Imagini ale paginilor

practicable under the existing law. The Government accordingly undertook to bring in a measure for this purpose, and Mr. Hardy, the Home Secretary, fulfilled the pledge by introducing in the second week in June, a Bill to amend the Law of Registration so far as related to the year 1868. Describing the various stages of registration up to the time of completing the lists at the beginning of September, he stated that the Government had decided that none of the preliminary processes of making claims, objections, and the like could be advantageously or safely abbreviated. The process of shortening would be limited to the revision, and the Bill proposed that both for towns and counties the revision should commence in September. Three weeks would be allowed for it, and the Vacation Judge in chambers would be empowered to supply additional revising barristers as they might be required, to the amount of one-third more than the present -number. To obviate the delay which might happen from the necessity of numbering the lists from one end to the other it was proposed that they should be numbered by parishes or polling districts, so that the printing might go on simultaneously, and might be finished within two or three days after the revisionabout the last day of October. He also proposed that the interval between the proclamation and the return of the writs should be shortened from thirty-five to twenty-eight days; the result of which would be to get the new Parliament together by the 8th or 9th of December. The House desired to come to a decision whether certain principles were to prevail in the government of the country; and by the arrangement he proposed this decision could be taken in time for members to get home again by Christmas. He pleaded, too, that the Ministers—whoever they might be-ought to have an interval of six or seven weeks to prepare their measures for the following Session. To the objection that no time would be allowed for the registration appeals, he replied that under the existing law, even when a vote was appealed against, the name was placed on the list, and the vote was valid at the election.

Mr. Gladstone acknowledged that the plan had been conceived with an earnest desire not unduly to contract the preliminary stages of registration (which would be dangerous) and to secure an early Dissolution. He agreed, too, that to select the stages of revision for the shortening process was wise, and he promised to assist in facilitating the progress of the Bill.

Having been read a second time, the measure underwent the revision of a Select Committee, and being found well adapted to carry out the object in view, it was passed with general concurrence in both Houses.


AFFAIRS OF IRELAND-The state of that part of the kingdom forms the most pro

minent topic of the Session-The great question of disestablishing the Irish Church-Important interests dependent on that controversy-Attempts by Mr. Pim and the Marquis of Clanricarde to legislate on the subject of Land TenureAbortive result of these measuresThe Ecclesiastical Titles Act-- Earl Stanhope moves for a Select Committee upon the operation of this measure- --Discussion thereon in the House of Lords-A Committee is appointed-In the House of Commons Mr. Maguire raises a general discussion upon the condition of Ireland by a formal motion-His speech — The Earl of Mayo in answer reviews at great length the circumstances of the country, and explains the remedial measures, both ecclesiastical and civil, intended to be proposed by the Government-- Prolonged and important debate on the programme of the Ministers-Speeches of leading members on either side of the House-Mr. Gladstone announces in emphatic terms his policy of disestablishing the Protestant Church-Sensation excited by this statementReply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer-Mr. Maguire, in consequence of the declaration made by the leader of the Opposition, withdraws his motion--Mr. Gladstone lays on the table three Resolutions relative to the disconnexion of the Established Church of Ireland from the State-Lord Stanley gives notice of an Amendment, asserting that the question ought to be reserved for the New Parliament— The debate commences on March 30th, and is continued for several nightsSpeeches of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Stanley, and of the leading members on both sides – Mr. Gathorne Hardy in an emphatic speech pledges himself to the conservation of the Protestant Church-Upon a division Lord Stanley's Amendment is negatived by a majority of sixty-Great excitement in the House at the announce. ment of this majority-Upon a second division the motion to go into Committee on the Resolutions is carried by 328 against 272—Parliament adjourns for the Easter Recess - Great interest manifested by the public in the Irish Church question-Public meetings on both sides-Earl Russell addresses a large gathering of the supporters of Disestablishment at St. James's Hall – Rival meeting of the Conservatives at the same place, and speech of the chairman - After the Easter Recess the subject is resumed in Parliament- The Earl of Derby originates a debate in the House of Lords on the proposed policy of Mr. Gladstone-Answer of Earl Russell, and speeches of other Peers.

