HC Deb 17 March 1870 vol 200 cc81-127

I rise with very deep regret, but without doubt or hesitation, to perform a duty, the imperative necessity of which must have been felt by all who sit on this Bench, and I may say by none more keenly than by myself—a duty which nothing but that necessity would have induced us to undertake. The duty is that of proposing to the House a measure for the more effectual maintenance of Life, and, above all, of property, in Ireland. [Laughter.] I see I have occasioned hon. Members some hilarity. Of course, what I meant to say was that it was our imperative duty to take more effectual means to preserve both life and property in Ireland; and when come to explain the provisions of the Bill and to state fully the circumstances under which we propose it, I think the House will thoroughly understand the position in which we are placed and the motives by which we are actuated. Before proceed to describe the provisions of the Bill, it is of course necessary that I should state the general condition of Ireland, in respect of crime, and especially of agrarian crime, which has imposed upon Government the duty I have now to perform on their behalf. We all know that during the last year, and for some months before, there has been in Ireland—not in all parts of it, but in particular districts—an outbreak, not of general but of agrarian crime, such as was not, indeed, unknown in former times, but the equal of which we, happily, have not seen during recent years. The state of the case is this— In 1866 agrarian crime in Ireland had reached its minimum. I believe there has been no year in Irish history in which agrarian crime was at so low an ebb as it was in 1866; and this is the more remarkable, because in other respects Ireland was not in a peaceful or satisfactory condition in that year; but, with respect to agrarian crime, to which I now confine myself, 1866 was the year in which the figures were the lowest. They increased somewhat in 1867 and 1868, and, indeed, the outbreak of agrarian crime with which we have now to deal dates from 1868. I may say it began in the early part of that year with the well-known and lamentable assassination of Mr. Featherston in the county of Meath; or, perhaps, it would be more correct to say that its commencement and source was the tragedy which took place in the county of Tipperary, at Ballycohey, and which was one of the most remarkable agrarian outrages that ever occurred in Ireland, and one whose effects extend to the present time. By the admissions of all parties there was unhappily in that case a very exceptional and excessive exercise of the rights of property, and the result was an outrage which, after all has been said that can be pleaded in extenuation, cannot for a moment be palliated or excused, but which had an effect upon the mind of the public of all classes, both for good, and for evil, with which all who are acquainted with the history of crime in Ireland are familiar. From its occurrence until now the name of Bally- cohey has been used over and over again in most of those missives, threatening letters, notices, and denunciations which have disgraced and disquieted the country. Beginning with that crime, which was unfortunately committed with impunity, as other crimes have been committed since, in spite of the best efforts of the Government of that day, as others have been committed in spite of the best efforts of the present Government—from that day agrarian murders and attempts to murder have occurred, not, indeed, to the extent or number which some statements have represented, but still to a very formidable number. In the month of December, 1868, there were two attempts to murder in the county of Meath, and the escape of the intended victims was merely accidental. One was the case of Mr. Rotherham, and the other that of Mr. Nicholson. At the end of that month there was a successful murder —that of Mr. Baker, in Tipperary. In 1869, according to the police returns, eight agrarian murders were committed. I am bound to add that there was one other murder in that year, which though not literally speaking an agrarian murder, was produced by the same causes as agrarian murders, and originated with the Ribbon conspiracy—I mean the murder of Mr. Anketell, the station-master at Mullingar. This makes nine murders committed in 1869; and in addition there were sixteen cases of firing at the person, many, though not all, of which were nothing less than attempts to murder, which providentially failed. The serious fact in respect of these murders and attempts to murder is this—that there have been only two cases in which any prisoner has been put upon his trial. One was the case of the murder of Mr. Tracey, in the county of Tipperary, and there was a trial which resulted in acquittal. The other was the case of the attempt to murder Captain Lambert, for which Barrett has been twice tried without either jury agreeing upon a verdict. In the month of January, 1870, there was no agrarian murder, properly so called; but there was the murder of a man named Walsh, a dealer in eggs and other things, in the West of Ireland, which in its character could scarcely be distinguished from an agrarian murder; and there was also a case of firing at the person in the county of Mayo. In the month of February there was one very lamentable murder, which to all appearances was connected with the possession of land, although it was not a matter of conspiracy, but was one of individual vengeance; in order to state the matter fully and completely, I am bound to mention this case, in which the man was shot through the window of his own house in the county of Westmeath. In reference to the whole number of all descriptions of agrarian outrages the figures were these—In 1866, the number was only eighty-seven; in 1867, there were 123; in 1868, 160; and in 1869, I grieve to say, 767. [Mr. CONOLLY: Does that include threatening letters?] Yes. In the earlier months of 1869, the agrarian crimes, including everything, great and small, some very serious and others trifling, were not large in number; but in November of that year there were 144 offences; in December, there were 337; in January of the present year, there were 267 showing a diminution; in February there were 271. But, Sir, I should state explicitly that these figures include crimes differing from each other very much, and that a vast majority of them consisted of threatening letters and notices, which, though not by any means to be despised, and though a bad symptom of the social condition of the community, yet are not always of great importance. At all events, it is necessary to distinguish threatening letters and notices from more violent crimes, which have in former years been much greater in number than they are now. Of the 767 agrarian offences in 1869, twenty-six were aggravated assaults, eighteen were incendiary fires, six were firing into dwelling-houses, 171 were the administering of unlawful oaths by force— a very serious and dangerous offence— and 480 were cases of threatening letters and notices. Again, taking the two months of the present year, in January, of 267 agrarian offences reported by the police, 244 were cases of threatening letters and notices; and in February there were 233 of such cases out of a total of 271. I may say that all cases of threatening letters, in whatever form, whether they were notices posted on a man's door, or upon some public place, or addressed to him, are, as far as we can ascertain, sent to the Castle, and are included in these Returns. It is right hon. Members should know that the vast majority of these agrarian offences is made up of cases of threatening letters and notices, and also that they should have the means of comparing the extent of crime thus shown with that which existed in former years, in order that they may not fall into unreasonable panic nor despair of the future. Former Governments have been obliged unwillingly to tolerate amounts of crime far greater than that which we have been unable to prevent. I will not go back to those years which show a prodigious, and I must say an awful amount of crime, both agrarian and of other descriptions, but I will begin with the year 1847. I have to state, however, that the number of agrarian offences committed in 1869, taking them of all descriptions, is a number greater than that of any former year since 1852. In that year the number was 907. In 1852 the number of homicidal offences, either effected or attempted, was about the same as in 1869; but it is curious to mark a comparison between other kinds of offences committed in these two years. Offences of great violence, such as dangerous assaults, firing dwellings, and so on, were considerably fewer in 1869 than in 1852. On the other hand, cases of intimidation, of administering unlawful oaths, and of sending threatening letters, were more numerous in 1869 than in 1852. It is, as far as it goes, some consolation to me that I have not so awful a catalogue of crime to narrate as that which was detailed to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) when, in 1847, as Secretary of State for the Home Department, he introduced the Crime and Outrage Bill. The crime which he had then to describe was of the most formidable character, and, without detaining the House by going into particulars, I may give some idea of it by mentioning that during the six months ending in October, 1847, there had been committed ninety-six homicides of all kinds, there had been 126 cases of firing at the person, and 116 cases of firing at dwellings, and that during the single month of October, 1847 — the time when my right hon. Friend introduced his measure—there were committed nineteen homicides, and there were thirty-two cases of firing at the person, twenty-six cases of firing at dwellings, and 118 robberies of fire- arms. That catalogue included crimes of all kinds; whereas, on the present occasion, we have specially to deal with agrarian crime. There was also at that time a state, of general crime, far beyond, I am happy to say, anything that has occurred in Ireland, either in the last or in many previous years; indeed, crimes other than agrarian have not increased, but have remained, I am happy to say, at the same low figure at which they have stood for a considerable number of years. Comparing 1847 and 1869, I find that agrarian crimes stand as follows:— In 1847 there were 620 agrarian crimes, and in 1869 there were 767; but in 1847 the crimes of great violence and atrocity were far more numerous, for there were sixteen homicides against eight in 1869, and thirty-five cases of firing at the person in 1847, against sixteen in 1869. On the other hand, the cases of intimidation were more numerous in 1869 than in 1847. I may be asked why, under these circumstances, the Government think it their duty to propose special legislation for the repression of agrarian crimes in Ireland beyond what was proposed in 1847, and that is a question which I desire to answer. I have no doubt that those who live in the disturbed districts of Ireland, and suffer from this state of things would answer it in a very summary manner, for they call upon the Government to put an end to the intolerable system of intimidation which exists in those districts. But, speaking for ourselves, the case stands thus—in the first place, in respect to agrarian crimes the comparison is not favourable to the year 1869. Again, it is very evident that our standard has risen since 1847, and that we are not prepared to endure or submit to a state of crime in 1870 which was considered inevitable in 1847. Again, a Crime and Outrage Act was passed in 1847; and although there is no doubt that that Act must have had, and actually had, a good effect in checking crime in Ireland, yet it must be remembered that it was not so effectual as to prevent the continuance and even the increase of crime in that country during the next two or three years. Again, for the most part, though not altogether, we have during 1869 possessed and exercised most of the powers conferred by that Act, but, nevertheless, they have not sufficed to prevent the continuance and even the growth of crime. There is also this important circumstance to be considered, that in the disturbed districts of Ireland at the present time, intimidation and terrorism — though not accompanied by acts of violence and atrocity so great or so numerous as in former years — are as general and deep-seated and as effectual as ever. The Government feel that, under these circumstances — putting aside all question of comparison, and taking the actual amount of crime prevailing in Ireland — it is their imperative duty, after having done all that a Government could do with the means at their command to check and repress these crimes, not, I am bound to say, without a certain amount of success, but not with any satisfactory result — they feel it to be their duty, under these circumstances, to ask Parliament for further powers. The main characteristic of the disturbed districts of Ireland at the present time is the existence of a dangerous and formidable system of intimidation and terrorism — and that is a point to which the provisions of this Bill are chiefly directed; because that state of intimidation operates so as to make it almost impossible to obtain evidence for the conviction of any criminal, and tends to the spread of crime of every kind, not only in the disturbed districts themselves, but in other districts. The House ought to have some idea of the nature and extent of this terrorism, with which I am but too familiar, because I read cases of it every morning in the records of the police reports. I will give a few, and only a few, extracts from the reports of this month. In Mayo, a police officer hearing that a stack was on fire, went to the spot and found a stack of hay and some oats burning. The windows of the house had been broken and the house wrecked; and the damage was estimated at £166. The following is another police report, dated Ballina, March 12, 1870:— About one o'clock in the morning of the 11th instant, a body of ten or twelve men visited the houses of some herds, whom they swore to give up their herdings or they would be shot, and informed them that they would be 'looked after,' one of them saying he was Rory of the Hills from Tipperary. They fired a shot on leaving each house. The herds were reluctant in giving information, and say they could not identify any of the parties. One of them has given up his herding in consequence. As the others have not done so, the constabulary have been directed to patrol the place by night in plain clothes and with revolvers. In respect to the county of Westmeath, the police report, dated Mullingar, February 28, 1870, states— On Saturday night last, about half-past eight o'clock, Joseph Lynch, servant boy to a miller at Kilpatrick, was returning from Mullingar to his master's house; when about half a quarter of a mile from the town a man crossed him on the road, desired him to go on his knees, and fired a shot across his face. A second man then came up and fired a shot into him, a ball or slug taking effect and passing through his thigh. A third man then came up, and they all three set to work to beat and kick him. They then left him, He says there were more in it, but he could not say how many. He managed to crawl on to Leonard's house, which is not far off. They would not keep him in it through fear; but Leonard helped him on towards the town to the house of a man living near the railway. Here he showed his wounds, and the woman dressed the wound on his head, He slept in the house, and next morning was able to walk home with the help of a stick. The wound is not dangerous, being through the fleshy part of the thigh. Lynch can give no description of the men, nor did he, Leonard, or Hope, in whose house he had slept, give any information to the police. The last extract from a police report, which I shall read, shows the enormous difficulty of obtaining evidence. It is dated Mullingar, February 23, 1870, and states— A most respectable farmer, named Michael Kerrigan, was shot last night about ten o'clock in his own house, at Johnstown near Donna. He was hit in the neck, the slugs injuring the spine; he now lies in a hopeless state. (A subsequent report announces his death.) I immediately proceeded to the spot. Kerrigan was hardly able to speak, and refused to make any declaration, although he knew he was dying, and had no hope of recovery. Kerrigan was a man of exemplary character, the sole support of an aged father and mother. The inmates of the house consisted of these and a nephew, a young lad of about twenty, who had been in America, and had returned. The unfortunate victim was an exemplary Roman Catholic, and at the time had been reading a religious book to his family. He stood up to settle his bed, when he received the contents of a gun through the window. The assassin must have been well acquainted with Kerrigan's habits and the plan of the house, for the shot was fired through the small square window, and just at the moment when Kerrigan stood up. These extracts, which are mere specimens, will show to the House that those murders and murderous outrages, if not so numerous as in former years, are especially lamentable in this respect, that the system of intimidation which prevails prevents us from bringing offenders to justice. The House can have little idea of the difficulties which beset the police and the Executive in this matter. I may say, with all sin- cerity, that no efforts and no exertions have been spared by the Government to meet the state of thing prevailing in the disturbed districts. I venture to say that no Government, and no constabulary force could have made greater exertions for that object during the past autumn and winter than we have. We sent our best officers to the most dangerous quarters; we have augmented the police force as far as possible; we have largely reinforced the police in the worst districts by numerous detachments of troops, who are now engaged, and I believe not without effect, in moving about those districts and patrolling the roads. Further, wherever circumstances seemed to demand it, we have sent parties of extra police to the scene of the outrage, and charged the expenses on a small area, generally consisting of a few townlands. With regard to the investigation of crime, Law Officers, as able and efficient as any Government ever possessed, and able Crown Solicitors acting under those Law Officers, have spared no pains to make inquiries as searching as possible. Those efforts have resulted in only very partial success. The amount of success that has been obtained is as unsatisfactory to the Government as it can possibly be to the House and the country. I know what has been said of the constabulary. It has been said that, however good they are as a military force, they have shown themselves deficient as a detective force. I am not surprised at that observation being often repeated; but I am bound to say that I believe allowance enough is not made by this House and the country for the enormous difficulties which, under the present circumstances, beset the Irish constabulary. I should like to give the House an idea of what those difficulties are, not from any constabulary authority, but from a gentleman entirely unconnected with that force. He is Crown Solicitor in one of the most important counties, and he writes in these terms— In most parts of Ireland, and particularly in Tipperary, persona giving evidence are branded as informers, and are shunned by the country