awaiting our decision. I do not
know that I have cited the strongest cases. I am giving you the
ordinary history of these edifices. Go to Manchester.
Unitarianism has been taught there at least seventy years in a
chapel on which the Unitarians have expended large sums. Go to
Leeds. Four thousand pounds have been subscribed for the
repairing of the Unitarian chapel there, the chapel where, near
eighty years ago, Priestly, the great Doctor of the sect,
officiated. But these four thousand pounds are lying idle. Not
a pew can be repaired till it is known whether this bill will
become law. Go to Maidstone. There Unitarian doctrines have
been taught during at least seventy years; and seven hundred
pounds have recently been laid out by the congregation in
repairing the chapel. Go to Exeter. It matters not where you
go. But go to Exeter. There Unitarian doctrines have been
preached more than eighty years; and two thousand pounds have
been laid out on the chapel. It is the same at Coventry, at
Bath, at Yarmouth, everywhere. And will a British Parliament rob
the possessors of these buildings? I can use no other word. How
should we feel if it were proposed to deprive any other class of
men of land held during so long a time, and improved at so large
a cost? And, if this property should be transferred to those who
covet it, what would they gain in comparison with what the
present occupants would lose? The pulpit of Priestley, the
pulpit of Lardner, are objects of reverence to congregations
which hold the tenets of Priestley and Lardner. To the intruders
those pulpits will be nothing; nay, worse than nothing; memorials
of heresiarchs. Within these chapels and all around them are the
tablets which the pious affection of four generations has placed
over the remains of dear mothers and sisters, wives and
daughters, of eloquent preachers, of learned theological writers.
To the Unitarian, the building which contains these memorials is
a hallowed building. To the intruder it is of no more value than
any other room in which he can find a bench to sit on and a roof
to cover him. If, therefore, we throw out this bill, we do not
merely rob one set of people in order to make a present to
another set. That would be bad enough. But we rob the
Unitarians of that which they regard as a most precious treasure;
of that which is endeared to them by the strongest religious and
the strongest domestic associations; of that which cannot be
wrenched from them without inflicting on them the bitterest pain
and humiliation. To the Trinitarians we give that which can to
them be of little or no value except as a trophy of a most
inglorious victory won in a most unjust war.

But, Sir, an imputation of fraud has been thrown on the
Unitarians; not, indeed, here, but in many other places, and in
one place of which I would always wish to speak with respect.
The Unitarians, it has been said, knew that the original founders
of these chapels were Trinitarians; and to use, for the purpose
of propagating Unitarian doctrine, a building erected for the
purpose of propagating Trinitarian doctrine was grossly
dishonest. One very eminent person (The Bishop of London.) has
gone so far as to maintain that the Unitarians cannot pretend to
any prescription of more than sixty-three years; and he proves
his point thus:--Till the year 1779, he says, no dissenting
teacher was within the protection of the Toleration Act unless he
subscribed those articles of the Church of England which affirm
the Athanasian doctrine. It is evident that no honest Unitarian
can subscribe those articles. The inference is, that the persons
who preached in these chapels down to the year 1779 must have
been either Trinitarians or rogues. Now, Sir, I believe that
they were neither Trinitarians nor rogues; and I cannot help
suspecting that the great prelate who brought this charge against
them is not so well read in the history of the nonconformist
sects as in the history of that Church of which he is an
ornament. The truth is that, long before the year 1779, the
clause of the Toleration Act which required dissenting ministers
to subscribe thirty-five or thirty-six of our thirty-nine
articles had almost become obsolete. Indeed, that clause had
never been rigidly enforced. From the very first there were some
dissenting ministers who refused to subscribe, and yet continued
to preach. Calany was one; and he was not molested. And if this
could be done in the year in which the Toleration Act passed, we
may easily believe that, at a later period, the law would not
have been very strictly observed. New brooms, as the vulgar
proverb tells us, sweep clean; and no statute is so rigidly
enforced as a statute just made. But, Sir, so long ago as the
year 1711, the provisions of the Toleration Act on this subject
were modified. In that year the Whigs, in order to humour Lord
Nottingham, with whom they had coalesced against Lord Oxford,
consented to let the Occasional Conformity Bill pass; but they
insisted on inserting in the bill a clause which was meant to
propitiate the dissenters. By this clause it was enacted that,
if an information were laid against a dissenting minister for
having omitted to subscribe the articles, the defendant might, by
subscribing at any stage of the proceedings anterior to the
judgment, defeat the information, and throw all the costs on the
informer. The House will easily believe that, when such was the
state of the law, informers were not numerous. Indeed, during
the discussions of 1773, it was distinctly affirmed, both in
Parliament and in manifestoes put forth by the dissenting body,
that the majority of nonconformist ministers then living had
never subscribed. All arguments, therefore, grounded on the
insincerity which has been rashly imputed to the Unitarians of
former generations, fall at once to the ground.

