HC Deb 16 March 1852 vol 119 cc1171-95

begged to move the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the state of those parts of the counties of Armagh, Monaghan, and Louth, which were referred to in Her Majesty's Speech; into the immediate cause of crime and outrage in those districts; and into the efficiency of the laws, and of their administration, for the suppression of such crime and outrage. The Motion he was about to submit to the House was substantially the same as that he had attempted to move before the recent change in the Government of the country. On the first night of the Session he had drawn attention to the state of a portion of the north of Ireland as referred to in Her Majesty's Speech; but the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) intimated to him that inasmuch as the Special Commission was then proceeding, and had not concluded its labours, it was premature to bring forward any Motion on the subject. The noble Lord was quite right, and he did not, therefore, press any Motion. After the Special Commission had terminated its labours, he (Mr. Napier) gave notice for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the causes of the insecurity of life and property in Ireland; but the right hon. Gentleman the then Secretary of State for the Home Department put upon the paper an Amendment in the terms which he had now adopted in his present Motion, finding, on looking at that Amendment, that there was no real difference between them. The right hon. Gentleman agreed with him about its propriety, and as there was nothing but a verbal difference in the terms of the Motion, the right hon. Gentleman, with that courtesy for which he was distinguished, left the matter in his (Mr. Napier's) hands, stating that he would offer no opposition to it. The question was one of very deep interest to all parts of Ireland, and he thought it was one that might well claim the attention of that House, because nothing was of greater importance to the social prosperity and advancement of Ireland than the security of life and property, which, however they might differ on matters of particular policy, must be at the basis and form the substratum of all good government and civilisation; and nothing was of more importance than to make the administration of the law good and efficient, and to uphold the security of life and property. The Speech from the Throne had adverted to the state of those districts, and he thought he should be enabled to lay before the House such clear and unambiguous evidence as to the startling state of certain portions of the country, that it would lead the House to pause and consider in what way they might, in a fair and constitutional manner, remove those causes, and remedy a state of things which was at variance with their prosperity—at variance with the introduction of capital—at variance with industrial employment, and with everything that could be of value to either the owners or occupiers of land in that part of the country. In the course of the last year the grand jury of the county of Louth, through the noble Lord, their foreman, addressed a memorial to the Earl of Clarendon, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, calling attention to the system of organised crime which it was alleged demanded some earnest and searching system of investigation. The memorial suggested the sending down of experienced police officers to obtain a knowledge of the Ribband system; and various other suggestions were also made. He had afterwards got a return of the state of crime in, the county of Louth alone, during a period of two years, selecting only those cases which were connected with the Ribband system. It was to that return he wished to call the particular attention of the House. They were the acts of a great confederation, which, if not put down by the law, would put the law down, and therefore this was a conflict with an organised conspiracy against life and property of the most startling description. The return for the county of Louth embraced from the 20th April, 1849, to the 29th December 1851, and contained twenty-three cases: they were all separate crimes of Ribband conspiracy, and included murder, shooting with intent to murder, waylaying, threatening notices, acting as members of the Ribband system, administering unlawful oaths, arson, the prevention of prosecutions for crime. Of these twenty-three cases there had only been in five instances convictions, and in all the others, the law as yet had not been able to overtake the criminals. Shortly before the meeting of the present Parliament a Special Commission was sent to Monaghan, and that Special Commission was pending at the time the present Session commenced. That Special Commission had been issued on the part of the Government, and showed clearly its consciousness of the peculiar state of criminality that prevailed in the district, and its readiness at that time to lend the powers of the law for the suppression of crime and outrage. That Commission was conducted with the greatest impartiality and ability. It would be improper to refer to anything which had occurred on that Commission, lest it might prejudice parties whose cases had still to be tried. His right hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General, with the Solicitor General, for Ireland, attended upon that Commission, and he was bound to say that they had conducted the case with great ability; but the fact was, that no convictions were obtained, no attempt was made to try the parties since, and the cases which were left untried had been removed by certiorari to the Court of Queen's Bench, where they remained until sent down to be tried on the record side of the Court, where, by the present state of the law, there was the power of obtaining a better class of jurors. And here he begged to say, that he did not mean to suggest any imputation against the jurors on the Special Commission, but merely to mention the facts as they stood. Upon the occa- sion of that Special Commission the eminent Judge who then presided, and who was now Lord Chancellor of Ireland (with whose concurrence he begged to say he now brought forward this Motion), in his charge to the jury said— It is but too true that a large portion of this, and of the adjoining counties of Louth and Armagh, are prevaded by a mischievous, most mischievous association; that Ribbandism, which is the name under which this association exists, prevails in all its horror and all its terror within that fated district.' He then referred, in connexion with Mr. Bateson's murder, to the assurance of protection and connivance which is secured for the murderer by the power of the Ribband confederacy, 'the severest scourge of the land.' Firstly, the sacrifice of life and injury to property; secondly, obstructing all improvement, repelling capital, and cutting of the sources of employment and industry. He then referred to the responsibility of those who extenuate the crime by speeches and publications. He had a highly important document in his possession, which was submitted to the right hon. Baronet the late Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir G. Grey),namely, a memorial which was signed by 126 magistrates of the three counties, including three lords lieutenants, the county Members, and twenty four deputy lieutenants. The memorialists, in fact, comprised nearly the entire body of the magistrates of