§ MR. BLAKE
, in rising toCall attention to the Returns presented relative to the treatment of prisoners confined in the gaol of Waterford under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, and the correspondence on the subject,said, he regretted he should again feel it his duty to occupy the attention of Parliament by bringing under its notice the illegal and unnecessary restrictions for some time imposed on the prisoners arrested in Waterford under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Independent of other considerations, he felt it necessary to do so in vindication of the statement he had made relative to these men in the House of Commons on the 16th of March last, and the accuracy of which was denied in rather strong terms by the Attorney General for Ireland. He believed he was then in a position to show by the Returns he had obtained that every word he said was correct. As he stated on a former occasion, he did not oppose the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act with a view of throwing obstacles in the way of the Government in suppressing the revolutionary movement in Ireland. Without at all entering into the question whether revolt was justifiable on any grounds in Ireland, one thing he felt quite certain of—that under present circumstances it was utterly hopeless; and every real friend of the people ought to wish that the abortive attempt at it should be put an end to, in 446 order to save those who foolishly engaged in it from the consequences of their rashness. But he opposed the suspension of the constitution, because, in the first place, he believed the law as it stood was quite sufficient for all reasonable purposes, and in the next, he apprehended that when the powers of the Government came to be exercised under the suspension, that the over zeal or indiscretion of their subordinate officers and others might lead to much needless hardship being inflicted on the people. This anticipation was not long in being realized, and that, too, in the locality which he represented. Almost immediately on the suspension of the Act several arrests took place in Waterford, and by the middle of March fifteen prisoners were in custody on suspicion of complicity with the Fenian conspiracy. Nearly a fortnight after the first arrests very strong representations were made to him as to the severe restrictions imposed on these men by the gaol authorities, which were further corroborated by statements which appeared in the local newspapers. Having made inquiries, and fully satisfied himself that these accounts were true, he felt it his duty, in his place in Parliament, to call the attention of the Attorney General to the matter. He represented, on that occasion, that these prisoners did not get a sufficient amount of exercise; that they were prevented from seeing their families or legal advisers, and were precluded from sending or receiving written communications, and that it was alleged that orders were given to this effect by Government. To his great astonishment, and that of every one acquainted with the real facts of the case, the Attorney General contradicted every thing he said. The following were a portion of the right hon. Gentleman's observations taken from a morning paper:—The Attorney General for Ireland said he entirely agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel that these prisoners ought not to be subjected to any restrictions save those which were required for their safe custody; and he believed that the rule had been fully adopted in the gaol of Waterford. As soon as he saw the notice which the hon. Member had put upon the paper, he caused inquiries to be instituted upon the subject, and these inquiries led him to believe that the hon. Gentlemen had been entirely misinformed upon the case. He had been furnished with a report upon which it appeared that these prisoners were not subject to any severe restrictions, and in reply to the question of the hon. Gentleman whether the Government had given specific directions with respect to their treatment, he had to observe that the Government had 447 no power of issuing such directions, because by law the control over prisons in Ireland was vested, not in them, but in the Board of Superintendence. The treatment to which the prisoners arrested under the measure for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act were subjected, was no exception to that rule. It so happened that the local authorities applied to the Inspector General of Prisons to know how those persons were to be treated, and the answer of the Inspector General was, that they should be treated as untried prisoners; that they should be allowed to supply themselves if they pleased with food, and that they should not be compelled to wear the prison clothes. