House Of Commons
Wednesday, July 17, 1839.
MINUTES.] Bills. Read a first time:—Metropolis Improvements; Judge's Lodgings; Grand Jury Cess; Turnpike Tolls; Spirit Licences (Ireland).—Read a second time:—Ecclesiastical Districts.
Petitions presented. By Mr. Dunbar, from Temple Michael, against any further Grant to Maynooth.—By Colonel Vernor, from Presbyterians of Billy, that Presbyterian Soldiers might not be compelled to attend Idolatrous Ceremonies.—By Mr. Buck, from Coachmasters of Devonshire, for a reduction of the Post-horse duty.—By Mr. Macauley, from Edinburgh, for an Alteration of the case affecting the Church of Scotland.—By Mr. Wallace, from Montrose, Forfar, and Auchtermuchy, by Sir H. Parnell, from Dundee, by Mr. Labouchere, from Taunton, by Viscount Lowther, from Burneside, and by Mr. Grote, from Rotherhithe, in favour of a Uniform Penny Postage; and from Perth, Angus, and Mearns, against renewing the Patent for Printing the Bible in Scotland.—By Mr. Fielden, from Oldham, and several other places, for the Repeal of the New Poor-law, Universal Suffrage, Vote by Ballot, and for a redress of Grievances.—By Mr. Divett, from Stage Coach proprietors of Exeter, for the Repeal of the Post-horse Duties.—By Mr. Mackinnon, from Highlanders in London, that a Professor of Gaelic might be appointed in the Scotch Universities—By Mr. Clay, from St. George's-in-the-East, against the Collection of Rates Bill.—By Mr. P. Thomson, from Manchester, that the Duties on Timber might be equalised; and from the Licensed Victuallers of the same town, in favour of the Bill for Inland Bonding.—By Mr. Hume, from Mr. Haydon, complaining of the Royal Academy.
Riots At Birmingham
in giving notice of his intention to bring the subject of the late riots at Birmingham under the consideration of the House, would take that opportunity of asking the noble Lord whether he were prepared to afford the House any information relative to those occurrences. The question which he wished to ask the noble Lord was this, whether it were the intention of her Majesty's Government that any investigation should take place with regard to tile conduct of the mayor and magistrates of that town, relative to the riots which had taken place there on Monday night, and which, in consequence of the apathy evinced by the mayor and magistrates, had continued for several hours?
said, Sir, I have not the least objection to answer the question of the hon. Member; but I could not do so properly by merely confining myself to give a direct answer, as by doing so, I should not convey to the House an accurate knowledge of the conduct of the magistrates. I must, therefore, request leave from the House to state some circumstances connected with the lamentable occurrences which took place on the night to which the hon. Member has referred. It must be recollected, that I stated some clays ago in the House, in answer to a question from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, that representations had been made to me by the mayor and two magistrates of the town of Birmingham, who had come to town on purpose, that there had been for some days past tumultuous meetings of discontented and turbulent characters in Birmingham, to the great disturbance and alarm of the peaceable inhabitants of that town, and that they were not able to take efficient steps to suppress those proceedings, in consequence of the insufficiency of their police force, which they had not yet been able to organize, as enjoined in their charter of incorporation; but that they hoped, at no great distance of time, to have an efficient local police; and that they, therefore, requested that a detachment of the metropolitan police force should go to Birmingham to be sworn in there as special constables, and afford such assistance as might be required. I acceded to that request, because I thought it was my duty, under such circumstances, to do everything in my power to assist in preserving the public peace of so important a community. That step had been previously alluded to in the House, and some censure appeared to be thrown upon the Government in consequence of the course which I thus adopted. The mayor and magistrates, on the arrival of the metropolitan police at Birmingham, without, perhaps, taking sufficient precautions, ordered them to arrest certain persons, which was ultimately effected, but not till after some of the police had been wounded, and not till after they had been obliged to be assisted by the military. The mayor and magistrates, after investigation, thought it necessary to commit some of those persons to Warwick Gaol, on certain charges. One of them was liberated on bail, others detained in prison, and further arrests took place on different charges. Those measures so adopted by the magistrates had a very beneficial effect, and I received a letter from the mayor, stating, that they thought that tranquillity had been perfectly restored, and that it would not be necessary to continue the daily reports to the Home-office, which, from the state of the town, I had considered it my duty to call for. While those measures appeared to have been effectual in restoring the peace of the town, comments appeared in the public prints, that by the sudden attack of the police, the safety of many persons had been put in jeopardy who were taking no part in the tumults, and an hon. Member asked me if those statements contained in the newspapers were or were not correct. To that question I answered, that I disbelieved those accounts, and the information which I have since obtained, justify me in the disbelief which I then expressed, relative to the charges against the conduct of the metropolitan police force. At the same time, I wish the House to recollect, that comments were made upon the magistrates, who, it was said, had, from an excess of zeal, interfered with the peaceable meetings of the inhabitants of Birmingham. I think it proper to notice this, because it cannot be disputed, that such charges cannot be made without having the effect of repelling many persons from placing themselves in such responsible situations. The magistrates had stated, that they were satisfied with the state of the town. It has since appeared, that they were satisfied without sufficient reason, and on the night of Monday the occurrences took place which are pretty clearly stated in the newspapers. A tumultuous meeting then was held, the persons assembled at which, proceeded to the destruction of a great deal of valuable property—to acts of great violence and outrage—setting fire to houses, two of which appear to have been entirely burned and destroyed. Other acts of injury had been committed on the houses of shopkeepers residing in the vicinity of the Bull-ring, where the riot occurred. One of the proceedings of the mob was to attack the Public-office, and break the windows. The superintendent of police, who was in the place, took no measures to capture any of the rioters, having, as he states, received orders not to do so, or to leave the place, without special orders from the magistrates. These proceedings continued for some time. It is stated, in a memorial which I have received at the Home-office, that they commenced at half-past eight, and till a quarter before ten. Neither the police or military appeared to put down the riots. The account I have received from the military officer in command is, that at half-past nine one of the magistrates applied at the barracks for assistance, when the police and military proceeded to the place of riot. The resistance made to them was quite inconsiderable. The mob fled, and, after a certain