HC Deb 21 February 1867 vol 185 cc727-46

Order for Second Reading read.


Mr. Speaker—When at the commencement of tins Session Her Majesty, in her gracious Speech from the Throne, announced to Her Parliament that the Government would be enabled to dispense with the exceptional powers granted last year, no Member of the Government, nor, I believe, any one possessed of information with regard to the state of Ireland, had any expectation that it would be necessary at so early a period to ask Parliament to renew, even for a limited time, those exceptional powers. This might, in the opinion of some, indicate that the Government were not in possession of that information which they ought to have had. But, in truth, it is the peculiar nature of this movement, and the extraordinary characteristic of this conspiracy, that it is beyond anything difficult to obtain the information which is usual when such designs are intended. I do not believe that that circumstance evinces any particular skill or ability on the part of those engaged in these treasonable designs, but it arises simply from the fact that the leaders and principal organizers of the conspiracy are not in Ireland, but carry on their plots in a foreign land. As far as we can discover, all they have been lately doing is issuing orders to their sympathizers and agents in the United Kingdom. It is very well known to this House that the leaders have been anywhere but in Ireland. Sometimes they have been in this country, at other times in France, but the general seat of their designs has been the United States. Therefore, it has been impossible to obtain that amount of information with regard to their designs which would have been attainable had they carried on this conspiracy within the United Kingdom. Experience has shown that when active operations have been planned in this country, they speedily become known to the authorities, and there is no difficulty whatever in obtaining ample notice of the fact. If, Sir, it was with reluctance last year that I undertook the disagreeable duty of moving for the continuance of the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, that reluctance has not been decreased by the administration of the powers conferred on the Government by that Act. No man who really appreciates the advantages of the free Constitution under which we live can without feelings of dislike, and even loathing, exercise those exceptional powers which circumstances have rendered necessary. No man can take part in a proceeding which consigns an individual to gaol, without the prospect of a speedy trial, without feeling that he is doing an act which nothing but the absolute and imperative necessity of the case could justify. That has been my feeling and the feeling of the Lord Lieutenant, and of my learned colleagues who have been engaged in the performance of this most disagreeable and irksome duty. I think it is due to the House and the Government that I should state as briefly as possible the course of events with regard to this conspiracy since I had the honour of addressing the House last year. When the present Government came into office there were, I think, about 330 prisoners detained under the authority of the Lord Lieutenant's warrant. On the 1st of September that number was reduced to 286, and so satisfied were we of the general appearances that presented themselves of the decline of the conspiracy and of the partial abandonment by the conspirators of their designs, that we were enabled by the 24th of November through the release of persons, many of whom were, in humble condition, to reduce the number in confinement to seventy-three. This fact, together with the small number of warrants issued, will show how indisposed we were to exercise the powers with which we were invested except in cases where absolute necessity existed for it. In September one warrant was issued, in October one, in November five. Sir, about the end of November a considerable amount of activity began to be displayed among those persons both in England and in Ireland who were known to be members of the Fenian Brotherhood. The usual stories were promulgated with wonderful industry throughout the country to the effect that an immediate rising was about to take place. These stories were found to be circulated everywhere; circulated not by Fenian agents only, but by persons whose ordinary business led them to travel about the country. It was evident that these stories came from one and the same source, for whether it was in Cork or in Donegal it was always precisely the same alarming rumour which was detailed. Moreover, discoveries of concealed arras were made, and in one case a seizure was made on board an English steamer arriving at Cork of as many as eighty rifles with their usual accompaniments, a considerable quantity of ammunition being also found, with a fictitious address. The usual symptoms of activity likewise presented themselves in collecting money, the well-known collecting card used by Fenian agents being found in almost all the northern towns in England and in many towns in Ireland. Raffles were also held, and all the wonted exertions for the collection of money were put into active operation. It was reported that those leaders of the conspiracy who had openly declared their intention of levying war in Ireland had left America, and this report considerably increased the alarm. The result was that a state of alarm, almost amounting to panic, prevailed from one end of the country to the other, and the most unfortunate consequences followed. Numbers of people, believing these stories, left their homes, there was a run upon many of the banks, and the Government were inundated with