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[The witness was again called in and
By Mr. Hume. Is there anything in that part of the Old Testament which is read at the initiation of an Orangeman, or at any time after, which expresses sentiments of hostility on the part of the Israelites towards any other nation?-I do not think there is.
Are you sure that there are not any such sentiments? I am.
Are those passages of Scripture such as preach peace and good-will to men in general?
[The witness was directed to withdraw.] Mr. Wetherell objected to the question, as being put too generally.
Mr. Hume thought it strange that the learned gentleman should allow a general question to be put with respect to hostility, and object to its being put with respect to peace.
Mr. Scarlett defended the propriety of putting the question.
Mr. Ellice suggested to the right hon. secretary, that it would be more consistent with the manly and candid course which he had hitherto adopted, to postpone the further consideration of the question till this day six months. He would ask him whether he did not think that such a course would be more likely to promote the peace and happiness of Ireland.
Mr. Secretary Peel thought he might be allowed to express some surprise at the hon. member's coming down, after having comfortably dined, and asking him whether he had not better follow a course which had already been twice decided against by the House. He would now, in his turn, ask, whether the questions which had been put were not trifling with the House? whether it had not already been decided, that the witness ought not to be compelled to give any further answers.
Mr. Ellice begged to assure the right hon. gentleman that he had divided upon both the motions. The result of the first had induced him to think the cause was hopeless; that of the second had convinced him it was so. His majesty's government, at first opposed to the inquiry, had in its progress thrown every obstacle in the way, conformably to that system of compromise which was their distinguishing character. It was because he saw that to proceed further would be an unprofitable waste of time, that he had called upon the right hon. gentle
man to move that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again on that day six months. He could not do it himself with consistency, because he had voted in the first instance for the inquiry, and subsequently for the questions which had been negatived.
Mr. Scarlett said, that the minority, of which he formed one, were of opinion, that the object and the political effect of the Orange associations were injurious to the public peace of Ireland. The majority thought otherwise. If that latter opinion were well founded, they ought not to object to the inquiry. But, as long as the witness at the bar was permitted, upon every frivolous pretext, to suppress his answer, no good purpose could be accomplished by continuing the questions.
Mr. Jones thought, that whatever might be the opinion as to the conduct of the sheriff, there was no one who must not be satisfied that no imputation could attach to the attorney-general for Ireland. He thought it would be better to postpone for six months any further progress in the inquiry.
Sir J. Yorke said, that if the House could not get at the truth of the case, it would be better to put an end to the inquiry, and he hoped that the hon. gentleman would move to that effect. But this he would say, that "come what may,” to use the words of the right hon. secretary, if a witness at the bar of that House would not disclose what he must know, he should go instantly to Newgate, whoever he might be.
Mr. Jones adopted the suggestion, and moved, "That the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again on that day six months."
Mr. J. Smith said, he could not help expressing how deeply disappointed be felt. When the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) was appointed to his present situation, although he differed from him on many political questions, yet, considering his great talents, he rejoiced at his appointment, because he thought it the harbinger of a wise and liberal policy towards Ireland. Those hopes, he was sorry to say, had not been realised. But, although little good would result from this investigation, it would still, he trusted, be productive of some; for every man who had attended to it, must be satisfied, that the administration of justice in that country required revision. He
should, therefore, oppose the motion just made.
Mr. Jones thought the sooner the subject was consigned to oblivion the better.
Mr. Canning said, that having objected originally to the inquiry, foreseeing the state in which the House would be placed by it, he did not feel himself at liberty to interfere in the present question, and should therefore decline giving any vote
Colonel Barry was perfectly satisfied with the case of the sheriff as it then stood. If the hon. baronet were voted out of the chair, he was willing to concur in the motion; but if it was intended to found any ulterior proceeding upon the evidence before the House, then he must examine to the end. If he did otherwise, he felt he should be giving up his duty; and therefore, with all the inclination he had to save himself and the House from fatigue, unless the proceedings were to be altogether closed, he must proceed.
Mr. Daly recommended his hon. friend to rest the case where it stood, and take the chance of any ulterior proceeding. It was competent for any member to originate any motion from the evidence; but he did not anticipate that such a step would be taken.