time, the peace of the town was restored, and no further rioting took place that night. The accounts which I have received of the state of the town last night are, that although there had been a considerable disposition manifested to riot in different places, and a disposition to renew the disgraceful proceedings of the former night, yet, by the interference of the police and military, the peace of the town had been preserved, and no serious riot took place last night. Now, the hon. Member has asked me whether it be the intention of the Government to institute any inquiry as to the circumstances which took place. The hon. Member stated, doubtless with no intention to misrepresent the facts, that for several hours the town had been left to the mercy of the mob. Now, according to the information which I have received, the period was half-past eight until a quarter to ten. But there is a statement, at the same time, that information was given to the magistrates that such riotous proceedings might be expected, and that they were known to the informants to be actually in contemplation. I do think, that this fact alone, that from half-past eight till a quarter before ten, no measures appear to have been taken to stop this riot, is a fact that requires investigation. I certainly think it necessary to inquire into that, and also to ask for proof that the magistrates had been warned that they might expect such riots were in contemplation. I cannot close this statement without taking some notice of an assertion that has been made with respect to these lamentable occurrences. It has been stated that they are entirely owing to the nomination of magistrates, some of them holding political opinions of a very violent nature—and being political theorists or chartists. Now, my belief is, that no part of these lamentable occurrences is to be attributed to the nomination of the magistracy. The fact is well known to the House, that I stated in the debates on the Municipal Reform Bill, that with regard to the nomination of magistrates in corporate towns, the recommendation of the respective town councils would have great weight with the advisers of the Crown. I do not mean to go into that question now. For myself, I think that that was a very proper concession—if concession it can be called—to grant to the recommendations of such corporate towns. Let it be remembered that in many of these towns, as in London, the magistrates are elected by popular suffrage, without the confirmation of the Crown. From Birmingham, after the election of the town-councillors, I received a list of twenty-one persons recommended by the town-council as fit and proper persons to be placed in the commission of the peace. At the same time, Sir, I received a communication from the lord-lieutenant of Warwick—a very unusual circumstance, I may remark, for it has been but very seldom that I have heard from that noble Lord, or derived any assistance from him; but, however, on this occasion I received a communication from him to the effect that he thought it desirable that the county magistrates, and the county magistrates only, should be named in the commission of the peace. I took these representations into consideration—the representation of the town-council on the one hand, and that of the lord-lieutenant on the other; and I made what inquiries I could with reference to both these representations from other parties. The result was, that I did not agree completely with either of these representations. I put in the majority of the county magistrates, leaving out some few, chiefly gentlemen who, as I heard, did not any longer reside in the town, and had no connection with it, and one or two others who had ceased to take an active part in the affairs of the magistracy, but still I put in eleven of the county magistrates—gentlemen of various political opinions, some Whigs, some Tories, for I did not attend to their politics in making the selection. I also put in a certain number of persons recommended by the town-council, and two or three persons who were much recommended to me from other quarters as persons of great respectability and competency; and the result was, that instead of twenty-one magistrates, I appointed twenty-four, so that it cannot be said I altogether took the opinion of the town-council in the matter; and as to all these appointments, I took every care to inform myself as to the respectability of the individual. There was one gentleman with respect to whom I had in the first instance great doubts whether, after the violent part he had taken in politics, he could be considered a fit person to name in the commission of the peace (I refer to Mr. Muntz); but before I decided on this point, I made inquiries in various quarters respecting this gentleman, and was told that though certainly Mr. Muntz had taken a violent part in politics, he was a man of considerable talent, that he was likely to prove of great use to the town as a magistrate, that there were none of his views which would at all prevent his giving every support to the maintenance of the peace and good order, and that he had declared his total and entire separation from the persons who wished by means of violence to make changes in the laws and institutions of the country. I thought, therefore, that on the whole it was more likely that the cause of peace and good order would be served by placing this gentleman in the commission of the peace, and I accordingly appointed him. With respect to this matter, I will take the present opportunity of moving "An address to her Majesty for a list of the magistrates in the several towns of Birmingham, Manchester, and Bolton," and if any hon. Gentleman on seeing these names should be disposed to call into question the fitness of any person appointed, I shall be ready to state the grounds on which I thought fit to appoint him. But, I repeat, my decided belief is, that these nominations have had nothing whatever to do with the recent outrages in Birmingham. I cannot conceive that out of the twenty-four magistrates of that borough, many of whom are Tories and many others of whom are Whigs of great moderation of opinion, I cannot conceive that among these there would be any men who, on account of their political opinions, would refrain from taking a part in the suppression of these riots. If there have been faults or negligence in this instance, I believe it to have been from an error in judgment on the part of the magistrates in imagining that the town was restored to tranquillity, and perhaps from an apprehension that they might be blamed if they proceeded to measures of too great activity in repressing the appearance of tumult, and not from any sympathy with the rioters. I will take this opportunity of stating a circumstance which, though not in immediate reference to Birmingham, the House will be glad to hear, as affording an illustration of what is the peaceful disposition of the operatives of the manufacturing towns generally. I believe that in Birmingham the great body of the operatives have no sympathy with the authors of the recent disorders. The circumstance I have to state has reference to the operatives of the very populous districts of Longton and Lane End, in the Staffordshire Potteries, who have addressed a declaration to me, which has been a source of the highest satisfaction to the Government. It was on the occasion of some riotous proceedings which had taken place in their district, and the terms in which their declaration is framed are these:—
To the Right Honourable Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for the Home Department.