demands for protection from every part of Ireland. Nor was this alarm altogether unfounded, because the circumstances I have mentioned were the same as those which occurred in February, 1866, which justified the then Government in applying to Parliament for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Sir, the Government did not think it necessary to add any very extensive or serious precautions to those already existing. A slight increase was made in the military force in Ireland, but that increase only brought up the numbers of men actually serving in Ireland to the same number as they were in March and April of last year. A slight addition was made to the naval force stationed on the coast, and a few detachments were placed in different small towns where information had led us to believe that the greatest danger existed. The latter measure had the most salutary effect, for it has always been observed that whenever a small military force is placed in Ireland, alarm disappears, and the loyal and well-disposed among the population take heart and feel renewed confidence. A remarkable occurrence took place in a certain small town in the South of Ireland which it is not necessary to name. During the 24th, 25th, and 26th of November, as large a sum as £5,000, entirely in gold, was drawn out of the Bank. Early information reached the Government, which led us to believe that it was advisable to station a small force there, and as soon as an announcement was made that some soldiers were likely to arrive the next day, the run upon the bank ceased, and confidence was restored. About that time very important information came into the possession of the Government, which induced us to make some arrests in Dublin and in the country, and that stop was attended with the best results. The number of arrests was not, however, very considerable. In December ninety-seven warrants issued, in January seventeen. During the present month there have been nine, making in all, with the seven issued in September, October, and November, 130 warrants issued by the present Government since they assumed office. The policy which the Government have endeavoured, and, I believe successfully, to carry out is this—we have taken as much care as we could to arrest those persons only who we had reason to believe were leaders, or were taking a prominent part in the conspiracy. We did not think it necessary to make the indiscriminate arrests which were thought necessary, and, perhaps, were necessary, in the earlier stages of the conspiracy. We endeavoured to select a few of the leaders, and consign them to prison, and we found that the effect produced was quite sufficient, the immediate result being, that wherever arrests were made the conspiracy scorned at once to come to an end. A most gratifying feature presented itself in connection with this matter during the months of November and December, for a spirit was evoked such, indeed, as had been evoked on many occasions before, which led all classes and all parts of the population to testify their utter repudiation of the designs of these persons. We received loyal addresses and resolutions passed by meetings held in various parts of the country, and composed of men of every class and creed. There was hardly a man of any influence in the districts where danger was supposed to exist who did not at once record his desire to give every support in his power to the Government, and who did not repudiate, in the strongest terms, any sympathy with the conspirators in their designs. Sir, the Government received these assurances thankfully, answering them in almost every instance. The answer was this—that if the Government saw any necessity for appealing to the active support of the loyal population of the country of all classes and creeds in their endeavours to maintain the public peace, they would not have the slightest hesitation in doing so. At the same time, it was pointed out that the law is express upon this subject, and it is that no measure of the kind, such as swearing in special constables, shall be taken unless it is proved by satisfactory evidence that the ordinary powers placed at the disposal of the Government are insufficient to cope with the danger. I am happy to say that in no part of Ireland did any circumstance arise which could justify the Government in informing the magistrates that such an emergency existed. Had such necessity arisen, we should have had banded on the side of the law and order every man in the country whose opinion or whose influence was worth having. Sir, the consequence of all this was that towards the close of the year those unmistakable signs of disquietude to which I have referred had to a great extent disappeared. The subscriptions which had been pouring in in considerable numbers in December, gradually became scanty, and, as far as we could judge, the whole thing by the middle of January was at a very low ebb. The non-appearance of the leaders, who had made protestations in America that they were going to create a rebellion in Ireland during 1866, induced considerable doubts in the minds of their supporters whether they intended to appear at all. I assure the House I never made an announcement with greater pleasure than I did when, before the meeting of Parliament, I told my Colleagues, with the full concurrence of every Member of the Irish Government, that we saw no reason why the extraordinary powers granted by Parliament should not be at once dispensed with, and why we might not rely for the preservation of the public peace on the ordinary powers of the law. Sir, soon after Parliament met there took place at Chester that mysterious and unaccountable occurrence. Whether it was the