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Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7


The Irish Reform Bill: its Defects - The English Act better than the Irish - Antagonism of Stanley and O'Connell, and its Bad Consequences - The Scotch Reform Bill - The Old System in that Country: No Man returned in Scotland for his Merits - The Property Qualification - Revolution effected by the Scotch Reform Act - General Results of the Reform Acts - Unsettled State of Ireland - Sketch of Mr. Stanley as Chief Secretary - Lord Grey's Estimate of O'Connell - Lord Cloncurry on Irish Agitation and its Causes - Disappointment as to the Results of Emancipation - The "Monster Grievance " - The Tithe System - Furious Agitation against the Establishment - A Contrast: the Pound; the Glebe - Destitution of the Clergy - Fatal Encounters with the People at Newtownbarry, Carrickshock, Castle- pollard, and Gurtroe - -Advances of Public Money to the Clergy- Failure of the Government as Tithe Collector - Estimate of Irish Church Property - Census of Religious Denominations - Appropriation of Church Property - Mr. Ward's Motion on the Irish Establishment - Resignation of Mr. Stanley and Sir J. Graham - Address of the Irish Bishops to the King: His Extemporaneous Speech in Reply - Defeat of Mr. Ward's Motion - The Church Temporalities Act - The Ecclesiastical Commission - Failure of the Irish Church as a National Educator - The Charter Schools - Association for discountenancing Vice, &c - The Kildare-street Society - The National System of Education Introduced by Mr. Stanley - Scriptural Education - The Church Education Society - Parental Rights - United Education - The National School Books.
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The Irish reform bill, which had been introduced by Mr. Stanley, then Irish secretary, became the subject of debate on the 26th of May, when the second reading was moved by him in a speech of great ability. His main object was to prove that the passing of the measure would not endanger the established church in Ireland; and that it would not increase the power of O'Connell, whom, instead of conciliating, he exasperated by the contemptuous and defiant tone of his remarks. As the great question of reform had been conceded in the English bill, it was only with regard to matters of detail, and to the extent and nature of the franchise, that the tories maintained their opposition. The second reading was carried by a majority of 116, the numbers being, for the bill, 246; against it, 130. Mr. O'Connell contended that the bill was not calculated to benefit Ireland, and he said he was sure it was framed with no good feeling to the country; but, on the contrary, was dictated by narrow and bigoted feeling. He complained that certain classes of the forty-shilling freeholders were not restored by the reform bill. They had been divided into three classes: those who were proprietors in fee; those who held land for two or three lives; and those who held for a term of years, and had an annual interest of forty shillings in the holding. The last class constituted the great bulk of the voters, being the one that was multiplied by the landlords for electioneering purposes. The bill which accompanied the emancipation act not only disfranchised the fictitious voters, but also the forty-shilling freeholders in fee; against which injustice Mr. Huskisson and lord Palmerston solemnly protested. Mr. O'Connell now asked that this wrong should be redressed. He was supported by a moderate and greatly respected Irish statesman, the venerable Sir John Newport, who complained of defects in the measure, especially in the mode of registration, which would go far to neutralise all its benefits. Mr. O'Connell's proposal was made on the 13th of June, and was rejected by a majority of forty-nine. The Irish reform bill, instead of being the means of conciliation, tending to consolidate the union, and taking away the arguments for repeal, really furnished Mr. O'Connell with fresh fuel for agitation. His speech in the debate was one of his happiest efforts, and told with great force on the country. The Dublin corporation, then an exclusively orange body, when they heard that the duke of Wellington was summoned to the king's councils, shipped their old state coach for London, that the lord mayor and the recorder, who bore a distinguished part in the debate, might proceed in it with an address of congratulation to his majesty. The duke failed; the address was not presented; and the grand old coach was sent back to Dublin. Mr. O'Connell turned this incident to account to the great amusement of the house and of the nation, exulting over the disappointment of the Brunswickers. In a series of letters which he addressed to the reformers of England, he pointed out the defects of the Irish bill. He objected to it on the ground that it diminished the elective franchise instead of extending it; that the qualification for a voter was too high; that the registration of voters was complicated; and that the number of Irish representatives was inadequate. The substitution in counties of the ten-pound beneficial interest franchise for the forty-shilling freehold, caused the disfranchisement of 200,000 voters. Under the English reform bill there were to be nine different classes of voters, with a large augmentation of former rights. In Ireland there were but four classes: - 1st, a freehold of ten pounds clear annual value, requiring occupation; 2nd, twenty pounds' clear annual value, not requiring occupation; 3rd, leasehold of the same value, not requiring occupation; and 4th, a sub-leasehold, being a new franchise, requiring actual occupation. Thus, he said, if we take in England a single estate worth fifty pounds a-year, it could qualify no less than twenty-six persons to vote, while in Ireland, the poorer country, such a property could not possibly qualify more than three persons to vote. Hence, O'Connell argued that the English bill was obviously far better than the Irish. He referred to population to prove the unfairness towards Ireland: thus the county of Cumberland, with a population of 169,681, got two additional members, and returned four to parliament; while the county of Cork, with a population of 807,366, got no additional member, and sent only two to the reformed parliament. A similar contrast was presented between other English and Irish counties.