the three counties, whose description of the state of matters there, founded upon an intimate local knowledge of those counties, corresponded with the accurate judicial statement of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The memorial was as follows:— TO THE RIGHT HON. SIR GEORGE GRET, ETC. The Memorial of the undersigned Magistrates of the Counties of Armagh, Louth, and Monaghan, Showeth—That a district containing portions of the abovementioned counties has for some time past been in a disturbed and lawless state. That a succession of murders, attempts to murder, assaults, burning of houses, acts of intimidation, &c., have taken place within it, all marked with the same agrarian character, and evidently proceeding from the same secret conspiracy. That this secret association possesses the sympathy of many, and has overawed the whole of the population to such an extent that evidence of the most atrocious murders perpetrated in open day can hardly be obtained, and that jurors, from whatever class empanelled, are too often either disaffected or intimidated. That the audacity of the conspirators has fearfully increased with their impunity, and that the conspiracy is rapidly extending into the neighbouring districts. That the sympathy, and, yet more, the terror of the population is proved by facts which come under our notice daily, and are well known to the authorities; such, for instance, as an Unwillingness to render the common offices of humanity to the victim of assassination or outrage, and the levy of forced contributions for the purpose of defending agrarian criminals. That while we give credit to the Executive for their wishes and endeavours to enforce the law as it stands, we declare our strong conviction of its total inadequacy to meet a state of society never contemplated by British law. That we are persuaded we express the feelings of all respectable and well-affected persons of all classes in calling upon Parliament to enact such laws as may protect our lives and properties, deliver our population from an intolerable state of intimidation, and crush that secret conspiracy which is ruinous both to those who suffer from it, and to the interests of all ranks and classes of the country at large. As to the Special Commission, the very case for which it issued still remained undecided, and that was only for Monaghan. Here it appeared that a secret conspiracy existed, which possessed the sympathy of so many as to overawe the entire population, so that evidence of murder committed in open day could not be obtained, and the jurors were either disaffected or intimidated. This was a fearful state of things in a country otherwise civilised and peaceable. Murders in open day—evidence not procurable—jurors intimidated—a Special Commission spending its powers without any conviction—another assizes passed by; no one put upon trial, the law apparently powerless. Surely, with a country in such a state, a grave, calm, dispassionate and searching investigation was required. It was no question of party upon either side. He had told the right hon. Baronet the late Chief Secretary for Ireland so, and had declared that he (Mr. Napier) would not stoop to degrade so important a subject as to make it subservient to party. He had no other object in view, when he took up the question while out of office, than to give his best aid to the Executive for the support of the law against this dangerous confederacy; and he had no other object now than to have a calm consideration of the subject with the same view. The Speech from the Throne noticed the fact of the existence of the evil, but there stopped short. Since Parliament assembled, additional crimes had been committed, and additional notices had been served. There was one case of a gentleman, whose name it would be, of course, improper to mention, who had received private information from an undoubted authority that two committees of Ribbandmen had sat upon his case, and condemned him to death, and that persons had been appointed to exe- cute the decree. The facts of the case were these: there was a man who was the tenant of a small farm, and was himself a notorious Ribbandman. This man had been many years in arrear with his rent, and he was at length put off his land for these large arrears. After he quitted the land the result was that it lay waste, because no one would take it, from terror of the consequences. The man then wanted to return, and because the agent would not give him possession of the land again, he had been condemned to die. In another instance an English gentleman, who had, as many others had done, gone over with the beneficent design of introducing capital into the country, had taken land on the Blayney estate, on which the previous tenant owed 200l., all of which he had been forgiven, and 20l. had been given him to go away; and yet this gentleman had been served with notice of the usual sentence. Notices had been served on proprietors of the best character—on mill-owners giving employment, and on justices of the peace and others. There had been a notice to a gentleman on the 11th February (by private information), that his murder was sub judice. These cases were but a selection. He would now shortly state what was the law on the subject. A peculiar code of statutes had existed in Ireland from an early period, applicable to the crimes of secret confederacies. The 36th Geo. III., chap. 27, made the crime of conspiracy to murder a capital offence. This was not the case in England. The 38th Geo. III., chap. 57, made solicitation to murder also capital, and this also was peculiar to Ireland. On the late Leinster circuit a man had been found guilty under the former of these laws for a conspiracy to murder, and sentenced to death. But he would now come to the code of laws which was levelled more particularly against Ribbandism. These began with the statute 50th Geo. III., chap. 102, passed in 1810. And the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, then Lord Chief Justice Blackburne, recently said, speaking of this Act— It refers to the administering of oaths or engagements, binding the persons, amongst other matters, to obey the orders, rules, and commands of any committee, or of any captain, leader, or commander, and not to reveal the taking of any illegal oath on discovery that such had been taken. No one can read the Act (says the Chief Justice) without seeing that it reflects the very crimes which are at the bottom of these disturbances, which led to the very state and condition of the country which has been unfortunately the cause of assembling you here to-day. This showed what a continuous system it was, and that the system was not now springing up in Ireland for the first time, but that these crimes grew out of a secret confederacy—a great political organisation—whioh exerted its powers on every grievance, real or pretended, which it could get hold of through its extended ramifications. It was a mistake to say it was a land question, although he had no doubt it would get hold of land questions if it could; but it interfered with everything. It had its own code of laws, and the man who transgressed them was regularly tried and condemned, and executioners were appointed to put the sentence into execution. After the passing of the Act of 1810, great difficulty was found in administering it, owing to the obstacles that stood in the way of procuring evidence of the