effect, or whether it was a mere coincidence, is difficult to say, but immediately the announcement of that movement got abroad, the old signs of disquietude re-appeared, and every sign of activity on the part of well-known members of the Fenian Brotherhood was again manifested. An unusual number of strangers appeared, activity was displayed among those known to be connected with Fenianism, and alarm was at once apparent. Then, Sir, followed that extraordinary occurrence in a remote part of the South of Ireland. It is not necessary for me to describe to the House the details of what happened in the neighbourhood of Cahirciveen and Killarney, because they are already in full possession of them, and nothing that I could say would add to the extreme preciseness and accuracy of that information. A sudden outbreak took place, which was evidently got up and led by persons not known in the country, who succeeded in persuading a small number of deluded individuals to appear in arms for as long, I think, as upwards of three days, against the authority of the Queen. Sir, the first thing shown by these occurrences, is the case with which measures may successfully be taken by the Government for the repression of such disturbances. The second is that the most ample information is at the disposal of the Government, and that they are warned in sufficient time to allow them to take the fullest precautions for the preservation of the peace. The third is, that the loyal spirit of the population has displayed itself, and that there have been no signs of sympathy with the Fenian movement on the part of the great mass of the agricultural population of Kerry. To show with what case troops may be transported from one part of the country to the other, and how hopeless of success these movements arc, I may mention that the information of the late outrage did not reach Dublin until six or seven o'clock in the evening, at a time when most of the official gentlemen had gone home. Notwithstanding this, Sir Alfred Horsford received intelligence of what had occurred at eight in the evening, and by eight o'clock next morning he was 110 miles off with a small army of 1,000 men, ready to march anywhere. In the course of the day he received orders to go to Killarney, and arrived there the same day with ample means to suppress any attempt at insurrection. With regard to the information received by the Government two hours before anything occurred at Cahirciveen, the constabulary received information of the intended attack on the police barracks, and in ample time to put them on their guard. Before the insurgents arrived the authorities were ready to receive them, and to afford protection to the loyal and well-disposed. At Killarney the magistrates received information which enabled them to arrest the man who intended to be the leader of the movement. In Killorglin, again, the police were warned of the intentions of the rebels, so that every movement has been notified in time to the authorities, so as to allow precautions to be taken and salutary measures to be adopted. I wish now to refer to the spirit of the agricultural population of the county. The insurgents, by threats and persuasions, endeavoured to induce the agricultural population to join them, but they signally failed in every instance. No sympathy was expressed in the movement, and although a certain amount of terror was, no doubt, caused by these armed bodies of men, they did not succeed, except in one or two instances of extreme compulsion, in getting food from the population of the district. A great deal has been said of the supposed sympathy of the agricultural population of the South of Ireland. Now, I do not wish to overstate the case; but it is my duty to say that, so far as my experience extends, I have not, since I have been in office, seen any evidence of that sympathy with the rebels, on the part of the population, which some people say so widely exists. I do not deny that a great deal of discontent exists in Ireland; but I do not believe that there is sympathy with the authors of these insurrectionary movements, among the rural population. There are some curious facts on this subject which I should like the House to consider. At the end of November, when, as I told the House, the movement was almost at an end, I had some statistics prepared of the occupations of those who had been connected with the Fenian conspiracy, and who had been imprisoned since the Habeas Corpus Act was first suspended. It shows that the men engaged in this movement have been confined very much to one class of the population. The total number of persons arrested up to the end of November, 1866, was 752. Of these, 314 were tradesmen, artizans, and millworkers. Many of these might be shopkeepers, but as they were entered merely as "tailor" and "shoemaker," they were classified among the tradesmen. There were fifty-two shopkeepers, twenty-five publicans, forty-five clerks and commercial assistants, and thirty shop assistants and shopkeepers' sons. There were only thirty-five farmers, and twenty farmers' sons (three of whom were students). The remainder consisted of national schoolmasters, persons who had been in the American army, labourers, &c. [An hon. MEMBER: How many national schoolmasters?] Not less than twenty-nine, and I am sorry for it. But of the 752 arrested up to November, under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant, only thirty-five were persons in the occupation of land, I That is sufficient to show the House the particular class of persons who are engaged in this conspiracy, and the House will learn with satisfaction that the most important and numerous class of persons of these districts, who