HC Deb 29 June 1869 vol 197 cc798-816

rose to propose for the adoption of the House two Resolutions embodying the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) made upon a previous Motion of his; and, irrespective of any opinions he might think it necessary to urge, He thought the statements then made by that right hon. Gentleman were sufficient to insure the acceptance of those Resolutions. But 'he was bound to say that he was impressed with a solid conviction that the adoption of the second of those Resolutions involved the peace and good-will of very large bodies of the people of this country and Ireland. It had been for centuries a subject of great anxiety to the statesmen and Government of this country that among the constituent elements of its power there was one that had not been fused into unity with it, and that among the great insular races that had carried the Empire, the language, and the name of England to the uttermost ends of the earth, there was one people that loved her not, and whose daily prayer to God was that He would vouchsafe to them one day the opportunity of causing the disruption of her power. The alienation and hostility of the Irish to the British people was a matter of history. Of what was past and irreparable it would be painful and superfluous to speak; but it was the duty of the Government to consider the present condition of affairs, and the causes that had led to it. Something more than twenty years ago, and before the fires of popular discontent in Ireland had begun to shake the surface of Irish society, and when it was the fashion for Irish popular representatives to declare that the Catholic people of Ireland were as loyal as any part of the population of Great Britain, he made this statement to the House— I tell you, on the contrary, that the Catholic people of Ireland are not loyal; they are eminently disloyal, and there are not fifty miles of Irish coast before which, if an English and American vessel were coming into hostility, eight men out of every ten would not wish the American success. He had seen nothing since to induce him to recall that statement. With the same confidence in which he spoke of the facts he now spoke of the causes, when he said that the alienation of the Irish people was due, not so much to the wicked system of misgovernment which had existed among them for so many centuries, as to the cruel ignominy with which resistance to misgovernment had been treated. It was not so much the misery of the Penal Laws as the whips and triangles of '98 that had alienated the people; and it was with pain that he now saw the Government preparing fresh causes of future hatred. Disaffection had ripened into disloyalty; and because the visionary insurrection of misguided men, despairing of justice, had been punished by a persistent system of organized cruelty and insult, popular resentment had become as deep as it would soon be vociferous and vindictive, not only among the helpless people of Ireland, but among that nation on the other side of the Atlantic whose hostility was an element of danger to this country. He had no intention to indulge in the language of menace; nothing could be less effective; but he wished the House and Government should take this matter into consideration, and take action upon it before anything should have occurred to deprive that consideration and action of its full weight and credit. He hoped the Legislature and the Executive would take counsel in time, because it was too much the habit of the Government in Ireland to despise supplication as weakness. Resistance to English law admitted of no defence or extenuation. In Ireland, as in India, the assertion of self-government was a crime. About thirty years ago Canada rose in insurrection; insult and contumely were poured on the heads of the insurgents, and their grievances were treated with scorn. The insurgents and their American sympathizers were hanged by the score. We redressed the grievances of the Canadians, we granted them a free Government, according to their own desire, and the arch-rebel upon whose head we set a price, and for the suppression of whose opinions we had shed blood without stint upon the field and the scaffold, Papineau himself, was appointed First Minister of the Crown. Nothing could be more ignominious than such a policy, but nothing could be more successful. In 1848, when something like the Fenian insurrection occurred, one of the insurgents was tried on a charge which, if he had been found guilty, would have rendered him amenable to all the punishment now inflicted on the Fenians. He was never convicted; there was what was called a miscarriage of justice; he went abroad, and became a Minister of the Crown. Another insurgent at that time narrowly escaped with his life to America, and there publicly announced with his own hand that he had been a traitor, and his words spoken and written in America had been quoted in that House as a reason for continuing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. That man went to Canada and there became a Minister of the Crown against which he had rebelled, and not only that, but he became, under the free constitution of Canada, the most vehement opponent of the rebellious spirits with whom he had been formerly leagued. Again, a man who had reminded a portion of his countrymen that the days would soon be short and the nights long, and used language which at first sight would have been supposed to instigate to assassination, had become a Judge, and had sentenced O'Donovan Rossa to penal servitude for life for the use of language rather milder than his own. Some twenty-five years ago the Leader of the Conservative party described the Government of Ireland as a system of policy the obvious remedy of which was