But, it is said, the persons who, in the reigns of James the
Second, of William the Third, and of Anne, first established
these chapels, held the doctrine of the Trinity; and therefore,
when, at a later period, the preachers and congregations departed
from the doctrine of the Trinity, they ought to have departed
from the chapels too. The honourable and learned gentleman, the
Attorney General, has refuted this argument so ably that he has
scarcely left anything for me to say about it. It is well-known
that the change which, soon after the Revolution, began to take
place in the opinions of a section of the old Puritan body, was a
gradual, an almost imperceptible change. The principle of the
English Presbyterians was to have no confession of faith and no
form of prayer. Their trust deeds contained no accurate
theological definitions. Nonsubscription was in truth the very
bond which held them together. What, then, could be more natural
than that, Sunday by Sunday, the sermons should have become less
and less like those of the old Calvinistic divines, that the
doctrine of the Trinity should have been less and less frequently
mentioned, that at last it should have ceased to be mentioned,
and that thus, in the course of years, preachers and hearers
should, by insensible degrees, have become first Arians, then,
perhaps, Socinians. I know that this explanation has been
treated with disdain by people profoundly ignorant of the history
of English nonconformity. I see that my right honourable friend
near me (Mr Fox Maule.) does not assent to it. Will he permit me
to refer him to an analogous case with which he cannot but be
well acquainted? No person in the House is more versed than he
in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland; and he will, I am
sure, admit that some of the doctrines now professed by the
Scotch sects which sprang from the secessions of 1733 and 1760
are such as the seceders of 1733 and the seceders of 1760 would
have regarded with horror. I have talked with some of the
ablest, most learned, and most pious of the Scotch dissenters of
our time; and they all fully admitted that they held more than
one opinion which their predecessors would have considered as
impious. Take the question of the connection between Church and
State. The seceders of 1733 thought that the connection ought to
be much closer than it is. They blamed the legislature for
tolerating heresy. They maintained that the Solemn league and
covenant was still binding on the kingdom. They considered it as
a national sin that the validity of the Solemn League and
Covenant was not recognised at the time of the Revolution. When
George Whitfield went to Scotland, though they approved of his
Calvinistic opinions, and though they justly admired that natural
eloquence which he possessed in so wonderful a degree, they would
hold no communion with him because he would not subscribe the
Solemn League and Covenant. Is that the doctrine of their
successors? Are the Scotch dissenters now averse to toleration?
Are they not zealous for the voluntary system? Is it not their
constant cry that it is not the business of the civil magistrate
to encourage any religion, false or true? Does any Bishop now
abhor the Solemn League and Covenant more than they? Here is an
instance in which numerous congregations have, retaining their
identity, passed gradually from one opinion to another opinion.
And would it be just, would it be decent in me, to impute
dishonesty to them on that account? My right honourable friend
may be of opinion that the question touching the connection
between the Church and State is not a vital question. But was
that the opinion of the divines who drew up the Secession
Testimony? He well knows that in their view a man who denied
that it was the duty of the government to defend religious truth
with the civil sword was as much a heretic as a man who denied
the doctrine of the Trinity.

Again, Sir, take the case of the Wesleyan Methodists. They are
zealous against this bill. They think it monstrous that a chapel
originally built for people holding one set of doctrines should
be occupied by people holding a different set of doctrines. I
would advise them to consider whether they cannot find in the
history of their own body reasons for being a little more
indulgent. What were the opinions of that great and good man,
their founder, on the question whether men not episcopally
ordained could lawfully administer the Eucharist? He told his
followers that lay administration was a sin which he never could
tolerate. Those were the very words which he used; and I believe
that, during his lifetime, the Eucharist never was administered
by laymen in any place of worship which was under his control.
After his death, however, the feeling in favour of lay
administration became strong and general among his disciples.
The Conference yielded to that feeling. The consequence is that
now, in every chapel which belonged to Wesley, those who glory in
the name of Wesleyans commit, every Sacrament Sunday, what Wesley
declared to be a sin which he would never tolerate. And yet
these very persons are not ashamed to tell us in loud and angry
tones that it is fraud, downright fraud, in a congregation which
has departed from its original doctrines to retain its original
endowments. I believe, Sir, that, if you refuse to pass this
bill, the Courts of Law will soon have to decide some knotty
questions which, as yet, the Methodists little dream of.