people, and even by their former friends; in fact, they lose caste, and their lives become endangered; and the same feeling is extended to their relatives. Previous to 1866 agrarian crimes had, to a great extent, disappeared in Tipperary, where a very good feeling was growing up between landlord and tenant, the latter of whom, as a rule, held their farms at moderate rents, and were becoming industrious and wealthy; but Fenianism, to some extent, unsettled the minds of the poorer class, and encouraged a resort to violence where any bad feeling existed, and it has certainly greatly increased the dread of giving evidence. People are, latterly, more averse than ever to give the slightest assistance to the authorities in discovering crime. They will not even discuss the circumstances which may have led to the outrage, and will profess ignorance of collateral facts notoriously within their knowledge, and, I regret to say, make little difficulty about perjuring themselves rather than appear as witnesses, and when induced to make an information, it is often extremely difficult to get them to adhere to it when placed in the witness box. I have known a man swear an information which I knew from other sources to be perfectly true; and I have seen him afterwards come to the table and swear that every word in it was false; and the cases in which witnesses endeavour to give a colouring to their evidence favourable to the accused are very numerous. Within the last three months a man named Magrath was murdered near Cashel, and one Jeremiah Dwyer was accused of the murder. A man named Jerry Ryan saw the accused near the place about the time the murder was committed, and talked of having so seen him to some neighbours, from whom a knowledge of the circumstance reached the constabulary, who had Ryan brought before the Hon. Martin J. Ffrench, to whom he denied having seen or stated that he saw the accused. Mr. Ffrench, knowing this statement to be false, committed him to the Bridewell in Cashel, in the hope that he might be induced to tell what he knew, but he was only a few hours in the Bridewell when he hanged himself, rather than what is called 'disgrace his family' by giving evidence. That statement will illustrate to the House the enormous difficulties under which the police labour in this matter of detection. They can gain no clue from anyone in the country. It has been found that men who distinguished themselves as detectives in the large towns of Ireland, when transferred to the rural districts, utterly failed to get such information as could be acted on in a court of justice. But I am far from saying that the detective portion of the constabulary is in a state that does not not admit of improvement. On the contrary, the Government have felt it necessary to take measures with a view of improving it. We have formed for the first time a special detective department in the constabulary force, presided over by an officer specially selected for his capacity in this line, to whom great discretion has been given in the choice of his men, and who has done, and is doing, very valuable service in this respect. The House will see that it would not be my duty to describe what exactly is being done by those detectives; but I may assure hon. Members that a great deal more is done then the public generally suppose. Though it is true, as I have already said, that, in very many cases, those detective officers cannot obtain evidence sufficient to convict the guilty parties in a court of justice, I must remind the House that bringing culprits to justice is not the only function which the constabulary detectives perform. Because, although their information is very often short on this point, they constantly afford the Government information sufficient to enable us to protect life and property in those disturbed districts to a degree of which the House is little aware. If I were to state to the House the number of cases in which, very often from information obtained through them, we have been able to protect the lives of individuals who have been threatened in the worst districts in Ireland, the House would be surprised at the length of the catalogue. It is impossible to prove that which has been prevented; but the House may be assured that however scanty the positive results of the constabulary inquiries may have been in the way of making criminals amenable to the law, yet a large amount of work has been done, which I know to be so important and meritorious, that I feel bound to protest in this House against any want of appreciation of the services rendered by the force. Such, then, as I have described, has been, I grieve to say, the state of things during the last few months in several counties of Ireland— namely, in the counties of Meath, Westmeath, and Mayo. At the present moment, of those three counties, undoubtedly the state of Mayo is the worst. I do not know that I can do better than read to the House a few sentences from the Charge of a learned Judge who has just presided over the Assizes at Mayo, which give a very lively idea of the state of that county. After lamenting the change that had occurred since the last Assizes, he uses these words— The county inspector's return disclosed another dangerous system which prevailed among the most primitive sections of the people. Large bodies of men assembled at night in parties numbering from 100 to 200, who went visiting the houses of the farmers, administering oaths, taking arms, and extorting money. There were thirty-five cases of that description reported by the county inspector. In one case thirty persons were sworn not to pay more than the valuation. Fifty men swore the labourers of a Mr. Kenny not to work for less than 1s. a day, and 'to be true to Ireland.' Another party came and fired shots, and warned the people not to pay toll at the market crane. They were also warned not to pay rent. Sums were levied from the people of 1s. and more in the pound. Of this class there were three cases. In all these cases the people declined to prosecute. They said these parties were unknown to them, but that the identity of all these persons was unknown appeared quite impossible. The persons so visited must have known some of them. Their refusal to identify or prosecute such persons should be ascribed to one of two causes—either they sympathized with the offence, or they were terrorized. Their sympathy might be with the refusal to pay a rent over the valuation, but their sympathy could scarcely be with persons who compelled them to pay money. He thought, in that case, the refusing or declining to prosecute could only be ascribed to the terrorism which prevailed in the county, and which cramped the administration of the law. The learned Judge then speaks of the number of instances in which those nocturnal visits have been paid. Now, Sir, though this system of intimidation and terrorism has not for the most part been attended by any very atrocious occurrences, it is interfering to a most serious degree with the peace and happiness of families, and with all the relations of life, not only between landlord and tenant, but between all other classes of the community. This state of things has been more or less going on during the winter. In the month of January, however, it appeared to the Government that the state of things was improving. No agrarian murder had been committed since October, and there appeared to be a lull in intimidation; threatening letters were on the decline, and we hoped that possibly they might cease. They had broken out in December very actively in the county of Sligo; but there they had not only declined, but almost come to an end. We met Parliament with the hope that by the most vigorous use of the means at our command under the ordinary law we might bring this state of things to an end. That hope, like some other hopes entertained by the framers of Queen's Speeches during the last few years, has not been realized, and we find that a state of lawlessness, both agrarian and seditious, still prevails in a considerable part of Ireland. As to the causes of that state of lawlessness it is not my business to say much. It is very difficult to account fully for these outbreaks of agrarian crime; but there can be no doubt that when they once begin they are propagated by the contagion of the crime itself, and by the impunity from punishment which unfor- tunately results from the difficulty of detection. Again, there can be no doubt they have been stimulated by the violence of much that has been spoken and written during the autumn and winter— sometimes so intended, and often not so intended—and in some degree, doubtless, they are due, unavoidably due, to the excitement attending those great legislative proposals which are now before Parliament relating to questions which so vitally affect the interests, the feelings, and the passions of the lower orders of the Irish population. That is a state of things which we are bound to meet, but beyond that there is a state of lawlessness which has been greatly caused by the co-existence of Fenianism in Ireland together with agrarian crime. Fenianism, as an organization, is very different from Ribbonism and other agrarian systems; but it would be a great mistake to suppose that the pressure and action of Fenianism has not had a great effect upon the whole state of crime and lawlessness in Ireland. Although it is not now showing itself above the surface, there can be no doubt that Fenianism is still active, and determined to avail itself of any opportunity to show itself in arms against the Imperial Government. Fenianism has everywhere in Ireland enormously increased the feeling of hostility to law and authority, even where no crimes are actually committed. I am happy to say that at this moment the South of Ireland is for the most part free from actual crime, yet even there Fenianism adds greatly to the state of terror and intimidation which impedes and almost destroys the operation of the law. My conviction is that the Bill which I am about to describe to the House will have a most valuable effect in Ireland in aiding the lawful authority, not only against agrarian crime in particular districts, but also against the machinations and efforts of the Fenian conspiracy, in whatever part of Ireland it may exist. Now, Sir, I will describe to the House, as briefly as I can, the main provisions of the Bill I am about to ask leave to introduce. The provisions of the Bill apply partly to districts which are proclaimed under what was originally called the Crime and Outrage Act, but which has of late years been called the Peace Preservation Act, and partly to districts which do not come within the scope of measure. With respect to the claimed districts, the first provision relates to the possession and the use of arms—a very important matter in Ireland at this time, both in relation to agrarian crime and to seditious conspiracies. Under the present law the holding of a game licence is of itself a sufficient authority for the possession of arms, and our first proposal is that there shall no longer be such an exemption. The Government knows that this exemption has been used in Ireland for very improper purposes, and that a man, however unfit for the posession of arms, by taking out a game licence becomes entirely free from the provisions of the Peace Preservation Act. It is now provided that the mere possession of a game licence, without an ordinary licence to possess arms, shall not exempt anyone from that Act. The next provision of the Bill relates to a species of dangerous weapon—the revolver—which was not invented until after the Peace Preservation Act was passed. Unhappily, the possession and use of the revolver are increasing every day among what may be called the dangerous classes in Ireland. The Government have reason to believe that extraordinary efforts are made to procure revolvers, and many cases have come before them in which the parties, whether Fenians or members of agrarian conspiracies, were armed with such weapons. We seek to enact that an ordinary licence for arms shall not be sufficient to permit the possession of a revolver; but that the resident magistrate—who is the licencing authority—shall issue a special one in regard to that weapon, and every person who wishes to have a revolver must convince the magistrate that he is a fit and proper person to be allowed to possess one. With respect to the punishment for the unlicenced possession of arms in a proclaimed district, we propose to revert to the original provisions of the Crime and Outrage Act, as it was introduced in 1847, which have been greatly mitigated since. These provisions were that the court should have power to adjudge two years' hard labour as a maximum punishment for that offence, which punishment has since been reduced to one year without hard labour. The real character and magnitude of cases of the unlicenced possession of arms in a proclaimed district vary considerably; some- times they are very trivial, but at other times they are of a very grave nature, the persons apprehended being palpably engaged in the prosecution of some unlawful business. The next point relates to the powers of the constabulary to search for unlicenced arms in proclaimed districts—a matter which is considered by the most experienced persons to be of vital importance. At present, a search for unlicenced arms can only be made during the daytime, and then under great restrictions. The Lord Lieutenant issues his warrant in every case of individual search; this warrant is got for a certain time, but when once executed it cannot be acted upon again. It is frequently essential that the search for arms in a disturbed district should be made promptly, and by the officers who are on the spot, and we therefore propose to enable resident magistrates and county inspectors to search for arms at any hour of the day or night, under a warrant which shall be in force for three months. That is a power which, together with the system of patrolling disturbed districts by both the military and police, we believe will have an important effect towards restoring order, for it must be evident that if the patrols have the right of visiting and entering the houses of suspected characters in such a district at any hour of the day or night, the efficiency of the patrolling will be1 very greatly increased. There is also a new power given to make the present law either more effective or more clear, for the purpose of searching for documents in the houses of persons suspected of writing threatening letters. Threatening letters, we know, have been and are now the curse of these disturbed districts. Sometimes such letters are insignificant; sometimes they are formidable, and they generally cause a vast amount of alarm and disquietude in the families which receive them. The difficulty of detecting and punishing the crime of writing a threatening letter has always been very great. It has always been found to be so. To facilitate their detection and punishment we propose that there shall be a power upon information sworn to search the house and premises of any suspected party for any documents containing his handwriting which may lead to the detection of the author of the threatening letter. The next point relates to arms and ammunition in proclaimed districts, and we provide that no arms and amunition shall be sold by dealers in proclaimed districts, except to persons who are licenced to carry arms, there being no such provision at present. Then there is a proposal with respect to witnesses, which, although it is entirety free from objection will not be found without importance. At present, as most of us know, if a witness examined upon the hearing of a case where some party is charged with an offence refuses to give evidence, or plainly evades the true performance of his duty as a witness, he may be committed by the examining magistrate. But that refers only to cases in which some one is actually charged with an offence. Well, Sir, in Ireland, and especially, of course, in those proclaimed districts, it frequently happens that an outrage has taken place, perhaps, that some one is greatly suspected, but that it is impossible, at the moment, to put anyone actually into the dock, and in these cases, although the magistrate may have the best reason to believe that certain witnesses can give most valuable evidence; yet, because there is no one actually charged, it is impossible for that magistrate to exercise that due control over the conduct of those witnesses which is exercised as a matter of course whenever anyone is actually in the dock. Such control and the power of punishing a witness for improper conduct may, we think, be given as properly in one case as in the other; and it is therefore proposed to empower magistrates to examine persons on oath, even when no person is charged before them with any offences, and to deal with any witness who may misconduct himself by refusing either to give evidence or to enter into recognizances for his future appearance, according to the law which at present applies to such cases. The last point under this head relates to the question of bail as regards prisoners charged with offences under the Peace Preservation Act. At present the magistrates have no power to refuse bail, and they are bound to accept it. We believe there are cases under those Acts in which it would be right that the magistrates should have a discretion, knowing as we do that the offences under those Acts vary widely, from something that is very trifling to something that is very serious. We, therefore, give the magistrates the power, which is possessed, in so many cases, of refusing bail if they choose to refuse it. The greater portion of these provisions in respect to the possession of, and the search for, arms will apply, for the most part, to offences whether of an agrarian or a seditions character. But there are other provisions of a more special and exceptional nature that we do not propose to apply to all the proclaimed districts, but only to districts which shall be specially proclaimed for the purposes of this Act by the Lord Lieutenant, as being in a state of serious disturbance; and I hope there may not be many such. And, first, we propose to provide that if the police, acting under the orders of a justice of the peace, shall find parties out in these proclaimed districts at night—the time during which almost all these acts of terrorism with which we have now to deal are committed—if they find parties out under these suspicious circumstances they shall have the right of arresting them, of bringing them before the magistrates in petty sessions, who shall examine them, the presence of a stipendiary magistrate at the hearing being in all cases required; and if the parties shall not be able to show good reasons for having been out at night on some lawful avocations, the magistrates shall have the discretionary power of imprisoning them for a period not exceeding six months. In these specially-proclaimed districts, of which alone I am now speaking, we also provide that the Lord Lieutenant, by his warrant, shall have power to close public-houses after sunset. We believe this will be a very valuable power to be possessed by the Executive in these disturbed districts. Some of the public-houses—of course only some— are well known to be the haunts and meeting places of those who disturb the peace, and commit acts of terrorism in such districts during the hours of darkness. The next power is one which formerly existed under the general law of the land, and which, with respect to these