revolution, and the First Minister of the Crown had lately acknowledged that the abortive attempt at revolution in Ireland had brought about that change of policy which he was now attempting to carry out— Cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt; and therefore it was not extraordinary that a number of Irishmen who had gone to another country should adopt the policy which the Leader of the Conservative party had nearly thirty years ago stated to be the only true remedy for the ills of Ireland. One who might be truly called a wise man had said— The matter of sedition is of two kinds, much poverty and much discontent; and the surest way to prevent sedition is to take away the matter, for if fuel be prepared it is hard to tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire. The first remedy or prevention is to remove by all means the material cause of sedition, which is want and poverty. Now, none but simpletons would deny that such causes existed in Ireland, and that they might be removed if the proper remedies were applied. The Irish people did not sympathize with the views and ends of the Fenians, but they did with their feelings and opinions. They did not wish the Fenians to succeed; because, though they greatly disliked the existing form of government, they must feel some confidence in that which was to re-place it. But they had not sufficient confidence in ''the Irish Republic," virtually established to accept that alternative. It was the fact that no class of men in Ireland were satisfied with the Government. The people of Ireland for years had been misled, deluded, deceived, betrayed, and disappointed by successive Governments. Their sympathizing countrymen in America had promised them money, arms, and leaders, but they were to look at home for their bone and sinew, and to the English Army for their trained soldiers. The whole scheme was an absurdity from beginning to end, and could only be likened to the act of Don Quixote in charging the windmill. One of the first preparations for this conspiracy was the setting on foot of a public journal whose special function it appeared to be to announce to the Government the progress of the insurrection. The matter thus being thrust before the Government, it would have been unpardonable in them if they had omitted to take steps for the suppression of the insurrection, and accordingly they employed a number of emissaries to obtain information with regard to it. The Government had excused their conduct upon this point by asserting that they had taken the step for the safety of the State. But the Government had not only to look to the safety of the State, but also to the safety of the people. The Irish Government had always acted as though they were a garrison in an enemy's country. They did not seem to recollect that they owed a duty to the misguided men whom their own emissaries were leading on from disaffection to sedition. He admitted that it might be necessary in certain cases for the Government to employ detectives; but those so employed should be under properly organized control, and should not be permitted to act in an irresponsible manner. But for the assistance of the Government emissaries the insurrection would have proved abortive. Those who were engaged in the insurrection had made themselves remarkable by abstaining altogether from plunder and outrage. The forbearance exercised by these people had been honourably acknowledged by the correspondents of the London Press. For instance, the correspondent of The Times, writing on the 16th of March, in referring to the attack upon the police barrack at Delgany, when five policemen were captured, but were afterwards released, wrote—"It must be recollected to their credit that they have been merciful where mercy was hardly to be expected from them." The same sentiment had been expressed in other Lon-den newspapers. These circumstances, which were so freely acknowledged at the time of the outbreak, ought to be recollected in the hour of their humiliation and misfortune. Certain arrests having been made, the Law Officers of the Crown told the jury at the trial that it would be proved that the writings of these men partook largely of the character of Socialism in its most pernicious form, and that the operations of that revolution were to be commenced by an indiscriminate massacre of all those above the lower classes, and including the Roman Catholic clergy. Such an opinion was well calculated to prejudice public opinion against the prisoners, but it was not confirmed by any evidence whatever, not even the testimony of spies, and it was now admitted on all hands to have been utterly unfounded. The learned Gentleman who made this statement has since exculpated himself by stating that it was made entirely upon the instructions he received, and that he fully expected them to be proved. The allegation, however, was neither withdrawn nor modified up to the end of the trial, and the jury found them guilty, although no evidence in support of this conspiracy was forthcoming. The hon. Member— having read at length extracts from the Lancet illustrative of the results of the separate system upon the mental condition of prisoners; and from the Report of Dr. Macdonald, medical visiting officer of the Mountjoy Prison, remonstrating against the system of inflicting insufficiency of clothing as a punishment for refractory behaviour; and as to the consequences of the cellular system on the mental and physical condition of prisoners—proceeded to say that those who had listened to this statement would come to the conclusion that a state of penal discipline which had caused, or at all events resulted in, seven deaths within so short a period, and in one prison alone had driven four untried prisoners into lunacy, and four more into suicide, had been excessive in severity and unnecessarily aggravated by contumelious concomitants. They had heard of the abominable outrage committed by O'Donovan Rossa upon the Governor of the prison. But who could tell the contumacious treatment which had goaded him to commit it? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had denied the other evening that O'Donovan had been subjected to the cruel punishment which had been alleged; but he had received the other day a letter from a London solicitor enclosing a statement made by Joseph Cave of 16, Cross Street, Palace Road, Hackney, who had been an assistant warder at Chatham. Cave stated that for about six weeks in the months of June and July, 1868, the prisoner Rossa was handcuffed with his hands behind him from 10 minutes past 5 a.m., until 7 30 p.m., and with his hands before him while taking his meals, and during all that time O'Donovan was confined in a solitary cell, and for three weeks was on bread and water, with alternate penal diet besides; that when the handcuffs were being put on him at first he offered great resistance, but that resistance continued only five or six days, when from the effects of the bread and water he was compelled to submit, and he was afterwards quiet. Such was the account he had received. He did not know the facts himself, but he had given the name of his informant. Now, he had not justified the Fenian conspiracy, or the insurrection to which it had given rise, nor did he attempt to justify it; but he was quite sure that there was not one who had lost his life or his liberty in that insurrection who would have saved his life or purchased his liberty by the admission that he was morally guilty or ashamed of the cause in which he sufferred. Nor would he make such an admission in their name nor his own. In conclusion he begged to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is the duty of the Government to institute a public inquiry into the penal discipline of our Prisons, for the purpose of a better classification of prisoners generally; distinguishing the tried from the untried, and those who may be charged with offences from those who, under exceptional circumstances, may be temporarily detained without any specific charge having been preferred against them."—(Mr. George Moore.)


said, that those who were in that House some fifteen years ago would recognize in the speech which they had just heard the eloquence of his hon. Friend, and also the continuance of those feelings which he was happy to say had almost entirely died out in the existing generation of Irishmen. The Members of Parliament whom they now had the pleasure of seeing among them representing Irish interests were not less patriotic than those who went before them; but he would venture to draw a distinction and say that their main efforts were directed to heal the wounds of the past. His hon. Friend, as it appeared to him, had unnecessarily devoted no small part of his speech to recalling those bitter memories and continuing to the best of his power the existence of those feelings which all in that House wished to see buried. He could not quarrel with the latter part of his hon. Friend's speech. He was not there to defend cruel treatment either to convicted or unconvicted prisoners; and if what the hon. Gentleman had stated was true, his voice would be joined with his hon. Friend's terms of strong indignation in condemning such treatment. He knew nothing about it. An unconvicted prisoner in this country, a prisoner before trial, was treated, as was well known, in a very different manner from what was described by the hon. Gentleman. Without giving any opinion as to the truth of the statements which had been read by the hon. Member, he might say that it was impossible that such occurrences could have arisen in this country. The hon. Member had given no notice of the special charges he was about to make with reference to the treatment of the Irish prisoners, which, in all fairness, he ought to have done. His hon. Friends sitting near him were as ignorant of the occurrence of the alleged cruelties alluded to by the hon. Member as he was himself. He could not say how far these allegations were true; but if he judged them by the statements of Irish prisoners in this country he should not have much faith in them. Had the hon. Member, instead of dealing with special eases, opened the question as to the proper treatment of political prisoners generally, he should have felt pleasure in dealing with the subject, but, owing to the course adopted by the hon. Member, he was precluded from doing so on the pre- sent occasion. It was no pleasure to him to contradict the statements of the prisoners as to the effects of imprisonment upon their health, because undoubtedly the many humiliations they had to endure would necessarily have a greater effect upon their minds than upon the minds of those habituated to crime. He might, however, remind the House that, fortunately for England, we had been so far blessed that it had been unnecessary for us to make those special provisions for political prisoners that were required in other countries. In this country it was only in the case of the most reckless resistance to authority that the aid of the law was called in. If the law were administered in all its strictness there would be no difficulty in bringing under justice numbers of men who spoke against the Constitution under which we lived, and who urged their fellow-countrymen to acts of violence; but it was only in such cases as those which had occurred during the Fenian insurrection that the law was put in force. With regard to those who had been convicted and who were now undergoing imprisonment, the sentence which had been imposed upon them was that