are in possession of almost all the wealth and industry of the country, have abstained from taking part in this movement. I should not perform my duty if I did not state here, in regard to recent events in the South and West of Ireland, how much the country is indebted to the exertions of the Roman Catholic clergy. Every one knows how great their influence is over their people, and I have great satisfaction in stating that I believe there is not a Roman Catholic clergyman who has not, either directly or indirectly, exercised the whole of his influence to prevent the people from taking a part in this conspiracy. Witness the occurrence at Rosbeg. The Rev. Mr. Maginn met a body of armed men in the middle of the night on their road to the police barracks, and addressed them. That was not a duty of a very agreeable nature. We know that those Irish-American colonels and generals are not men who have much respect for the sacred calling. But the idea of danger did not present itself to the mind of the rev. gentleman. He addressed them at considerable length. They were unknown to him, because they came from another parish, but he warned them of their danger, and implored them to desist from the attack upon the police barracks, which they meditated. In consequence of this appeal the men, to the number of sixty or seventy, desisted, and crossed the mountains in a different direction. There are many occasions in which the Roman Catholic clergy have addressed their flocks in the most impressive manner, and the House has probably seen some of these addresses in the newspapers. A Member of the Government would fail in his duty if he did not acknowledge the great obligations which this country is under to these clergymen, for their assistance in preserving the peace of the country. Last week there were ninety-seven persons in custody under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant. I think every one must admit that after what has occurred in Ireland during the last week or ten days it would be impossible for the Government to avoid asking for the extraordinary powers which Parliament gave under similar circumstances on the previous occasion. It is well known that large numbers of persons have arrived from America ostensibly to take part in the movement. These persons, if this Act be continued, will find that success will be impossible and their imprisonment speedy. I have, on the other hand, a strong conviction that if the House should deprive the Government of this power of sudden imprisonment, we should be deprived of the only power of dealing effectually with this particular class of men. To show, however, that the Government do r not demand these powers for a longer time than is necessary, and in order to give Parliament the opportunity of deciding for what space the continuance of these powers is necessary—above all, in order to show the I mass of the loyal and well-disposed people I of Ireland that we trust in them—we do I not propose that this Act should be continued for a longer period than three I months. That will give Parliament, during the present Session, an opportunity of again deciding on what course should be taken should the Government deem it necessary to ask for a further renewal of these powers. Sir, if these deluded men continue their operations, if they still remain in this country, if they go about spreading false and mischievous stories among the people, announcing their intention to make war upon the Queen, then Her Majesty's Government will not shrink from applying to Parliament for another prolongation of this Act. But, Sir, I would fain trust that the events of the last week may be sufficient to show these persons how hopeless are their designs; also that the willingness of Parliament to grant us a continuance of these powers may show them that this country is not to be trifled with. We have endeavoured, on every possible occasion, to have recourse to the ordinary course of the law. Accordingly, at the late Commission in Dublin the Government placed on their trial a number of persons for their participation in this conspiracy. The consequence is that thirteen or fourteen of them were convicted and are now under sentence, some of them having pleaded guilty. One of the most important convictions that have taken place was that of the man named Meany, who was indicted under the Treason Felony Act, for that, being a British subject, he was connected with, and had been engaged in, treasonable practices in a foreign country. The evidence against him was clear; and, under a clause of that Act, which was framed for this particular purpose, he was con- victed of a treasonable offence. That ought to be sufficient to show that British subjects cannot go to France or America and engage in treasonable practices or conspire to levy war against the Queen of this country, without being responsible, if they come back, to the ordinary law of the realm—that they commit an offence against the law of England, and are liable to be most severely punished. I think, Sir, I have said enough to convince the House that an absolute necessity exists for renewing these powers for a limited time; and I ask for their renewal not only in the name of the Government but in the name of the large majority of the people of Ireland, who are desirous that it should be granted. I will read to the House a resolution, passed yesterday at a meeting of the magistrates of the county of Kerry, which was forwarded to me by telegraph. An hon. Member of this House, the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Herbert), was in the chair, and it was proposed by Mr. James O'Connell and seconded by Mr. D. C. Coltsman, and unanimously resolved— That