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) was further informed that these instructions had been complied with—that the prisoners received, through their friends, abundant supplies of good food, and that they were not obliged to wear prison clothing; so that all the statements made upon the subject by the hon. Gentleman had no foundation in fact, and he must have been entirely misled by his informants.And the Chancellor of the Exchequer added that—It was obviously right and desirable that no unnecessary hardship should be inflicted on those prisoners, and that the Government held firmly by the principle that unconvicted prisoners who were arrested under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, were to be treated in the same manner as all other untried prisoners.Now, as the Attorney General had thought proper to state that his (Mr. Blake's) statement "had no foundation in fact," he had either to lie under the imputation of having made a misstatement to the House, or to prove that the Attorney General was not warranted by the facts of the case in denying his statement, and this, he thought, he was in a position to do. Now it happened that at the last Waterford assizes the grand jury, according to custom, appointed five of their number to inspect their gaol, and the following was an extract from their Report:—The prisoners under the Habeas Corpus Act complained of not being allowed to attend chapel on Sunday; not being allowed to see legal advisers, and insufficient time for exercise.He (Mr. Blake) immediately wrote to three of the five magistrates who signed this Report, called to their notice the statement he had made in the House, and asking how far what they had seen in the prison bore out his statement. These gentlemen were Mr. Fisher, a Protestant, and Conservative journalist; Mr. Ryan, an Alderman of the city; and Mr. Slattery, a highly-respectable merchant. The hon. Member proceeded to read the replies of these gentlemen; from these it appeared that the prisoners, while they 448 admitted that the Governor allowed them every indulgence in his power, complained of their treatment—1st. They alleged that they had not sufficient exercise.2nd. They complained that they were not allowed to attend public worship.3rd. They complained of not being allowed to see or communicate with their friends or legal advisers.4th. We found sentinels in charge of the prisoners, and were told that they were not allowed even to go to the water closet except under guard of a turnkey and soldier, nor were they allowed to the lavatories. We were informed that the gas was kept lighting in their cells all night, and that they were inspected each change of sentries.The substance of these complaints was admitted by the Governor to be well founded; but the authorities alleged that the treatment complained of arose either from ordinary regulations of the gaol, or from the deficiency of the accommodation for so large a number of prisoners, which rendered it impracticable to carry out the prison regulations, or finally from the orders of the executive Government, made specially applicable to the detention of these prisoners. To give the House an idea of what these prisoners were subjected to, he (Mr. Blake) would read an extract from the Report of the city of Waterford grand jury, at summer assizes of 1865—
§ "The arrangements for untried prisoners appear to require alteration. These persons whom the law presumes to be innocent are placed in solitary confinement, and are, in our opinion, undergoing severer punishment than those who are convicted.—Signed by
§ "T. W. JACOB.
§ "P. A. POWER.
§ "July 26, 1865.
§ "JOSEPH FISHER."
So that it was manifest that even if the political prisoners were treated according to law, they would still have to suffer enough; but when, as he would presently show, the law was most flagrantly violated with regard to them, it would be seen that they were subjected to great and needless hardships. He would now read extracts from Acts of Parliament in force relative to prisoners, as well as the bye-laws of the gaol at Waterford, in order to show what the prisoners were entitled to by law, and the grave error that the stipendiary magistrate and local inspector had committed, the first in giving orders as to the treatment of the prisoners contrary to law, and the other in carrying them into effect. The first he would read was from 7 Geo. IV. c. 74,s. 109—
Due provision shall be made for the admission at proper times and under proper instructions of persons with whom prisoners committed for trial may desire to communicate, and such rules and regulations shall be made by the Board of Superintendence for the admission of the friends of the prisoners as to such Board or grand jury may seem expedient; and the Board or grand jury shall also impose such restrictions as they may deem necessary.
Subsequent Acts gave Boards of Superintendence powers as to the making of bye-laws; those of the Waterford with respect to visitors and legal advisers were: That visitors should be permitted to visit prisoners every Friday from ten to two o'clock. That all legal advisers necessary to assist a prisoner to prepare his defence should be admitted any day from ten to five o'clock. With regard to the duty of the local inspector it was enacted in the Prisons' Act 19 & 20 Vict. c. 68, s. 4—
That it shall be the duty of the local inspector of every prison to see that the bye-laws and rules for the time being in force in such prison shall be observed and carried into effect and no magistrate shall have authority to alter or add to same, or in any manner, save in this Act, provided to interfere with the description of the prison.
And in the bye-laws at Waterford respecting this officer it was enacted that he
Should see that all regulations made by competent authorities be carried into effect, and watch over the rules prescribed.