It has, I own, given me great pain to observe the unfair and
acrimonious manner in which too many of the Protestant
nonconformists have opposed this bill. The opposition of the
Established Church has been comparatively mild and moderate; and
yet from the Established Church we had less right to expect
mildness and moderation. It is certainly not right, but it is
very natural, that a church, ancient and richly endowed, closely
connected with the Crown and the aristocracy, powerful in
parliament, dominant in the universities, should sometimes forget
what is due to poorer and humbler Christian societies. But when
I hear a cry for what is nothing less than persecution set up by
men who have been, over and over again within my own memory,
forced to invoke in their own defence the principles of
toleration, I cannot but feel astonishment mingled with
indignation. And what above all excites both my astonishment and
my indignation is this, that the most noisy among the noisy
opponents of the bill which we are considering are some sectaries
who are at this very moment calling on us to pass another bill of
just the same kind for their own benefit. I speak of those Irish
Presbyterians who are asking for an ex post facto law to confirm
their marriages. See how exact the parallel is between the case
of those marriages and the case of these chapels. The Irish
Presbyterians have gone on marrying according to their own forms
during a long course of years. The Unitarians have gone on
occupying, improving, embellishing certain property during a long
course of years. In neither case did any doubt as to the right
arise in the most honest, in the most scrupulous mind. At
length, about the same time, both the validity of the
Presbyterian marriages and the validity of the title by which the
Unitarians held their chapels were disputed. The two questions
came before the tribunals. The tribunals, with great reluctance,
with great pain, pronounced that, neither in the case of the
marriages nor in the case of the chapels, can prescription be set
up against the letter of the law. In both cases there is a just
claim to relief such as the legislature alone can afford. In
both the legislature is willing to grant that relief. But this
will not satisfy the orthodox Presbyterian. He demands with
equal vehemence two things, that he shall be relieved, and that
nobody else shall be relieved. In the same breath he tells us
that it would be most iniquitous not to pass a retrospective law
for his benefit, and that it would be most iniquitous to pass a
retrospective law for the benefit of his fellow sufferers. I
never was more amused than by reading, the other day, a speech
made by a person of great note among the Irish Presbyterians on
the subject of these marriages. "Is it to be endured," he says,
"that the mummies of old and forgotten laws are to be dug up and
unswathed for the annoyance of dissenters?" And yet a few hours
later, this eloquent orator is himself hard at work in digging up
and unswathing another set of mummies for the annoyance of
another set of dissenters. I should like to know how he and such
as he would look if we Churchmen were to assume the same tone
towards them which they think it becoming to assume towards the
Unitarian body; if we were to say, "You and those whom you would
oppress are alike out of our pale. If they are heretics in your
opinion, you are schismatics in ours. Since you insist on the
letter of the law against them, we will insist on the letter of
the law against you. You object to ex post facto statutes; and
you shall have none. You think it reasonable that men should, in
spite of a prescription of eighty or ninety years, be turned out
of a chapel built with their own money, and a cemetery where
their own kindred lie, because the original title was not
strictly legal. We think it equally reasonable that those
contracts which you have imagined to be marriages, but which are
now adjudged not to be legal marriages, should be treated as
nullities." I wish from my soul that some of these orthodox
dissenters would recollect that the doctrine which they defend
with so much zeal against the Unitarians is not the whole sum and
substance of Christianity, and that there is a text about doing
unto others as you would that they should do unto you.

To any intelligent man who has no object except to do justice,
the Trinitarian dissenter and the Unitarian dissenter who are now
asking us for relief will appear to have exactly the same right
to it. There is, however, I must own, one distinction between
the two cases. The Trinitarian dissenters are a strong body, and
especially strong among the electors of towns. They are of great
weight in the State. Some of us may probably, by voting to-night
against their wishes, endanger our seats in this House. The
Unitarians, on the other hand, are few in number. Their creed is
unpopular. Their friendship is likely to injure a public man
more than their enmity. If therefore there be among us any
person of a nature at once tyrannical and cowardly, any person
who delights in persecution, but is restrained by fear from
persecuting powerful sects, now is his time. He never can have a
better opportunity of gratifying his malevolence without risk of
retribution. But, for my part, I long ago espoused the cause of
religious liberty, not because that cause was popular, but
because it was just; and I am not disposed to abandon the
principles to which I have been true through my whole life in
deference to a passing clamour. The day may come, and may come
soon, when those who are now loudest in raising that clamour may
again be, as they have formerly been, suppliants for justice.
When that day comes I will try to prevent others from oppressing
them, as I now try to prevent them from oppressing others. In
the meantime I shall contend against their intolerance with the
same spirit with which I may hereafter have to contend for their




On the twenty-sixth of February, 1845, on the question that the
order of the day for going into Committee of Ways and Means
should be read, Lord John Russell moved the following amendment:
--"That it is the opinion of this House that the plan proposed by
Her Majesty's Government, in reference to the Sugar Duties,
professes to keep up a distinction between foreign free labour
sugar and foreign slave labour sugar, which is impracticable and
illusory; and, without adequate benefit to the consumer, tends so
greatly to impair the revenue as to render the removal of the
Income and Property Tax at the end of three years extremely
uncertain and improbable." The amendment was rejected by 236
votes to 142. In the debate the following Speech was made.