Sir, I believe that though this, is the only formal document of the kind in my possession, yet that, in the great majority of the manufacturing towns, the disposition of the operatives is rather in accordance with this declaration than with the sentiments of the class of persons who wish to advance their projects by riot and violence. Before I sit down I must beg leave to say that I do not think that any good effect will be produced by endeavouring to exaggerate the extent of the riots and outrages which have taken place. I have seen several statements carrying their exaggeration to a very great extent, and I was very sorry to see them, because they tend to produce the very state of things which it is of such essential importance to avert, because they tend to interrupt trade, and to throw a great additional number of persons out of employment; and I need not remind you that it is when a vast number of persons are thrown out of employment that the peace of society is most endangered. I therefore trust that—while I am quite ready to say that an inquiry should take place with respect to these occurrences at Birmingham (so, however, as not to affect the proceedings at the Warwick assizes), while I am ready to make these inquiries, I do trust that—no statements will be made tending to discourage the magistrates of Birmingham in the execution of their duty, or to create unnecessary alarm throughout the country. The noble Lord concluded by moving "that an humble address be presented to her Majesty for a list of the magistrates of the towns of Birmingham, Manchester, and Bolton.""Declaration of the undersigned operstives of the liberties of Longton and Lane End, Staffordshire Potteries:—Finding that we share in the stigma cast upon our town, by the late riotous and disorderly proceedings manifested therein, we deem it prudent to repel such calumny, come from what quarter it may, by disavowing all participation in such conduct, or the feelings which originated in it, assuring your Lordship that our ardent desire was, is, and we hope ever will be, that peace should prevail throughout our town. We do, therefore, call upon all our fellow townsmen, filling what stations in society they may, to set a peaceable example, and unite with us for the preservation of peace and good order."
expressed his gratification at hearing the noble Lord's opinion that the disturbers of the public peace did not comprise a large proportion of the operatives. This had always been his own conviction, entertaining, as he did, a most favourable view of the good sense of the general body of the working classes. He believed that those who were led astray were certainly rather the dupes of designing demagogues than voluntary disturbers of the public peace, and it was precisely this which caused him to feel the greater jealousy and regret when he found that more prompt and energetic measures were not adopted for nipping such outrages in the bud, and for dealing effectually with the agitators and authors of them. The result of such forbearance was to encourage the guilty, and to compromise the innocent. As to the noble lord-lieutenant for Warwick, he could not but complain of the manner in which that noble Lord's name had been introduced into the statement of the noble Lord opposite, in the absence of any of the noble Lord's Friends who were instructed as to the circumstances of the case.
had made no charge against the noble Lord in question. At the same time he could not but remark that it was generally the practice for lords-lieutenant of counties, to whatever side of politics they belonged, to communicate with the Secretary of State respecting any peculiar circumstances which happened in their counties; he thought that if the noble Lord in question had wished to obtain information as to what had occurred, and as to what it was desirable he should do, it might have been better for him to have proceeded to the Secretary of State's office on the subject rather than to have made the subject a matter for Parliamentary discussion. Certainly the noble Lord's proceeding was not in conformity with the usual practice.
wished that this understanding was always acted upon. The noble Lord opposite seemed to complain that he was not in the habit of hearing from the noble lord-lieutenant of Warwickshire. He new nothing of the circumstances of the case, but he had known Lord Warwick for a number of years, and he could safely say, that he believed there did not exist a more honourable man than that noble Lord—a man more unlikely to do anything ungentlemanly or unbecoming his situation. He had that entire reliance on the noble Lord, that he did not believe he had taken any course which he was not fully prepared to justify.
hoped the House would permit him to say a few words, under the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed. He felt sure that the magistrates of Birmingham would be able to satisfy the House and the country that no blame or neglect was justly attributable to them. The question was entirely one of time. From the information he had received, he understood the case to be this, that at the very first appearance of riot, Redmond, a very active police officer of the town, took a coach, and went in all haste to the house of his (Mr. Scholefield's) son, the mayor of of Birmingham, who lived about a mile out the town, and that his son proceeded immediately to the town, accompanied by Dr. Booth, and was with the other magistrates on the ground at shortly after half-past nine. As the riot did not break out till half-past eight, there could hardly have been any very great neglect or omission on the part of the magistrates. As to the police not being allowed to act, it must be borne in mind that the magistrates were much censured for the conduct of the police on the former occasion; and the very charge which was brought against the magistrates for unnecessary severity on that occasion was the reason why they did not wish the police to act again without themselves being at their head. There was not the slightest expectation of any outbreak: these occurrences came upon the magistrates quite unexpectedly. It was due to his fellow-townsmen and to the magistrates of Birmingham to state, that he believed that the statements which had been made as to the injury done were great exaggerations. The affair seemed to have been an indiscriminate plundering attack upon friends and foes, for one of the persons whose house was plundered was an old Reformer. He was sure that the magistrates would be able to prove that they had not neglected their duty.
had that morning received a letter from Birmingham, which stated that there was a general anticipation of a renewal of the outrages, and that the townspeople were by no means satisfied that the means in the hands of the magistrates would be promptly or effectively employed; and it was desirable to know whether the noble Lord opposite intended to give the people of Birmingham better protection than that afforded by the magistrates, by the introduction of some other power into the town on this pressing emergency. It was his decided opinion, that if the magistrates had done their duty promptly, none of these scenes would have occurred. The mob themselves beforehand stated that they were encouraged to their proceedings by the supineness of the magistrates, and their expectation that they would not promptly interfere.
said, that it would have been but a proper proceeding on the part of the hon. Gentleman, as he seemed so much in the confidence of the mob, had he gone and given the Secretary of State a warning of what their intentions were, and let him into a few of their secrets. Further, he thought it desirable that the hon. Gentleman should state to the House whence came the letter which he had mentioned as expressing an anticipation of renewed outbreaks, and a belief that the magistrates would be tardy in their proceedings. It was desirable to know who it was that thus inculpated the magistrates if only to learn the grounds on which they founded their opinions. It appeared to him, that this, at least, was not the proper time or place for bringing forward such a charge against the magistrates. Again, while complaints were thus being made against the magistrates of Birmingham for neglecting their duty, he should like to ask where the Lord-lieutenant of Warwick whose duties on such an occasion were so peculiarly important—where that noble Lord was, whether he was at his post, whether he was down at Birmingham, now that that town was stated elsewhere to be "in a situation almost worse than that of a town taken by storm." If the town of Birmingham was in so deplorable a condition, he would ask—was the Lord-lieutenant on the spot to give his assistance. He considered that it was essentially the duty of the noble Lord to be at his post in times of difficulty like these; and that if neglect were charged against any parties, the magistrates of Birmingham ought at least only to share it with the noble Lord-lieutenant; for that noble Lord so far from doing his duty on the spot, had been all the time in London.