administration of illegal oaths. In the case of secret societies, previous to the breaking out of any overt act, the only evidence upon which the Government could rely was that of informers; but in the case of the secret societies to which he referred, it was so arranged that no one was admitted at the administration of an oath but the person who administered it, and the person who took it, so that there was great difficulty in obtaining any evidence at all upon that point. In 1816, therefore, the Insurrection Act was passed, which was temporary only in its operation, and was one of a stringent character, only justified by extreme necessity, after the ordinary remedies of law have been exhausted. The Act empowered the proclaiming of a county, and the holding of special sessions, to proceed without jurors; and people were compelled to remain in their houses at night. Next came the 4th Geo. IV., chap. 87, which is levelled against membership in such associations. "This (says the Chief Justice Blackburne) appears to me to have been levelled against the very state of things which prevails in your own county, and which has caused so much disturbance in it." The Chief Justice next referred to the 2 & 3 Vict., c. 74 (Ribband Act), and observed that "This code of laws seems as if it had been prophetic of the present state of things;" and he added also, "Unquestionably the law is sufficient as it stands, provided that it can be executed, which it can only be through the instrumentality of the officers of justice." The 2 & 3 Vict. was continued in 1844, by the 7 & 8 Vict., c. 78, to Sept. 1, 1845. In 1845 it was continued by the 8 & 9 Vict., c. 55, which repealed the portion of the 2 & 3 Vict., which made it criminal knowingly to have in possession or custody, without being able to account for the same, secret signs, passwords, &c. The repeal of that clause by the Act of 1845 had caused great difficulty in convicting persons who were detected with illegal signs or passwords, and it was proper to consider whether it should be restored. The clause, he thought, might be so modified as to obviate the difficulty referred to; but this would be matter for consideration by the Committee. The House would observe that the Chief Justice said, that if the ordinary law could be executed it was sufficient; but what he wanted to call the attention of the House to was the peculiar nature of the confederacy, which prevented the ordinary law from being executed. A clear apprehension of the nature and working of the Ribband system was absolutely essential to understand its influence on the administration of justice. It was necessary to get behind the scenes and see its operation upon witnesses and jurors. The House would then begin to understand how the law could not be executed. They would also be enabled to see more clearly whether moans could not be found to remove those obstructions to the administration of the law, and whether the action of the law could not be placed in a healthy and vigorous state, so as to break down these confederacies, which he maintained should be the object of every one, no matter to what party he belonged. In the present state of Ireland it was essential that confidence should exist in the supremacy and power of the law; and, above all things, that there should be security for life and property. He had said before, and he would say again, that if they could succeed in establishing a complete security for life and property, there ought to be no reason why capital should not find its way into Ireland—why its resources should not be freely developed, and why those benefits which God had so abundantly bestowed upon that unhappy country so distributed as to promote the strength of the United Kingdom by the peace and happiness of Ireland, fie would now notice the cases of this Ribband conspiracy which had been brought under the cognisance of the Irish Courts of Justice. After the Act of 1839, the Attorney General of that day, the late Lord Chancellor, Mr. Brady, had commenced a series of prosecutions with great effect; and one remarkable case had occurred of a man named Richard Jones, for whom he (Mr. Napier) had been counsel, as he had been in other cases of the same class, and had thus acquired a little knowledge of the practices of the conspirators. He would observe that the case he referred to showed that the conspiracy was not confined to Ireland, but existed in England and Scotland; in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Glasgow. One of the principal cases under the 2 & 3 Vict., c. 74, was that of this Richard Jones—he was tried in Dublin, at the commission, before Mr. Justice Ball and Baron Richards, on the 29th of June, 1840. There was a great body of evidence produced on that occasion; their books, written in shorthand, their passwords, and various letters and communications. Mr. Justice Ball, in passing sentence upon Jones, said— You have been found guilty of belonging to an organised body of persons of the working classes of the community, having its president and other officers, and holding its sittings from time to time in the city of Dublin. That association appears to have affiliated with it others of the same character in Great Britain and many counties in Ireland. It manifests, it is true, no defined objects; but it is possessed of an organisation capable of being applied to any purpose, however dangerous, requiring combined movements and unity of action. Such an association, so constituted and directed, no Government, deserving of the name, could suffer to exist in this country, if by legal means its destruction could be accomplished. He would next read from the sentence pronounced in a similar case by Judge Crampton, July 23, 1842, at Armagh:— You have been convicted of acting as members of a Ribband Association—an association which sets itself up against the law of the land—a secret, inquisitorial system, which acts unseen and unknown, and whose decrees are followed with the blindest obedience; which involves in danger both the lives and property of Her Majesty's subjects; asserting a supremacy in direct opposition to the laws of the land, tending to involve the public peace in the greatest danger, and threatening mischief of the most lamentable description, especially to the poor man. I find from the evidence that it exists, not merely in this county, or in another county, but in all counties—nay, that it exists in England and Scotland; and how far it is extended, or how old it may be, I know not. Perhaps, however, the most graphic description of this confederacy might be given in the words of a man of whom Ireland was justly proud, and who had a large experience in the administration of the law in that country, and bore the highest judicial character—he meant the Chief Justice Bushe, who in 1832, presided at the Special Commission at Maryborough. There was, indeed, nothing which any one who wished to understand the true state and character of Ireland could read with more advantage than the celebrated charge delivered by that eminent and distinguished Judge upon that occasion. He said— This mysterious engine of secret combination, shifted from place to place, continues to be wielded and worked by some invisible hand from time to time—now against one part of the island, and now against another. Yet those who have had the experience of many years of official and judicial life can assure you that it has never been able