Sir, if the question now at issue were merely a financial or a
commercial question, I should be unwilling to offer myself to
your notice: for I am well aware that there are, both on your
right and on your left hand, many gentlemen far more deeply
versed in financial and commercial science than myself; and I
should think that I discharged my duty better by listening to
them than by assuming the office of a teacher. But, Sir, the
question on which we are at issue with Her Majesty's Ministers is
neither a financial nor a commercial question. I do not
understand it to be disputed that, if we were to pronounce our
decision with reference merely to fiscal and mercantile
considerations, we should at once adopt the plan recommended by
my noble friend. Indeed the right honourable gentleman, the late
President of the Board of Trade (Mr Gladstone.), has distinctly
admitted this. He says that the Ministers of the Crown call upon
us to sacrifice great pecuniary advantages and great commercial
facilities, for the purpose of maintaining a moral principle.
Neither in any former debate nor in the debate of this night has
any person ventured to deny that, both as respects the public
purse and as respects the interests of trade, the course
recommended by my noble friend is preferable to the course
recommended by the Government.

The objections to my noble friend's amendment, then, are purely
moral objections. We lie, it seems, under a moral obligation to
make a distinction between the produce of free labour and the
produce of slave labour. Now I should be very unwilling to incur
the imputation of being indifferent to moral obligations. I do,
however, think that it is in my power to show strong reasons for
believing that the moral obligation pleaded by the Ministers has
no existence. If there be no such moral obligation, then, as it
is conceded on the other side that all fiscal and commercial
arguments are on the side of my noble friend, it follows that we
ought to adopt his amendment.

The right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board
of Trade, has said that the Government does not pretend to act
with perfect consistency as to this distinction between free
labour and slave labour. It was, indeed, necessary that he
should say this; for the policy of the Government is obviously
most inconsistent. Perfect consistency, I admit, we are not to
expect in human affairs. But, surely, there is a decent
consistency which ought to be observed; and of this the right
honourable gentleman himself seems to be sensible; for he asks
how, if we admit sugar grown by Brazilian slaves, we can with
decency continue to stop Brazilian vessels engaged in the slave
trade. This argument, whatever be its value, proceeds on the
very correct supposition that the test of sincerity in
individuals, in parties, and in governments, is consistency. The
right honourable gentleman feels, as we must all feel, that it is
impossible to give credit for good faith to a man who on one
occasion pleads a scruple of conscience as an excuse for not
doing a certain thing, and who on other occasions, where there is
no essential difference of circumstances, does that very thing
without any scruple at all. I do not wish to use such a word as
hypocrisy, or to impute that odious vice to any gentleman on
either side of the House. But whoever declares one moment that
he feels himself bound by a certain moral rule, and the next
moment, in a case strictly similar, acts in direct defiance of
that rule, must submit to have, if not his honesty, yet at least
his power of discriminating right from wrong very gravely

Now, Sir, I deny the existence of the moral obligation pleaded by
the Government. I deny that we are under any moral obligation to
turn our fiscal code into a penal code, for the purpose of
correcting vices in the institutions of independent states. I
say that, if you suppose such a moral obligation to be in force,
the supposition leads to consequences from which every one of us
would recoil, to consequences which would throw the whole
commercial and political system of the world into confusion. I
say that, if such a moral obligation exists, our financial
legislation is one mass of injustice and inhumanity. And I say
more especially that, if such a moral obligation exists, the
right honourable Baronet's Budget is one mass of injustice and