There was unfortunately a very unfriendly feeling between Mr. Stanley and Mr. O'Connell, from which the country suffered not a little at this period. Had a man of more conciliatory temper been chief secretary - one not too proud to consult O'Connell - the course of legislation and government would have proceeded much more smoothly and happily. O'Connell always called Mr. Stanley a Saxon, and said that the chief secretary cared not if the Irish people were starved in this world, and damned in the ^ext. " Observe," said Mr. Stanley, " the language he has constantly used; mark how he has borne himself towards me, a stranger in the country. In all the delicacy of conciliation, he never once called me an Englishman; but always applied to me the opprobrious epithet - as he meant it, and his audience understood it - of a Saxon. This is a specimen of the learned gentleman's conciliation."

The Irish bill was read a second time in the house of lords on the 23rd of July. It was strongly opposed by the duke of Wellington, as transferring the electoral power of the country from the protestants to the Roman catholics. Lord Plunket, in reply, said, " One fact, I think, ought to satisfy every man, not determined against conviction, of its wisdom and necessity. What will the house think when I inform them that the representatives of seventeen of those boroughs, containing a population of 170,000 souls, are nominated by precisely seventeen persons? Yet, by putting an end to this iniquitous and disgraceful system, we are, forsooth, violating the articles of the union, and overturning the protestant institutions of the country! This is ratiocination and statesman-like loftiness of vision with a vengeance! Then it seems that besides violating the union act, we are departing from the principles of the measure of 1829. I deny that. I also deny the assumption of the noble duke, that the forty-shilling freeholders were disfranchised on that occasion, merely for the purpose of maintaining the protestant interests in Ireland. The forty-shilling freeholders were disfranchised, not because they were what are called ' Popish electors,' but because they were in such indigent circumstances as precluded their exercising their suffrage right independently and as free agents - because they were an incapable constituency." The bill, after being considered in committee, where it encountered violent opposition, was passed by the lords on the 30th of July, and received the royal assent by commission on the 7th of August.

The lord advocate Jeffrey, who had introduced the Scottish reform bill as early as the 19th of January, moved the second reading on the 21st of May. He had, in the previous session, proceeded' on the principle that the old system was to be regarded as utterly incurable, and not to be patched or mended, but abandoned and destroyed They could not decimate its abuses, or cut off its vicious excesses; its essence was abuse, and there was nothing that was not vicious about it. He gloried in the avowal that no shred, or jot, or title of the old abomination should remain.

Indeed, it is a matter of astonishment that the Scottish people could have so long borne a state of things so humiliating to a nation which originally formed a kingdom by itself, which still retained its own laws, religion, interests, feelings, and language; which was full of generally diffused wealth; in which education had for ages been extended throughout the very lowest ranks; whose people were peaceable, steady, and provident, possessing all the qualities requisite for a safe exercise of the franchise; yet these people had literally no share whatever in the representation of the imperial parliament.. The qualification for a voter in parliament was at least thirty or forty times higher than in any other part of the empire, and above a hundred times beyond the general qualification in England. The qualification was attached to land, including under this term fisheries, mines, and other things that are inseparable from land, not including property in houses. But even land would not qualify a voter, unless it was held under the crown; so that a person might have an estate of 20,000 a-year which would have afforded no vote if he held it of a subject. After deductions made for persons having votes for a plurality of places, it was calculated that the total number of actual electors in Scotland did not amount to more than 2,500, or about the number of a small English county. Consequently a vote became a dear article in the Scottish market. Some persons bought votes as a good investment. The average price was about 500, but it frequently rose to double that sum. Shortly before the passing of the reform bill, six Scotch votes were exposed for sale in one day, and brought 6,000. The electors were, therefore, cut off from the rest of the public, and set aside to exercise a high and invidious privilege, which they regarded not as a trust for the people, but as a privilege to be prized for its pecuniary value or for its influence in procuring government situations. Hence, the Edinburgh Review, in 1830, made the extraordinary declaration that no member had ever been returned by any body of Scotch electors, "solely in consequence of his public character or services." No man who had nothing but his public services or character to recommend him, need ever dream of a Scotch seat. Under such a system it was natural to expect, " instead of the moving of great national interests, the tactics of parliamentary parties and all that gives dignity to a real election - that there would be low manoeuvring, degrading conditions, criminal understandings, paltry truckling, personal perfidy." It may then be asked how so many Scotchmen of distinguished abilities got into parliament? - men too honourable to pass through the subterranean mysteries of a Scotch election, or wanting the means to purchase votes. The answer is that such men, instead of appearing in their natural position, as representatives of their native country, were obliged to give the honour of choosing them to strangers, and were often received with acclamations by the electors of England.