specially-proclaimed districts only, we propose to restore—namely, that of enabling justices of the peace to call before them strangers moving about the district under suspicious circumstances, who cannot give an account of their business, and who, as we all know in Ireland, very often have no good business to account for; and the magistrates will be enabled to require such strangers to enter into recognizances to keep the peace, or else be committed to gaol until they give security I for their good behaviour. That will be under the safeguard provided in the former law—namely, that whenever such a committal occurs, the committing magistrates shall be bound to report the whole nature and circumstances of the case to the Lord Lieutenant, on whose decision it will rest whether the prisoner shall be detained or set at large. The next provision is of some importance; it enables magistrates in petty sessions, in these specially-proclaimed districts—including in all cases the resident magistrate—to deal with certain offences of a limited character in a summary manner. Our belief is, that in many of those cases, which may be called police offences, it is better to provide a class of punishment which, although small in amount, shall be speedy and certain in its operation, than to trust to a heavier punishment that is remote and uncertain. Therefore, in those cases we propose to give the magistrates in petty sessions the option of either sending for trial as usual, at quarter sessions or assizes, persons guilty of offences under the Arms Act, or of dealing with them summarily by sentencing them to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months. These are cases in which there can hardly be any question to go before a jury, for they are generally those in which the police themselves were on the watch and have arrested the parties in the act, and there can scarcely be any doubt as to facts. The next point in respect to the speciallyproclaimed districts is one of much importance, and it is this — we propose that in those districts the Crown should have power, upon application to the Court of Queen's Bench, to change the venue for the trial of any offence committed in the district. This, of course, is not a power to be lightly used; but we believe it will have a very great effect on the state of crime and also of intimidation which at present prevails, because it is well known that among the people of a disturbed district, such as Mayo is now, what is commonly said and believed is this—that crime may be committed with impunity, because no Mayo jury will dare to convict. However that may be, it is of the utmost importance that we should show to intimidators that no amount of terrorism against jurors will be of any avail, because they will be liable to have the trial taken to a distant part of the country, where, while properly and impartially conducted, it will be free from all those undue influences. All the five provisions I have described apply not to districts ordinarily proclaimed, but to counties or parts of counties which shall be specially proclaimed for the purpose of this Act. Now, I go beyond the districts proclaimed, whether specially or generally, and come to the provisions, not numerous but important, which apply to all Ireland. The first of these relates to the sale of gunpowder and firearms. At present there are no restrictions whatever on the sale of gunpowder and firearms—a state of things scarcely consistent with what we know of the condition of Ireland, and one which we think ought not to be allowed to continue. We propose that a licence should be required for the sale of gunpowder and of firearms, and, further, that all dealers in them should make returns to the police of the number of their sales, the parties to whom they sell, and so on. The next point is a change of the general law that has been recommend by the Irish Law Officers, and which we introduce here—namely, a power to arrest absconding witnesses who have bound themselves to prosecute, but who either have absconded or are about to abscond. It has long been thought there ought to be a power to arrest such persons and prevent them from breaking their recognizances. The next provision is of some importance and interest. We propose to give to grand juries—and several grand juries have asked for it — the power to present and levy compensation upon such parts of the county as they may choose, on behalf of parties who have sustained personal injuries by agrarian outrages, or on behalf of the representatives and families of murdered persons. It is well known that powers are already possessed and are frequently exercised by Irish grand juries of an analogous kind in analogous cases. They possess power to give compensation in cases of malicious injury to property, and they also have a power, which I believe has been seldom exercised, of giving compensation to witnesses or jurors who have been injured in the execution of their duty. But we propose, in regard to persons who have been murdered or injured through agrarian crime or as the result of illegal combination and conspiracy, to give the grand jury a discretion to present and levy a compensation for the families, to be levied on such an area as they may think fit, whether that of the barony or a lesser one. Of course, all such presentments will be subject— as presentments are now, to the fiat of a Judge. Well, these last three provisions relate, as I have said, to all Ireland. I now come to another provision of far greater gravity and seriousness, which also has no local limitation in Ireland— I mean that by which we propose to deal with newspapers in that country which contain treasonable or seditious writings. Sir, we have felt that when we were endeavouring to find and propose to Parliament the means of stopping or checking disturbances and outrages, whether agrarian or seditious, in various parts of Ireland, it was impossible to separate that question from the consideration of another question—namely, the nature of those weekly publications which form the literature, too often the sole literature, of the classes from which those outrages proceed. What that literature is is well known. It is well known how it teaches and preaches in every form, with an amount of boldness and audacity varying from week to week and from month to month, hatred of the institutions and Government of the United Kingdom. It is known how that weekly literature poisons the minds of the people in Ireland who read it against all law and against the Constitution of their country. It is known how it inflames the passions of the people by rhetorical descriptions of the wrongs of other days. It is known how it makes it impossible for those who read that literature, and read none other, to know the truth with respect to public affairs and the real conduct and intentions of the Government of the country. It is well known how constantly—sometimes openly and undisguisedly, sometimes under some disguise more or less thin—it points, not to any constitutional means for the redress of what may be deemed grievances, not to any action within the law and Constitution, but to violence and civil war. We have thought that, when we were endeavouring to stop or check the flames of sedition and agrarian crime, which are smouldering or burning in certain parts of Ireland, we were bound at the same time to endeavour to cut off or check the supply of that fuel which keeps up the fire. But we may be asked —"If you object to these papers, why not prosecute them? The courts are open—why not use them?" This is a question which has been very carefully considered by Her Majesty's Government both in Ireland and here, and I can assure the House it is one surrounded by great difficulties, and that the course thus recommended is far from clear. There are two ways only in which you can prosecute such a newspaper as I have described. You may prosecute it for seditious writing or for treason-felony. With respect to prosecutions for seditious writing, we have had an experience which is by no means encouraging, because we know that under the late Government the editors of two newspapers in Dublin were so prosecuted. I am sorry the two cases were mixed up together, because there was a great difference in the course which the two newspapers had taken. However, a conviction was obtained, the editors were subjected to a punishment of the mildest kind; long before the time their sentences expired they were released upon the representations and appeals of numbers of respectable people in Dublin; and all the time their papers went on writing as they had written before, only with greater zest and vigour from the fact that their editors wore in prison. Then, with respect to treason-felony, it is well known that it is by no moans an easy or a certain thing to convict any one under the Treason-Felony Act of treason-felony proved only by written words in a newspaper, however really, substantially, and to all intents and purposes treasonable and seditious these words may be. Great ingenuity is used by these newspapers for the purpose of evading technically, and technically only, the penalties of such prosecutions. Upon a criminal trial of course every doubt is given in favour of the prisoner, convictions are uncertain, and an abortive trial of this kind is damaging to those whose duty it is to vindicate the law. Such trials ought not to be undertaken without a strong presumption that they are likely to succeed, and however clear may be the conviction of the legal Advisers of the Government that the expressions of the newspapers are really and substantially treasonable or seditious, it is very often a most difficult task to insure the punishment of the offenders. And then, when such a trial fails, it tends to give increased importance to the paper, and to add to its circulation. Again, even supposing the trial to be successful, it deals only with one particular paper; the effect does not go beyond that; and if you want to prevent this dangerous literature from being circulated among the people of Ireland the same doubtful and uncertain process has to be repeated over and over again. Now, our object is not so much to punish individuals as to stop the evil itself, and that is the end we have in view in the provisions I will state to the House. We propose in this Bill to proceed, not against the person, but against the paper—against the instrument of the treasonable, seditious, or felonious writing. That is a principle not unknown to the law of England. The law now stops publications of another kind—of a very different kind, no doubt—I mean publications of an immoral character. We propose to take powers, if Parliament will grant them, to stop any paper containing treasonable or seditious matter, or incitements to felony, or matter having a tendency to foster and propagate treason, sedition, or incitements to felony. But we ask for that power under conditions which will insure the fullest responsibility of the Government, and which, in case the Executive shall act by mistake or unjustly, will give redress to the sufferer. We propose that the Lord Lieutenant shall have power, if he considers any paper to be of the character I have described, to seize by his warrant the plant in the office in which that paper is published, and all copies of such paper, wherever they may be found. We propose that he should also have power to seize all copies of any paper of that description found in Ireland, wherever it may be printed, whether in England, America, or anywhere else out of Ireland. That being a great and responsible executive act, which we seek to enable the Lord Lieutenant to perform on his own responsibility, we propose to add provisions which will be an important and effectual chock upon the exercise of that power, and which, if need be, will afford means of redress to the party considering himself aggrieved. We propose that any person who feels aggrieved by such warrant of the Lord Lieutenant shall have a right of action against the officer executing it, shall have the right of going into court and maintaining that the seizure is illegal because the newspaper did not contain such matter as the Government described as seditious or treasonable, and the Crown will then have to prove that the newspaper did contain such matter. That issue may go to a jury, and if the jury shall find for the Crown of course there will be an end of the affair; but if the jury shall find that the newspaper did not contain such matter, the Crown will be bound to pay to the person aggrieved such damages as the jury may assess. These are the means which we propose for putting a check upon treasonable or seditious writing, and they are such as, while giving a great and important power to the Executive to be exercised under the gravest responsibility, will at the same time increase that responsibility by the necessity of the Government appearing, if called upon, in open court to justify by evidence the course they have taken, and if the Government have acted by mistake or unjustly will give ample redress. That, we believe, will be a power effectual for its purpose, and at the same time we are convinced it will not interfere with any newspaper in Ireland which does not choose to take the illegal course which will bring it under the operation of the Act. All newspapers, no matter of what complexion of politics, no matter how extreme the opinions of their editors may be, as long as they keep within the bounds of legal and loyal discussion, will be entirely free from any danger or risk from the operation of these provisions. And that newspapers themselves are capable of seeing the case in that light—as I have the greatest confidence most newspapers will, as they will be entirely unaffected by these provisions—I have had proof this very day, because I met this morning, in one of the most respectable journals published in the north of Ireland, a passage which bears out that view, and which I will read to the House. This is the passage— There can be no doubt that never in the history of journalism has the liberty of the Press been so grossly abused as by some so-called Nationalist, but really Fenian newspapers. They have hesitated at no misrepresentation, at no lying, in order to bring the Government into disrepute. They openly trade in sedition. Such newspapers, and they are very well known, have no right to appeal to that liberty of the Press which they so grossly abuse. If any means can be devised for checking effectually their licentiousness, while in no respect trenching on the limits of fair discussion, we have no hesitation in saying that such means the Government will be quite justified in employing. Those newspapers display the very worst faults of the Irish character. They appeal, not to the patriotism and intelligence of the people, but to their narrow prejudices, their evil passions, and their ignorance. They regard every means as fair by which the Government can be run down; and they are addressed to readers who peruse nothing else, and have no opportunity of correcting their base misrepresentations. Those journals will, of course, denounce 'the tyranny of the English Government' for interfering with their trade; but as they have always been declaiming against 'English tyranny' in the most violent language, they cannot say worse than they have done before, or than they would say if they were permitted to continue unmolested their evil work. We have long been convinced that if no other measures of repression were required, yet the extreme national papers ought not to be permitted to disseminate sedition with impunity. ["Name."] The Northern Whig. That shows the view taken by a Liberal newspaper editor of provisions which he sees have no concern with him or any other editor who keeps within the bounds of law and loyalty. That is the view taken by Her Majesty's Government, and these are the provisions of the measure which we have to ask leave to bring in. We believe that the provisions I have described will be effectual for their purpose, because we hold them to be directly adapted to the ends in view. It is easy enough to propose strong and violent measures; but unless they are adapted to the object in view they are of little avail. With respect, then, both to the disturbed districts now suffering from intimidation and terrorism, which is the parent of agrarian crime, and also to the Press—and there is but a small number of Irish organs which foster not only that crime, but all sedition and everything opposed to law and order—we believe that the proposals which we make will be effectual. I know very well it will be asked, as it has been asked, why the Government did not come to Parliament for another power—namely, the power which has been exercised more than once of late years, of suspending the Habeas Corpus in Ireland. If such a proposal had been made to Parliament it would, under the circumstances, have been made for the first time in the history of this country, because no Minister has ever yet asked Parliament to suspend the Habeas Corpus on account of agrarian crimes. Therefore, we have felt it our duty, under existing circumstances, to propose a measure to Parliament which does not contain that grave and, for the present purpose, unprecedented departure from the Constitution. We know, moreover, that Parliament is sitting, and will be sitting for months to come; and we know that if an absolute necessity arose for such a measure, Parliament would grant it at once on the application of the responsible Minister of the Crown. And we know, further, that it would be granted with the greater unanimity, and the greater moral effect, if it wore evidently unavoidable, and as a matter of the last necessity. Under the circumstances, I think the measure which is recommended to the House is sufficiently stringent, and for the present Her Majesty's Government will refrain from proposing a renewed suspension of the Habeas Corpus in Ireland. Our object is to restore peace, confidence, and tranquillity in the disturbed districts of Ireland, and we believe that the means proposed will be effectual in securing that end. The Bill will, of course, be for a limited time. Before I sit down, let me say, Sir, that Her Majesty's Government deeply regret being compelled to propose to Parliament an exceptional measure of this kind; but that, at the same time, we make the proposition without the slightest doubt or hesitation as to its necessity. I must be permitted also to express the great consolation I have in knowing that this is not the only measure the Government has in the course of this year and the last proposed in relation to Ireland. We have proposed other measures which we believed, and still believe, with unfaltering confidence, will restore peace, tranquillity, and loyalty to that country; but, as things now are, we think it our duty to recommend to Parliament a measure of temporary repression in order that law and order may be maintained, and an end may be put to the state of anarchy which prevails in some districts of Ireland. This Bill, if passed, will be temporary in its operation; but the great measures to which I have referred will, in their effects, be lasting and permanent. The Government have thought it their clear duty to propose this Bill; and, as its introducer, and as an Irish representative, I may be permitted, while expressing the strongest hope that it will to effec- tual for its purpose, to say that I have now performed a task which I believe to be one not merely of policy, but of patriotism. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