to stand against the venerable authority of the laws, vigorously and calmly brought to bear upon it. He (Mr. Napier) had often conferred with this eminent Judge on the state of Ireland; indeed he might say— Tam magnæ quæstionis pondus excipere, vix Hercule, auderem, si mihi mea sententia proferendum, ac non disertissimorum hominum sermo repetendus esset, quos eandem hanc quæstionem pertractantes juvenis admodum audivi. A political organisation was applied to immediate agrarian subjects. He (Mr. Napier) could also state that he had a long conversation with the late Mr. Justice Burton on the subject, who had said it came to this, that either the Ribband code or the law of the realm must prevail—and that, in truth, was the issue now raised, and which must be decided one way or the other. He trusted that the law of the land would prevail, and believed it had a moral power which must in the end succeed if soundly and firmly executed. He would now mention some of the cases in which the law had been enforced, and the structure of the system of Ribbandism encountered by prosecutions in the ordinary course. The first great case was "Rex v. Keenan," Nov. 4, 1822; which was prosecuted under the 50th Geo. III., c. 102, for administering an unlawful oath. The prosecution was conducted by Mr. Attorney General Plunket, with the object—the legitimate object, as he (Mr. Napier) thought—of exposing the character and objects of the confederacy, in order to make it generally understood by the public, the conviction being regarded as a secondary matter. On that occasion it was discovered that the organisation of the confederacy extended far beyond the capacity of the persons ostensibly concerned; that while the persons who were ostensibly concerned were a low class, though above the pressure of want, so that it was not under the effects of distress that the confederacy was set on foot, there seemed to be other persons of a higher capacity and better station who wielded the organisation behind the scenes. It was remarkable that the admission and passwords proved on this trial were afterwards found in Louth, by Mr. Hamilton; a fact which strikingly showed the continuity of the system. Difficulty of prosecuting had arisen under this Act, then in force, and there had been a Committee in the House of Lords in 1824, which made a searching inquiry, and before which Mr. Blackburne, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was examined, and there was probably no man living who was, from his experience, judgment, and discrimination, better qualified to speak upon that subject than that right hon. and learned Gentleman. In his evidence, on that occasion, Mr. Blackburne showed that the conspiracy was a conspiracy against the rights of property; that the object was to get possession of the soil, and that it was in nothing more remarkable than the tyranny it exercised over the lower classes, many of whom were not in a condition to exercise any degree of resistance. When they found persons in a higher class of life, in circumstances which might be supposed to enable them to resist such influences, yielding under the pressure of this desperate tyranny, he thought they ought to extend some feeling of compassion and sympathy to the humble classes who were subjected to the same influence. In many cases it was supposed that a whole neighbourhood was sympathising with murderers, when this apparent concurrence was in truth the effect of intimidation. This circumstance had been alluded to by Mr. Justice Crampton, and the witnesses who justified the Act of 1816—a very stringent measure—also urged the necessity of affording protection to the poor. He (Mr. Napier) thought this consideration should not be disregarded, but that they ought to adopt measures to protect the humbler classes from the stigma which was affixed to them by wholesale, when they were living under a reign of terror. In 1832 also a Committee of that House was appointed almost contemporaneously with the issuing of a Special Commission in Ireland. The number of cases tried by that commission was thirty-nine, out of which there were thirty-eight convictions. This number of convictions was explained by the fact, which was mentioned by the learned Gentleman who was at that time Attor- ney General for Ireland, that no cases were brought forward in which the evidence was not considered sufficiently clear to insure conviction. The Committee had reported in August: referring to the improved state of the locality in consequence of the Special Commission, they observe that associations make themselves masters of a locality before the enforcement of the law has produced a remedy. They likewise recommended a special sessions. In 1833 came the celebrated Coercion Act of Earl Grey, which expired in 1835. Confederacies had then revived in various forms. About this time there had been directions of the law officers as to not setting aside jurors, and the effect of this on trials had been most marked. Jurors were open to a variety of undue influences, not legally a cause of challenge. But the result of these directions had been so to restrain the Crown solicitors in the exercise of the right of the Crown, that they were afraid to exercise it. When his learned Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland had come into office, he had issued very proper instructions to the Crown solicitors to exercise the right at their discretion; which he (Mr. Napier) did not deem the less a duty than a right—a duty to be discharged uprightly for the proper administration of justice. The consequence of the abandonment of the right of setting aside by the Crown had been that the law had been quite inefficient, and such had been the increase of Ribbandism that there had been a Committee in 1838 of the House of Lords, which published evidence, but made no report. Major Warburton's evidence was peculiarly valuable, and confirmatory of the views of Lord Plunket and Chief Justice Bushe, already alluded to, showing that there was "an available organisation kept in readiness for any required purposes, and more political than agrarian." Mr. Plunket, a stipendiary magistrate, described it as of his own knowledge in Louth, Monaghan, Armagh, and Down, and Mr. Hamilton (Crown Solicitor), confirmed this. Mr. Hamilton also said, that the Ribbonmen make use of their society to effect arrangements for themselves as to land. Major Warburton said, it must have had some very able head to direct it, from the mode in which it worked judicially and executively, having its own code of laws. Mr. Tracy described it as "a deep and serious conspiracy against life and property." He might refer the House to a Digest published by Hatchard in 1839, taken from the evidence given before the Committee of the Lords In 1838. The effect of the repeal of the Clauses of the Act of the 2 & 3 Vict, c. 74, which had empowered the conviction of parties having in their possession secret signs and symbols, had been, that parties who before it bad been easy to convict, now escaped; and a remarkable instance had lately occurred of the escape of a large party of persons, arrested with signs and passwords; and so the conspiracies, which had been broken down before 1845, revived afterwards. It was sometimes said, that all these were results of not regulating the Law of Landlord and Tenant. A Special Commission had issued in 1848, and Chief Justice Blackburne, in his charge, stated