Observe, I am not disputing the paramount authority of moral
obligation. I am not setting up pecuniary considerations against
moral considerations. I know that it would be not only a wicked
but a shortsighted policy, to aim at making a nation like this
great and prosperous by violating the laws of justice. To those
laws, enjoin what they may, I am prepared to submit. But I will
not palter with them: I will not cite them to-day in order to
serve one turn, and quibble them away to-morrow in order to serve
another. I will not have two standards of right; one to be
applied when I wish to protect a favourite interest at the public
cost; and another to be applied when I wish to replenish the
Exchequer, and to give an impulse to trade. I will not have two
weights or two measures. I will not blow hot and cold, play fast
and loose, strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Can the
Government say as much? Are gentlemen opposite prepared to act
in conformity with their own principle? They need not look long
for opportunities. The Statute Book swarms with enactments
directly opposed to the rule which they profess to respect. I
will take a single instance from our existing laws, and propound
it to the gentlemen opposite as a test, if I must not say of
their sincerity, yet of their power of moral discrimination.
Take the article of tobacco. Not only do you admit the tobacco
of the United States which is grown by slaves; not only do you
admit the tobacco of Cuba which is grown by slaves, and by
slaves, as you tell us, recently imported from Africa; but you
actually interdict the free labourer of the United Kingdom from
growing tobacco. You have long had in your Statute Book laws
prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in England, and
authorising the Government to destroy all tobacco plantations
except a few square yards, which are suffered to exist unmolested
in botanical gardens, for purposes of science. These laws did
not extend to Ireland. The free peasantry of Ireland began to
grow tobacco. The cultivation spread fast. Down came your
legislation upon it; and now, if the Irish freeman dares to
engage in competition with the slaves of Virginia and Havannah,
you exchequer him; you ruin him; you grub up his plantation.
Here, then, we have a test by which we may try the consistency of
the gentlemen opposite. I ask you, are you prepared, I do not
say to exclude the slave grown tobacco, but to take away from
slave grown tobacco the monopoly which you now give to it, and to
permit the free labourer of the United Kingdom to enter into
competition on equal terms, on any terms, with the negro who
works under the lash? I am confident that the three right
honourable gentleman opposite, the First Lord of the Treasury,
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the late President of the
Board of Trade, will all with one voice answer "No." And why
not? "Because," say they, "it will injure the revenue. True it
is," they will say, "that the tobacco imported from abroad is
grown by slaves, and by slaves many of whom have been recently
carried across the Atlantic in defiance, not only of justice and
humanity, but of law and treaty. True it is that the cultivators
of the United Kingdom are freemen. But then on the imported
tobacco we are able to raise at the Custom House a duty of six
hundred per cent., sometimes indeed of twelve hundred per cent.:
and, if tobacco were grown here, it would be difficult to get an
excise duty of even a hundred per cent. We cannot submit to this
loss of revenue; and therefore we must give a monopoly to the
slaveholder, and make it penal in the freeman to evade that
monopoly." You may be right; but, in the name of common sense,
be consistent. If this moral obligation of which you talk so
much be one which may with propriety yield to fiscal
considerations, let us have Brazilian sugars. If it be paramount
to all fiscal considerations, let us at least have British snuff
and cigars.

The present Ministers may indeed plead that they are not the
authors of the laws which prohibit the cultivation of tobacco in
Great Britain and Ireland. That is true. The present Government
found those laws in existence: and no doubt there is good sense
in the Conservative doctrine that many things which ought not to
have been set up ought not, when they have been set up, to be
hastily and rudely pulled down. But what will the right
honourable Baronet urge in vindication of his own new budget? He
is not content with maintaining laws which he finds already
existing in favour of produce grown by slaves. He introduces a
crowd of new laws to the same effect. He comes down to the House
with a proposition for entirely taking away the duties on the
importation of raw cotton. He glories in this scheme. He tells
us that it is in strict accordance with the soundest principles
of legislation. He tells us that it will be a blessing to the
country. I agree with him, and I intend to vote with him. But
how is all this cotton grown? Is it not grown by slaves? Again
I say, you may be right; but, in the name of common sense, be
consistent. I saw, with no small amusement, a few days ago, a
paragraph by one of the right honourable Baronet's eulogists,
which was to the following effect:--"Thus has this eminent
statesman given to the English labourer a large supply of a most
important raw material, and has manfully withstood those ravenous
Whigs who wished to inundate our country with sugar dyed in negro
blood." With what I should like to know, is the right honourable
Baronet's cotton dyed?

Formerly, indeed, an attempt was made to distinguish between the
cultivation of cotton and the cultivation of sugar. The
cultivation of sugar, it was said, was peculiarly fatal to the
health and life of the slave. But that plea, whatever it may
have been worth, must now be abandoned; for the right honourable
Baronet now proposes to reduce, to a very great extent, the duty
on slave grown sugar imported from the United States.

Then a new distinction is set up. The United States, it is said,
have slavery; but they have no slave trade. I deny that
assertion. I say that the sugar and cotton of the United States
are the fruits, not only of slavery, but of the slave trade. And
I say further that, if there be on the surface of this earth a
country which, before God and man, is more accountable than any
other for the misery and degradation of the African race, that
country is not Brazil, the produce of which the right honourable
Baronet excludes, but the United States, the produce of which he
proposes to admit on more favourable terms than ever. I have no
pleasure in going into an argument of this nature. I do not
conceive that it is the duty of a member of the English
Parliament to discuss abuses which exist in other societies.
Such discussion seldom tends to produce any reform of such
abuses, and has a direct tendency to wound national pride, and to
inflame national animosities. I would willingly avoid this
subject; but the right honourable Baronet leaves me no choice.
He turns this House into a Court of Judicature for the purpose of
criticising and comparing the institutions of independent States.
He tells us that our Tariff is to be made an instrument for
rewarding the justice and humanity of some Foreign Governments,
and for punishing the barbarity of others. He binds up the
dearest interests of my constituents with questions with which
otherwise I should, as a Member of Parliament, have nothing to
do. I would gladly keep silence on such questions. But it
cannot be. The tradesmen and the professional men whom I
represent say to me, "Why are we to be loaded, certainly for some
years, probably for ever, with a tax, admitted by those who
impose it to be grievous, unequal, inquisitorial? Why are we to
be loaded in time of peace with burdens heretofore reserved for
the exigencies of war?" The paper manufacturer, the soap
manufacturer, say, "Why, if the Income Tax is to be continued,
are our important and suffering branches of industry to have no
relief?" And the answer is, "Because Brazil does not behave so
well as the United States towards the negro race." Can I then
avoid instituting a comparison? Am I not bound to bring to the
test the truth of an assertion pregnant with consequences so
momentous to those who have sent me hither? I must speak out;
and, if what I say gives offence and produces inconvenience, for
that offence and for that inconvenience the Government is