said, he was glad that the Government had realized the remark he made a few evenings back on the subject of their duty in reference to Ireland. No more melancholy duty could have devolved upon a Member of that House than to listen to the sad record of the state of Ireland that had been given by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary; for, though the number of offences that had been committed might not be so great as in former times, the state of the country, considering the advanced civilization of the present day, must be admitted to be worse than it had ever been. He thought a great many Gentlemen on his side of the House would admit that the Government had, under existing circumstances, taken the right course in not proposing again to suspend the Habeas Corpus in Ireland, for he was convinced that if the Constitution of a country were frequently suspended that country would, in a short time, have no Constitution at all. He regretted that it had been the duty of the late Government on two occasions to move the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, but under totally different circumstances. He must be permitted to express his opinion that his right hon. Friend had not done perfect justice to the Irish constabulary in the remarks he made on the difficulty of obtaining evidence in criminal trials. The condition of the two countries was so different that he did not think it would be possible in Ireland to form a force that would effectually perform the duties devolving on the detective police in England. His right hon. Friend had talked about Ribbonism and Fenianism, but he had omitted one thing which had been a great cause of outrages in Ireland— namely, the extraordinary expectations that had been held out to the Irish people by right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial Benches. This being so, he was convinced that if what had been stated that evening by his right hon. Friend had been said six months ago by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government many persons now dead might have been still living ["Oh, oh!"] He did not mean to say hat anything said by the Prime Minister had produced the outrages to which he referred; but that his words had on several occasions been grossly misreported and exaggerated, and that up to the present time there did not exist a real belief that the Government were determined to preserve the security of life and property in Ireland. He would make but few remarks upon the means that had been proposed by the Chief Secretary for remedying the existing state of things. He would just suggest that if the provision with regard to the apprehension of strangers were maintained in the form proposed, the position of tourists in Ireland would in future be rather uncomfortable. Leaving this point, there was one clause in the proposed Act which he thought a very good one; he alluded to the provision that grand juries should have conferred on them the power of compensating the relatives of murdered persons, and of awarding compensation for property destroyed by agrarian crime. But he thought it would be a dangerous principle to confer on grand juries only all the power to assess damage. It was contrary to the principle on which other kinds of compensation were granted, and, further, he thought, grand juries would not like to take such a grave responsibility upon themselves. With regard to the Irish newspapers, he thought no one could doubt the propriety of attempting to put an end to the almost incalculable mischief some of them were doing. But what was required most of all to remedy the existing state of things in Ireland was a few good honest convictions of guilty criminals. They did not require more stringent laws so much as that those already in existence should be rigidly enforced. If jurors could agree to bring in a plain verdict, and a criminal was properly convicted, the people would soon see that they must obey the law. But jurors could, as matters now were, scarcely be expected to convict, and he thought that the Scotch jury system might be advantageously applied to Ireland. There a conviction by nine out of twelve was sufficient. [An hon. MEMBER: A majority.] If two or three of the jury were allowed to disagree, and the verdict of the majority could be taken, it would be a satisfactory verdict, and timid jurors would have a loop-hole of escape. He believed the most effective cure for the disorders which prevailed would be a declaration by the Prime Minister of his determination to uphold the law. He sincerely hoped that the result of the action now being taken would be as satisfactory as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland anticipated.