It was, therefore, manifest that no magistrate had any power to interfere with the discipline or management of the prison, or to give directions respecting the treatment of prisoners when once convicted; and that the local inspector was bound not to take any directions from him, but to carry out the rules prescribed by Act of Parliament and local regulations, and on all occasions of doubt or emergency to apply for instructions to the Board of Superintendence. He would now wish to call attention to a portion of the Returns in order to prove, according to the statement of the local inspector, how very illegally and indiscreetly both he and the Government magistrate had acted—
Verbal orders were given by the resident magistrate to the Governor after the committal of the political prisoners under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, that they were not to be seen by any person; and which were carried into effect until the 17th of March, on which day the Board of Superintendence met specially to consider what treatment should be pursued towards these men, when it was decided to admit their friends to visit them, which has been done since. The prisoners were prevented from seeing members of their families, or consulting legal advisers, owing to the directions given by the
resident magistrate, both to the Governor and local inspector, who were in frequent communication with him on the subject.
In a letter to the Inspectors General of Prisons, 20th February, the local inspector, after mentioning the finding of a scrap of paper on which a prisoner had written something to his wife, the local inspector says—
The Governor and myself would feel much more easy if these prisoners were treated as convicted men, when such instances as quoted above could not take place.
To this he got a reply, in which it was stated—
In reply to your letter of the 20th instant, I am directed by the Inspectors General of Prisons to apprize you that they have communicated with the Law Adviser, who is of opinion that prisoners committed to your gaol by virtue of warrants under the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act are to be treated as untried prisoners.
§ Notwithstanding this, and in the teeth of Acts of Parliament and local regulations, the inspector proceeded to carry out the verbal orders of the Government official, and for over three weeks the unfortunate prisoners were subjected to, what practically amounted to, the horrors of solitary confinement. They were never allowed to see one of their friends or family, to receive or send written communications, or to consult with legal advisers. Their friends and themselves were anxious to prepare memorials to Government—some to prove their innocence of the charges imputed to them; but in obedience to the fiat of the Government magistrate they were not allowed the opportunity. Most of those men were taken suddenly away from their occupations and business, which, though humble, was all-important to them, and were denied permission to see any one belonging to them in order to give directions about their affairs or even to communicate in writing. Another great hardship was the curtailment of exercise. Owing to the order not to be allowed to see any one, the Governor had to exercise these men separately, so that there was often no time to give them the two hours' exercise prescribed, and they had to remain locked up in their cells frequently for more than twenty-two hours with nothing to enliven them but prayer books. The most extraordinary proceeding of the local inspector was, that a meeting of the Board of Superintendence, which took place on the 5th of March, nearly a fortnight after most of the prisoners were in custody, and subjected to 451 this unusual severe and illegal treatment. Yet he never consulted them on the matter, merely remarking that he had got his orders from Government regarding those prisoners, and would carry them out; so that he completely set aside the Board, whose officer he was, to obey the verbal orders of the magistrate, who he ought to have known had no authority to give them. The Board of Superintendence were to blame to some extent, too, for not inquiring more particularly into the matter, but they depended altogether on the inspector. He admitted that every possible precaution against their escape should have been taken; but there could have been no fear that the prisoners would get away, seeing that a military guard had been stationed in the prison during the whole of their confinement. It had been alleged that such stringent regulations were necessary to guard against internal treachery; but if that were so, it was strange that they should have been withdrawn upon the very day when the local inspector said he was apprehensive that an attempt at rescue might be made. It had further been stated that the prisoners had expressed themselves as not only satisfied with their treatment, but thankful for the kindness which had been shown them. It was, however, very easy to understand why some of these unfortunate persons should make use of such expressions; by doing so they thought they would ingratiate themselves with the local inspector and the stipendiary magistrate. It was upon the ipse dixit of the magistrate that the inhabitants of Waterford were arrested, and it was only upon his report of good conduct that they anticipated release. Matters continued in the way he described until he placed a notice on the paper in March to call attention to the severe treatment of these prisoners. When the inspector called a meeting of the Board, and on the very day, 17th of March, when, according to the inspector, the greatest precautions were needed, the restrictions were directed by the Board to be relaxed, and since then the prisoners were treated like any other untried prisoners. He wished to deal as lightly as he could with both the inspector and stipendiary magistrate. He entertained every respect for them, and, with the exception of this case, he had never heard any complaint against either in their public or private capacity. He submitted, however, that in the instances he 452 had been dealing with, they had both committed a very great mistake, and if a number of the