I affirm, then, that there exists in the United States a slave
trade, not less odious or demoralising, nay, I do in my
conscience believe, more odious and more demoralising than that
which is carried on between Africa and Brazil. North Carolina
and Virginia are to Louisiana and Alabama what Congo is to Rio
Janeiro. The slave States of the Union are divided into two
classes, the breeding States, where the human beasts of burden
increase and multiply and become strong for labour, and the sugar
and cotton States to which those beasts of burden are sent to be
worked to death. To what an extent the traffic in man is carried
on we may learn by comparing the census of 1830 with the census
of 1840. North Carolina and Virginia are, as I have said, great
breeding States. During the ten years from 1830 to 1840 the
slave population of North Carolina was almost stationary. The
slave population of Virginia positively decreased. Yet, both in
North Carolina and Virginia propagation was, during those ten
years, going on fast. The number of births among the slaves in
those States exceeded by hundreds of thousands the number of the
deaths. What then became of the surplus? Look to the returns
from the Southern States, from the States whose produce the right
honourable Baronet proposes to admit with reduced duty or with no
duty at all; and you will see. You will find that the increase
in the breeding States was barely sufficient to meet the demand
of the consuming States. In Louisiana, for example, where we
know that the negro population is worn down by cruel toil, and
would not, if left to itself, keep up its numbers, there were, in
1830, one hundred and seven thousand slaves; in 1840, one hundred
and seventy thousand. In Alabama, the slave population during
those ten years much more than doubled; it rose from one hundred
and seventeen thousand to two hundred and fifty-three thousand.
In Mississippi it actually tripled. It rose from sixty-five
thousand to one hundred and ninety-five thousand. So much for
the extent of this slave trade. And as to its nature, ask any
Englishman who has ever travelled in the Southern States.
Jobbers go about from plantation to plantation looking out for
proprietors who are not easy in their circumstances, and who are
likely to sell cheap. A black boy is picked up here; a black
girl there. The dearest ties of nature and of marriage are torn
asunder as rudely as they were ever torn asunder by any slave
captain on the coast of Guinea. A gang of three or four hundred
negroes is made up; and then these wretches, handcuffed,
fettered, guarded by armed men, are driven southward, as you
would drive,--or rather as you would not drive,--a herd of oxen
to Smithfield, that they may undergo the deadly labour of the
sugar mill near the mouth of the Mississippi. A very few years
of that labour in that climate suffice to send the stoutest
African to his grave. But he can well be spared. While he is
fast sinking into premature old age, negro boys in Virginia are
growing up as fast into vigorous manhood to supply the void which
cruelty is making in Louisiana. God forbid that I should
extenuate the horrors of the slave trade in any form! But I do
think this its worst form. Bad enough is it that civilised men
should sail to an uncivilised quarter of the world where slavery
exists, should there buy wretched barbarians, and should carry
them away to labour in a distant land: bad enough! But that a
civilised man, a baptized man, a man proud of being a citizen of
a free state, a man frequenting a Christian church, should breed
slaves for exportation, and, if the whole horrible truth must be
told, should even beget slaves for exportation, should see
children, sometimes his own children, gambolling around him from
infancy, should watch their growth, should become familiar with
their faces, and should then sell them for four or five hundred
dollars a head, and send them to lead in a remote country a life
which is a lingering death, a life about which the best thing
that can be said is that it is sure to be short; this does, I
own, excite a horror exceeding even the horror excited by that
slave trade which is the curse of the African coast. And mark:
I am not speaking of any rare case, of any instance of eccentric
depravity. I am speaking of a trade as regular as the trade in
pigs between Dublin and Liverpool, or as the trade in coals
between the Tyne and the Thames.