the various erimes as the overt acts of unlawful confederacy, the principal object being "the destruction of the right of landlords." This is accomplished by fraud, violence, intimidation, and murder. He adds these words:—"And I hesitate not to say, that if the designs attempted to be effected by such means were accomplished, the necessary and particular effect would be, that the occupiers of the land must become substantially its proprietors." He said also that it was a very limited view to suppose it was merely confined to interference with land; and he added that, "if these practices be not arrested and prevented, it is impossible to say that there will exist in this country either the dominion of the law, or the safety of life or property." He (Mr. Napier) thought the soundest and "wisest law that could be adopted to meet cases of this nature, was one which would nip such confederacies as he had described, in the bud, and check them before they broken out in any overt acts. Now it was sometimes said that the crimes to which he had alluded resulted from proper measures not having been adopted to regulate the relations of Landlord and Tenant; but he had observed that where offences of this kind took place, the tenants, with reference to whose possession or dispossession of property the crime was committed, were never of the class of tenants who would be benefited by legislation as between landlord and tenant. They were generally tenants who set a bad example in their neighbourhoods, who got into large arrears of rent, and who wasted the land. But, on the other hand, he must admit that whatever tended to keep up a feeling of discontent in the minds of the tenantry, gave great faci- lities for the extension of these organisations, and he had, therefore, paid great attention to much that had been said in that House with regard to legislation between landlord and tenant. They ought, in his opinion, either to say honestly that this was not a matter upon which they could properly legislate, or, if they thought in their consciences that something might be done consistently with the rights of property, they ought to do it. He had given his mind to the subject; he had determined, if he had remained an independent Member, to submit a measure to the House; and it was now his intention to submit to the Government with which be was connected the results of the considerations he had given to the question. He hoped, at no very distant period, to be able to lay upon the table a code of laws which, so far as was consistent with the rights of property, would simplify all the relations of landlord and tenant, and would do, at least, for the honest and industrious tenant as much as could be done by the Legislature for their relief. He could not help thinking that those who have been exciting the minds of the tenantry, and keeping them in a state of constant agitation on the subject of these rights, had contributed largely, though no doubt inadvertently and unconsciously in many instances, to the great organisation of conspiracy. There had been, unfortunately, a great deal of distress in Ireland; when there was distress there was usually discontent, and men were found who took advantage of this distress to advance their own views, without reference to other matters. What occurred to the tenantry in this respect, had contributed to enable this desperate organisation to extend its fearful ramifications in all directions. A great want in Ireland was capital to employ labour; but capital would never come into a country when its owners were liable at any moment to be dealt with so summarily, and when their life was in constant peril as well as their property. Ireland washy this means rendered almost incapable of improvement, and poverty was, consequently, perpetuated. Absenteeism was necessitated by the strongest possible obligation—that of saving life; and so virtue and honesty; and the reward derivable from honest labour, were extinguished wherever that formidable conspiracy had found a footing in that country. He believed that nothing; was more important to Ireland under these circumstances than that the arm of the Executive should be so strengthened by the law as to enable it to repress crime and punish outrage of every description. That, however, could only be effected by all good men of every class and religious persuasion seeking to find the means wherewith to give them strength. In the "Catechism of Tenant Right," published in 1850, it was described to be the duty of farmers to discountenance any person taking a farm from which a tenant is ejected, "as he who does so aids and assists the landlord in robbing the ejected tenant of his tenant-right, and shares in the spoil: they should make common cause with him, and render him pecuniary assistance if necessary." How the landlords were to be discountenanced, a series of the most atrocious murders committed within the last two years clearly showed. He should select a few of these terrible crimes to show the House the nature of the confederacy. On the 19th of April, 1849, two brothers, Roman Catholics—for it did not matter to the conspirators whether their predestined victim was Protestant or Roman Catholic—two brothers, who had been put into a farm as care-takers, the tenant having been ejected two years previously, were both murdered, in open day, one after the other. Then followed, in May 1850, the murder of Mr. Mauleverer, in Armagh. He (Mr. Napier), from all be could learn, was satisfied that the conduct of Mr. Mauleverer as an agent had in it nothing whatever to provoke his assassination, but that he was murdered simply in pursuance of the fiat of this confederacy. The person accused was brought to trial, but acquitted; the jury stating in substance that they believed him guilty, though they were obliged to acquit him because of the legal incompleteness of the evidence. There was, however, a curious circumstance stated in connection with the case—the man acquitted went to America, and there died, confessing his guilt. On the occasion of that trial the then Attorney General for Ireland, now the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, graphically described the case in his opening statement on the trial, July 11, 1850. He said— Mr. Mauleverer was an agent for several properties in this country, and in order to recover the just and legitimate rights of his employers, he was obliged to bring parties into courts of law, and in some cases to sue out ejectments. But he (the Attorney General) believed that this murder was the result of a foul and base conspiracy, and that the parties implicated in it had no connection with Mr. Mauleverer as an agent. The next case was a murderous assault committed on a magistrate of the county Monaghan—Mr. Kenney—on the 15th October, 1850. The trial took place at the spring assizes following; but there was an acquittal. Then ensued the murder of Mr. George Coulter, a farmer and under-agent, killed on the morning of the 2nd May, going to the fair of Cross-maglen. He was first fired at and then mangled, receiving eighteen wounds in the head, twenty in the neck, and having his skull smashed. This took place about a mile from the scene of Mr. Mauleverer's murder, also near the scene of the murder of the Clarkes, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, on the public road. There was a great difficulty in the way of procuring evidence, and the accused