unfortunate prisoners had not been the sufferers, he would not have taken notice of it. He also thought the Attorney General should, with that truth and fairness which was characteristic of him, admit that he had not been just to him in having denied the accuracy of the statement he had made respecting these prisoners, and which was just the same as he now made, both of which were borne out by the Returns. In conclusion, he hoped the Government would take measures to prevent a recurrence of what he complained of. If he got an assurance to that effect, he would not press his Resolution to a division. They could readily do so, if he might venture to offer a suggestion, by directing their stipendiary magistrates to keep within their line of duty, and not to attempt to interfere with the treatment of prisoners, once they passed out of their legal control; and with regard to local inspectors of prisons, the Lord Lieutenant had a power which he ought to exercise of adding to the local bye-laws, so as to completely prevent such officers from outstepping their duties. He sincerely hoped the remedial measures which the Government contemplated for Ireland would put an end to disaffection in that country, and that their prisons would not again be filled by men who, hopeless of having their grievances redressed by constitutional means, were in their despair driven into a rash revolt. He also hoped that the severe restrictions the Waterford prisoners were subjected to would weigh with the Government in shortly granting them their liberty. He had the greater confidence in making this appeal to an Administration who had for its leader in that House one who had shown so much creditable sympathy for the sufferings of untried prisoners at Naples. He hoped Government would exhibit an equally merciful spirit in favour of objects, just as deserving, nearer home. The acts done in the name of the Government at Waterford were calculated to bring them into great odium, and cause a feeling of resentment against them; but all this might be remedied by taking precautions against its recurrence, and releasing from further imprisonment those who had already suffered so much needless hardship. He would, therefore, beg to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.453
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is the opinion of this House, that it would he desirable that Government should take measures to prevent untried prisoners from being subjected to illegal and unnecessary restrictions, similar to those which appear to have been imposed on the political prisoners at Waterford, from the twenty-first day of February to the sixteenth day of March,"—(Mr. Blake,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SERJEANT ARMSTRONG
said, he wished to say a few words with reference to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Mayo. He thought that the law with regard to oyster licences in Ireland was in a very unsatisfactory condition. It was perfectly plain to any one who would take the trouble to read the Act of Parliament, that if the Commissioners transgressed the limits assigned by the statute, the licence was pro tanto, or altogether, as the case might be, ineffectual for the purpose for which it was given. The object of the Legislature was to preserve and perpetuate the oyster fishery on the coast of Ireland, seeing that it was one of the not very numerous sources of the national wealth, giving employment to a large portion of the seaboard population. As the law at present stood, however, it could not be expected that private individuals would embark their capital in speculations of this character, if they were afterwards to incur the risk of having the validity of that licence called in question before a court of justice. If the legislation, which he held to be necessary, were to be adopted in order to induce private individuals to embark in such enterprizes, it should be preceded by a full, an open, and a public inquiry. The usage had been that one of the Commissioners should repair to the neighbourhood of the fisheries, and hold something in the nature of a court of inquiry, but it was not obligatory upon the Commissioners to do so. He, however, contended that they should be bound to do so, and be empowered to examine witnesses on oath. Where public fisheries were alleged to exist and public rights in respect to them had been claimed, power should not be delegated to the Commissioners to grant permanent li- 454 cences, save after a full inquiry with a right of appeal, and he thought the question being one of fact a jury should be empannelled to ascertain the fact. As illustrative of the difficulties sometimes arising with respect to oyster beds under the existing state of the law, he (Mr. Serjeant Armstrong) mentioned an incident which had occurred in the harbour of Sligo, the Commissioners of which knew nothing of any licence having been granted till they saw posted up on their own walls a notice to that effect, and according to which the navigable channel of the river was granted as an oyster bed. He threw out the suggestion for the consideration of the Attorney General whether means ought not to be found of giving finality to the licence without prejudice to public rights; and also as to whether, in any inquiry held, the time at which a public fishery should be found to exist should count from the date of the inquiry, and not as was now the case from the date of the passing of the Act of Parliament.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAWSON)
