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cealing their names. What was .the evil of this? There would always be a publisher easily brought forward to answer all the purposes of security for what was printed. He then proceeded to show that this bill tended to do away the spirit of Mr. Fox's bill ; and, lastly, objected to it, because it reversed the order of judicial proceedings, by casting the onus on the person accused, not the accusing party.
The solicitor-general replied, that the honourable gentleman did not understand, the bill: insinuations were thrown out that government was destroying the constitution of the country—a most unjust and false accusation. In the Courier was one of the most atrocious libels respecting French prisoners. The prevention of such libels anonymously put in, and disseminated far and wide, was alone the object of the bill.
Mr. Sheridan wished to know whether the editor of a newspaper, if he could prove the paragraph pad been taken from a French paper, should be liable in the penalties enacted in the bill.
The solicitor-general answered, that if the paragraph tended to inspire contempt of his majesty's person or government, the editor of a
newspaper publishing such a libel should be liable to these penalties, whether copied from a French newspaper or not.
Mr. Wilbeiforce expressed the strongest disapprobation of the manner in which the bill was opposed. He felt particularly shocked, be said, at the language used by fit Faucis Burdett; and still more so, because, from the liberal principles of that baronet, he was likely to express the sentiment of a large community. The tendency of such, expressions and intemperate zeal was mischievous.
Mr. Robert Thornton said, that no precaution ought to be omitted to curb the licentiousness of the press. We had witnessed the horrors of the revolution in France; we had to deplore the rebellion in Ireland; the principal source of each was the scandalous abuse of the liberty of the press. The question being put for the postponing of the bill, the house divided t Ayes 9
Noes T - 4+
Majority * 35 The bill afterwards passed both houses, and received his majesty'* assen
Debates in the British Parliament concerning the Affairs of Ireland. Tht Earl o/Moira's Motion iu the House of Lords—negatited. Interesting Explanation between the Earl of Moira and the Marquis of Downshire. The Duke qfLeinst\r's Motion respecting Ireland. Lord G. Cavendish's Motion in the House of Commons on the same Subject—negatived. Mr. fox's Motion on the same Subject—rejected. Message,fi om his Majesty. Proposal from certain Militia Regiments to serve in Ireland. Del/ates on this Proposal in the House of Lords—In (he House of Commons.
THF. discontents in Ireland began about the commencei«ent of this session of parliament
to hasten to a crisis; and the disturbances, of which the reader will find a detail in our next chapter,
were mm on the point of breaking out. To arert these calamities, some frtll-intentioned members endeavoured to interest the British houses of parliament in favour of the Irish people, and to recommend measures of lenity and conciliation. —How far these endeavours were wdj timed or judicious, wiU be &cuised in the succeeding chapto. For the present, we shall tonfat ourselves with presenting a ■Bole sketch of the, debates.
On the 22d of November, the On1 of Moira renewed the motion wKch he had made in the preceding session respecting the affairs of Iraaad. The state of the empire ■ general, he observed, was materially altered since that period; BBBJ interesting political events ■w taken place; the most promijW amongst these was certainly Oe rupture of the late negotiation fa peace. This, as was declared •f the highest authority to that •we and to the country, was off on no trivial grounds; in consequence of no less a than a settled determination 1 Ae part of the enemy to 6ubthe constitution and governtof this kingdom. If thestate£jl was just, he entreated their -ordships to look at the fatal con■^sences which such a prospect r**nted. He should argue upon '••apposition, that this represen'•w was jutt, though his own was very different. If the became a. struggle fof existi the part of both governto, what was the end to which - Jould lead? what was to be the jitioo of the country under :ted expenditure, when already were depressed rrassed? If this event of had been foreseen wfidemly been asserted],
ought not provision to have been made to support the burdens which it rendered necessary? ought not some means to have been employed to enable us to have put an end to the cause from which the necessity of the contest proceeded? If we were merely to stand upon the defensive, and if the war was to be protracted a year longer upon this footing, the, resources of this country could not sustain the embarrassments which would arise iif addition to the difficulties we en7 dured already. To judge of our situation, it would be necessary to take a view of the recent events of the war. No person rejoiced more than he did in the victory obtained over the Dutch fleet; yet what was the effect of this brilliant exploit upon the state of the nation? It was acknowledged that some design had been in agitation, some danger had been threatened; and the impending mischief had for the moment been turned aside; Jut was the experiment to be repeated! were we contented meiely to parry the blow which aimed at our existence? In such a system he saw nothing but ruin to our resources, nothing but complete destruction to the oppressed and tottering fabric of our finances. They had indeed been extolled as adequate to any exertions we might be called upon to make; but he professed himself at a loss to discover upon what foundation this san
fuine representation had keen built. le did not deny that we had great means of defence; but he must complain of their improper application, and of the mischievous, consequences that resulted. There were rumours of new schemes of finance, and extraordinary ways of supporting the efforts, which it would b.e necessary to exert; and
thar this did not furnish a very encouraging argument in favour of our situation.