in the Opinion of this meeting the safety of life and property imperatively requires the renewal of the Act for suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, and that the Government ought immediately to be apprised of this our opinion. Resolved,—That our chairman be requested to forward the foregoing resolutions to his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, with an urgent request that no effort be omitted to ensure the renewal of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. That meeting consisted both of Protestants and Roman Catholics, of gentlemen belonging to almost every shade of political party; and the resolution was moved by a near relative of Daniel O'Connell. That will show how completely unanimous is the opinion of the loyal population in Ireland that this House ought to continue these powers to the Government. We have received similar expressions of opinion from all parts of that country. Great alarm has been excited; and the general impression in people's minds in Ireland is that the renewal of this Act is the only mode by which the Executive can be armed to meet the peculiar danger with which the country is menaced. My Colleagues and I have been placed now for a considerable time face to face with this conspiracy; and I may say that the longer I live, and the more I see of it, the more am I convinced how mean and despicable a thing it is, and how sordid are the motives of the men engaged in it. The collection of money is the principal object they have in view. In 1848 some men of high character and respectability—men of great talent, and I may almost say genius—were engaged in a treasonable movement, which yet only resulted in the wretched Ballingarry affair. But everything of that kind is absent in this case. These men keep almost entirely in the dark. The leaders are hardly ever seen. The reputed loader has ever since the 28th of October been in hiding. Even in the midst of the large population in the United States which is known to sympathize with this movement he has not dared to show his face. That is the movement against which this House is now called upon to legislate. That is the sort of men who place themselves beyond the ordinary powers of the law, and to deal with whom extraordinary powers are required. It has been called a military movement; but its military exploits have been confined to three cowardly and atrocious crimes committed in connection with it. An unhappy man, suspected of being an informer, was murdered on the bank of a canal near Dublin; one policeman lost his life, and another was wounded in the back while endeavouring to perform his duty carrying despatches in the county of Kerry. Yet many of these men, whose exploits are of that character, call themselves colonels, captains, and lieutenants of the Fenian army, and have been parading in full uniform the streets of New York announcing themselves as about to undertake the conquest of Ireland, and calling themselves "the regenerators of their country." But it would be well that they should know that what is burlesque in New York may be tragedy in Dublin, in Limerick, or in Galway. We might commiserate the poor illiterate men who have been seduced into joining this movement by representations that they are serving the interests of their country. No doubt punishment would have to be awarded according to law to these miserable dupes, but still to some extent they deserve pity. But, Sir, there can be no pity due to men like those evil-disposed strangers who return to vex and disturb their native land; and if they attempt to carry out the purposes they have formed in America they will find a swift and sudden destruction overtake them. They are but lawless "filibusters," and the punishment they will be called upon to undergo will be that which every civilized nation visits upon such heinous offenders. They inflict the direst injury on their country. By them the peace of Ireland has been endangered, trade and commerce checked, industry stopped, and capital scared away. Before I sit down, I should like to read to the House a short extract from a remarkable address delivered last Sunday by the Roman Catholic Bishop Moriarty to a large assemblage of his flock at Killarney. I am sorry to say that even in that congregation there were sympathizers with this movement, and that a number of young men left the church while the Bishop was speaking. The Bishop said— One word about the prime movers of all this mischief. If we must condemn the foolish youths who have joined in this conspiracy, how much must we not execrate the conduct of those designing villains who have been entrapping innocent youth and organizing this work of crime? Thank God! they are not our people, or, if they ever were, they have lost the Irish character in the cities of America; hut, beyond them, there are criminals of a deeper guilt—the men who, while they send their dupes into danger, are fattening on the spoil in Paris and New York. The execrable swindlers, who care not to endanger the necks of the men who trust them, who care not how many are murdered by the rebel or hanged by the strong arm of the law, provided they can get a supply of dollars either for their pleasures or for their wants! Oh, God's heaviest curse, His withering, blasting, blighting curse is on them! Sir, I cannot add a single word to this. I believe that the right rev. gentleman was amply justified in every expression that fell from him; and it is, Sir, in order to enable Her Majesty's Government to get rid of these pests and drive them from the country that I now ask the House to continue to us these exceptional powers.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Naas.)