said, the noble Lord the Member for Mayo was entitled to their thanks for bringing under the notice of the House a very important subject. Since notice of the intention to do so had been given he had looked into the subject and found the state of the law to be as described. It would therefore, in his opinion, be right and convenient that after inquiry by the Commissioners their licence should conclude all questions as to the public right of fishing. The suggestion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sligo that a public inquiry should always take place was very valuable; and some form of appeal from the decision of the Commissioners ought to be given in future, probably to the next-going Judge of assize. Having heard these suggestions he certainly should be prepared to recommend Her Majesty's Government to introduce, without delay, a measure for the purpose of giving finality to the order of the Commissioners; and if that were done there was every reason to hope that the unsatisfactory state of the law at present existing would be done away with, and additional inducements given to those persons described by the noble Lord as anxious to develop the resources of Ireland by establishing oyster fisheries. On that point it only remained for him to say that the subject would engage the earliest attention of Her Majesty's 455 Government. Now he turned to the notice placed on the paper by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford with respect to the Fenian prisoners confined in gaol under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. When last the matter was before the House he stated that the Government had done all in their power by communicating, on the 21st of February, to the authorities at Waterford, that these persons should for the future be treated as untried prisoners, to be permitted to supply themselves with food, and not to be required to wear the prison clothing. In doing this the Government only discharged their duty, because the directions which they had uniformly given, were that those persons should be subjected to no inconveniences and placed under no restrictions, beyond those absolutely necessary for their safe custody and for the due maintenance of discipline within the prison; and if in any instance those orders were not carried out, he could assure the House that it was not the fault of the Government. He was quite willing to admit that from the Return moved for and obtained by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford it did appear that strict orders were originally given by the resident magistrate preventing the access of any person to those prisoners. But it must be observed that the circumstances under which these orders were given were very peculiar, that grave apprehensions were at the time entertained from the excitement that prevailed of an escape or rescue being attempted. It appeared, also, that attempts were made from the outside to hold very improper communications with those prisoners, and it was under such circumstances that the resident magistrate, in the exercise of his discretion, felt it right to issue those orders. Looking back upon what had occurred, he was not prepared to say now that everything then done was altogether and absolutely correct; but in judging of the matter they must place themselves to some extent in the position of the magistrate who had a most responsible duty to discharge, and for whom every fair allowance should be made. As soon as the attention of the Government was called to the matter, the restrictions were removed, and he believed there was now no possible cause of complaint. Under these circumstances, and having the assurance of the Government that the prisoners should be treated with the utmost leniency consistent with their safe custody, he hoped his hon. 456 Friend would not feel it necessary to press his Motion. He regretted very much that on the former occasion any conflict should have arisen between his hon. Friend and himself, as to the actual statement he then made. Both were speaking from the information which they then possessed; slight errors might possibly have been made on both sides; but they were both anxious only to state the truth, and therefore, he trusted, they need not discuss the matter further.
§ MR. BAGWELL
impressed on the Government the necessity of their quickly and closely investigating the different cases of committal that had taken place in Ireland since the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. He had no hesitation in saying that it was necessary and just at the time to arm the Government with the extraordinary powers of arrest which had been conferred upon them in Ireland, but the Government ought without delay to investigate the case of every individual now in custody upon suspicion, and ascertain what grounds there might be for his detention. The number of persons in custody was very great, and many of them were of that class that one could hardly conceive it possible that they would be mixed in treasonable practices. They appeared to be of the humblest class, and persons who were almost incapable of forming an opinion upon political subjects. With the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act it was but natural to suppose that a great number of officials, with a view to ultimate notoriety with the Government and thereby to assist themselves, would think it to be their duty to make a number of contemptible arrests. He believed there was every reason to believe that that had been done to a considerable extent, and therefore it was that he pressed on the Government that they could not too closely and too minutely examine into all these cases in order to clear their actions from all suspicion of unnecessary harshness. The resident magistrate to whom reference had been made he had often met in the course of duty, and entertained of him the highest opinion. If he had forgotten himself so far as to give orders which could not be defended, it must have been from over anxiety to do his duty, at a time, moreover, when matters were in a very unsettled state in Ireland. To show that complaints of treatment in gaols were not universal, he could state that an Irish American gentleman had been confined in 457 Clonmel Gaol for some time, when an order was received from the Lord Lieutenant authorizing his liberation, provided he would leave the country for America by a certain time. The Irish American gentleman said he had merely come to Ireland for the benefit of his health, and that, being much better in health from the treatment he received whilst in confinement, he had no objection to leave at the end of the month, and return to his own country. It was high time that some investigation should be made into the character of the offences which these persons were said to have committed, in order that those who were innocent might at once be liberated.