The great conflict of the political campaign of 1868 revolved, as it had done in some preceding Sessions within the memory of the present generation, upon the affairs of Ireland. From the meeting of Parliament to its prorogation, the condition of the sister kingdom and its institutions were made the point of contention between opposing

parties, and the pivot on which turned the fate of Cabinets. The present year, however, was distinguished by even keener and more excited conflicts upon the principles of Irish administration, and a deeper commotion of the elements of religious and political warfare than had been evoked since the crisis of the Papal aggression, or the more distant date of the famous Appropriation Clause. It may, indeed, almost

, be said that the entire political interest of the present Session was concentrated on the question of the Irish Church, and as soon as the existence of the Parliament came to an end, the scene of the controversy was merely shifted, and the issue transferred from the benches of the House of Commons to the hustings of the three kingdoms. The question whether the Established Church of Ireland should be maintained in connexion with the State, or should be “disestablished,” was the test by which candidates in all parts of the United Kingdom were judged by the constituencies. Other measures for the improvement of Ireland were for the present postponed, in order to give free scope for the decision of this great controversy. The question of land tenure, which for so many years past had formed the subject of legislative experiments, was not indeed entirely neglected, two attempts having been made, though with but fàint efforts or prospects of success, to re-adjust the relations of landlord and tenant. In the first week of the Session Mr. Pim, one of the members for Dublin, obtained leave to bring in a Bill which he described as substantially the same as that introduced in 1866 by Mr. C. Fortescue. Its first object was to give to limited owners who wished to improve their property the power of charging a portion of the expense on their successors. Its second object was to give to the limited owner power within certain limits to make contracts as to time. The third object was, in the absence of any specific contract, that the tenant should be secured compensation for the improvements he had effected ; and the fourth to abolish the power of distress.

The measure thus introduced, however, was not further proceeded with, and the same fate befell a Bill brought in shortly afterwards by the Marquis of Clanricarde, the object of which the noble lord stated to be to secure to tenants a fair remuneration for their improvements. This Bill, after some further discussion, was referred to a Select Committee, Lord St. Leonards having first expressed a strong opinion that there was no necessity for it. He thought that fair leases ought to be granted to occupiers in order to give them an interest in the improvement of their holdings.

Another movement was made in regard to the Ecclesiastical Titles Act passed in 1850, for the purpose of protesting against and repelling what was then designated as the “Papal aggression.” This Act had in fact never been put in force, but it was alleged that the enactment of it had occasioned great irritation in the minds of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and that its retention in the Statute-book was felt as a standing grievance by members of that communion.

With the view of inquiring as to the existence of this feeling, and removing, if possible, any just cause of offence, Earl Stanhope moved for the appointment of a Select Committee “ to inquire into the operation of any law as to the assumption of ecclesiastical titles in Great Britain and Ireland, and whether any and what alteration should be made therein.” He reminded the House that in 1850 the Pope had thought proper to alter the system by which he had up to that time regulated his spiritual authority in this kingdom, by conferring territorial titles on the dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church in England. This created much excitement throughout the country, and the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which imposed heavy penalties on the illegal assumption of

[ocr errors]

ecclesiastical titles, was passed. But no attempt had ever been inade to enforce the penalties, and nothing could be worse than the systematic violation of the law on the one hand, and the systematic connivance at that violation on the other. He objected to the Act on that ground, and also because it had a painful effect on the people of Ireland.

Lord Redesdale said the Act was a protest, not so much against the assumption of ecclesiastical titles as against the power of conferring

them by a foreign prelate. The change in the government of the Roman Catholic Church in England, by giving territorial titles to her bishops, was made for the purpose of aggression, and the Government had acted rightly in meeting that aggression. It was scarcely worth while to take steps to enforce the penalties, but the Act itself was most valuable as a protest.

The Duke of Somerset did not think much advantage would be derived from a Committee. He was still of opinion that the act of the Pope in conferring ecclesiastical titles upon Roman Catholic prelates in this country was an outrage upon the Queen and the liberties of the country.