observed, that even if the Lord-lieutenant had been in the town he could not have done anything except as a magistrate; and if he was not a magistrate, he could do nothing at all. He thought, therefore, that it was most unjust that the noble Lord should be called over the coals in this manner. The hon. Member for Birmingham seemed to think rather lightly of what had happened; but he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member spoke of the affair as a misfortune which had fallen equally on friends and foes, which was the first time he had heard of rioters having friends at all among other classes. It was a most lamentable and strange thing, that the mob should have had full liberty for an hour and a half to perpetrate such violence, or that any attempt should be made in that House to modify the character of these outrages.
said, that the expression he had used was, that it appeared to be an indiscriminate plundering attack upon friends and foes; and he had illustrated this by adding that one of the houses plundered was that of an old friend of Reform. The mob appeared to have gone from house to house.
said, the noble Lord opposite seemed to imagine that the Lord-lieutenant of Warwick had no power in Birmingham, because there was a corporate body there; but he was not aware of any Act of Parliament which gave to the corporation or magistrates of Birmingham an exclusive jurisdiction.
said, the hon. Member was quite right; but he should have thought it a great misfortune if the magistrates for the county, not being also magistrates for the town, had taken occasion to interfere with the town. As to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he begged to say that nothing which he had said had been meant as derogatory to the character of Lord Warwick as a gentleman, or as a person holding a high situation in the country. Yet he would repeat that he felt the noble Lord would have done better on this occasion in coming to the Secretary of State's Office than in going before Parliament on the point—Motion agreed to.
House in committee on the Soldiers' Pensions Bill. Mr. Bernal in the chair.
begged to suggest to the noble Lord the Secretary at War the propriety of adopting some arrangement for paying pensions weekly, instead of quarterly, as at present. He was often in the neighbourhood of Chelsea, and had witnessed scenes of the utmost wretchedness there, owing to the improvident manner in which the pensioners expended their pensions when they received considerable sums at a time.
said, that although he was most anxious to adopt any measure which could check the improvidence to which the hon. Member alluded, there would be great difficulty in adopting the plan of weekly payments, because it would put an injurious restraint upon industrious men, by compelling them to appear so frequently at a particular place to receive their allowances.
thanked the hon. Member for Finsbury for the suggestion, which would be of great utility. The objections of the noble Lord could be easily met by making weekly payments the regular rule, and holding over the payments until the end of the quarter for those who might desire it. On the second clause enabling Poor-law guardians to require pensions to be paid to them for relief given,
objected to it as oppressive. It gave power to boards of guardians in cases where the children of a pensioner were taken into a workhouse, to obtain repayment of the cost of their maintenance out of the man's pension. He would take the sense of the House upon the clause.
said, that as the law now stood the guardians had the power to which the hon. Member objected. The object of the clause was to prevent the exercise of that power from being oppressive or unjust to the pensioner.
said, that whatever might be the policy of the existing law, the present clause would be an impovement.
thought it a most harsh clause. By giving the guardians a prior claim over a man's pension, it would make it impossible for him to assign it to anybody.
said, it had always been the policy of Parliament to prevent any assignment whatever of a soldier's pension under the severest penalties. The only exception was in the case of the parochial authorities who ought to be compelled to support the pensioner or his family.
The committee divided on the clause. Ayes 59; Noes 7:—Majority 52.
List of the AYES.
|Adam, Admiral||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Baring, F. T.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Barnard, E. G.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Bowes, J.||Palmer, G.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Parker, J.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Parker, M.|
|Brotherton, J.||Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Bryan, G.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Pryme, G.|
|Clements, Viscount||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Richards, R.|
|Donkin, Sir R. S.||Roche, W.|
|Duff, J.||Russell, Lord|
|Dundas, Sir R.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Evans, W.||Sheppard, T.|
|Fenton, J.||Smith, B.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Style, Sir C.|
|French, F.||Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.|
|Gisborne, T.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Gordon, hon. Captain||Turner, E.|
|Grant, F. W.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Greenaway, C.||Walker, R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Warburton, H.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Williams, W. A.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Wood, C.|
|Howick, Viscount||Wood, Colonel T.|
|Hume, J.||Yates, J. A.|
|Humphrey, J.||Young, J.|
|Langdale, hon. C.|
|Lushington, rt. hon. S.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Morpeth, Visc.||Gordon, R.|
List of the NOES.
|Archdall, Mervyn||Parker, R. T.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Fector, J. M.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Lygon, hon. G.||Wakley, T.|
Clause agreed to. Bill passed through the committee. House resumed.
Mr. G. Palmer moved the second reading of the Timber Ships Bill.
said, the Bill would prevent timber ships from carrying their cargo on deck. Why should such a bill be temporary? The hon Member applied it to the cargoes between this and Christmas. A measure of this kind should be prospective. If a bill of this description were to be permanent, it ought to apply to the autumn rather than to the spring voyage. Of 309 timber ships lost between 1832 and 1838, 252 were of the autumn voyage. The evidence assigned not only the lading timber on the decks, but the bad quality of the ships, as the cause of the disasters which were so frequent. Yet this important fact was slurred over by the Committee. They had not given the character and quality, not merely of the ships lost, but of the whole number engaged in the trade, information necessary to test the correctness of these inferences, respecting the causes of those disasters. And he could not agree in the conclusion of the Committee, that good vessels were as frequently lost in proportion, as bad vessels. He had taken the trouble to analyze the returns, and had found that of 78 vessels lost, 44 were lost going out, therefore it could not have been from carrying timber cargoes. Of the remaining 34, 27 were either bad ships, or deficient in stores, &c. He admitted that there was a body of the evidence attributed in part the loss of vessels returning from America, to carrying part of the cargo on deck; an equal body of testimony attributed it to the bad quality of the vessels employed. The Committee had slurred over every thing, but what was their "hobby," which did not seem to be properly performing their duty. This bill was only for one year; the views of the hon. Member as to any permanent measure, were not known. It was to be hoped that the hon. Member would restrict his legislation to the autumn voyages.