There is another point to which I must advert. I have no wish to
apologise for slavery as it exists in Brazil; but this I say,
that slavery, as it exists in Brazil, though a fearful evil,
seems to me a much less hopeless evil than slavery as it exists
in the United States. In estimating the character of negro
slavery we must never forget one most important ingredient; an
ingredient which was wanting to slavery as it was known to the
Greeks and Romans; an ingredient which was wanting to slavery as
it appeared in Europe during the middle ages; I mean the
antipathy of colour. Where this antipathy exists in a high
degree, it is difficult to conceive how the white masters and the
black labourers can ever be mingled together, as the lords and
villeins in many parts of the Old World have been, in one free
community. Now this antipathy is notoriously much stronger in
the United States than in the Brazils. In the Brazils the free
people of colour are numerous. They are not excluded from
honourable callings. You may find among them merchants,
physicians, lawyers: many of them bear arms; some have been
admitted to holy orders. Whoever knows what dignity, what
sanctity, the Church of Rome ascribes to the person of a priest,
will at once perceive the important consequences which follow
from this last circumstance. It is by no means unusual to see a
white penitent kneeling before the spiritual tribunal of a negro,
confessing his sins to a negro, receiving absolution from a
negro. It is by no means unusual to see a negro dispensing the
Eucharist to a circle of whites. I need not tell the House what
emotions of amazement and of rage such a spectacle would excite
in Georgia or South Carolina. Fully admitting, therefore, as I
do, that Brazilian slavery is a horrible evil, I yet must say
that, if I were called upon to declare whether I think the
chances of the African race on the whole better in Brazil or in
the United States, I should at once answer that they are better
in Brazil. I think it not improbable that in eighty or a hundred
years the black population of Brazil may be free and happy. I
see no reasonable prospect of such a change in the United States.

The right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board
of Trade, has said much about that system of maritime police by
which we have attempted to sweep slave trading vessels from the
great highway of nations. Now what has been the conduct of
Brazil, and what has been the conduct of the United States, as
respects that system of police? Brazil has come into the system;
the United States have thrown every impediment in the way of the
system. What opinion Her Majesty's Ministers entertain
respecting the Right of Search we know from a letter of my Lord
Aberdeen which has, within a few days, been laid on our table. I
believe that I state correctly the sense of that letter when I
say that the noble Earl regards the Right of Search as an
efficacious means, and as the only efficacious means, of
preventing the maritime slave trade. He expresses most serious
doubts whether any substitute can be devised. I think that this
check would be a most valuable one, if all nations would submit
to it; and I applaud the humanity which has induced successive
British administrations to exert themselves for the purpose of
obtaining the concurrence of foreign Powers in so excellent a
plan. Brazil consented to admit the Right of Search; the United
States refused, and by refusing deprived the Right of Search of
half its value. Not content with refusing to admit the Right of
Search, they even disputed the right of visit, a right which no
impartial publicist in Europe will deny to be in strict
conformity with the Law of Nations. Nor was this all. In every
part of the Continent of Europe the diplomatic agents of the
Cabinet of Washington have toiled to induce other nations to
imitate the example of the United States. You cannot have
forgotten General Cass's letter. You cannot have forgotten the
terms in which his Government communicated to him its approbation
of his conduct. You know as well as I do that, if the United
States had submitted to the Right of Search, there would have
been no outcry against that right in France. Nor do I much blame
the French. It is but natural that, when one maritime Power
makes it a point of honour to refuse us this right, other
maritime Powers should think that they cannot, without
degradation, take a different course. It is but natural that a
Frenchman, proud of his country, should ask why the tricolor is
to be less respected then the stars and stripes. The right
honourable gentleman says that, if we assent to my noble friend's
amendment, we shall no longer be able to maintain the Right of
Search. Sir, he need not trouble himself about that right. It
is already gone. We have agreed to negotiate on the subject with
France. Everybody knows how that negotiation will end. The
French flag will be exempted from search: Spain will instantly
demand, if she has not already demanded, similar exemption; and
you may as well let her have it with a good grace, and without
wrangling. For a Right of Search, from which the flags of France
and America are exempted, is not worth a dispute. The only
system, therefore, which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's
Ministers, has yet been found efficacious for the prevention of
the maritime slave trade, is in fact abandoned. And who is
answerable for this? The United States of America. The chief
guilt even of the slave trade between Africa and Brazil lies, not
with the Government of Brazil, but with that of the United
States. And yet the right honourable Baronet proposes to punish
Brazil for the slave trade, and in the same breath proposes to
show favour to the United States, because the United States are
pure from the crime of slave trading. I thank the right
honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade,
for reminding me of Mr Calhoun's letter. I could not have wished
for a better illustration of my argument. Let anybody who has
read that letter say what is the country which, if we take on
ourselves to avenge the wrongs of Africa, ought to be the first
object of our indignation. The Government of the United States
has placed itself on a bad eminence to which Brazil never
aspired, and which Brazil, even if aspiring to it, never could
attain. The Government of the United States has formally
declared itself the patron, the champion of negro slavery all
over the world, the evil genius, the Arimanes of the African
race, and seems to take pride in this shameful and odious
distinction. I well understand that an American statesman may
say, "Slavery is a horrible evil; but we were born to it, we see
no way at present to rid ourselves of it: and we must endure it
as we best may." Good and enlightened men may hold such
language; but such is not the language of the American Cabinet.
That Cabinet is actuated by a propagandist spirit, and labours to
spread servitude and barbarism with an ardour such as no other
Government ever showed in the cause of freedom and civilisation.
Nay more; the doctrine held at Washington is that this holy cause
sanctifies the most unholy means. These zealots of slavery think
themselves justified in snatching away provinces on the right
hand and on the left, in defiance of public faith and
international law, from neighbouring countries which have free
institutions, and this avowedly for the purpose of diffusing over
a wider space the greatest curse that afflicts humanity. They
put themselves at the head of the slavedriving interest
throughout the world, just as Elizabeth put herself at the head
of the Protestant interest; and wherever their favourite
institution is in danger, are ready to stand by it as Elizabeth
stood by the Dutch. This, then, I hold to be demonstrated, that
of all societies now existing, the Republic of the United States
is by far the most culpable as respects slavery and the slave