Sir, I fully shared the satisfaction which I am sure was felt by every Member of this House at the announcement made in the Speech from the Throne that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the time had come when the exceptional legislation required for the security of life and property in Ireland might cease, and when the ordinary course of law might be safely restored in that country. It is therefore with deep regret that I find that the expectation thus held out to the House cannot be fulfilled. But I do not hesitate to say that, independently of the statement of the noble Lord, the facts which have lately taken place, and the occurrences which are notorious, justify the noble Lord in now coming forward to ask that Par- liament should not deprive the Government of those powers which can alone enable them to deal with a conspiracy with which we are all, unfortunately, now too familiar. I think the Government would have failed in their duty if, on account of an opinion they had expressed before these recent occurrences, they had abstained from now asking at the hands of Parliament those powers which are essential for the maintenance of the security of life and property in Ireland; I must express my deep regret—which I am sure every Member of this House shares—that there are persons, whether in or out of Ireland, who, after the experience of the last twelve months, are still wicked or insane enough to keep up a treasonable movement which, while utterly hopeless in its success, is inflicting, as the noble Lord said, the greatest evil on Ireland; and which, small as are the numbers engaged in it, not only creates a feeling of insecurity and alarm, but roust impede every measure for the real improvement of that country. Good may, however, arise out of evil, and I hope that in this instance the feeling which has been generally manifested in Ireland, irrespective of class or creed, in opposition to these wicked and treasonable designs, will tend to lessen the bitterness of that political and religious animosity which has too frequently exhibited itself in that country; will lead men of different parties and denominations there to act more together for the common advantage of their native land, and will induce Parliament to legislate for Ireland in a spirit of impartiality and conciliation, and with an earnest desire to remove every just cause of complaint—if just cause of complaint there be—by taking those means which may best conduce to her true and permanent prosperity. The noble Lord has paid a well-merited tribute to the conduct of the Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy in Ireland, for it is impossible not to see that their influence has been strenuously exerted in doing that which, as loyal men and lovers of their country, they were bound to do, with a view to preventing the spread of this conspiracy. Looking to the arrests which have been recently made, I think everybody will admit that it is essential for the general security that those persons should not be allowed, by their immediate liberation, to prosecute their treasonable designs; and I was glad to observe that, in the short discussion yesterday on the introduction of this Bill, three Irish Mem- bers—all entertaining Liberal opinions—sharing in the feeling of regret, and I may say of humiliation, to which the necessity of this measure is calculated to give rise, yet admitted that necessity, and concurred in the course taken by the Government. The noble Lord, in my opinion, does well in limiting the operation of the Bill to a period of three months; and I am sure we shall all rejoice if within that time the conviction shall force itself on the mind of these agitators that they have not the slightest chance of achieving even transient success, and if the noble Lord shall be able to announce to us, on the responsibility of the Government, that there is no further necessity for the continuance of this measure.


said, that though he should not oppose the passing of the Bill, he had to complain that many persons who were committed to Mountjoy Prison under the provisions of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act were placed in solitary confinement, and were treated, though not found guilty of any crime, as if they were convicted criminals. Unless he received a promise that those prisoners should be treated differently in future, he should move a clause in Committee on the Bill, with a view to remedy a state of things to which he strongly objected. He hoped they would receive from the Government an assurance that whenever it was found necessary to put the provisions of the Act into force it would be done with the utmost tenderness and caution. It was the foreign element that made this movement dangerous, and as a protection against the persons coming from America it was necessary to put the Act in force.


did not mean to oppose the measure if the Government considered it necessary for the suppression of the insurrectionary movement, as it was a mercy to those embarked in the hopeless attempt. He believed, however, that the law as it stood was sufficient for the purpose. There were numbers then in prison who would have been released in a few days only for the movement in Kerry. As they had not participated in it, he hoped Government would take a favourable view of their case, and release such as it would be safe to do so without imposing on them the heavy security which he was aware had been in some instances availed of by Government magistrates to throw petty obstacles in the way of the liberation of prisoners when the order for release came. With the suppression of the movement in Kerry he believed for the present there would be an end of active rebellion in Ireland; but let not the House be deceived into thinking that as much disaffection did not prevail as ever. They might be sure it did, and only awaited a favourable opportunity to show itself. He could fully corroborate what the late Lord Lieutenant had said after he left office, "that the peasantry of the south and south-west of Ireland would join the movement if they thought it likely to succeed." They, as well as the great mass of the people of Ireland, despaired of their grievances as regarded the land question being redressed by constitutional means, and regarded a resort to arms as the only method by which they could right themselves; and they did not adopt