§ SIR HENRY WINSTON BARRON
also pressed on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland the necessity of a speedy investigation into the case of each individual prisoner. A number of them had to his knowledge been confined—he would not say improperly, because no doubt Government had acted on information of their folly and imprudence in using language which was not justifiable—but he thought it would be found that a great many had been arrested who would be found incapable of doing mischief to the Government. If the Government found that nothing could be alleged against these prisoners but the use of incautious language, he thought it would not only be doing an act of kindness, but one of justice in letting such persons out of prison.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he would add his voice to the appeal made to the Government by his hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell), and he believed there were many persons now in gaol under the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant whom it would be a great mercy to release, and thus restore to their families. As to the treatment of prisoners in gaols, he would not refer to that part of the subject more than to say that his hon. Friend the Member for Waterfbrd (Mr. Blake) had triumphantly vindicated the accuracy of his statements in reference to the mode of treatment adopted at Waterford, previous to the attention of the House and the Government having been brought to the matter on the 16th of March. The result of that Notice was most beneficial, as the Government at once interfered; for public opinion having been brought to bear upon the facts of the case, the consequence was an almost instantaneous change. He would, therefore, say that no cause of complaint —of reasonable complaint—existed at pre- 458 sent in any instance of which he was aware throughout the country—certainly none existed in the county gaol of Cork to which he (Mr. Maguire) had drawn attention on a previous occasion. He, however, desired to refer to a subject of more serious and pressing importance, and one which, in his opinion, was worthy of the gravest attention of Government. That was the fearful impetus which arrests, and the apprehension of arrest, had given to emigration from Ireland to America. The rush from various ports of Ireland was, as compared to several years past, quite unexampled. By the 1st of June probably not less than 30,000 emigrants would have left one port alone—that of Queenstown— and there were several other ports from which the tide of Irish emigration was pouring across the Atlantic. He ventured to think there was not an Irish Gentleman in that House who desired to see the impulse of the people to leave their country stimulated by any cause whatever, as the ordinary emigration was reducing the population sufficiently of itself. Dread of arrest was, beyond doubt, one of the motives which impelled young men to fly from the country. There had been some foolish arrests, owing to the over zeal or officiousness of certain officials, who perhaps intended to display their activity, or who formed erroneous notions of the supposed criminality of individuals. He was willing to bear testimony to the admirable manner in which, as a general rule, the Irish constabulary had conducted themselves in reference to the Fenian movement. No body of men could have more nobly resisted the temptations which were of necessity thrown in their way; and having himself had knowledge of them, under peculiarly trying circumstances, he could also speak of their good temper and forbearance in moments of popular excitement. But still there were over zealous members of the force, and a few who, looking for promotion, instinctively displayed more haste than discretion in attributing blame to persons who really had nothing to do with the Fenian conspiracy. He might mention two cases that happened in his own city. A young man named John Reily was arrested in place of a cousin of the same name who had fled to America; and that young man was only recently liberated by order of the Lord Lieutenant. The other was the case of a painter named O'Keeffe, whose place of residence was searched, and in whose box were found 459 portions of a Bible covered with the leaf of an old number of The Irish People, and a circular summoning him to a meeting of the society. Of course, it was imagined that this formidable document connected him with a treasonable confederacy, whereas it was nothing more than a circular from the Sick Poor Society of one of the parishes of Cork. Of course, the man was speedily liberated on memorial to the Lord Lieutenant. An information was very easily made, and was at best but an ex parte statement; and, in not a few instances, when the Government were asked to investigate a case, they found there was no real ground for the detention of the prisoner, and he was accordingly liberated. It was the apprehension that some malicious neighbour or some officious constable might procure their arrest, that caused such a panic among the young men of certain districts of the county Cork—to which he would exclusively confine his remarks—as had imparted so dangerous an impulse to emigration. He had received a letter from