The Marquis of Clanricarde said the Act was a grievance to the Roman Catholic prelates, and ought to be repealed; but he doubted the expediency of appointing a Committee when the matter was pending before the other House of Parliament.

Earl Grey said the Bill before the House of Commons repealed the Act; but it was necessary to go a step further, and to declare the effect which the Act had produced.

The Lord Chancellor thought a case had been made out for the appointment of a Committee. Those who regarded the Act as a protest must now admit that it was a protest made in a most inconvenient form, and causing most undesirable consequences.

The Earl of Malmesbury, on the part of the Government, assented to the appointment of a Committee, which was nominated

a accordingly, and entered upon an inquiry in which much evidence was taken. The Committee made their report before the termination of the Session, but did not recommend the repeal of the Act.

The initiatory step in the great contest on Irish affairs, which became the most prominent feature of the Session, was taken by Mr. Maguire, one of the members for Cork, who, on the 16th of March, proposed a motion on the state of the sister kingdom for the consideration of the House of Commons. The hon. member began his speech by observing that it was idle to deny that the condition of Ireland was such as to cause anxiety and alarm. The country was now occupied by an army, men-of-war were in her harbours, and gunboats on her inland waters, while armed cruisers guarded her shores from Transatlantic invaders. The boasted liberty of the British subject was suspended, and the liberty of individuals depended upon the whisper of a spy, the suspicion of a policeman, the swearing of a perjurer, or the folly or stupidity of an official of the Crown. The recollection of the penal laws

embittered the spirit of men whose fathers suffered from them. Wise legislation should be directed towards effacing those sad pages of a nation's history, and happy would be the statesman who could succeed in accomplishing that object. He held that England was bound either to pursue a just and enlightened policy towards Ireland, or to allow her to govern herself. The Act of Union with England was carried against the declared wishes of the Irish people ; and the fact that but 5000 persons petitioned the Imperial Parliament for Union, and that 700,000 petitioned against it, was of itself strong corroboration of the fraud, violence, and corruption by which that measure was carried. The chief causes of discontent in Ireland were the land grievance and the existence of the Established Church. Until the tenant got security for his improvements, and was protected from the rapacity or caprice of his landlord, it would be vain to hope for tranquillity. He asked the Government to declare what measure they had in contemplation to remedy this crying evil, and he warned them that the country would not be put off or satisfied with another royal commission. Having referred to the Irish exodus, and to the consequences of planting across the Atlantic millions of implacable enemies to British rule and power, Mr. Maguire went on to refer to the Irish Church, which he described as a scandal and a monstrous anomaly, which Englishmen, if applied to themselves, would not tolerate for a single hour. In advocating, as a Catholic, the disendowment and disestablishment of that Church, he repudiated on the part of his co-religionists any desire to participate in the spoil of the Establishment. The Catholic bishops and clergy had declared over and over again that they would not touch a farthing of the funds of the Established Church, although derived from lands once the property of Catholic owners. The objection of the majority of the people of Ireland to the State Church was that it offended the religious sentiment of the country. It was the badge of conquest and degradation. The Catholic manhood of the nation was arrayed against it, and the whole population demanded its abolition on the broad ground of justice and common sense.

The Catholic clergy of Ireland would not accept any payment from the State, for they well knew if they were once to accept it, they would lose all spiritual influence over their flocks, and eventually become either the spies or the stipendiaries of the State. Among the panaceas proposed for Ireland were a royal residence and the purchase of the railways. He would be glad to see a palace for the Sovereign raised in Ireland; but that would not be sufficient to remove discontent, nor would cheap locomotion effect that object. But, if the State could buy up the railways, why, he asked, could it not deal with the much larger question involved in the settlement of the relations between landlords and tenants ? He called upon those who were responsible for the integrity of the United Kingdom to deal with the Irish difficulty in a comprehensive and patriotic spirit. If they would do this they would conciliate all

« ÎnapoiContinuă »