said, he knew of nothing more degrading than that, at this period of the world's history, the Government of Great Britain should have to introduce a Coercion Bill for the Irish portion of her Empire. It was a sad reflection, that, after 700 years of rule, the English Government had nothing to rely upon but a measure to deprive the people of their privileges. The Government, in introducing this measure, had undertaken a very serious task, which might result in good effects or in bad results. The Bill was based on the ground that life and property were not secure. He had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland desired to do well by Ireland; but he was afraid that he had not taken the right course. He seemed to have forgotten that there had been a Peace Preservation Act in existence for many years, which had failed to produce the good effects expected of it. They had also a Crime and. Outrage Act, than which none had ever tended more to demoralize the people, and render them discontented and unhappy. He spoke as a grand juror of five-and-thirty years' standing; he had known a great number of cases brought before the grand jury of which seventy in 100 were fictitious. If the right hon. Gentleman persisted in giving power to the grand juries to compensate the families of persons injured or assassinated, he would commit a great mistake, for grand juries would have no means of ascertaining whether a case was trumped up or not. Nine out of ten persons on a grand jury were incapable of forming an opinion upon the evidence which would be brought before them. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would find some other channel through which compensation might be awarded.


said, he hoped the provisions of the measure sketched by the Chief Secretary would not be discussed until hon. Members had had an opportunity of examining the printed Bill; and he rose simply to inquire when it was intended to proceed with the measure. It would be expected that a Bill of this kind would be proceeded with as soon as possible, and he presumed that an early day would be named for the second reading.


entirely sympathized with the pain expressed by the Chief Secretary in the duty imposed upon him of proposing this exceptional legislation; but, at the same time, it was impossible to read the daily record of crime in Ireland appearing in the newspapers, and especially was it impossible to read the Charges of the Judges now on circuit in Ireland, without feeling it was the imperative duty of the Government to ask for sufficient power to enable them to perform the first duty of a Government—namely, to maintain order and preserve the lives and property of loyal subjects against outrage such as that now prevailing in Ireland. He rose chiefly to say he entirely agreed with the opinion expressed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten), that it would be most undesirable to criticize any of the details of the measure proposed by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, or even to express any opinion now as to the provisions of the Bill; for he was sure, notwithstanding the full statement he had made, the House could not form a correct judgment of those provisions until it had seen the Bill in print. He had no doubt the Government intended to proceed with the measure on an early day; and the House, having examined into the merits of the Bill, would, he was sure, discuss it with an earnest desire to give the Government those powers which were absolutely necessary to enable them to perform the duty which the country had for some time called on them to discharge.