parties were therefore admitted to bail in 10l. each; but they also went off, it would seem, to America. The unfortunate man who was murdered had taken a farm, from which the previous tenant had been evicted. That farm was occupied, after the murder, by the brother-in-law of the deceased; but he, too, was compelled toqu it it (notwithstanding he had spent money on the land) by threats and violence used towards him. Subsequent to this, the murder of M'Entaggart, a lad of nineteen years of age, took place on the 15th of June, 1851. He was going to chapel on Sunday morning, about eight o'clock, with his sister, along the line of the railway, when three men attacked and beat him so that he died, though the sister threw herself on him. His father was obnoxious from having had his farm increased by adding another which tenants had given up, having been compensated. One of the witnesses of the accused admitted, on cross-examination, that a Ribband lodge met at the house where he lived. He did not appear at the second trial. The case was tried at the summer assizes. The jury were all Roman Catholics; seven record jurors (independent) for convicting, five Crown jurors for acquitting. The second trial took place on the 7th of August, by an inferior class of jurors, at the adjourned assizes, and the prisoners were acquitted. Nothing could be more injurious to the administration of criminal justice in Ireland than the supposition that an inferior class of persons, liable as they were to the influence of intimidation or of sympathy, were sufficient to try criminal causes which lay at the root of life as well as the possession of all property; while jurors of a higher class were only called on to decide in civil cases, involving, perhaps, a few-pounds. In his opinion, the jurors should he as respectable for the one side of the Court as for the other; and he did hope the Committee would recommend an alteration in the jury law which would have the effect of enforcing such improvement. A singular circumstance took place on the second trial. One of the jury, on coming out of the box, it is said, shook hands with the accused, who said in open Court, "I'm the boy that did the job." The next case he (Mr. Napier) should refer to was the murder of Mr. Bateson. This took place near Castleblayney, on the 4th of December, 1851, at half-past four o'clock in the afternoon, on the open road. Mr. Bateson was coming from a model farm, on which he had expended 460l. in employment alone during the previous four months. There was no proceeding for the recovery of rent on his part: nothing like harshness attributed to him. Three men fired at him and missed him; he was, however, speedily knocked down, and received twelve wounds on his head, of which he immediately died. This was the testimony of a local paper opposed to him in political opinion: "A good man, one of the best, perhaps, in Ireland, has been sent to his account by the hands of assassins. He gave labour to every tenant who chose to work, summer and winter." The next case was that of Mr. Eastwood, December 24th, 1851. Three men assailed him near his residence, and though he bore a high character for benevolence and attention to the comfort of his peasantry, he nevertheless narrowly escaped with his life. After this came the case of Mr. Chambre, which was remarkable in every sense. He was attacked on the 25th of January, 1852, at about a quarter-past five o'clock, coming from the Petty Sessions. The attack took place about five miles from the scene of Mr. Coulter's murder, about six from that of the Clarkes, and about eight from that of Mr. Mauleverer. His servant and brother were on the ear. He was fired at from behind a ditch, and struck by twenty-four pellets. One eye was destroyed, and the vein and artery in the neck were both cut. There were six men engaged in the attack, because it was known that he carried arms on account of a notice received. Mr. Chambre, his servant and brother, each had a case of pistols and a dagger. The assailants were armed with three blunderbusses and three bludgeons. Mr. Chambre had never dispossessed a tenant, and he had expended 600l. out of 1,000l. a year, in labour amongst his tenantry. Ribbandism abounded in the neighbourhood. Two persons were committed by Mr. Chambre for writing threatening notices. Some had been taken up two months before with the Ribband papers; but as the law had been altered, they were liberated as in Antrim. There were five houses near where Mr. Chambre was shot. One of the occupants refused to allow Mr. Chambre to be brought in, and all the doors were shut from that place to his own home, which was at the distance of a mile and a half. The House would observe that in all the cases he had mentioned, the law had not reached the murderers, whether put in force at the ordinary assizes, or by means of a special commission, which was generally supposed to be effective in quieting the country. No doubt his (Mr. Napier's) right hon. Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland had exercised a sound discretion in postponing the trials of the accused; but he hoped that all the cases would be ready, by the next assizes. It was a fearful state of things that all these murders should he perpetrated, and that no one of the murderers should be brought to justice; that this terrible confederacy should be still rampant, and nothing done by Parliament to put it down. As regarded the counties in question, there existed a reign of terror to an extent that no one would believe; and its demoralising influence had spread to the class from which the jury lists were constituted. There was in the small towns a regular levy upon the shopkeepers for the defence of persons accused of these murders, and refusal to contribute was out of the question, as it might be followed by assassination. The farmers, were in the same way coerced; and thus the vengeance of these few bold, bad men, bade fair to be destructive of the rights of all classes of society in Ireland. He would read an extract of a letter which he had received from a magistrate of the county Louth, and the House would judge for itself. This gentleman had, he (Mr. Napier) should state, devoted his time, and attention to the interests of his tenants, as the extracts in question would show; and his opinion, as a man of experience, was most valuable:— You know what a constant resident I have ever been, and how I devoted my time and means to the improvement of my tenantry and to their comfort. To meet the times, I, more than two years ago, reduced all my rents in both this county and Monaghan. By a valuation the rent was so arranged that, according to the, corn averages of three years, the tenant should have two-thirds of the value for himself and his labour, and I but the value of one-third of my land. The average was taken when corn was lowest; and yet such is the organisation and intimidation in some districts that I know those who, though not only able, but willing to pay, dare not. And as to taking measures to enforce it, that is out of the question; for, as my bailiff said, 'no keeper would be allowed to live a night in it.' Some additional military and police have been sent into the districts; but that cannot reach the root of the evil, as was proved by poor Chambre's murderous attack. The Ribband system is at the bottom of all, and some Act to reach it must be passed. In all agrarian offences the venue must be