was no great friend to this kind of legislation, but he thought a case had been established, showing the danger of deck loads, and calling for legislative interference; he should, therefore, give his support to the bill, coupled with the conditions of his hon. Friend confining its operation to the autumn voyages. As this was merely an experiment, he thought it better to make it a temporary measure.
said, this was a bill required by humanity, and requested by the shipowners themselves, and therefore he was glad there was no opposition. The object of the bill was to relieve old ships by doing away with deck loads, which were carried in no other trade. He was happy that there was no opposition to this bill, which would greatly benefit the trade.
supported the bill, and thought it ought to apply to spring as well as autumn voyages, as he thought deck loads ought never to be carried.
replied, that he did not propose this as a permanent bill, because he thought that was the duty of her Majesty's Government on a point of so much importance. The Committee had not slurred over any evidence, but had been anxious to obtain every information in their power. It was clear that losses had taken place to a great extent, in situations in which no such losses ought to have happened, occasioned solely by faulty stowage, and faulty management. The loss to the owners would be nothing by prohibiting deck-loads, as the difference in insurance and charges would more than compensate them.
thought the observations of the hon. Member for Bridport were hardly fair; all his suggestions were regarding matters to be discussed in Committee. He would not detain the House longer than to express his admiration of the manner in which the Committee had made out a case calling imperiously, in the name of humanity, for legislative interference.
suggested, whether it would not be more efficient to prevent bad ships being employed, by permitting an increased rate of insurance being taken, because as long as they could be insured, merchants would send mere rafts to sea.
said, that what had fallen from the hon. Member for Kilkenny would be properly discussed in Committee, and ought to be attended to.
Bill read a second time.
On the motion for the House resolving itself into Committee on the Shannon Navigation Bill,
thought, considering the miserable state in which the Government were placed at the present moment, the House ought not to proceed further with the consideration of the Bill during the present Session. He respected Ireland as much as any man, and he should be glad to see it improved: but he thought the mode in which the money was to be raised for carrying on the work, namely, by Exchequer bills, was most objectionable. So great an objection had he to the Bill, that could he-find any hon. Member to divide with him, he would move, that the further consideration of the bill should be proceeded with that day six months.
trusted, that after consideration hon. Members would, considering the time the bill had been before the House, and taking into account also that not a single petition had been presented against the bill, with the exception of one from an individual which had been withdrawn, allow the bill to go into Committee. The public had been greatly deluded by statements that had been put forth relative to his having an interest in the bill; and it was his intention, when the bill was in committee, to rebut those statements.
thought, that the House were entitled to have an explanation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer relative to the large sum that was required for this work before they went into Committee.
thought, that they ought to go into Committee on the Bill, in which stage any explanation might be given that was required.
said, if the House would only go into a Committee it was his intention to enter fully into the details of the bill.
wished to say a few words before the House went into Committee on the Bill. It had been stated that he had a personal interest in the improvement of the navigation; he had no such thing, his property was forty or fifty miles from the Shannon, and no man had less personal interest in the measure than he had.
must protest against proceeding further with the bill, as no explanation had been given yet of the necessity for so great a sum as was asked for by the measure. He would move, as an amendment, that the bill should be taken into further consideration that day three months.
seconded the amendment.
said, if hon. Members were determined to persevere in this course he must in justice to himself enter into an explanation of the objects and nature of the bill. The interests not only of Ireland, but England were involved in this vote, and if the House were to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member, they would go in direct variance to the decision of Parliament and their duty to the people of Ireland. A bill had passed that House, which had received the sanction of the other branch of the Legislature, in which the whole principle of the Shannon vote had been affirmed. The act to which he alluded was passed in 1835, which recited, that it was expedient, that the expenses of the proposed improvement in the Shannon should be borne out of the public funds. It had been supposed that the measure was brought forward now for the first time, and for private interests. No one who had ever turned their attention to the subject but must know, that it had been under consideration for centuries—that it had been recommended under the secretaryship of Edmund Spenser—also under the administration of Sir John Davis the improvement of the Shannon was considered as a national object, and also in the time of Lord Bacon, who was a high authority. He was almost ashamed to take up the time of the House upon the question, but the object of the bill had been much misunderstood, and he felt it his duty to state the matter fully to the House. The experiment of leaving the improvement of the Shannon to private enterprise had already been tried, but it had entirely failed. Private speculation might do very well for the improvement of a small river, but to improve a river of 170 miles in length required greater resources. The question had been agitated since the time of Elizabeth, and was under the consideration of every government since that time, and in 1831, Colonel Burgoyne, Mr. Mudge, Mr. Rhodes, and Mr. Cubitt made a report, in which they said, it was surprising that so noble a river as the Shannon should be in such a state of neglect; and they further said, the improvement of it would be for the advantage of both countries. Again, in 1834, a Select Committee, composed of Gentlemen of all parties—of English, Irish, and Scotch Members, sat, and having inquired into the subject, they reported that the Government ought to take up the matter—ought to undertake the work. The Government did not proceed upon that report, but, upon his recommendation, they waited until they were aware that the whole of the compensations were settled. The Parliament then passed an Act for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of these compensations, and would be guilty of a fraud if it now turned round and said it would abandon the scheme. They had a report before them of the beneficial effects which the public works, undertaken in Scotland, had been the instruments of. Mr. Telford had stated, that Scotland, through the assistance which this country had afforded to it, in the improvement of roads, bridges, &c., had advanced 100 years. Mr. Loch had stated, that the condition of the peasantry had been improved by it; they were better housed, fed, and clothed; the revenue had been improved; the progress of civilization had been very rapid, and distillation had disappeared; and the hon. Gentleman now turned round and said, that the example of Scotland was not at all to the point, and was entirely inapplicable. No doubt, hitherto, the Caledonian Canal had been a failure, but it must be borne in mind, that that work, which cost one million, was at the sole cost of the Government, whereas the present work would not cost the half, and the half of that was secured upon the Irish county-rates. Would the House say, they were prepared to vote 1,000,000l. for Scotland, 120,000l. for canals in Canada—that they would vote for the payment of the Danish claims, but would not vote for that which would not only benefit Ireland but the whole country? A more despicable—more ungenerous course could not be taken towards Ireland, for the measure would not only increase its resources, but make it more beneficial to England. It had been stated, that he had a personal interest in the measure. He had, and he would tell the House to what extent. The sum proposed to be expended was 500,000l. and odd, and of that sum there was a sum of 52,137l. to be expended on the lower Shannon, or one-tenth part of the whole. In that lower portion of the Shannon, which was about sixty miles in length, and was a most important part of the navigation, opening to the sea, he had a positive interest, owning about a mile and a half, or two miles. It was proposed by the Commissioners, that a portion of the improvement should be made on that part which was his property, but nothing would be done towards the improvement of his property till he had advanced one-half of the sum to be expended on it, namely, 4,000l. He had now told the whole story with respect to himself, and he trusted it would be no detriment to the vote. Considering the sum which he should have to advance before anything was done on his property, he was sure his vote would not be influenced by the prospect of the improvement. When they spoke of the State giving this assistance, it was not Great Britain alone which gave the assistance; it was given out of the taxation of the whole empire, and was to support a public work in which Great Britain, as well as Ireland, had a direct interest.