said, he was obliged to protest against a measure which he deemed entirely inadequate to the emergency. He had acted as a magistrate now for a considerable number of years, and he had never known the local magistrates either sluggish or fearful in the discharge of their duty, and he had known many instances of great energy on the part of the police in bringing crime to light, under circumstances of very great difficulty. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he and his bro- ther magistrates in the county which he had the honour to represent would endeavour to support him in rendering the law effective. If Ireland was to be reduced to order, the work must be done through the local magistrates alone; they were well known to the people, and their action in the interest of peace and order would not be regarded as extraordinary. He had never known a magistrate suffer in purse or person through official activity or determination to do his duty. Ireland could not always be governed by a beaureaucracy—she had been governed so too long. The magistrates of Donegal wished the Government to take more prompt and energetic measures to put a stop to the fearful increase of crime which, if suffered to continue, must end in the total disruption of society and the ruin of the country. In a resolution which they had recently passed, they stated their opinion to be that the Habeas Corpus Act ought to be immediately suspended, and that extra powers should be given to the magistrates, and to the constabulary, to enter and search suspected places for arms, documents, and persons; that their number should be increased, and that they should assume more of a detective character. The magistrates in that part of Ireland were thrown upon their own resources. They seldom applied for extraneous powers. They relied upon the constabulary in their own county, and had at present only the number to which by law they were entitled. If the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended he should have no fear of the increase of crime and outrage. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned Mayo, Meath, and Westmeath, but omitted to mention Tipperary. [Mr. CHICHESTER, FORTESCUE said there was no agrarian outrage in Tipperary.] He believed that not only was there a formidable conspiracy against life and property in Tipperary, but that the nucleus existed there of the conspiracy which prevailed throughout Ireland. Who was "Rory of the Hills," of whom they heard so much? He was very much mistaken if he would not be found in Tipperary. If the Habeas Corpus Act were not suspended he would very soon be found roaring elsewhere. It was idle to talk of the Constitution when neither life nor property were secure. The Government was always legislating for Ireland in a hurry, and of all the bugbears the most absurd was to be crying "Peace, peace," when there was no peace. The right hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) rightly jeered at the idea of an Irish landlord having any rights at all. If he had not the right to live, what was the use of any other rights? His first right was protection, and that should be of primary consideration by the Government. During the last twenty years a number of measures, called by all sorts of names, had been introduced similar to that the Chief Secretary had foreshadowed that night, but they had none of them proved beneficial. A state of terrorism had seized the vast majority of the people of Ireland, and, as the Solicitor General for Ireland well knew, they were not the gentry, who lived in good houses and surrounded by dependents, or men in towns, who were protected by the police, but the county farmer, who could not leave his small homestead without the risk of being surrounded by a gang of ruffians, who imposed upon him an illegal oath, and afterwards invaded his fireside. That was the man who required protection in Ireland. He (Mr. Conolly) was not afraid. Why should he be? But it was the farmer who lived in the mountain districts, and who dared not speak above his breath, that required protection. If the Habeas Corpus Act were to be suspended, the magistrates and the police would be perfectly capable of maintaining order. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister might smile, but it was so; and he had risen thus early in the debate in order to impress on the Government who had done so much, and who were striving by their Land Bill, which he supported, to do more, to produce peace in Ireland the desirability of their reconsidering the question of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. Life and property—and, above all, life—must be protected in that country, and to effect that a straightforward, positive, and downright measure was necessary. They had no right to palter with the conspiracy that existed in Ireland; and although the right hon. Gentleman in his statement had abstained from using the word conspiracy, there was no doubt that a formidable one existed in Ireland. Who was Rory of the Hills, and where do all these evil documents that have been referred to come from? The learned Solicitor General for Ireland knows very well. A similar state of things to the present existed in Ireland about twenty-five years ago, and when one of the confederates was detected, and at last hanged, it turned out that he was at the bottom of the confederacy that had kept the whole of Ireland in a state of perturbation for some time, and put the Government to their wits' ends, and that he was a wretched individual, with a mind and body mentally and physically distorted. And when the present conspiracy was revealed, as it would assuredly be some day, they would find they had been trembling before some wretch behind the desk of a National School. If the Habeas Corpus Act were to be suspended tomorrow their friend Rory of the Hills would cease to exist, and they would hear no more of his nonsense. No acting magistrate would permit marauding parties to go about if he could put his finger upon them. Give the magistrates the power, and they would soon secure peace in Ireland. He approved of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, because it had been called the Policeman's Requirement Act. It gave the police a reality which they did not at present possess, and if they were to give them the power they would very speedily arrest certain leaders well known to them all over Ireland, and then the conspiracy would burst like a cloud of smoke, and nothing more would be heard of outrages such as had of late been committed.


said, he collected from the Chief Secretary's statement that additional powers were to be given to the magistrates in Ireland, and it occurred to him that before they enlarged those powers there should be a revision of that body. Without intending to cast any imputation upon them, he must say it was well known that they did not, as a body, command the general respect of the people. What was the constitution of the body? Although the Lord Chancellor might have some control the Government were not responsible for the magistracy. They were appointed by the particular nobleman or gentleman who happened to be Lord Lieutenant of the county, who, it was well known, owed his own appointment to the political services he was supposed to have rendered to his party. To him was intrusted the constitution of the magis- tracy, and under the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the largest possible powers wore given to the magistracy. He did not rise to oppose the introduction of the Bill. Far be it from him to say that the Government would idly bring in a measure which they did not think necessary for the protection of life and property; but the House should not act under a kind of panic as to the amount of crime existing in Ireland. When the Coercion Bill of 1833 was brought in there had been in the previous year, in the Province of Leinster alone no fewer than 163 murders, and the expression Sir Robert Peel used was—"with less expenditure of British blood we rolled back the fiery torrent of French valour at Busaco." However outrageous might have been the conduct of the political conspirators, and however badly they might have acted towards the Crown, no assassinations could be imputed to them except those of members of their own order, who they believed had betrayed them. He had little faith in coercive measures as a means of putting down crime hi Ireland. The only way of securing that result was by creating between the gentry and the people of Ireland a mutual interest, without which all measures brought forward with coercive intention would be as futile as many of those that had been introduced into the House.


said, this Bill was entitled a Bill for the Preservation of Peace in Ireland. The Government had chosen that milder title for their Bill from the Act of 1856 in preference to that of the Act of 1847, which was entitled An Act for the Repression of Crime and Outrage in Ireland. The Act of 1856 was, however, a mere reproduction, with certain modifications, of the Crime and Outrage Act of 1847; and the object of the present Bill was the repression of agrarian crime. Now, he would not charge the Government with having created agrarian crime in Ireland; but, certainly, the speeches of certain Members of the Government had fostered that description of outrage. They had described landlords as "felonious;" they had asserted that "land" in Ireland ought to be "free;" they had spoken of destroying the second branch of the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy. It was language such as this that had nerved the hand of the assassin, anxious to get by a short cut to the land he so much coveted. Was this a Bill, he asked, framed in accordance with Irish ideas? Since the last General Election the Government had introduced three Bills, which, in order to carry out, their avowed policy, should have been framed in accordance with Irish ideas. First, there was the Irish Church Bill; had it been framed in accordance with Irish ideas? An Irish Roman Catholic Member had informed him that that Bill was a hard, iron, mathematical measure, utterly unsuited to the genius of the Irish people." With respect to the Irish Land Bill, the Prime Minister was fortunately in leading strings. He numbered several English and Scotch landlords among his supporters, and, therefore, that measure had not been framed in accordance with Irish ideas. The present Bill was a penal measure. The Tories had been charged with having originated penal legislation for Ireland; but the penal laws wore passed by the Whigs and not by the Tories, and the present Government, in introducing the present Bill, was only following out their old party political traditions. The Bill violated the conscientious convictions of hon. Members opposite, because it destroyed the freedom of the Press. The Prime Minister, when he introduced his Land Bill, informed the House that the distinguished foreigner approved of his policy. With what effusion would the distinguished foreigner cast himself upon the breast of the right hon. Gentleman, and congratulate him upon this measure, which proposed to establish a system of police night espionage over the people of Ireland? On the second reading of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, produce autograph letters from all the European Potentates congratulating him on his having assimilated Irish legislation to that adopted on the Continent. The measure proposed to give compensation to those who suffered from outrages in Ireland—that was to say, those who sustained the outrages would, more Hibernico, have to compensate themselves, provided the Land Bill passed. [Mr. GLADSTONE made a gesture of dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman did not agree with him; but if he would look at the 63rd section of the Land Bill, he would see that landlords of tenancies from year to year, valued at or Tinder £4 per annum, were rendered liable to pay the grand jury cess, although the tenants had taken their holdings subject to the payment of the tax. The hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Conolly) had ventured to suggest to the Government that the Habeas Corpus Act should be again suspended in Ireland; but for very shame the Government could not propose it, because their only claim to power was that they had undertaken to govern that country without having recourse to such a step. That course would, however, eventually have to be taken before the pacification of Ireland was attained. By passing the Irish Church Bill the Government grossly violated the Constitution, and they could not be surprised if the Irish people bettered their instruction. The Government dangled £16,000,000 of property, which they had no right to touch, before the eyes of the people of that country; and they must not be surprised that they had whetted the appetite of the Irish people for plunder. What had been the language of the Government and their supporters with respect to the legislation of the past Session? The Chief Secretary for Ireland said, last year, that the Irish Church Bill was one of the greatest acts of wisdom and justice over adopted, and that an era of constantly-increasing peace, prosperity, and concord in Ireland must date from that great historic event. He had been amused at hearing that right hon. Gentleman use almost similar terms with regard to the Irish Land Bill that night, which he said was to restore peace and loyalty to Ireland! The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had declared that, when the Irish Church Bill became law, everyone would be conscious that a change had begun to pass over the moral atmosphere of Ireland; and so it had; but he put it to that right hon. Gentleman's conscience whether that change had been for the better or for the worse. Again, the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) stated that that Bill would produce harmony and social confidence among the Irish people. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) had declared that the Irish Church Bill would heal the wounds of centuries and prepare the way for securing peace, prosperity, and unity among all classes of his country- men. But the fact was that, after all, the Government had not a single friend in Ireland except the parti prêtre. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Heron) was defeated by the Fenians single-handed; on the second election he was returned only by the skin of his teeth, and his first act in that House was to vote against the Government Land Bill! The tendency of the passing of the Irish Church Bill had been to make Irish Conservatives sympathize with the National party. With respect to the coercive measures that were to be used against the Press, he was afraid they would injuriously affect newspapers which formerly were the representatives of Conservative policy, but which now extended their sympathies to the National party. The present Irish Executive was the feeblest in the world. It was strong only for evil, and struck terror only into the hearts of loyal men. It had plucked from its socket one of the choicest jewels of the Crown—the Royal supremacy—and had cast it before the Fenian swine; and it was then surprised that they turned to rend their would-be benefactors. Every sin contained within itself the germ of its own punishment. The Irish Church Act of last Session was a national sin, and it was now bearing its evil fruits. The Prime Minister last Session declared that in religious equality there was a potency of charm for healing political and social wounds, and for creating that concord which is the strength and glory of a nation. Religious equality might be fair and beautiful to outward seeming; but, on closer inspection, it proves, like the Dead Sea fruit, to be but dust and ashes after all.