changed from the county in which they occur; for even if the jurors were faithful and fearless, and disregarded threats, the bloody menace would be addressed to their wives and families, and, to my knowledge, have been; and who can stand that? With such examples as poor Mauleverer, Coulter, M'Enteggart, Bateson, Eastwood, and Chambre, &c., all unavenged by the law—I would have the venue changed: but let the law triumph. Before they could improve the condition of Ireland they must render the security of life and property to be certain, as that was the basis of society, and a necessary condition of civilisation. But here the influences of confederacy had demoralised society, and uprooted the rights of all classes alike. He did not think the Committee would take very long to discover the truth, nor would he propose to embarrass them by a number of petty witnesses; but the Earl of Clarendon had sent down to these districts a very active magistrate, Major Warburton, and a most intelligent gentleman, who had paid much attention to this subject, Major Brownrigg, and they could state their views and afford the Committee much valuable information. At present, however, there was one evil which all were aware of—the intimidation of the juror class, on which subscriptions for prisoners were often levied by compulsion, and which was sometimes implicated in these very offences—for instance, one of the men who had the return of the jurors had to stand in the dock himself at the last assizes; and the barony constables were also exposed to much violence and bribery. The only way to alter this state of things was to have a higher class of jurors, and, by means of the poor-rates, they could hope to get lists of persons with sufficient property to place them above the reach of intimidation and bribery. It might be considered, also, whether power should not he given to the Court of Queen's Bench, where certain undue influences and tyranny were shown, to remove the trial to another place. On this point he wished the Committee to consider the evidence of the officers of the Crown with respect to the state of the law, and the nature of the testimony required, as well as with reference to the desirableness of changing the venue. In conclusion, he could only say that he expected from every party in the House a cordial and unanimous concurrence in administering the law between the Crown and the subject, in securing life and property, in vindicating justice, in giving to Ireland a full opportunity for the development of her industrial resources, in affording to the industrious tenant the protection he required for his labours, and in granting safety and aid to the loyal and peaceful subjects of the Crown. There was nothing he would not endeavour to do in order to make the law respected and powerful, and to put down this terrible system of crime and outrage, which not only interfered with the prosperity of his native country, in which naturally he took the deepest interest, and inflicted a serious injury on Ireland, but which must prove fatal to the prosperity, peace, and progress of the United Kingdom.


said, he did not rise with the intention of offering the slightest objection to the Motion which his right lion, and learned Friend had made in such a fair and dispassionate manner; but it occurred to him that whatever remedy might be suggested to meet the crime that had prevailed in these districts of Ireland, might equally be extended to the other parts of the country where similar offences should be committed. The crimes and outrages to which his right hon. and learned Friend referred were not of late growth, but the secret society which had been alluded to had, unfortunately, existed for the last thirty years; and the history of Ireland told them that in the Liverpool and Grey Administrations, efforts had been made to quell those disturbances, sometimes by extraordinary powers under temporary statutes, and more frequently in latter times by keeping within the limits of the existing laws, and by the issue of Special Commissions. Every Crown prosecutor had considerable difficulty in making the law available to repress crime; and a variety of influences and much misrepresentation rendered it most difficult at the present day to obtain convictions. With respect to the Special Commission for the county of Monaghan, recently issued, he could only state that the result of that proceeding rested on his responsibility as late law adviser of the Crown, and not on the Lord Lieutenant. An urgent demand had been made upon the Irish Government by the gentry and the magistrates to put down these atrocious crimes, and when the case was referred to him by Lord Clarendon as to whether the cases for trial were such as to justify that course, he found the evidence so clear for a conviction, that he advised the proceeding of the Special Commission; but although the prisoner was indentified by two witnesses, and twice tried, the jury would not agree; and as to some of the outrages in Monaghan and Louth, he had thought it advisable to transfer the cases to the Court of Queen's Bench to be tried next assizes, either at the bar of the Court, or by a special jury, or with a change of venue, which the Court of Queen's Bench could order even now. On the first trial for the murder of M'Taggart, the jury could not agree; an adjourned assizes were held, the man was put on his trial a second time, when a new witness was produced, and the sister of the girl who was the principal witness against him—the sister of the man for whose murder the prisoner was in the dock—came forward and contradicted the evidence of the girl, and the man was acquitted. In the case of Mr. Eastwood, he was so much injured he could not become a witness; and, acting on the right of the Crown, he (Mr. Hatchell) had postponed the trial, and in the meantime the right hon. Gentleman opposite could remove the case by certiorari, so as to have a jury in whom confidence might be placed. In like manner his right hon. Friend having come into office thought it advisable to postpone the cases in Armagh. He had not made these statements for any other object than in justice to the office he had held, and to public opinion, to explain the part he had taken with regard to these murders and atrocious outrages. His right hon. Friend had done him full justice in that respect, that the case at Monaghan had not failed for want of due exertion on the part of the law officers, but from other causes; and he admitted that his instructions to the officers of the Crown had differed from those of his predecessors, for he had thought himself warranted by the State of the country in giving them directions to set every juryman aside whom they suspected to be under the influence of fear, favour, or intimidation, or to be otherwise ineligible from any known sympathy with the offences which disgraced and disturbed the country. And yet, after all, Government had failed to obtain a conviction. Perhaps something might be suggested in the Committee to meet this crying evil, arising front the Ribband system, which was a conspiracy existing among the lower orders for mote than thirty years, not for any particular object, but for various illegal purposes as occasion for putting its powers of organisation into force; and he certainly hoped that the inquiry, unlike many that had taken place on Irish affairs, would end in some proposition beneficial to the country.