If, however, the enemy was bent en the destruction of our constitution, the best mode of repelling the danger was to interest the hearts of the people in defence of the advantages they enjoyed, to convince them they had something worth contending for, and impress the nation with the blessing which they might lose. It was necessary also, that every part of the country should be able to contribute to its defence. His lordship said, he feared that this was not the case: he had seen a paper, stating the supplies of the present year, which enumerated, amongst other articles, a sum for the service of Ireland: and this was set down as a reason for continuing the restriction on the bank. If Ireland, instead of being assisted by England, was now (to say nothing more) but a dead weight upon her in her present embarrassed state, it was a consideration of the most serious importance. When our resources were so vaunted, it was a painful reflection to know, that the sister kingdom was no longer in a condition to contribute to the general cause. If Ireland was reduced to such a state of wretchedness, that men actually died for want, without any failure of the natural supplies of subsistence; if manufactures in parts of the country, where formerly they had be.en most flourishing, were reduced to nothing; if the industry of the people was suspended; to what cause was it to be ascribed I When the increasing commerce of this country was made a subject of exultation, who would rejoice to think it was increased at the expence of the sister kingdom? If the manufacturers and merchants of Eng
land found their trade extended, hei was persuaded they were too generous, too liberal, too high of spirit, and too just, to wish to engross profits in which their fellow subjects in Ireland did not participate. In the addresses that had been sent * about, to solicit subscriptions for the relief of the distressed manufacturers in Ireland, it was stated, that the greater part of them were out of employment and starving. He referred their lordships to the application made by the lord-mayor of Dublin for relief; by which document it appeared, that upwards of 37,000 manufacturers were reduced to the extremity of i! stress in that city. To prove the fact, by another instance, in the towns of Belfast and Newry, the custom* had usually produced 150,0001.; the; present produce of them would not amount to a fifteenth part of the sum. The causes of these gnhapby effects there must originate in something connected with the internal system of the country, last year, it was in vain that he called the attention of the house, to their state—in vain he predicted the con. sequences which our systerri had now produced. The situation of Ireland was now more urgent: and, by every motive of justice and policy, we were called upon to remedy the evils which the sister kingdom suffered, and to prevent those which might ultimately extend to us. It had been said, that for their lordships to interfere would be to usurp an authority over an independent country; to which his answer was, that the circumstances were such as might be the foundation of an address for the rccal of a viceroy, and, therefore, the house was competent to the review of such proceedings. To move this address was far from his intention;
h« lie highly respected the character of the present lord-lieutenant of Ireland; he was convinced that he us*d every effort in his power to alleviate their situation; but he must contend, that the plan, so unwise in its application, and so obstinately pursued, was the cause of all the calamities which it endured. The plan was a plan of ill-judged severity; severity, not only in individual direction, but general tendency ; nor were the measures warranted by sound policy. Men, influenced by their passions, who were kept constantly irritated and inflamed, might sometimes proceed to inexcusable lengths; but this did not justify a system of oppression. In observing the state of Ireland, the first thing that struck him was tbeiigbt in which it was customary for the military to view an Irishman, and the fatal effects of encouraging such unjust prejudices: in their estimation, every Irishman was a rebel to the English government, and all kinds of insult were aercised on this supposition, even in those parts of the country where things were as quiet and peaceable ai within seven miles of London. His lordship related one circumRance, to aive some idea of the intuit to which every man there was liable. The curfew was mentioned in the history of England, and had always been considered, as a degrading badge of servitude ; it had been established in Ireland, with all the rigour of barbarous times. An instance had occurred within his own knowledge, in which a party of soldiers had come to the house a man by the road side; they ted upon his extinguishing his and candle; the man enthat he might be permitted retain his light, because his innt daughter was in convulsions,
and the mother hanging over the child in its bed, in agony at its distress, and waiting in hopes of a favourable moment, to offer it some relief, which she could not possibly do in the dark. The party, however, insisted that the lire and light should be extinguished, and all further opposition would have been fatal.