would readily give his vote for money to be given in aid of public works in Ireland, knowing that the expenditure of money in improvements tended towards the improvement of the country; but he would not consent to the reckless issue of Exchequer bills. He was prepared, as far as he was concerned, to take the proper means for providing a revenue for such a purpose, but he would not consent to incur a debt without providing the means to meet it. Exchequer bills were issued for every deficiency. There would probably be a deficiency in the revenue foam the contemplated alteration in the postage of letters, which would be so met, and he would not consent to this means of raising money. He was quite sure, the course they were taking with regard to the revenue was not only injurious to the credit and faith of the country, but that it was a course likely to involve the country in difficulties they would never be able to surmount.
said, that it was probable the proposed works in the Shannon might not be completed in six, seven, eight, or nine years, so that the intended expenditure would be extended over the whole of that time. Let him add, in reference to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, that the principle of issues of Exchequer bills, and to a very large amount, for the promotion of public works, was not at all a new principle. In a late period of the government of which the late Lord Castlereagh was a member, that noble Lord recommended an issue of Exchequer bills for carrying on public works, not merely of 500,000l., which was the limit of the grant in the present case, but of 7,000,000l.; and so far was the country from being a loser by that issue, that it became a gainer on the whole capital of 370,000l., independently of the advantage which it had derived from carrying on the works.
would object to any issue of Exchequer bills for public works as long as there was a deficiency in the revenue.
admired the generosity of the gallant Gentleman. The gallant Gentleman would be glad, forsooth! to do good to Ireland, but he would vote no money. When he was asked for money to carry out his good intentions, his generosity oozed out, and became a mere caput mortuum. He would be glad if the gallant Gentleman would keep his generosity to himself. For himself, he would prefer that the gallant Gentleman should succeed. It would be one other proof of the disposition of the House towards Ireland, not on one side of the House, but on both sides. One side would not give any franchises or privileges, and the other would grant no money. Indeed, both joined in opposing any grant. Could he forget the fact, and did they think that Ireland would forget it, that at the time of the union Ireland only owed twenty-seven millions of debt, whilst England owed five hundred millions? and was it not as great a wrong between nation and nation as between man and man, to make Ireland thus responsible for a debt which she had never contracted? Why, what would be thought of two men entering into partnership upon such terms, and the man of the largest relative capital and smallest relative debt receiving the smallest amount of profits? When he recollected that the whole Session had gone by without one single advantage being obtained by Ireland; when he considered that the measure of the franchise stingily given in that House would probably be annihilated elsewhere, did the House think that he could go back to Ireland without telling the people of Ireland the truth? Why, one-third of the money was their own. The House had voted 270,000l. for the Thames tunnel. What advantage would the Thames tunnel give to Ireland? how many of the Irish people would use it? yet the people of Ireland had to contribute their share of the grant. The vote for the Shannon would make provisions cheap in Liverpool; it would make provisions cheap in Manchester. The improvement of the Shannon would bring the cattle of the farmers within 36 hours of the Manchester market—not the Liverpool market only, but the Manchester market. That would be the benefit derived from this grant by the English manufacturing districts. Did they refuse, then, this stingy, this paltry, this miserable grant? They had thrown away millions in this country and elsewhere, and Ireland was taxed to pay the debt, yet to this paltry sum for a great national improvement they objected. It was a miserable amount. He hoped they would refuse it.
notwithstanding the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, should give his vote against the principle of the grant. In the present state of the finances of the country, and with the discontent which prevailed amongst our population from the pressure of taxation, the Government ought not to propose such grants. Hon. Members might talk of the distress which prevailed in Ireland, but they should also consider the distress, and its consequent discontent, which prevailed in England. By the bill before the House, he did not see how the proposed advance was to be repaid. The bill provided that certain tolls should be levied on the navigation of the Shannon, but then he perceived that any surplus, after defraying expenses, was to be applied by the commissioners as they should think fit; but he saw nothing about the repayment of the advance. If there was to be a remunerating profit on those tolls, it would be another thing; but there was no reason to expect anything of the kind. The outlay required in such works was always far beyond the first estimate. The first estimate of the expense of the Caledonian Canal, as made by the late Sir John Rennie, was 350,000l., but that sum was expended long before its completion, and then it was asked, "Will you stop here, after the outlay already made?" Well, the work went on until it cost the country 1,000,000l., and then it was found that the tolls were not sufficient to keep the canal in repair; and, in fact, a sum of 39,000l. was taken from the public funds of the country to make up the difference between the amount of the tolls and the cost of the repairs. So it would be in this case. The sum now proposed would not be found sufficient. If the counties on the banks of this navigation should be benefited by the proposed plan, they ought to bear part of the cost, and the rest should be made up by a toll on the navigation. No man was more anxious than he was to support measures which would benefit Ireland, but when a large grant like the present was proposed, he could not consent to it in the present state of the finances of the country.