Mr. Leader, brother of the hon. Member for the county of Cork, and residing some ten miles from the city of Cork; and Mr. Leader stated that there was a perfect panic among the peasantry of his district, and that, if confidence was not restored, in a short time it would be denuded of its agricultural labourers. He mentioned that, within a few days, as many as thirty-six of his own labourers had gone off—and that it was of the utmost consequence something should be done to allay the apprehensions of the peasantry. He (Mr. Maguire) was speaking not long since to Sir Thomas Tobin, a magistrate of the county, who was well acquainted with a large agricultural district, and he said he was afraid the Government were going too far, and that arrests had excited an apprehension amongst the peasantry which he was sure had an injurious influence on emigration. More recently he (Mr. Maguire) had been speaking to a gentleman from the district of Kanturk, and that gentleman apprehended that the labour of the country was being diminished to a very damaging extent. Indeed, he went so far as to say that farmers were not planting as much ground as formerly, having a fear of the dearness and scarcity of labour in the harvest time. He had also seen a memorial addressed by a Protestant lady of the county to the Lord Lieutenant, praying for the release of a confidential labourer 460 in her employment, and in which the difficulty of procuring labour was strongly dwelt upon. Now, surely, that was not the class of persons against whom the extraordinary powers intrusted by Parliament to the Government were to be exercised. It was never intended to strike at the mere rank and file, the ignorant labourer, or the mere cow-boy—the object was to enable the Executive to strike down the leaders, and capture the American emissaries who were disseminating treason through the land. It was to arrest dangerous leaders that the Constitution was suspended, and not to guard against the machinations of mere agricultural labourers, who had neither the means nor the knowledge that would enable them to spread sedition, were they disposed to sedition themselves. He would ask the special attention of the Government to the only letter which he would take the liberty of reading on this subject. It was from a Catholic clergyman of high rank and great intelligence, and who on a former occasion had the courage to brave unpopularity with the young men of his parish, by zealously grappling with an illegal confederacy in the district. The writer was the parish priest of Bantry, the Very Rev. G. Sheehan, who, dating his letter on the 24th ultimo, said—I have watched with attention, and noted with accuracy, the results of the arrests under warrant of the Lord Lieutenant, and they have produced very disastrous consequences. A widespread feeling of insecurity obtained at once among the young men of this parish. Their liberty was clearly at the mercy of every constable, or even of a malicious neighbour who might make a private statement to a magistrate or a sub-inspector of police. It cannot be wondered at, then, that a determination to fly in haste from the land where no young peasant felt safe should spring up among this class. This determination to fly has been put into execution in a wholesale manner. Within the last two months over 250 persons, principally young men, have left this town and neighbourhood for America, most of them against the wish, many of them without the knowledge, of their parents. I am perfectly certain that a very small proportion of those who fled away was tainted with Fenianism. The result of this withdrawal en masse of the workers can be easily arrived at. Labourers are not to be had, even at extravagant wages; all farming operations are in arrear, and many farmers have abandoned the idea of putting in crops. Another evil remains to be told, and it will bear bitter fruit for years to come. The poor children are put to work long before their young frames are capable of enduring hardship. I have seen children of six years old, and under that age, striving to labour at potato planting. They are, of course, withdrawn from school, and doomed to ignorance as well as to bodily hard- 461 ship. Last summer there were on the rolls of the national schools in this parish—fifteen in number —1,580 children. I am certain there are not 600 at school now. The decay of the rural population of course brings ruin upon the towns, so that all interests suffer. A gloomy prospect, truly, this is; and I see no streak of light to lessen the gloom.Now that was, in his mind, a very important communication—from one of the most intelligent men in the Catholic Church—a gentleman whose opinion was entitled to the respect of the Government. The advice given by his hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel was sound and judicious. The Government ought to send some thoroughly impartial and sensible man to every gaol in which political prisoners were confined, and institute a rigid inquiry into each case; and if there were no real grounds for their further detention, in the name of God let these unhappy men go back to their homes and their industry. It was in the interest of law and order—it was even in the interest of the Government itself—that