Sir, I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken thoroughly believes in the relevancy of the speech he has delivered to the question which is now before the House; and he will perhaps believe me when I say that it is rather our misfortune than our fault that we have failed to perceive it. I hope, Sir, that the hon. and learned Member will compassionate us for the necessity which makes us dull, and will be somewhat consoled by the fact that there were portions of his speech which would require no ordinary mind and genius to have appreciated. Sir, the hon. and learned Member has repeated the charge brought against us by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir Frederick W. Heygate); but unlike the hon. Member for Londonderry, who has retired to occupy himself more agreeably, he has waited in his place to hear the reply. The charge to which I allude is, that the present condition of Ireland is to be traced to the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. That, Sir, is one of the heaviest charges which can be preferred against any person holding a public office. It is, I own, perfectly competent and right for any Member of the House to prefer such a charge if he thinks there is ground for so doing; but it is his duty if he does so to specify the grounds upon which he makes it. He ought not in a case of this kind to content himself with vague allegations. What is the language by which the hon. and learned Member thinks proper to excite well-minded persons in Ireland to act contrary to the law? He says the crime and outrage of Ireland is due to my having used language calculated to convey the idea that the second branch of the Upas tree of Protestant ascendancy was to be cut down. That, the hon. and learned Member thinks, has been the cause of threatening letters, of armed parties at night, of extorted oaths, of firing at persons, and of actual murder in Ireland. It is impossible to say, even under the colour of the stalest metaphor ever known, that Protestant ascendancy cannot be put down by legal means without leading to the perpetration of all those crimes. I am quite sure the good sense of the hon. and learned Gentleman will prevent him from repeating any such a statement in this House, and that it is owing to a complete misconception that he has made the statement at all. However, if it is to be argued, let the natural connection be shown between the words and the consequences he imputes; and, by the way, I must say that if his speeches are to be meted by the same measure and followed by the same results which he ascribes to mine, we may expect rebellions and civil war as a consequence of the very speech he has delivered to-night. I do not so estimate it; but to be consistent the hon. and learned Member must. Reference has been made to a slight omission made by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland with reference to the compensation to be given in certain cases to persons the objects of outrage. It is not proposed to pay this compensation out of the county cess, but out of a fund especially levied for the purpose. The hon. Gentleman will see that the point of his remark will not be applicable to a provision framed in this manner. This error is, of course, the natural consequence of discussing a measure not actually in the hands of Members, and I think both my right hon. Friends the Members for Morpeth and North Lancashire (Sir George Grey and Colonel Wilson-Patten) justly appreciated the situation when they recommended that criticism on the provisions of the Bill should be reserved until the Bill was printed. Of course, the adoption of this course does not pledge hon. Gentlemen to an approval of any of the subsequent stages. The Bill will, I hope, be circulated to-morrow; and, as a measure of this kind requires to be dealt with expeditiously, we propose that the Motion for its second reading should be taken on Monday next, and that it should be afterwards pushed forward with all possible expedition. The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady) has animadverted upon my right hon. Friend for declaring that the grand jury would be the party who were to award the compensations. That, Sir, I may say, is a point that is open to re-consideration, inasmuch as much difference of opinion prevails with respect to it. But the option really lies between this duty being discharged by the grand jury and the central Executive. As far as we are concerned I repeat that this is a matter for re-consideration, our sole desire being to frame a measure which shall prove most effective. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir Frederick W. Heygate) has given it as his deliberate opinion, that, although the state of Ireland calls for repressive measures, it does not call for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. That, Sir, is a measure of the last necessity, to which we may at any tune be compelled to resort should circumstances reach such a state as to call for or require it. But, Sir, it is not a measure to be adopted unless under the most stringent necessity. It is one of those strong applications, something like alcohol, which may communicate a sense of comfort at the time, but lays up disease for the future. It ought only to be applied in cases of apprehended outbreak or civil war. It is very easy to say "imprison all persons who are suspected of crimes;" but how can we tell how fast these people may be multiplied, or how fast persons may be found to take the place of those who may be said to be the principal agents and promoters of such crimes? And how, moreover, are you to get over the increasing difficulty from the natural repugnance in the minds of the people of this country to any system which involves the total suppression of the ordinary laws which give security to life and property? These things make it the duty of the Government not to arrive at a fixed resolution under no circumstances to propose the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, but to postpone to the very last the adoption of a remedy so full of objections as well as of difficulty as that undoubtedly would be. But the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Conolly) seems to have invented a new description of suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, for he says—"Only give us, the local magistrates, the power of arresting suspected persons; we know who are the rogues all over the country, and we will put them in prison in no time." The hon. Gentleman really supposes that when the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended it is not the Executive Government alone that is armed with extraordinary powers, but that every one who wrote "J.P." after his name throughout the country is able to imprison at discretion. I have no doubt the hon. Member would exercise that power with all the kindness and temper which distinguishes him in this House; but we should be very scrupulous about giving such a power as that to magistrates, even if the Habeas Corpus Act were suspended. The hon. Member for Londonderry wished for some firm declaration from me with regard to the duty imposed on a Government of preserving peace and order. There is one form of declaration which is more solemn and more authoritative than anything which Ministers can say, and that is a declaration conveyed in the Speech from the Throne. The Speech delivered from the Throne at the commencement of the present Session recognized in the strongest terms the duty the hon. Gentleman thinks we ought to have more largely and frequently declared in our own speeches. I am of opinion that he overrates the effect which is produced by showing a disposition constantly to revert to the use of threats and declarations as to what we may do in certain contingencies, though on certain grave occasions like the present our words ought to be well weighed and the blow ought to come soon and sharply after the words. The hon. Member for Londonderry also said he wished the Government would propose to alter the present law which requires the unanimity of a jury before a conviction. Well, Her Majesty's Government have thought of that very much, and the conclusion at which they arrived, was, that it might be a subject well deserving consideration, but that it was not one which it was desirable to treat with reference to Ireland alone, or as one of the provisions of a stringent repressive measure the duration of which will be only temporary. The first and the conclusive reason for not introducing any such provision into a Bill of this nature was that it really would imply a degree of censure and a stigma upon Irish juries which, looking at the history of the last few years, we think would be radically and essentially unjust. If, therefore, the question be a fair one to raise, it is, in our judgment, totally unfit to be associated with a Bill of this description. The hon. Member for the King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien) spoke of a disposition in this county to get into a panic with reference to matters of this kind; but I must say that we have endeavoured to resist anything like a sentiment of panic. We have thought it our duty to resist the pressure of what might be called public opinion as conveyed through the Press, and we have withheld the proposal just made by my right hon. Friend till the moment arrived when our duty absolutely required us to make it. The pain expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady) at the introduction of such a Bill as this is a pain in which we must all share; but the question, after all, is whether the measure is required by the circumstances and is adapted to the circumstances. It ought to trespass neither in falling short nor in excess, and the question whether it does trespass in either of those respects can hardly be considered at large on the present occasion; and therefore, although I thought it my duty, in due respect to hon. Members, to notice the particular remarks which have been made in the short discussion this evening, I think hon. Members will be of opinion that a general review of the Bill had better be reserved, as has been suggested by several Gentlemen of weight and authority on both sides of the House, till the measure has been printed and placed in the hands of Members, when, of course, it will be again brought under the consideration of the House.


, as an Irish Member who had given an independent support to the present Government, rose to express his dissent from many of the provisions of the Bill as shadowed forth in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. In particular, he objected to the power proposed to be given to magistrates of convicting and imprisoning for six months all persons found abroad in the night time who were unable to give reasons which the magistrates might deem satisfactory for being absent from their homes. He maintained that such powers ought not to be vested in the hands of the magistrates. The present Government bad been fifteen months in power, and more than one person in high office had expressed the opinion that the present state of the magistracy of Ireland was a disgrace to the country, and yet the Government had not taken any steps for revising the list of the magistracy. In his own county, for instance, out of fifty-seven magistrates there were only twelve Roman Catholics, although nine-tenths of the people were of that religion, and five-sixths of the property belonged to them. He objected also to the provision which gave power to the magistrates of Ireland to take up and imprison at discretion any person whom they might choose to suspect; and he warned the Government that if that clause were allowed to pass it would evoke a cry of reprobation from every honest heart in Ireland. He would reserve his remarks as to the proposal respecting the Press until the second reading, merely remarking now that it amounted to an abrogation of all laws on the subject.


said, that as it was proposed to read this Bill a second time on Monday, he wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to go into Committee on the Irish Land Bill on that day?