said, he must express his satisfaction that this inquiry had at last been determined upon. No question demanded more consideration than the case of Ireland, affecting as it did not only the moral and material improvement of that unfortunate country, but its character as a civilised community. No other country in the world presented such a state of society, nor was there any in which such lamentable occurrences took place. He would not go into the details of these crimes, or make any comment upon the causes that led to them, but would content himself with observing, that without the supremacy of the law no solid fabric of social order could be erected, and that unless the law became a terror to evil-doers they would become a terror to society.


said, he sympathised with a great deal that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said about the lamentable effects of the Ribband society in Ireland, and the prevalence there of horrible outrages. All must feel that their discontinuance was not only essential to the welfare of the people, but to their progress as a community. But the House was bound to bear in mind that equality of character and of order in the eye of the law never yet had been obtained by nations gathered together as those three Kingdoms were under one state of law, unless the spirit of the laws affecting those Kingdoms were really and substantially the same, unless rich and poor were protected in the enjoyment of the same rights, and placed on the same footing. T/he neglect of this question had tended very much—not to originate or wholly account for, but—to aggravate the state of things which his right hon. Friend had described. Last Session there had been several discussions about the modification of the tenant laws; and certain restrictions upon what were considered the rights and liberties of the tenant, as against the proprietor, were proposed to be enacted in form of law; and that was done. Many hon. Gentlemen urged on the Government of the day the necessity of rendering more stringent the means for the recovery of rent; and the Government had been very strongly pressed to get rid of that portion of the Statute law—the right of the tenant, when he had not a lease, to be served with a notice to quit. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) had urged anxiously and earnestly on that occasion that there was no necessity for the Irish tenant to be placed on the same footing as the English tenant. Unfortunately the remonstrances were unheeded; the Statute Law was changed; the right of the poor man was taken away by an overwhelming majority. Since that bold and fundamental check and guard of the tenant's liberties had been removed, 185 families had been sued and decreed in ejectment in a single county—one of the counties included in that district which the right hon. and learned Gentleman described as so limited, but which included two other counties as well. The attention of English Members might be startled at this; and he had a right to claim from them a very dispassionate consideration, not only of the immediate and proximate causes of the outrage, and the failure of justice that had ensued; but of the latent, predisposing, and aggravating causes, namely, the fear of distress, which oppressed the class in the occupation of land. His right hon. Friend had said he thought the Committee ought to be appointed with a view to debate remedies in the coercive sense, to strengthen the arm of the Executive, without which he considered it impossible that law and order could be maintained effectually. [Mr. NAPIER said, that was a mistake.] He (Mr. M'Cullagh) said, that if it was not to be appointed for the purpose of preparing or suggesting remedies, he presumed it would be strictly a Committee of Inquiry. He thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman had limited the class of witnesses to be called before that Committee to the exclusion of others. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had designated two excellent officers, Major Warburton and Major Brownrigg, to neither of whom anybody would object; but he seemed to give them as a sample of witnesses to come before the Committee; and, under all the circumstances of the case—with the lamentable discontent existing in this part of Ireland on the subject of agrarian differ- ences—he did not think it would answer one good purpose if they consented to appoint a Select Committee of Inquiry, simply for the purpose of examining witnesses in the sense and spirit which he understood his learned Friend to propose. Without following the right hon. and learned Gentleman through the various historical illustrations he had adduced, he might be permitted to make one or two observations. No one respected more the talents and judgment of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland than he did; but if his memory did not deceive him, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in the very appendix which his right hon. Friend quoted, gave the most vivid description which it was possible for words to contain of the root of this fearful matter. Therefore he did not think it quite fair for his right hon. Friend to give an authority only so far as served the purpose of further coercion. But the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland was one of the Judges who were sent on a Special Commission to Limerick in 1847, when a worse state of things existed, if possible, than now. He was then Chief Justice Blackburne, and he presided over the Commission to repress outrages in Limerick, without any increase of the coercive power of the law. Now, Limerick had been tranquil from that time to this. He (Mr. M'Cullagh) urged upon the House not rashly to receive the impression which had been sought to be made upon them; and he trusted it would not go forth that they were unanimous in the opinion that it was necessary to change the fundamental principle of the criminal law in Ireland, because for a limited period in a limited district it so happened that there bad not been convictions. There was another matter on which he thought it right to guard English Members from being hurried away too hastily. He appealed to every man of common sense and justice, whether in the case that he was going to state, if he had been on the jury, he would have ventured to hesitate less than the jury did. The jury in the case tried at Monaghan on the murder of Mr. Bateson, about which so much had been said, turned entirely on the question of identity. The jury contained the names of four justices of the peace and of other persons of large property in the district. Of these twelve men, nine were for acquittal, and only three for conviction. ["No, no!"] He would place in the hands of any hon. Gentleman who doubted it the confidential letter which had been placed in his hands. In the second case, the jury was also composed of persons of property; that jury was divided in the proportion of seven to five, seven being for acquittal, and five for conviction. The question all through was a question of identity, and he had the assurance of a gentleman who was wholly unconcerned, that if he had been on the jury he should not have felt himself justified in giving a verdict of guilty. He did not intend to raise any question about the appointment of the Committee, but he thought it his duty to dissent from some of the observations that had been made, and to say that without going into a consideration of the causes which led to these outrages, they would not succeed in putting them down.


said, he had listened with considerable pain to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, as he could not have thought that any Gentleman in that House would have justified the outrages that had been committed. He did not think that anything could justify those outrages. The Committee was intended to investigate the question, but he did not think that anything could justify murder and perjury, and the other crimes that had been committed.

Select Committe appointed.

The House adjourned at Eleven o'clock.