said, that the surplus of the tolls, after the payment of expenses, would be carried to the public account. This however was a matter which would more properly come for discussion in the committee, and he had no objection to make the clause for that object more stringent.
said, he thought the Government was not justified in proposing a grant of such an amount for such a purpose as this, in the present falling state of the revenue.
said, he had thought that the hon. Member for Coventry belonged to that party which was called "Liberal;" but it appeared that they were only liberal towards Ireland when it cost them nothing; for when the money of England was to be voted for Ireland, they were just as great monopolists as the hon. Gentlemen opposite. This was, in his opinion, one of the strongest arguments for the repeal of the union, and all men who had the honour and good of Ireland at heart, ought on that ground to join the hon. and learned Member for Dublin in agitating to attain that object.
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had spoken of the liberal feelings of certain hon. Members always stopping, whenever a grant of money was proposed for Ireland; but he had never understood that liberality in politics consisted in giving away the public money. It consisted in giving the people free and good Government, and franchises which they had never enjoyed before. If he considered that this was brought forward as part of a general and new principle for making grants for the public benefit, he should be content to go into committee on this bill, and to see there whether the present proposition was reasonable and commensurate with the object in view; but, unless that were shown to be the case, he must oppose it.
said, he considered that this grant would be a most improvident and improper application of the public money; but, if any measure were brought forward for squandering the money of the people, it was sure to be carried. He knew very well that this measure would be carried. Yes, the propositions would be carried, and the money expended. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had said, that if you improved the Shannon, you then brought those who held farms on the banks within thirty-six hours' journey of Lancashire. But what was it for? Only to convey away the food of the people of Ireland. [Cries of Oh! oh!] Hon. Gentlemen cried out "Oh! oh! For whenever one Member uttered the truth, half the House were in agony. He would say that this proposition was holding out a premium to the absentees of Ireland, who were spending their money in England and on the the Continent of Europe, instead of their own country. Why did they not spend their own money in Ireland? Did we in England ask for money for such purposes as this? He thought that if the money were granted, the damage that would arise to the owners of land connected with the river must be greater than any public profit derived from it would compensate for. It was the principle that was so objectionable, for if money were granted to one part of the kingdom, it must be granted to other parts. Considering the state of the finances of this country, and the difficulties in which the people were placed, he must offer his strenuous opposition to this vote. It was perfectly unwarranted, and if ever there were a time when such a grant ought not to be made, it was the present. The country never was in greater distress, and as long as the House was constituted as it was now, their recklessness would not stop until such dangers arose as would intimidate them as to the course they were pursuing. His proposition had nothing of sense to recommend it, and was calculated to destroy the spirit of all private enterprise in Ireland. He was sure that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin would, on reflection, be satisfied that the money could not do good to Ireland if it were voted. Rents in Ireland were higher than in England or Scotland. He believed it could be proved that, at any rate, they were higher than in England, and yet what were the wages of the labouring men? Much lower than in this country. In his opinion, the only way to correct this would be to keep the landed proprietors of Ireland at home.
said, that when it was objected to this measure, that the people of Ireland did not spend their own money in public improvements, he would say, that had they been allowed to avail themselves of their own resources, they would not now have asked for this assistance from England—no, not from England, but from the British Empire. He saw by returns which were made to this House in 1833, that for several years before 512,000l. had been received from Ireland on account of the woods and forests in that country, and which sum was legitimately applicable to such works as these; but during those years only 3,100l. had been expended for public improvements.
objected to the vote. If any man were to ask for such a sum for the improvement of the Thames, Humber, or any English river, he would be laughed at. Why, then, should they give money in one case, and refuse it in another. He thought that wherever money had been granted in a similar manner the committee had been in error. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had referred to the case of the Thames Tunnel, and said that 270,000l. had been voted for it; but he must say that that was a different thing, and was a public work which excited the admiration of all foreigners. With a failing revenue he thought this large sum ought not to be granted, and he hoped that the amendment of the hon. Member opposite would be pressed to a division.
