Page images
PDF
EPUB

county, prevented them making local connections or acquiring local prejudices, an advantage which the House could not fail to appreciate.*

One of his best efforts was against the abolition of Kil. mainham Hospital, established by charter of Charles II., for old Irish soldiers who had served faithfully.t In 1853 Mr. Whiteside obtained leave to bring in a Bill “ to facilitate the Sale, Partition, and Exchange of Land by the Court of Chancery in Ireland, and the recovery of Monies secured by Recognizances in Chancery.” In doing so, “ he called attention to the Encumbered Estates' Court being presided over by Baron Richards, who was therefore often absent from the Court of Exchequer, prevented from going Circuit, or attending the Central Criminal Court. He trusted such a state of things would not be permanent, or drawn into a precedent, for it was contrary to the Constitution that the Judges of the Realm should have anything to hope or fear from the Government of the day.”I When Mr. Moore, on the 31st May, 1853, moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the Ecclesiastical Revenues of Ireland, with a view to ascertaining how far they were applicable to the benefit of the Irish people, Mr. Whiteside made a most elaborate defence of the Established Church. He said, “Mr. Moore panted for religious equality, but when they struck down the Protestant bulwark in Ireland, they would transfer these funds to the Roman Catholic Church, in order to extirpate Protestantism from Ireland, and with it the element of its civilization, the element of our power, the element of our prosperity, and the element of our greatness."'S

On the 4th April, 1854, Mr. Fagan, M.P. for Cork, moved for leave to bring in a Bill to open the honours, degrees, and emoluments previously monopolised by the University of Dublin to persons of all religious denominations, which was seconded by Mr. Hume. The motion was strongly re

• Hansard P.D., vol. cxxiv., p. 1300. + Id. 1070. | Hansard P.D., vol. cxxvi., p. 653. § Hansard P.D., vol. cxxvii., p. 933.

sisted by Mr. Whiteside, as tending to confiscate the property of the University.* When Lord John Russell moved the second reading of the Oaths Bill, on 25th May, 1854, Mr. Whitehead made a most vehement and energetic speech against the measure. He contended that Jews ought not to be allowed the privileges of Christians. If Prime Ministers they might dispose of the bishoprics of the Protestant Church; if Lord Chancellors of the livings; if judges of the Ecclesiastical Courts, they might sit in judgment and decide against Christians. His objection was that according to his reading of the Constitution of this country, Christianity was the law, and the law was Christianity. He could not yield up what he was taught by the wisdom of Fortescue, by the learning of Coke, by the deep thought of Hale.t Mr. Whiteside steadily opposed the introduction of the Ballot, on the ground that the franchise was in the nature of a trust, to be exercised for the use and benefit of the community at large, and should therefore be exercised openly and aboveboard. When the subject of Legislation for Ireland was before the House of Commons, on the 2nd of March, 1855, Mr. Whiteside complained that every Irish Member was kept in a state of doubt, uncertainty, and inextricable confusion with respect to what was to take place, or what the Government intended to do for Ireland. I When the Bill to allow a widower to marry his deceased wife's sister was discussed, on the 25th of April, 1855, Mr. Whiteside spoke against the propriety of such a marriage, quoting from the writings of the Rev. R. C. Jenkins and Philo-Judæus, as also a very profound and lucid speech from Lord Campbell, against these marriages. He introduced the details of his Court of Chancery (Ireland) Jurisdiction Bill for second reading on the 3rd of May, 1855, and entered very fully into the state of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, and the various attempts at reform in

Hansard P.D., p. 498. + Hansard P.D., vol. cxxxiiio, p. 946. Hansard P.D., vol. cxxxv., p. 15