Now then I come to the right honourable Baronet's Budget. He
tells us, that he will not admit Brazilian sugar, because the
Brazilian Government tolerates slavery and connives at the slave
trade; and he tells us at the same time, that he will admit the
slave grown cotton and the slave grown sugar of the United
States. I am utterly at a loss to understand how he can
vindicate his consistency. He tells us that if we adopt my noble
friend's proposition, we shall give a stimulus to the slave trade
between Africa and Brazil. Be it so. But is it not equally
clear that, if we adopt the right honourable Baronet's own
propositions, we shall give a stimulus to the slave trade between
Virginia and Louisiana? I have not the least doubt that, as soon
as the contents of his Budget are known on the other side of the
Atlantic, the slave trade will become more active than it is at
this moment; that the jobbers in human flesh and blood will be
more busy than ever; that the droves of manacled negroes, moving
southward to their doom, will be more numerous on every road.
These will be the fruits of the right honourable Baronet's
measure. Yet he tells us that this part of his Budget is framed
on sound principles and will greatly benefit the country; and he
tells us truth. I mean to vote with him; and I can perfectly, on
my own principles, reconcile to my conscience the vote which I
shall give. How the right honourable Baronet can reconcile the
course which he takes to his conscience, I am at a loss to
conceive, and am not a little curious to know. No man is more
capable than he of doing justice to any cause which he
undertakes; and it would be most presumptuous in me to anticipate
the defence which he means to set up. But I hope that the House
will suffer me, as one who feels deeply on this subject, now to
explain the reasons which convince me that I ought to vote for
the right honourable Baronet's propositions respecting the
produce of the United States. In explaining those reasons, I at
the same time explain the reasons which induce me to vote with my
noble friend to-night.

I say then, Sir, that I fully admit the paramount authority of
moral obligations. But it is important that we should accurately
understand the nature and extent of those obligations. We are
clearly bound to wrong no man. Nay, more, we are bound to regard
all men with benevolence. But to every individual, and to every
society, Providence has assigned a sphere within which
benevolence ought to be peculiarly active; and if an individual
or a society neglects what lies within that sphere in order to
attend to what lies without, the result is likely to be harm and
not good.

It is thus in private life. We should not be justified in
injuring a stranger in order to benefit ourselves or those who
are dearest to us. Every stranger is entitled, by the laws of
humanity, to claim from us certain reasonable good offices. But
it is not true that we are bound to exert ourselves to serve a
mere stranger as we are bound to exert ourselves to serve our own
relations. A man would not be justified in subjecting his wife
and children to disagreeable privations, in order to save even
from utter ruin some foreigner whom he never saw. And if a man
were so absurd and perverse as to starve his own family in order
to relieve people with whom he had no acquaintance, there can be
little doubt that his crazy charity would produce much more
misery than happiness.

It is the same with nations. No statesmen ought to injure other
countries in order to benefit his own country. No statesman
ought to lose any fair opportunity of rendering to foreign
nations such good offices as he can render without a breach of
the duty which he owes to the society of which he is a member.
But, after all, our country is our country, and has the first
claim on our attention. There is nothing, I conceive, of narrow-
mindedness in this patriotism. I do not say that we ought to
prefer the happiness of one particular society to the happiness
of mankind; but I say that, by exerting ourselves to promote the
happiness of the society with which we are most nearly connected,
and with which we are best acquainted, we shall do more to
promote the happiness of mankind than by busying ourselves about
matters which we do not fully understand, and cannot efficiently

There are great evils connected with the factory system in this
country. Some of those evils might, I am inclined to think, be
removed or mitigated by legislation. On that point many of my
friends differ from me; but we all agree in thinking that it is
the duty of a British Legislator to consider the subject
attentively, and with a serious sense of responsibility. There
are also great social evils in Russia. The peasants of that
empire are in a state of servitude. The sovereign of Russia is

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