generally imposed upon felons, England having but one punishment for both classes of offenders. He admitted that such a punishment must fall with great severity upon political prisoners; but in the great majority of instances it was their resistance to the prison authorities that caused their most aggravated sufferings. Therefore, it was to themselves, and not to the law, that their principal sufferings were due. He would take the case of Burke as an example. Burke was the man who attempted to escape from Clerken-well Prison at the risk of the lives of from fifty to eighty of his fellow-prisoners, who had in no way offended him. It would be recollected that at a given signal Burke was to have sheltered himself behind a buttress in the prison yard while the gunpowder was ignited that was to blow down the prison wall, to the imminent danger to the lives of the eighty prisoners who were exercising in it. Such a man as that could scarcely j be regarded as a mere political prisoner; and yet having determined to endure his imprisonment like a man, he had conducted himself in such a manner that he had never suffered a single extra punishment. With regard to the case of Lynch, who the hon. Member had stated had died of consumption in Millbank Prison in consequence of being deprived of his flannels, inquiries had been made into the circumstances by three competent authorities at the instance of the late Government. Of those three gentlemen, one was Mr. Knox, the well-known magistrate, who was irremovable by the Crown, and another was Mr. Pollock, the eminent surgeon, upon whom it was impossible for the Government to exercise any undue influence. In their Report those gentlemen say— It is stated in the extract from the Irishman newspaper furnished to us that Lynch caught cold at Pentonville, and died from the loss of his flannels. Lynch was received at Pentonville on the 16th of January, 1866. By a reference to the daily record of the temperature of the prison, it is seen that on that day the maximum was 65 deg., day; the minimum, 57 deg., night; and at no subsequent date of that winter was the minimum temperature of the cells at night, when the prisoners were in bed, lower than 53 deg.—a temperature so very satisfactory and sufficient, that with the clothing each convict was supplied there can be no truth that Lynch's subsequent illness was dependent on cold caught from his treatment at Pentonville. Lynch made no complaint to the medical officer of feeling the cold or of the want of flannels. When a prisoner is received at Pentonville he is stripped to be examined, and, as already described, each convict was supplied with new clothing of the usual character. The supply of extra flannels was at the discretion and by the order of the medical officer. In this instance it was on his own judgment, and not at the request of the prisoner, that the latter was supplied with flannels But, irrespective of this point, Dr. Bradley's notes confirm the evidence given by Lynch himself, that he was the subject of cough on admission, and it is also evident by Lynch's statement to Dr. Campbell at Working, that long previous to his conviction he had had cough and spitting of blood. Such a history of a case satisfies us that disease of the lungs existed previous to his conviction, and that Lynch died from the effects of that disease, commonly known as consumption, and that the treatment he received in prison had no share in its production. As to the general appearance of the Fenian prisoners, the two gentlemen he had named reported that they were robust, strong, healthy-looking men, and that there was no case of illness existing among them. It had been said that they had been subjected to solitary confinement, but the fact was that, being political prisoners, they were subjected to less than the ordinary amount of this preliminary discipline. The House would recollect the very remarkable statement made a short time ago in that House relative to the treatment of O'Donovan Rossa—namely, that he was handcuffed for thirty-five days with his hands behind his back, that his only food was gruel, and that he was compelled to eat this on all fours—although how he could do this with his hands behind his back he could not understand—and that his beard was encrusted with the gruel. It was said that the prisoner's statements to this effect were made in the presence of the Deputy Governor and not contradicted by him. The Deputy Governor of Chatham, who had since been promoted to Portsmouth, declared that he heard every word of the prisoner's statement, and that he did not say one word about this imprisonment or these cruelties. Two or three days ago the hon. Member gave him notice that he intended to controvert the statements he had made on this subject. He applied to the hon. Gentleman for the name of his informant, but he declined to give it. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: I had no permission to give the name.] He gathered from the statement of the hon. Gentleman that his informant was a warder who had been dismissed; but if he had supplied his name he could have made inquiries as to the reasons for his dismissal, and whether his testimony could safely be received. At all events, he had left the establishment. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: I know nothing about it.] He presumed he must have left the establishment in November, as the circumstances to which he spoke occurred between June and November, 1868. It certainly would have been more satisfactory if the hon. Gentleman had given him an opportunity of inquiring into the character of his witness. He, on the contrary, believed, in preference, the testimony of the Governor and Deputy Governor, who stated that after the horrible assault, which he had on a former occasion described, the hands of O'Donovan Rossa were manacled behind his back for half-a-day. They were manacled in front for some days; but when the manacles were taken off, he took advantage of the temporary absence of the warder to wrench off the handle of his cell and to break every article of furniture within his reach. It ought also to be recollected that the man had been guilty over and over again of daring outrages against the prison officials. Owing, however, to the lenity which had been shown him he was now one of the best conducted of prisoners. He could not see what advantage could accrue from agreeing to the Motion of the hon. Member. No such inquiry was necessary in England. The untried prisoners were allowed to wear their ordinary dress, and were maintained by their friends if they preferred it. As to the class of prisoners who were apprehended under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, they ought to be treated as nearly as possible like untried prisoners. Sufficient security ought to be taken for their safe detention; but it was quite possible that in some of the gaols in Ireland some hardships were unavoidably imposed on them. If, however, the allegations of the hon. Gentleman as to their treatment were true, no inquiry by that House was needed to induce the Government to interfere. A question arose whether any distinction should be made between political prisoners and others. If they were a known class in this country it might be necessary to arrange their prison treatment so as to fit it to the precise character of the offences with which they were charged. Political offenders were, however, men of very different character, and their punishments could not be identical. There were, no doubt, great distinctions between the Fenian prisoners, but there had been necessarily a uniformity of punishment, mitigated to a certain extent, but not in a manner especially designed for political prisoners. With regard to the labour imposed upon them the House had the statement of the two gentlemen deputed to inquire into the subject, and the accuracy of which he could confirm. They stated that the out-door work given to them to perform was not laborious or harassing, and that so far from being injurious to health it was the very reverse. The House would have to consider what punishment should be inflicted on such prisoners. Though penal servitude could not be prolonged beyond many years without danger to health and life, yet within certain limits it was comparatively a lenient sentence. It involved labour, undoubtedly, but a life of labour was better than a life of inactivity. In his opinion these prisoners should not be subject to anything unnecessarily humiliating or degrading; but they should not be exempt from labour. The directors of prisons had the power of relieving, in some respects, from the strict prison rules prisoners of a naturally irritable nature, on whom the strict rules might produce mischievous or dangerous results. This mitigation of the prison rules had been extended to the Fenian prisoners. They had been relieved from certain duties, venial offences had been overlooked as much as possible; they had been separated from other prisoners, and every indulgence consistent with the proper observance of obedience to orders in the performance of the labour allotted to them had been allowed. But the offences of the Fenian prisoners were, after all, very serious. They showed themselves to be men who were ready to plunge their country in bloodshed. Though he was not an advocate for unnecessary or severe punishment, nevertheless he could not assent to those offences being overlooked on the ground of the past misgovernment of Ireland. For the last fifty or sixty years, at all events, the Government of this country was engaged, perhaps slowly, but certainly slowly and steadily, in the work of remedying the wrongs of the past. He, therefore, thought the moment was very ill chosen when those misguided men rose in arms against their Sovereign. The law, then, had nothing to do but to impose on them a severe sentence. It had been observed by Edmund Burke that the reason why civil war in England was less sanguinary than in other countries was, because the conquerors always spared the humble and the low. It was upon that principle that the Government had acted in dealing with the Fenian prisoners, and had been happy to extend mercy to those who had sufficiently expiated their offence. This leniency had not been thrown away upon those who had been the objects of it, with the exception only, he believed, of two men—Americans, if not by birth, at any rate by naturalization. Those only had been retained in confinement who, from their character, could not be liberated without danger. With respect to the future of the prisoners he was prepared to recommend the extension to them of the utmost consideration consistent with the execution of the sentences passed on them. And he thought it might be possible to legislate on the subject with a view of giving to the Judge who tried political prisoners the power of distinguishing between crimes of great magnitude and those of a less heinous character, and of passing other sentences than the uniform one of penal servitude. The subject should have the best consideration of the Government, who had no vindictive feeling in this matter, but only desired to see their punishment such as would act as a warning against others repeating these offences. He hoped the time might come when these subjects should cease to be discussed in that House; when, by a system of just and generous treatment of the people of Ireland, we might revert to that proud position this country had once occupied, when no prison in the United Kingdom contained one political prisoner.