Not at an inconvenient hour.


said, in Monaghan, out of sixty-two magistrates, there were only two Roman Catholics, and they were absentees, while the deputy lieutenants were to a man Protestant. He protested against vesting such powers in the hands of the magistracy as the Bill proposed. He also objected to persons who were abroad at night being liable to arrest. As to the Press, he pointed out that Irish juries had hitherto properly discharged their duties when legal proceedings had been taken against newspapers, and in proof of this assertion he need only refer to the prosecutions instituted against the Nation and the Irishman.


said, no Irishman could object to stringent measures being taken for putting an end to crimes and outrages in Ireland, and he, for one, should not oppose any reasonable proposal for attaining that object. He thought, however, that the Bill contained many most unreasonable proposals which the House ought not to sanction, as they had never been heard of in the most repressive Bill ever devised. Where no man was accused the magistrate might seize on any individual, and on his refusal to give general information or proper evidence, he was exposed to the penalty of finding bail or going to prison. That provision seemed to him most objectionable. Another was what was proposed to be done with the Press. Licentious conduct on the part of the Press ought certainly to be put down, but their freedom of discussion ought not to be injured. The Bill did not sufficiently define sedition, but left that duty to the conscience of the Lord Lieutenant, who, at his pleasure, could seize the property of a newspaper, or suppress it altogether, leaving the proprietor to bring an action against the Crown. What chance would an unfortunate proprietor of a newspaper, who might have invested a large sum of money in his establishment, have of recovering damages before a jury against the Crown, with the power which it possessed of changing the venue and rejecting from the jury list any person whom it might please. The proposal relating to the Press, then, was one which, in his opinion, was not consistent with the character of the Government, or one which ought to be adopted by the House. Complaints had been made of the difficulty of securing successful prosecutions against the Press; but in all his experience of Ireland he did not remember one failure of such a prosecution. The prosecutions of the Nation and the Irishman had been mentioned. In both, juries did their duty by convicting, and if the parties did not receive sufficient punishment that was the fault of the Judge who sentenced them, or of the Government who afterwards remitted the sentences, and allowed men to go free. Had any reasonable argument been advanced which should induce hon. Gentlemen to consent to a Bill not providing for requisite prosecutions before proper tribunals, but giving the Lord Lieutenant liberty, upon mere imagination, to say of any newspaper proprietor—"This man is guilty, and I will bring him to total ruin!" He wished to enter his protest against the portions of the Bill to which he had alluded. So far as the suppression of crime, the protection of property and life, and the provision of ample security for the peace of the country went, he would willingly support the measure, but he would not give his assent to these obnoxious clauses.


said, he would not enter into the details of the Bill; but inasmuch as it was not to be read a second time till Monday next, and misapprehension as to its scope might arise meanwhile in the minds of the Irish people, he thought it right to say a few words as to the general provisions which the Bill would be found to contain when it came into the hands of hon. Members. Many of the observations made in the course of the debate arose from a misunderstanding of the language used by the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure; and therefore he would briefly explain its nature in order to prevent any misconception on the part of hon. Members, or the constituencies of Ireland, whom it was most important to regard in a discussion of this kind. The Bill dealt with Ireland generally, with proclaimed districts, and with districts specially proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant. It would enact that in proclaimed districts a person having a game licence should not therefore be entitled to carry arms, but must have a licence specially for that purpose. There was a provision for the execution of warrants to search for arms by day or night, and another provision with regard to persons dealing in gunpowder to which he need not now refer. There were also provisions in the Bill with respect to White boy offences, directing that in order to convict in such cases it need not be proved that the country was in a state of insurrection. No hon. Gentleman could object to that. With regard to a clause which had been objected to by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray), he thought his objection to it would be removed when he understood the real point of the clause. There was, at present, no power to deal with a witness in the way which justice required when there was no defendant, so to speak, before the Court. This Bill only proposed to give the same power to a petty session court to deal with a witness when a crime had been committed, though the accused was not present, as it now had when the accused was before the court. No additional power was granted. There was another provision in the Bill for searching the houses of persons for documents, on an information in writing, which was to be sworn to, and that was a proposal to which he was sure nobody could object. With respect to the arrest of persons under suspicious circumstancse, it was only in the proclaimed districts that that course of proceeding was to be resorted to, where, in addition to the ordinary proclamation, a second had been issued by the Lord Lieutenant, and the House might rest satisfied that the Executive Government would not issue such proclamation unless there were good grounds for doing so. As to the clause relating to the arrest of persons moving about at night under suspicious circumstances, it created no new precedent, inasmuch as it was taken from a previous Bill. The power to arrest strangers was also taken out of a Bill that had worked well in former days, and it would do so now if properly administered. There was one point in the Bill which, no doubt, required considerable attention, and that was the part giving the power of summary jurisdiction. He was asked now to say the magistracy was in a satisfactory state. He would not say that the magistracy of Ireland was in an altogether satisfactory state. Those who knew him would, he ventured to flatter himself, not suppose that he was going to change his nature, and say that which he did not believe to be the case, be- cause he happened to sit on the Treassury Bench. He must, however, maintain that the special provisions with respect to summary jurisdiction were absolutely necessary if the operation of the Bill were to effect any good. It was proposed to give summary jurisdiction to magistrates in the case of persons guilty of White boy offences. Persons found out at night disguised, and with a band of armed men, would receive under that jurisdiction six months' imprisonment with hard labour; and if they did not like that they could get seven years' penal servitude. The summary jurisdiction might also be exercised when a person committed a breach of the Aims Act; but no man could be dealt with in that way unless arms were found upon him or in his house, and the magistrate, instead of sending him to the Assizes to get two years' imprisonment, might sentence him to six months' imprisonment at the petty sessions. That provision only applied to one other class of cases—namely, those under the statute of George III., prohibiting persons from meeting together for the purpose of being trained or drilled to the use of arms. If for such offences they got six months' hard labour, instead of transportation or penal servitude for fourteen years, he thought a boon would be conferred upon them, while, at the same time, the ends of justice would be satisfied. Those were the only instances in which it was proposed by the Bill to suspend trial by jury, and his hon. Friends below the Gangway would, he thought, find that they were more frightened than hurt by its provisions. If these measures were properly administered, with due regard to justice and law, he believed that they would be very beneficial in securing the well-being of the country; for nothing could be more important than rapidity and decision in such matters. When persons were taken in the act of breaking the law they should be punished as speedily as possible, and thus the law would be made a terror, not only to those who broke it, but to others who were inclined to follow their bad example. As to the clauses relating to compensation and some other provisions of the Bill, they could be better discussed when hon. Members had the Bill itself in their hands. He would simply observe, in reference to compensation, that the Government were of opinion that, in providing for it, they could not do better than follow the 100th section of the Grand Jury Act, which enabled compensation to be given by the grand jury. It was true there were some persons who, like his hon. Friend the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady), seemed to have no particular partiality to a grand jury; but it was a constitutional body, composed of country gentlemen, who were well acquainted with the locality with which they had to deal, and who possessed the requisite knowledge to enable them to arrive at a sound decision in the cases of the kind. If the Government had not given the power in question to the grand juries, they must have committed it to the hands of the Central or Executive Government, and if they had done so the Bill would have been objected to as tending to centralization. The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) very naturally felt an interest in that part of the measure applying to the Press, for he was a distinguished member of the Press, though there was not very much chance, he thought, of the journal with which he was connected coming under the operation of the Bill. It was said, why not prosecute the seditious Press? The reply was, in addition to the difficulty of being certain of a conviction the paper continued to be published, and this was a serious matter to consider. But nothing could be more important in a country like Ireland than to prevent newspapers making capital out of the prosecutions instituted against them. Hitherto, speeches of counsel, denouncing the proceeding of the Crown, had appeared in large type in the very newspaper against which the prosecution was directed. The provisions of the Bill would apply to newspapers teaching sedition; and, with all respect to his hon. Friend, he must say that the people of Ireland knew very well what was treason and what was sedition. There was not a man in Ireland who could not give a definition of either the one or the other sufficient for all practical purposes. He thought the House would agree with the Government that if any newspaper taught treason or sedition, or published to an excitable population incitements to such offences, it was just that its property should be forfeited to the Crown, and seized immediately. The evil would thus be nipped in the bud; but if any person felt himself aggrieved at these proceedings he might maintain his action in one of the superior courts of common law, and the burden would be cast upon the Crown of proving that the newspaper was traitorous or seditious, or contained incentives to murder. It was necessary to reverse the ordinary course of proceeding in order to stop the rapid growth of an evil which, if not prevented, would sap the foundations of society, not only in Ireland, but in England. He asked hon. Members to suspend their judgment on the Bill until they read it, and then they might calmly consider its provisions in Committee. He was satisfied that every hon. Member who represented an Irish constituency would agree with him that the Government were animated by the most kind and considerate views with respect to Ireland. It had pained every Member of the Government to be obliged to introduce such a Bill, and he could say unfeignedly, that it had pained him above measure, to be compelled to inaugurate his career as a Law Officer of the Crown, by having anything to do with a measure of coercion—seeming or real—for Ireland. But he believed it was a measure of real kindness, for the sooner the Irish people were made to understand that they must obey the law, and that it would protect right and punish wrong, the better it would be for Ireland and the Empire at large.

Motion agreed to. Bill relating to the Preservation of Peace in Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 75.]

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