that last resort only because they well knew that under present circumstances there was no use in contesting with the whole military power of England at a time when that country was at peace with other nations. But if she became engaged in a war with some powerful State, when the arm of Ireland would be most wanting to aid her, the chances were Ireland would be a sharp thorn in her side. The reckless folly the Fenians exhibited in their conspiracy in Ireland, their invasion of Canada, their meditated attack on Chester Castle, and the raid in Kerry—all went to prove that, if a good chance for rebellion offered, numbers might be expected to flock round the standard of any leader who presented himself in whom they had confidence. At that moment there were at the convict works of Portland, or in other places of penal servitude, fully fifty representative men of the Fenians, many of them soldiers and non-commissioned officers, who had served with distinction in the British army. How many thousands were there behind these men who sympathized with the movement? Stephens had been lauded as a very wonderful man on account of his organization and the numbers he had induced to join him. No doubt be was an able man; but the country offered such ready-made materials for rebellion that any zealous active man taking the trouble would get any amount of persons to undertake to join a rising that promised success. The noble Lord read a list of those arrested to show there were few farmers in the movement. But did it not occur to him that if the artizans, schoolmasters, and others he spoke of, did not feel certain that the peasantry would join them if things looked promising that they would ever have entered into the enterprize. They knew right well that the farmers had great grievances to complain of, and would hail any change as one for the better. The noble Lord was rather inconsistent in his assertions about the state of feeling in Kerry, He said the Fenians met with no sympathy there, and gave credit to the Bishop and clergy for being the great cause of the coldness shown to the adventurers. The next moment he had to admit that some of the congregation walked out of the chapel when the rev. prelate denounced Fenianism; and he would like to ask the Chief Secretary if the insurgents received no assistance from the peasantry, how it was, with, a military force of probably some thousands hemming them in, and having no food with them, that the horse, foot, and artillery had not captured a single Fenian invader? The correspondent of The Standard, who, he believed, was an eye-witness of most of what he described, said that nearly all the male portion of the congregation quitted the chapel during the Bishop's exhortation. Now, if that did not look like sympathy, he was puzzled to know what it looked like. The noble Lord and others said that Fenianism was entirely of foreign growth, and had taken but little root in Ireland. If it had not, why were they making so much work about it?—and as to being of foreign growth, he might as well say that the Italian, Polish, Greek, and Hungarian revolutions were of foreign growth, because the people who fomented them met and conspired in London. The Italian and Greek revolutions were not a bit more of foreign growth, because the Italians and Greeks who took a leading part in them found it more convenient and safe to mature their plans in France and England. In the same way the Irish Americans, who wanted to revolutionize Ireland, concocted their plans at New York or Washington, but were ready to form a junction in Ireland with their countrymen at the right time. The Irishman who arrived in America had, if possible, stronger feelings against England than those he left behind. In proof of this he might mention that a person near Clonmel sent a friend some time since to O'Mahony, who was then treasurer to the Fenians, for a debt of twenty pounds he owed him. O'Mahony paid him in English half-crowns and shillings, which he had received from the im- migrants just landed, whose first act on arriving in America was to contribute to the fund for carrying on the war against England. Whilst there was so much to complain of, the House might feel sure that, whether at home or abroad, the Irish peasant regarded England with hostility, as the cause of his own and his country's misfortunes. Coercive Acts like the one about being passed might quench the flame of rebellion, but the embers remained, ready to burst out anew, and undoubtedly they would unless Ireland was legislated for in a generous and statesmanlike spirit. He, as well as others, bad appealed to the late Administration, when they suspended the Habeas Corpus Act last Session, to introduce some measure which would tend to remove the causes of disaffection. They had responded to that appeal by bringing in a Land Bill which, if passed with some modification, would, he believed, whilst serving the landlord, have brought contentment and prosperity to the tenant, and, in a few years, have made Ireland as loyal as England or Scotland. Unfortunately, the Government were defeated before they could carry their good intentions into effect. When he heard the allusion to the land question from the Throne, he hoped the result would have been a measure of nearly equal value to the one introduced by the late Government. Had it been so, he would have felt it his duty to his country to support the Administration of the Earl of Derby, as he placed that vital question, involving, as it did, the very life of the people, and their existence on their native soil, before every other consideration. But he was grieved to say that the measure, as shadowed forth in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland a few nights ago, would not be worth the paper on which it was printed to the great mass of the tenant farmers. The present Administration had a glorious opportunity of raising Ireland from her depressed position. Let them, of course, suppress the revolt, such as it was; but if they had to strike with the mailed hand, why not, when the sad necessity ceased, raise up the prostrate form, and render Ireland a prosperous and contented sister of England? A grave responsibility before God and man would be incurred by the Ministry if they suffered, without an honest effort to prevent it, the fairest portion of the Empire to continue poverty stricken, discontented, and disaffected.