While the Scotch bill was passing through committee in the commons, the English bill was being hotly contested in the lords, and absorbed so much attention that only a few members comparatively voted in the divisions upon the former measure; seldom more than one hundred, often less. There had previously been no property qualification in Scotland for members of parliament representing towns. A provision had been inserted in the bill requiring heritable property to the extent of 600 a-year for a county and 300 a-year for a borough; but this was expunged on the third reading, on the ground that if the property qualification were rigidly enforced, it would exclude some of the brightest ornaments of the house: for example, in past times, it would have excluded Pitt, Sheridan, Burke, and Tierney. The Scotch bill was passed by the lords on the 13th of July. It increased the number of members for that country from forty-five to fifty-three, giving two each to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and one each to Paisley, Aberdeen, Perth, and Dundee; but the great change made, remarks Sir Archibald Alison, was in the class of electors, both in burghs and counties; " and this was so great as to amount to a total revolution." " The old town councils in Scotland, in great part self-elected, have been succeeded by a host of ten-pound shop-keepers and householders, actuated by different interests, and swayed by different influences. The old parchment freeholders, who followed their directing magnate to the poll in Scotland, have been succeeded by a multitude of independent feudars in villages, and tenants in rural districts."

The following is the general result of the reform acts upon the constitution of the imperial parliament In England the county constituencies, formerly 52, returning 94 members, were increased to 82, returning 159 members. The borough members were 341, giving a total of 500 for England. In Ireland the number of the constituencies remained the same, but five members were added, making the total number 105, representing 32 counties and 41 boroughs, including the university. A second member was given to each of the following places: - Limerick, Waterfowl, Belfast, Galway, and the Dublin University. The proportion of counties and boroughs in Scotland was 30 and 23, giving a total of 53. All the counties of the United Kingdom returned 253 members, all the boroughs 405, the total number constituting the house of commons being 658.

Ireland continued, during 1831 and 1832, in a very unsettled state. The restraint imposed by the Catholic Association during the emancipation struggle was relaxed when the object was attained, and when Mr. O'Connell was absent from the country, attending his parliamentary duties. The consequence was that the people, suffering destitution in some cases, and in others irritated by local grievances, gave vent to their passions in vindictive and barbarous outrages. O'Connell himself was not in a mood to exert himself much in order to produce a more submissive spirit in the peasantry, even if he had the power. He was exasperated by his collisions with Mr. Stanley, by whom he was treated in a spirit of defiance, not unmingled with scorn; so that the great agitator was determined to make him and the government he represented feel his power. If the earl of Derby had the experience when, as Mr. Stanley, he was chief secretary of Ireland, which he afterwards had, he would doubtless have adopted a more diplomatic tone in parliament, and a more conciliatory spirit in his Irish administration. His character as it appeared to the Irish Roman catholics, sketched by O'Connell, was a hideous caricature. A more moderate and discriminating Irish sketch of him represented the chief secretary as possessing a judgment of powerful penetration, and a facility in mastering details, with a temper somewhat reserved and dictatorial. Popularity was not his idol; instead of the theatrical smile and plastic posture of his predecessors, there was a knitted brow and a cold manner. He loved labour, and the impress of care and work was stamped upon his features. "For the ordinary recreations of men, he had an austero contempt; he gave few dinners, and the freaks and foibles of fashion were sternly condemned in his careless dress. In his energetic tread across the flags of the castle-yard, and the authoritative strength of his masculine voice, self-respect and self-reliance were prominently perceptible. Amongst the gentry he acquired a reputation for eccentricity. He lived and walked alone. Sheil tells us that he has often known him to walk fifteen miles along the high road with staff in his hand, and a slouched hat on his head, and that ho was designated as the 4 odd gentleman from England. " Mr. Stanley left much undone in Ireland. But this candid catholic writer gives him credit for having accomplished much, not only in correcting what was evil, but in establishing what was good. He is praised for putting down orange processions, and for "the moral courage with which he grappled with the hydra of the church establishment." He created as well as destroyed, and "his creations were marked with peculiar efficiency." "The Irish Board of Works sprang up under his auspices. The Shannon navigation scheme at last became a reality, and the proselytism of the Kildare Peace Society received a fatal check by the establishment of the national system of education. The political philippics which baron Smith had been in the habit of enunciating from the bench were put a stop to by Mr. Stanley. He viewed the practice with indignation, and trenchantly reprobated it in the house of commons. It ought to be added that Mr. Stanley built a house in Tipperary, chiefly with the object of giving employment to the poor." It has been often remarked that the chief secretary for Ireland, on his arrival in Dublin, is always surrounded by men, each of whom has his peculiar specific for the evils of the country. But Mr. Sheil says that Mr Stanley, instead of listening to such counsel with the usual' 'sad civility, invariably intimated with some abrupt jeer, bordering on mockery, his utter disregard of the advice, and his very slender estimate of the adviser." He made an exception, however, in favour of the then celebrated "J. K. L." He acknowledged a letter from Dr. Doyle, on the education question, with warm expressions of thanks for the suggestions contained in it, and a wish to see him on his arrival in Dublin.

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Pictures for Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7

Mr. Stanley
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The Irish anti-tithe agitation
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