Colonel Barry concurred.
vote on this question. They were sitting in the exercise of their highest functions, and upon a case in which, whether inquiry were fitting or not, they had resolved that it should be entered into.
Mr. Canning said, if the case had been closed, he should not have felt himself at liberty to say that he would withhold his vote. The hon. gentleman had misunderstood him, if he supposed he had intended to withdraw from the discussion, when the case should come for the decision of the House. But, if those who conducted the case on either side thought fit to terminate it prematurely, he would not, by any vote of his, preclude such a mode of disposing of it.
Sir J. Newport said, that as the inquiry had originated with the hon. baronet, the member for Westminster, who was absent from indisposition, the case ought not to be closed without his consent.
Mr. Bennet said, the investigation had fully answered his expectations. It appeared from the evidence of one of the witnesses, a police magistrate (major Sirr), that a great deal of tampering existed in Ireland, which ought not to be tolerated. With respect to the sheriff of Dublin, the practice of striking juries evidently called for correction. And, with respect to that House, the investigation clearly displayed the system which was at work both within and without it.
HOUSE OF LORDS,
Tuesday, May 27.
Mr. Calcraft, alluding to the opinion he had previously expressed in the course The Committee divided on Mr. Jones's of the evening, did not think he was pre-motion: Ayes, 42. Noes, 173. Macluded by it from recommending the hon. jority against it, 131. The Chairman colonel to examine all his evidence now. was then directed to report progress, and Let not the hon. member flatter himself ask leave to sit again. that the case could rest here. He should be sorry if it were now closed under any such impression. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) must excuse him if he looked upon his last declaration as a most singular one. With great submission, he thought he was bound to make up his mind to Ay or No. The right hon. gentleman (excellent prophet!) had foreseen the situation in which the House would be placed. He (Mr. Calcraft) had also foreseen it; but he defied any man to say that the House had not received much useful information from the inquiry. He should oppose the motion if it went to shut out all further inquiry. When the whole case was before the House, it could form an opinion; and now that there was but one more witness to examine, it would be absurd to stop short. He entreated gentlemen to pause before they gave a
COMMUTATION OF TITHES IN IRELAND.] The Marquis of Lansdown rose to present a petition, signed by about three-fourths of the beneficed clergy and lay-impropriators of the united diocese of Limerick, Ardfert, and Abadoe, including the whole of the county Kerry, and a considerable part of the county Cork, praying for a Commutation of Tithes. The noble marquis observed, that the district from which the petition came was part of the most popufous region of the south of Ireland, and the petitioners prayed the House, on the principles of justice, to pass into an act some measure for enforcing such commutation. If the opinion of any persons
was entitled to peculiar weight on this question, it was that of the petitioners, who resided on the spot, who knew the subject practically, and who were acquainted with all the operations of the system under which they lived. It was reasonable to believe that such men felt an interest and regard for the happiness and prosperity of the population with whom they were concerned, as well as for their own. In both points of view, the petitioners considered the question, and they stated it to be essential to the happiness of the country, to the preservation of order, and to their own interests, that some equitable principle of commutation should be acted upon, and made part of the permanent law of the land. He trusted the House would feel it to be an additional argument in favour of such a measure, that it would take out of the Statute-book laws of the most oppressive and tyrannical kind, laws which he was convinced nothing could ever induce the legislature to pass with reference to this country, but which were enforced in Ireland, on the alleged ground that they were absolutely necessary to carry into effect the system of tithes, as they now existed in that kingdom. Laws so tyrannical and so unjust ought not to be afforded the opportunity of execution. He should be doing great injustice to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, however, if he did not state, that they seldom had recourse to those laws, to the extent to which they might enforce them; but he should call to the attention of their lordships, that, under all systems liable to abuse, it was in the power of a minority, by acting up to the extent of the authority and discretion vested in them, to spread wider the sphere of disturbance, and lay the foundation, as it had been laid in places heretofore peaceable, of irritation, discontent, and even of actual insurrection. While there was a minority who were thus inclined to administer the laws, although the majority consisted of more humane, considerate, and patriotic persons, who took a right view of the system as it operated on themselves, their flocks, and the best interests of their country, yet their lordships would see substantial grounds for taking the prayer of the petition into their serious consideration. The argument chiefly relied on in opposition to a practical measure, was, that the property to be commuted was sacred and inviolable. That it was sacred, as the pos
session of particular persons, independently of the object and duties to which it had been originally, appropriated, he could never allow; but he was free to admit, that such property was sacred to the purposes of religion, to the moral instruction of the people, and to their happiness. He hoped, that such steps would be taken as would diminish, instead of in. creasing, the line of separation that an unwise system had drawn between the church and the people of Ireland. Ordered to lie on the table.