reminded the Government that every one of those Fenian prisoners cost the nation as much as three able-bodied seamen, and that their best policy would be to encourage the loyal men who were at home, and to urge the disloyal men to leave the country.


said, he wished to say a few words with reference to the treatment of the prisoners, which he thought had been exaggerated. He had conversed with O'Donovan Rossa in Chatham Prison, in presence of the Deputy Governor of the gaol, who deserved all that had been said of him by the right hon. Gentleman. He had unlimited license to put any questions to the prisoner he pleased. O'Donovan Rossa did not make to him the complaint put forward in the Irishman, as to being obliged to lap his food with his hands bound behind him. He did complain of the insufficiency and quality of his food, and that the reports of his complaints were not written down from his own words and afterwards read over to him, and of his letters being suppressed. He (Mr. Downing) asked if he was guilty of the single charge imputed to him. The reply was he had been, and cried because of that very offence. He looked in good health, there appeared to be no foundation for the statement that he was attenuated or in bad health. He was suffering from nothing, he said, but a pain in his back. It was said that O'Donovan Rossa was a violent-tempered man, but he (Mr. Downing) knew him for many years before his conviction, and could affirm that he was not turbulent, quarrelsome, or ill-tempered. He had also had an interview with Burke, who was deserving of kindly treatment. He, too, complained of the quantity and quality of his food. He was anxious to make this statement because it was supposed he had communicated to a weekly journal in London a statement relative to the treatment of the prisoners; but he had made no such statement either to a weekly or any other journal. Still, he thought the treatment of the prisoners in the different gaols was exceedingly and unnecessarily harsh, and Government would do right to adopt the first Resolution and appoint a Commission of Inquiry into the treatment of the prisoners. The prisoner Burke, it was said, had been engaged in a conspiracy which would have sacrificed the lives of some eighty persons; but, although a felon and a convict, he appeared to be a man of a high sense of honour. ["Oh, oh!"] Many honourable men were ready to enter into a conspiracy, and he believed that conspiracy had done a vast deal of good for Ireland. He had no sympathy with the objects of the Fenians. He had received from them opposition, and had always raised his voice against them. But he must say the wrongs and wants of Ireland would not perhaps have been listened to but for the course taken by these very men. ["Oh, oh!"] He was addressing his countrymen through the Press. It was necessary that what was said in that House should be read by the people of Ireland. It had been admitted even by Cabinet Ministers that but for the Fenian agitation that House would not have listened as it had to the claims of Ireland. He admitted that the Fenian prisoners had done incalculable injury to the country— they had stopped the progress of trade and commerce; but yet it must be said for them that feeling the sufferings of their country, they had the courage to act upon their convictions. He trusted the Government would grant an inquiry.


, in reply to the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that he had brought forward a number of individual cases of which he had given no previous notice, said, he had only mentioned one case which did not rest on public authority accessible to every one. That was the case of Lynch, with which the right hon. Gentleman was himself acquainted. With regard to the Resolutions, what he prin- cipally wanted was a public inquiry into these matters, and upon that he should divide.