that Court. The first was in 1819, which by greatly reducing the fees, largely increased the business. Next came the abolition of the Six Clerks. While Lord St. Leonards was Chancellor in Ireland, the warrant or summons system was abolished. He proposed to abolish the Masters' Office altogether, and appoint a Vice-Chancellor in their places, with the same power as the Vice-Chancellor possessed in England. His measure was resisted by the then SolicitorGeneral for Ireland (J. D. Fitzgerald) in a tone characterised as one of great bitterness and sarcasm. The AttorneyGeneral for Ireland having also disapproved of the measure, Mr. Whiteside said, when replying, “As to the hon. and learned Attorney-General for Ireland he has spoken in a style of eloquence which was peculiar to him. He was not aware that he incurred that attack upon him by meddling with the character of the hon. and learned gentleman; indeed, it was about the last thing he wished to meddle with, and his acquaintance with the hon. and learned gentleman, whether at the Bar or in that House, was so slight he did not know that he had any right to do so."* . On the 28th of April, 1856, Mr. Whiteside made a powerful onslaught on the conduct of the Government during the Crimean War. He moved, “That whilst this House feels it to be its duty to express its admiration for the gallantry of the Turkish soldiery, and of the devotion of British officers at the siege of Kars, it feels it to be equally a duty to express its conviction that the capitulation of that fortress, and the surrender of the army which defended it, thereby endangering the safety of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, were in a great measure owing to the want of foresight and energy on the part of Her Majesty's Administration.” His speech on this occasion exhibited his peculiar power. It was forcible and eloquent, showing great care in its preparation, and delivered with his usual fervid vehemence. It opened up the whole history of Russian

* Hansard P.D., vol. cxxxviii., p. 88.

policy and Russian aggression. The Attorney-General for England replied in defence of the policy of the Government.*

Mr. Whiteside supported the Appellate Jurisdiction of the House of Lords Bill in a very able speech, which discussed the principles of Appeals, on the 7th of June, 1856 ; and when the Court of Appeal in Chancery (Ireland) Bill was in Committee, strongly recommended that ex-Chancellor Blackburne, one of the ablest men in Ireland, then in receipt of a pension of £4,000 a-year, should be the first Judge of the Court of Appeal. This was ultimately carried out. He recommended interference by Government in the affairs of Italy during the debate on Lord John Russell's motion for an Address to the Queen on that subject, on the 14th of July, 1856. He supported the expulsion of James Sadleir from the House of Commons in a humorous speech, on the 16th of February, 1857. During the debate, which took place on the 27th of July, 1857, when Mr. Disraeli moved for papers relative to the state of the Bengal Army and copy of a Report on that Army, drawn up by Sir Charles Napier and transmitted to the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Whiteside made a very powerful speech in support of the motion. He went very fully into the affairs of our Eastern Empire, and seemed perfectly conversant with the military operations which had taken place. His speech will throw considerable light upon the conduct pursued towards that vast Empire.t But another opportunity some time afterwards again called forth Mr. Whiteside's oratory in respect to the Indian Empire. On the 12th of February, 1858, Lord Palmerston brought forward his measure for transferring the Government of India from the East India Compay to the British Government. He made out a strong case for the proposed change, but it involved questions of such magnitude that it required a thorough examination and the fullest discussion, and, accordingly, all the great intellects of the House were * Hansard P.D., vol. cxli., p. 1658. + Hansard P.D., vol. cxlvii., p. 511.

stirred. One of the best debates of modern times ensued. Mr. Whiteside spoke on the second night, on the 15th of February. He disapproved of the proposed change, and appealed to the sense of the House, whether it was a safe thing to pass this Bill. “Remember," he said in concluding, “how infinitely more easy it is, even on the showing of the noble Lord, to destroy than to create. It is a law of the Almighty that while the work of construction is difficult and slow, the work of destruction is easy and rapid. The skill of the architect, the labour of an age, will erect the majestic edifice; a labourer with his pickaxe will speedily destroy its proportions and deface its beauty. This building still stands—it has stood the test of time. Let us strengthen its foundations, enlarge its basis, and improve its structure if we can. But I implore you, while it is yet time, to stay your hands, and do not, upon such arguments as you have heard, overthrow the edifice."*

A change of Government took place in 1858. The late Earl of Derby was Premier, and he appointed the able supporter of his policy, Mr. Whiteside, Attorney-General for Ireland. No more thorough partisan could be found, and all the measures which Lord Derby's administration brought forward in the House of Commons, found in him an intrepid, faithful, and vehement ally. The legal business of his high office was in safe hands. He disposed of the criminal business of the country in a most satisfactory way.

On the 24th of February, 1859, the Right Hon. J. D. Fitzgerald moved that the House be resolved into a Committee to consider the Catholic Emancipation Act, 10 Geo. IV., c. 7., in relation to the Oath thereby required to be taken, instead of the Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration. He contended that Roman Catholics had a right to be placed on terms of perfect equality with their fellow-subjects. Mr. Whiteside, the Attorney-General for Ireland, resisted the motion. He said, “This Oath contained

* Hansard P.D., vol. cxlviii., p. 1407

« PreviousContinue »