MARRIAGE ACT AMENDMENT BILL.] The Archbishop of Canterbury rose to move the second reading of this bill. The right reverend prelate observed, that the portion of the bill, which in that stage demanded their lordships' particular attention, was the clause relative to the voidability of marriages. By the old law, the marriages of minors, without consent, were declared void ab initio; but the committee, after due deliberation, thought it would be less objectionable to render such marriages voidable within a year. The provisions for the prevention of clandestine marriages, under the old law, were too severe to be brought into execution with effect, and improper advantage had been but too frequently taken of them. The committee, in endeavouring to repair the mischief, found themselves involved in great difficulties, among which they had to make their option. They had no course but either to make the consent of parents or their representatives unnecessary, and thus, on a most important occasion take away the protection of the law from the exercise of the parental office; or to restore the nullity clause of the 26th Geo. 2nd, by which the marriage of a minor without consent might be at any subsequent and indefinite period set aside; or to adopt the mitigated course as shaped out in this bill; by which parents, or those who represented them, could within a year annul the unlawful marriage. This last mode he considered the least objectionable; though it was not altogether without objection. Those who opposed the voidability of marriages, went upon the principle, that those whom God had joined should not be separated by man; but it should be recollected, that marriages might be obtained in a manner that the laws of man would not allow, and therefore could not be approved of by the laws of God. The sacredness of
marriages ought to be maintained; but its inviolability might be carried to an injurious extreme. Marriage was the foundation of civil society, and it was of the first importance that its engagements should have the combined protection of the law of the land, and the sanctions of religion.
Lord Ellenborough observed, that we were now under the old law, with the exception of that clause by which marriages, under certain circumstances, were declared void. We had been two or three months under that law without suffering any inconvenience; and he hoped the House would bear that in mind when considering the change introduced by this bill. This bill was not that full and comprehensive measure which the House had reason to expect, from the promises held out by its most reverend and learned promoters. It contained little more than the last bill, and left several points untouched, on which it was of the greatest moment that no doubt should exist. The validity of all marriages in foreign countries ought to be cleared up, and subjects residing abroad should be able to ascertain the precise situation in which they stood in this respect, without the necessity of an application to a court of justice. It would be recollected, that a petition had been presented relative to this subject from the Russia company, when a learned lord had declared that he had no doubt of the validity of such marriages. Doubts, however, were entertained by the parties themselves, and they ought to be removed by positive enactment. Facilities on this important point ought to be afforded to Dissenters, and to Roman Catholics. In Ireland, when both the parties were Catholics, the marriage was valid if performed according to the rites of that church; but Catholics coming to this country might not think of having recourse to the formalities made necessary here, and the marriage might in consequence be invalid, and was not this an encouragement to immorality? With regard to the marriages of minors, as the law stood now, it operated differently on the rich and the poor; for where there was no property to render the invalidation an object, the most incestuous marriages might now be tole. rated. He thought that, in order to equalize the law and maintain the principle consistently, such marriages should be declared null and void ab initio. With respect to the clause to which the right
reverend prelate had called the attention of the House, it seemed to be the general feeling of the country, that marriages by banns should remain in the same state as they now stood and had stood for many years back. The clause of voidability was in fact nugatory. But, if they were as anxious to respect parental rights as the right rev. prelate would have them, they should respect them in the father of the woman as well as of the man. this clause did no such thing: it operated in favour of the man and against the woman. It did all that could be done to encourage seduction under the semblance of marriage. Instead of being introduced by the right rev. prelate and a learned lord, it would seem as if it were the production of a set of dissolute minors, who were desirous of legislating according to the morals professed by the theatrical libertine Don Juan.
The Earl of Westmorland opposed the clause, as an infringement on the religion, the morals, and the laws of the country, as well as on the rights of property.
The Bishop of Chester opposed the clause, as being directly contrary to the word of God. It was not a clause fit to be enacted by a Christian legislature. At all events, he would not be one to give his vote for putting asunder those whom God had joined.