said, he regretted to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Clonmel calling upon the Government to treat these ruffians in a better way than prisoners for debt were treated in Ireland, and he trusted that the application would not be granted. His object, however, in rising was to call attention to the statement of his right hon. Friend, to the fact that he depended much upon the Roman Catholic clergy and Bishops. No doubt that was so; but it was only fair to say that the loyal men in the North of Ireland were ready and willing to support the Government under any circumstance. For his own part, he regretted that it was not proposed to extend the suspension of the Habeas Corpus for a year instead of three months, because all right-minded men in Ireland regarded it as a protection, and not as an interference with their liberties. He had heard that when the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) went to Ireland, he attended a meeting—he would not say of what—at which he proposed that the Government should buy up some of the estates and re-sell them on easy terms among the tenant farmers. He understood, however, that a number of people at the meeting objected to that proposal on the ground that they would rather get the estates for nothing. He would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it would be as well if he ceased to go roaming about Ireland, raising hopes which certainly could never be fulfilled, and which were not for the benefit of that country.


I had no intention of saying a word in this discussion, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—and he is, I presume, a Member from Ireland—that I shall say nothing to him as to any opinion he may entertain about me or about what I have said or done. I rise for the purpose of expressing my astonishment that there should be any Member in this House who defends the course which has been condemned by my hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Blake), who defends the practice of arresting men under the Act now in force merely on suspicion, and merely as a precautionary measure, at a time when suspicion is very common, and when evidence is often very little to be depended on; and that men so arrested should be treated with, if not the harshness, I may say the severity which is often, and, indeed, commonly shown to criminals who are convicted. It appears to me that Parliament could never have intended that such treatment should be shown to persons arrested under this Act. They are not punished, and the Act does not intend that they should be punished. They have not been tried. It is not the custom in England, and it is not to be defended under the English Constitution, that men who have never been tried, and therefore cannot have been convicted or sentenced, should suffer the severity which seems to recommend itself to the feelings and the sense of justice of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I am not surprised that a Member who could say that should complain of the noble Lord that he only recommended the House to pass this Bill for three months. If there be one thing more than another which has given satisfaction to-night on this sad occasion, it is that the noble Lord was able to say he thought it was better that the Act should remain in force for three months only, and that he hoped at the end of that time he should be able to assure the House that the Act was no longer necessary. The hon. Gentleman opposite comes from the country which has suffered all these misfortunes, and which during the lifetime, I suppose, of the oldest Member of this House has been periodically before the House in the position in which we find it to-night, complaining always—rightly or wrongly, but complaining always of the injustice of this House, and objecting always to the coercive measures of this House. I hoped that there had not been on that island, or from that island, any man who could have stood up before the Imperial Parliament of this country, and expressed—I was about to say, and if I were out of the House I would say—such atrocious sentiments.


said, he regretted that a measure of this kind should have been again called for. On a former occasion he seconded the Resolutions of the hon. Member for Cork, the object of which was rather to call the attention of the House to the necessity of listening to the oft-repeated applications for justice from that country, than to throw any obstacle in the way of the Government. Soon after the present Government came into office they spoke of sympathetic measures, but no step in the right direction had been taken. He gave the noble Lord credit for certain changes of opinion, and for the manner in which he proposed to work out these changes in regard to the land question, but considered the measure which had been introduced nothing more than a delusion. He was glad to hear the manner in which the services of the Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy had been acknowledged, and hoped the noble Lord in return for those services would recommend his Colleagues to cancel the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, which prevented them from taking the position to which they were entitled. If the Government would relieve the Catholic clergy in Ireland from the disabilities under which they laboured, if they would deal with the Irish Church, and look to the question of education in Ireland, then, indeed, they would be doing something towards relieving themselves from the degrading and humiliating necessity of asking again for a suspension of the Constitution of the country. If the noble Lord and his Colleagues carried out the promises they had made, and the remarks delivered by the Lord Lieutenant at the recent banquet of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, they would do the State a lasting service, and achieve for themselves the well-earned gratitude of a loyal people.


said, he regretted the continued renewal of the Act, the necessity for which arose from the unjust arrangement between the owners and occupiers of the soil. He believed the root of all the evils of Ireland to be centred in the land question and in the state of the Irish church, which was an insult to the whole of the Roman Catholic population.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.