said, he certainly hoped the hon. Member opposite would press his amendment, which he would cordially support. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had taunted his (Mr. Ellis's) side of the House with a want of liberality towards Ireland; but by certain returns, which he had moved for some time ago, and which had recently been laid on the table by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, although not yet printed, he found that since the union, there had been voted for Ireland no less than 8,827,141l. He thought that was a pretty good sample of there not being a want of generosity on the part of England towards Ireland. He must complain of the late period at which this important bill had been introduced, and also of more than one half of the maps and plans connected with it not having yet been laid before the House. To him the bill appeared throughout to be exceedingly obnoxious. There was to be a new Board appointed, consisting of three commissioners, one of whom was to be paid, and, no doubt, to receive a very handsome salary. But why should there be a new Board? There was already the Board of Public Works in Ireland, and it was a matter of noteriety, that they had not enough to occupy their time. He did not advance anything lightly in that House; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked him how he obtained his information, he would say, from the highest authority, and that none could be more satisfactory. The proof of his (Mr. Ellis's) assertion, that the time of the Members of the Board of Public Works was far from being fully occupied, consisted in this—that Colonel Burgoyne, the most efficient Member of that, Board, since his appointment to it, had filled the situation of Commissioner to the Irish Railway Inquiry, and had also acted in the Commission for the improvement of the Shannon Navigation. Mr. Ottley, another Member of the Board of Public Works, had likewise served in the last-named Commission. These were no inconsiderable ditties to perform, and had not these Gentlemen discharged them well, and without detriment to those previously imposed upon them? Then, who so fit as they to work out the objects of the bill before the House? And what could furnish a stronger argument for placing the execution of the proposed improvements under the Board of Public Works than the fact that already two of its members, with sufficient time to give it their attention, had the whole subject at their fingers' ends? Moreover, the heaviest part of the business had already been accomplished. All enquiries are said to have been instituted—all claims to compensation considered and determined—the nature of the works decided—the plans arranged in detail, so that nothing remains but a simple supervision of certain works, every detail of which has already been adjusted after minute and careful examination of the circumstances connected with it. But, instead of availing themselves of the Board of Public Works, established under Lord Grey's Government for the precise purposes named in the bill before the House, they were recommended by the right hon. Gentleman to form a new board altogether—create extensive patronage, with a new secretary, solicitor, engineers, a host of clerks, and a whole corps of placemen, perfectly unnecessary, and subject only to the approval of the Commissioners of the Treasury. The bill also contained a clause for making the awards of the commissioners final. No appeal was given to a jury of the Court of Queen's Bench, nor was any other remedy provided. Such was the tyrannical way in which it was sought to trample upon the rights of private property. He was not indisposed to be liberal with the public money advanced upon a proper basis, and sought to be appropriated in a manner calculated to developed the natural advantages of so noble a river as that of the Shannon, to give increased facilities to commerce in Ireland, and to stimulate a valuable mercantile intercourse between that country and Great Britain; but he thought it did behove the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be more wary, and to become more enlightened in his views, before he submitted measures such as that for the consideration of Parliament, and bearing, as it did, upon a subject of great public import. The right hon. Gentleman had found himself compelled that evening to offer explanations, and to seek to remove a colour of suspicion which had been given to his bill by reason of the questionable manner in which he had framed it throughout. He cautioned the House to be vigilant, and to avoid hasty legislation on a question of such vast interest; and, for the reasons he had stated, he thought they would do well to refuse to go into Committee upon a bill which was not to be held in a more favourable light from having been laid before them under the significant auspices of her Majesty's Government.
informed the hon. Member for Newry, that all the maps and plans he desired were before the House. He was surprised to hear the proposed grant called a profligate expenditure of the public money, for one-half was to be supplied by Ireland, and the other half was to be refunded from the tolls of the river. He never heard a more shabby, illiberal, and disgraceful argument against a national advantage.
The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 64; Noes 25: Majority 39.
List of the AYES.
|Adam, Admiral||Attwood, T.|
|Baines, E.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Barnard, E. G.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Barry, G. S.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||O'Connell, D.|
|Bernal, R.||O'Connell, J.|
|Bridgman, H.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Browne, R. D.||Pechell, Captain|
|Buller, C.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Clements, Viscount||Power, J.|
|Cochrane, Sir T. J.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Codrington, Adm.||Roche, W.|
|Cole, Viscount||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Donkin, Sir R. S.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dunbar, G.||Scholefield, J.|
|Dundas, Sir R.||Smith, B.|
|Evans, W.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Stock, Dr.|
|French, F.||Style, Sir C.|
|Gisborne, T.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Grattan, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.||Walker, R.|
|Hawes, B.||Williams, W. A.|
|Hodgson, F.||Wood, C.|
|Hoskins, K.||Wood, G. W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Wyse, T.|
|Howick, Viscount||Yates, J. A.|
|Hume, J.||Young, J.|
|Langdale, hon. C.|
|Lushington, rt. hn. S.||Baring F.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Parker, J.|
List of the NOES.
|Aglionby H. A.||Morris, D.|
|Bagge, W.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Bowes, J.||Pryme, G.|
|Broadley, H.||Richards, R.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Sheppard, T.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Ellis, J.||Thorneley, T.|
|Hector, C. J.||Turner, W.|
|Henniker, Lord||Wakley, T.|
|Hutt, W.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Lockhart, A. M.||Finch F.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Williams, W.|
House in Committee. On the second clause appointing three commissioners.
inquired what salaries were to be given to the Commissioners?
said, that only one commissioner was to be paid, and he was to receive the same salary as the junior Member of the Board of Works, which, he believed, did not exceed 600l. a-year.
would move, as an amendment, that there should be two instead of three commissioners, so that there should be no paid commissioner at all.
The Committee divided on the question that the blank be filled up with the word three:—Ayes 58; Noes 18: Majority 40.
Bill went through the Committee.
Mr. F. Maule moved the third reading of the Metropolis Police Bill.
objected to the motion. It had been understood that this bill should be delayed until the Metropolitan Police Courts Bill had gone through Committee; and as be had amendments to propose in case certain provisions were continued in the latter bill, he should divide the House on the question of the third reading of the present bill.
said, that though there certainly was a connexion between the two measures, still it was not so close as to make the bill inoperative in case the other to which the hon. and gallant Member alluded should not pass into a law. The present bill had already been too long delayed, and as it had been fully discussed for fifteen hours in Committee, he trusted the hon. and gallant Member would not persist in his opposition.
opposed the bill. Though the bill had been amended in Committee, still he entertained the opinion he had already expressed, that a more obnoxious and oppressive measure never had been introduced to Parliament.
said, he had opposed this bill as much as he possibly could; but as it had undergone several valuable amendments in Committee, he should not resist its third reading.
The House divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 2: Majority 40.
List of the AYES.
|Adam, Admiral||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Aglionby, H. A.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Baines, E.||O'Connell, D.|
|Baring, F. T.||O'Connell, J.|
|Bernal, R.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Broadley, H.||Pechell, Captain|
|Brotherton, J.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Clements, Viscount||Power, J.|
|Evans, W.||Pryme, G.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Rice, rt. hn. T. S.|
|Finch, F.||Roche, W.|
|Gisborne, T.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.|
|Hawes, B.||Smith, R. V.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Stock, Dr.|
|Hume, J.||Style, Sir C.|
|Irton, S.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Wakley, T.|
|Wood, C.||Maule, F.|
|Yates, J. A.||Parker, J.|
List of the NOES.
|Knightley, Sir C.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Parker, R. T.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
Bill read a third time, and passed.