he spoke. In conclusion, he would earnestly call on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland to take the present opportunity of publicly making such a consolatory assurance—such a declaration on the part of the Government—as would allay apprehension and restore confidence in Ireland. He would respectfully ask the Chief Secretary to declare that if young men thenceforward devoted themselves to their ordinary duties and avocations, abstained from dangerous associations, and took no further part in illegal confederacies, they would be unmolested by the police, and free from all danger of arrest. Of course, if in spite of the warning of the past, they persevered in their folly, they should in that case pay the penalty of their infatuation. He made that appeal to the Government, because he believed such an assurance in Parliament would have a most beneficial effect, especially in preventing the excessive emigration which was literally carrying away the strength and the very life of the country.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Clonmel and the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford that it was the duty of the Government to deal with these cases of arrest under the Habeas Corpus Act and the Lord Lieutenant's warrants with the utmost care, and that they should be dealt with not in a lump, but one by one, according to the individual circumstances of 462 each. He ventured, however, to say that that care had been exercised by the Irish Government, both previously to the issue of the Lord Lieutenant's warrants and since the arrest of these misguided men. Although, of course, it was impossible to say that in no one instance had a mistake been committed, he might state that whenever a mistake had been made it had been rectified as soon as possible. The grave powers conferred by the Legislature on the Lord Lieutenant could not have been exercised with a greater amount of care and conscientiousness than they had been by him. The Lord Lieutenant had on no occasion trusted merely to the reports of officials, but had made use of every means in his power in order to ascertain the truth in every particular case, and had never issued his warrant without having personally examined the statements laid before him. More than that, after the bulk of these persons had been committed to prison under the Lord Lieutenant's warrants, applications for release poured in to the Irish Government, and still kept pouring in day after day. Indeed, the greater part of the time of the Law Officers of the Crown had been, and was still, occupied in the investigation of those applications, and in determining what advice should be given to the Lord Lieutenant in regard to them. The result had been that in many cases prisoners had been set at large, and it was quite true that some of those gentlemen who came to Ireland from America on account of their health—which was oddly enough invariably their motive—had been set free on condition that they should at once return to the land of their birth, or rather of their adoption. But the hon. Member for Cork had made a very serious appeal to the House and to himself with respect to the excessive emigration which the hon. Gentleman said was going on in certain districts, and which in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman was stimulated by a sort of panic caused by the indiscriminate arrests which had taken place among the peasantry of that district. Now, with respect to arrests under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant having been made among the humbler classes, the House ought to remember that many of those persons although, apparently, judging from their station in life very insignificant people, were within their respective neighbourhoods in connection with the Fenian Society men of great consequence; and the fact was that in many cases the arrest and 463 detention of these persons for a certain time had had a very salutary effect upon the neighbourhoods within which their operations had been carried on. He could hardly understand that the excessive emigration spoken of by the hon. Gentleman could have been stimulated by the causes alleged by his hon. Friend, because the fact was that scarcely any fresh arrests had taken place for a long time back in any part of Ireland, and none at all he believed in the particular district referred to. In respect to the appeal of the hon. Gentleman, though he could not exactly repeat the eloquent formula which had been put into his mouth, he could on the part of the Irish Government assure the people and the peasantry of the districts to which the hon. Gentleman had referred that if they would only keep clear of this insane and wicked conspiracy, or if, having been led to mix themselves up with it, they would make up their minds to abandon it and to return to the pursuits of honest industry, they would be as safe from the power with which the Lord Lieutenant had been armed as any Gentleman sitting in that House. It would depend on themselves to retain their liberty; and he trusted that, if the present state of things had produced excessive emigration, that any anxiety on the subject would now totally cease.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."