The Bishop of Derry was anxious that it should not go forth to the public, that incestuous marriages could be legitimate under any circumstances. If a man should marry his daughter, or any descendant of her's, the progeny of that marriage must be illegitimate, the marriage itself being void ab initio.
Lord Ellenborough said, he would not be positive as to the correctness of his observation, but he would rather have the exposition of the law from a learned lord, than from the reverend prelate.
The Lord Chancellor said, they had been told the present was not a proper time to discuss the measure; therefore, though he had been appealed to, he would only say, that he was clearly of opinion, that the law of scripture, as well as the law of the land, should be a good deal more considered than it appeared to him they had yet been.
The bill was then read a second time.
HOUSE OF COMMONS,
SMALL DEBTS RECOVERY COMMIT
TEE.] Lord Althorp brought up the such a footing, as to enable a creditor to Report of the Select Committee on the have a cheap recovery by a proceeding subject of the Recovery of Small Debts. in them. At present, those courts were He wished, he said, to be allowed to take open to two objections. For a debt of up a few minutes of the time of the House the smallest, the proceedings were as in stating what the substance of that re- voluminous as for a debt of the largest port was; for, from the number of letters amount; and the same means also existed which he had received from all parts of of interposing vexatious delays in the the country on the subject, it was evident conduct of the suit. There was also the that a great and general anxiety prevailed objection of the probable distance of witrespecting it. Nor was it at all a matter nesses from the place at which they would of surprise to him that the question should be called upon to give their testimony in excite so much public interest; seeing support of the claim. To obviate these that the present state of the law amounted objections it became necessary, that the to nothing less than an absolute denial of proceedings in the county courts, should justice to almost all the creditors in the be simplified. To effect this, the comcountry with regard to debts due to them mittee recommended, that the proceeding under the value of 15l. No man to whom should be by a simple bill of plaint, by a sum under 15l. was due, would now which alone the creditor, under the cir think of attempting to recover it, unless cumstances which he had described, he was actuated by motives of a vindictive should be enabled to recover. To obviate nature. No regard to his interest alone the objection arising from distance, the would induce him to commence legal committee recommended that the court proceedings. That being the case, it should sit at such different places in the certainly was very natural that a great county as might appear to the justices of anxiety should prevail to see such a state the session to be the most proper and of things set right, if possible. One great convenient. By this means, the expense evil attending it, where no cheap court of travelling, the loss of time, and other existed, was, that in such places trades- inconveniences would be, in a great meamen frequently turned away their servants sure, got rid of. This plan, it was hoped, without notice, and without paying them would render the county courts cheap; any wages, and that the latter had no but as it also became necessary to render means of recovering what was due to them courts of justice, it was expedient them, but by an action at common law. to make some alteration in their constituThe consequence of all this was, that the tion. As at present constituted, the delegislature had, at various times, estab-puties of the sheriff were made the judges lished what were called Courts of Requests in various parts of the country; the members of which, who were principally tradesmen, were made judges both of the law and of the fact. Although courts of this nature were very suitable to towns and to populous parts of the country, they were by no means applicable to agricultural districts. It was impossible, in such districts, to find persons of sufficient leisure and respectability to constitute those courts. And if such courts were formed in the populous districts only, the object of them would be easily defeated; as a person going from one district to another could not be followed by the court. The committee, therefore, felt that to recommend the establishment of a greater number of these courts of request would be to no purpose. But the point to which the attention of the committee had consequently been drawn, was the expediency of establishing regular county courts in such a manner, and on
of the law and the fact. It was intended that a barrister of some years standing should be made assessor to the sheriff, and should preside in those courts. The committee had then to consider, in whom the appointment of those assessors should be vested. On the best consideration which they had been able to give to the subject, it appeared to them that it ought to be vested in the lord lieutenant of the county. If it were vested in the Crown, it would so greatly increase the influence of the Crown, that he should be sorry indeed to recommend any such measure. Nor did he know any better mode of appointment than that which the committee had suggested. If the appointment were vested in the hands of the justices of the peace at the quarter sessions, the number of individuals would too much diminish the responsibility that ought to attach to such a right.-Another part of the subject to which the committee had found it necessary to direct their atten