said, he had not expected from the terms of the Motion to he called upon to address the House; hut, in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), he would say a few words. That hon. Gentleman had said that the prosecutions by the Law Officers in Ireland had been habitually unfair. To that statement he gave the most indignant denial. If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the evidence given at the prosecutions conducted by his successors, he would find they were as fair as those conducted by himself. The hon. Gentleman had thrown out a bait to catch him, but it would not do; he would defend his successors in Office as he would defend himself. What did the hon. Member say? That domiciliary visits had been paid; that floors had been torn up, and boxes examined. But had the hon. Gentleman realized the situation of Ireland in the autumn of 1865? The Government then, from information of undoubted authority, came to the conclusion that a wide-spread conspiracy against the Crown of this country was on foot, and that being so, was it not the duty of the Law Officers to try to discover it? On evidence of the clearest and most undoubted character, the Executive of the day proceeded to seize the Irish People newspaper, to arrest the staff and examine their homes, and what did they discover? The most irrefragable proof of the most wide-spread and traitorous conspiracy ever levelled at the Government of a country. He, with the Attorney General, prosecuted the prisoners, and who alleged that they did not get a fair trial? Not one of them. On the contrary, the main conspirator, in the face of the public, said—"I have got a fair trial." Therefore, he would ask the hon. Gentleman how dared he assert in that House that the prosecutions were unfair? It was the misfortune of men in the hon. Gentleman's position to try to make capital out of such things; but the man who did that was not a true friend of Ireland, but pandered to the vicious passions of those who, when convicted of offences against the law, fretted and fumed because the law was able to master them. What did the hon. Member say to-night? That the Fenians were our masters. He denied that the law, firmly administered by the Government of which he was a Member, and administered with equal firmness by the Government which succeeded—he was a party man, and he had watched the prosecutions conducted by the late Government, and he could say that the law was justly administered by them—he denied that the law was unable to cope with the Fenians. And were they to be told on the 29th of June, 1869, that the Fenians were our masters? Little as he expected to hear that, still less did he expect that the hon. Member should rake up against Mr. Justice Keogh an exploded story, of 1853, about certain words which he was said to have made use of in the West of Ireland. That charge was made the subject of investigation in the House of Lords, and the learned Judge gave it the most indignant denial. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: Never!] He repeated that Mr. Justice Keogh had given an indignant denial to the story. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: No!] Was it fair, then, after sixteen years, to rake up these things? The hon. Member had assailed the present Solicitor General for Ireland; he had assailed the former Attorney General, Mr. Justice Lawson; he had many things to say against absent men, but he had not said a word against him who was there to defend himself. He would not have risen to say a word were it not for the strong language which the hon. Gentleman had used to English ears. He could not sit still and listen to that. He believed he had acted fairly himself, that his successors had acted fairly, and that the law had been fairly, justly, and mercifully administered.


said, that the question was not whether the conduct of the Judge or the Crown Officers had been to blame; but whether the treatment of the prisoners had been such as, in the words of the Home Secretary, would be impossible in England. He hoped the Government would enter upon a humane, generous, and merciful policy towards the Fenian prisoners.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 171: Majority 140.


rose to move the second Resolution, and availed himself of the opportunity to deny that he had made any accusation against the Attorney General for Ireland personally. He had made the charge against all who were concerned in the matter equally. He indignantly repudiated the suggestion that he was attempting to make political or any other capital out of the subject. He begged to move the second Resolution.


said, it was unlikely that after the first Resolution asking for inquiry had been negatived, the second, which was only a consequence, would be carried. The question now was what was the amount of punishment already endured by the political prisoners, and what was the feeling entertained in Ireland as to their further confinement or release. He rose, therefore, to express what he knew to be the feelings of a large portion of the large constituency he had the honour of representing. Now there was a very strong and general feeling among his constituents in favour of the release of the remaining prisoners. This feeling was not confined to those who, though not belonging to the Fenian movement, felt sympathy with their motives and objects; but it was equally entertained by those who had no sympathy whatever with them, and who, in fact, believed that the movement had done much injury to the country. There were, no doubt, a certain class in favour of continued punishment, but they were comparatively few; while the great majority of moderate people were in favour of clemency, and held the opinions that enough had been done to vindicate the law; that the prisoners still detained had suffered as much as they ought to suffer, and that their release would be an act of mercy and wisdom. He was convinced that this would be a safe course, for no evil has arisen from the clemency already extended; for although one or two released persons had abused the leniency of the Government, they were Americans. It was the policy now being pursued towards Ireland that would strike the deadliest blow to the Fenian movement; and if it were persevered in there need be no further fear of any revolutionary attempts. He would repeat that it was the general feeling and opinion of the country that the political prisoners had suffered sufficiently for their offence, and that no real danger would result to the public peace from the liberation of those still in prison.


said, he could endorse the statement of his hon. Colleague (Mr. Maguire) as to the feeling in Cork and Ireland generally in this matter. He regretted that the division had not been favourable to the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), for he believed that a public inquiry would remove an erroneous idea which obtained in Ireland with respect to the treatment of the Fenian prisoners.

Motion made, and Question, That Her Majesty's Government should inquire how far political offenders should be regarded as a separate class, and how far the severity of the punishment to which the political convicts in our Prisons have been already subjected may be regarded as reasonable grounds for a favourable consideration in their case,"— (Mr. George Moore,) —put, and negatived.