In former times it had been the custom for Englishmen to hold the infamous proceedings of the inquisition in detestation: one of the greatest horrors with which it wag attended was, that the person, ignorant of the crime laid to his charge, or of his accuser, was torn from his family, immured in a prison,and in the most cruel uncertainty as to the period of his confinement, or the fate which awaited him. To this injustice, abhorred by protestants in the practice of the inquisition, were the people of Ireland exposed. All confidence, all security, were taken away. In alluding to the inquisition, he had omitted to mention one of its characteristic features. If the supposed culprit refused to acknowledge the crime with which he was charged, he was put to the rack, to extort confession of whatever crime was alleged against him by the pressure, of torture. The same proceedings, had been introduced in Ireland. When a man was taken upon sus. picion, he was put to the torturs; nay, if he was merely accused of concealing the guilt of another. The rack, indeed, was not at hand; but the punishment of picqueting was in practice, which had been for some years abolished, as too inhuman, even in the dragoon service. He had known a man, in order to extort confession of a supposed crime, or of that of some of his neighbours, picqueted till he actually actually fainted;1 picqueted a second tinrie till he fainted again ; ?nd, as soon as he came to himself, picketed' a third time, till he once'' rriore fainted; atid all upon mere suspicion! Nor was this the only species of torture : wen had been taken and hung tip till they were half dead, and then threatened with the repetition of this cruel treatment', unless they made conf^ssibn of the imputed guilt. These' were not particular acts of cruelty,' exercised by men abusing the power committed to them, but they formed a part of our system. They were notorious; and no person Could say wbo would be the next Victim of the oppression and cruel
? which be saw others eaidure. his, however, was not all; their lordships, no doubt, would recollect the famous proclamation issued by a military commander ih Ireland, requiring the people to give up their arms": it never was' denied that this proclamation was illegal, though defended on some supposed necessity: but it was not surprising, that any reluctance had been shown to comply with it, by men who conceived the constitution gave them a right to keep arms in their hOuses for their own defence; and they could not but feel indignation in being called upon to give up their right. In the execution of the order, the greatest crueltlcSliad been committed ; if any one was surpectcd to have concealed weapons of defence, his house, his furniture, and all his property, was burnt: but this was not all; if it was sdpposedtbatany district had not surrendered all the arms which it contained, a party wbs'sent out to collect the number at which it was rated; and, in the exfeution'of this orvler/ thirty houses were sometimes binned down in a single night.
Officers took upon themselves to4 decide discretionally the quantity of arms; and upon their opinions these fatal consequences followed. Many such cases might be enumerated ;, but, from prudential motives, he wished to draw a veil over more aggravated facts which he could have stated, and which he was willing to. attest before the privy council, or at, their lordships' bar. These facts, were well known in Ireland, but, they could not be made public through the channel of the newspapers, for fear of that summary, mode of punishment which had been practised towards the Northern Star, when a party of troops, in open day (and in a town where the general's head-quarters were), went and destroyed all the offices and property belonging to that paper: it was thus authenticated accounts were suppressed. His lordship concluded with entreating the house to take into serious consideration their present measures, which, in-. stead of removing discontents, had. encrcased the number of the discontented: the moment of conciliation was not yet passed ; but if the system were not changed, he was convinced Ireland would not remain connected with this countryfive years longer.
Lord Grenvillc, in reply, said, that it was a matter of no small difficulty to enter into ^the question now brought forward, on the vague grounds and isolated facts upon which it was supported. The noble baion had spoken of our dspressed. resources, and ill-applied means of defence: and had given it as hi» opinion, that should the war be protracted another year, its sure consequence would be the ruin of the; country. An opinion so disheartening and unfounded, he hoped, woul«^_ be singular. For his part, he was