§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chichester Fortescue.)
§ MR. MOORE
said, he rose to move that the Bill be read the second time upon that day six months. He had not come to the conclusion to move this Amendment without very grave consideration. He should have consented without hesitation to grant the Government any necessary powers within the limits of the Constitution for which they might have considered it their duty to ask Parliament, for the purpose of suppressing outrage and restoring law and order in Ireland. He should have consented, although not without great reluctance and regret, to have granted the Government any further powers, even outside the limits of the Constitution, which they might have considered requisite adequately to attain their object. But he could not believe that this measure was necessary, because the ordinary powers already possessed by the Executive in Ireland were so far from having been exhausted that they had not even been tried; but they had been neglected, abdicated, and utterly set at nought to an extent that had excited the wonder and indignation of every sensible man in Ireland, and which threw doubt and discredit, not only upon the character of the Executive, but upon the administration of justice. The provisions of this measure 329 would be as ineffective as they would be galling and offensive, for they did nothing that could not be done without them; nothing certainly that a timely use of the ordinary machinery of justice might not have rendered unnecessary. And, further, it appeared to him that the provisions of the Bill were not oven calculated to carry out the object in view; they did not indicate that even now there existed in the minds of the Executive a clear, distinct, and single-minded comprehension of the great and paramount duty which they had hitherto neglected. It appeared to him that this measure was only another symptom of the Fenian nightmare which had governed the conduct of the Irish Executive during the last year. Within the last two months the Government had filled Ireland with soldiers, and paraded the country with red-coats, as if in search of some invisible and mysterious foe. Their military success had been complete, and they might say in the heroic language of Tom Thumb—Thus far with victory our arms are crowned,For though we have not fought, yet have we foundNo enemy to fight withal.With equal diligence the police had been searching for the arms, ammunition, arsenals, and military magazines of the imaginary enemy; and all this time a squalid conspiracy that required no army to put it down, that required only the assassin and the revolver to carry out its purposes, had been allowed, without let, hindrance, or molestation, to grow up, to extend, establish, and fortify itself throughout the country, spreading terror and confusion among all honest men, The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland appeared the other night to enjoy a serene consciousness of the utterly irresponsible character of his own Office; but, although he might not be aware of the fact, there was such a thing as public opinion in Ireland. He (Mr. Moore) confidently asserted that there was no intelligent man in that country, no matter of what rank or position, of what politics or religious persuasion, Protestant, or Catholic, priest, parson, or layman, Conservative, Whig, Radical, or Fenian, who did not believe that the Government was responsible for the existing state of things. It appeared to him that it was a special weakness of all weak minds that they could not con- 330 centrate their energies on any one good purpose; and it appeared to him that the Executive in Ireland felt itself unable to see its way to the preservation, as the right hon. Gentleman said, of life, and particularly of property, in Ireland without resorting to measures calculated greatly to prejudice public opinion against the object in view. The Irish Executive, which had boon asleep at its post, or rather in a state of coma, after a good deal of jogging on the part of the Opposition, suddenly called upon the House to repair all its shortcomings, all its sins of omission and commission, by arming its inert limbs and feeble hands with rusty armour. James I. had written in praise of armour that it not only defended him that wore it but it prevented him from hurting other people. The very reverse might be said of the armour provided by the provisions of this Bill; while it furnished the Executive with the means of scratching every class of the community, it appeared to him that it would be utterly ineffective to accomplish the object of preserving life and property in Ireland. Before they examined the character of the arms which it was proposed to entrust the Executive with, they ought to consider the character of the Government it was proposed to arm; and he hoped he should be excused if he sketched the conduct of the Government in its administration of Irish affairs. As all knew, it was ushered into office by the assuring announcement of the First Minister of the Crown that, in future, Ireland was to be governed according to Irish ideas. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] The right hon. Gentleman certainly said something to that effect, if he did not use those words; he said, perhaps, that Ireland was to be governed from an Irish point of view. The right hon. Gentleman's rhetoric was of that peculiar character that it was very often difficult to tell what he meant. The mysterious declaration, whatever it was, did not, apparently, embody any distinct idea of the right hon. Gentleman, and it conveyed very obscure ideas to other people; and the right hon. Gentleman would find it very hard to convince any Irishman who possessed ideas that he had yet accomplished, or was in the way of accomplishing his remarkable prophecy. The first instalment of the policy of governing Ireland from an Irish point of view was contained in the 331 Irish Church Bill, which, whether a good measure or not, was not constructed from an Irish point of view, or according to Irish ideas, but embodied the feelings and distinctly carried out the ideas and fulfilled the objects and wishes of the English and Scotch Nonconformists. There was, however, one provision in the Bill upon which Irishmen had a particular right to be consulted, and that was as to the disposition of Irish money. Upon that point, Irish ideas, as represented in that House and in the other, had been unanimous to an extent he never before knew. Those unanimous opinions were conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman in the form of a Resolution passed at a meeting of his Irish supporters in that House, and in the form of an Amendment passed in the House of Lords. To his own supporters the right hon. Gentleman did not vouchsafe any answer, and to the representation conveyed by the Lords' Amendment he answered in terms studiously insulting. The second contribution to the government of Ireland, from an Irish point of view, was the singular course resorted to in releasing some of the political prisoners; and certainly that was based on as low an estimate as could possibly be imagined of Irish ideas. Who counselled the Irish Executive in that matter he should be sorry to attempt to guess. It certainly could not be any of the Irish Judges, because it was manifest, from a recent discussion, that the Irish Executive did not consult the Irish Judges; and certainly, the sentences of the Judges, which he supposed represented Irish ideas, did not appear to be regarded, either in considering the amount of crime or estimating the condition of the country. An Irish Chief Baron of the Exchequer was once asked by an Irish jury whether it was competent for them, in respect to a batch of prisoners charged with the same offence, and against whom the same evidence had been adduced, to acquit some and find the others guilty, and his answer was—"Gentlemen of the jury, if any of you have friends or relations among the prisoners, you can acquit them and find the rest guilty." Now, he (Mr. Moore) did not accuse the Government of having friends or relations among the political prisoners, but he did not know upon what other principle of selection they had acted. He must say that the political amnesty re- 332 minded him of the old Irish legend told of one of the Irish kings, to the effect that when his mother had brought him forth, in part, she was prevented for a considerable time from accomplishing the act of parturition by the will of some old woman. The third instalment of Government, from an Irish point of view, had been presented in the shape of the Irish Land Bill—a Bill which he frankly accepted, as showing a sincere desire on the part of the Government to meet the demands of Irish opinion as far as was compatible with the condition of opinion within the walls of Parliament; and he believed that the disappointment and discontent with which the Irish farmers were disposed to regard the Bill were, if not mainly, at all events in a great degree, attributable to the misapprehensions and delusions they had been led into with respect to the intentions of the Government and the opinion of Parliament. But could it be denied that the Government were gravely responsible for the propagation of those delusions? Like the Sphinx, they held up their riddle to all time, and stood in stolid and inflexible silence while the people were expounding the riddle to their own destruction. A bait was thrown out for groundlings, and they caught a shark; and it was the shark which they had now to deal with in the provisions of this Bill. This measure—the last attempt to govern Ireland from an Irish point of view—he regarded as an outrage on common sense; for it was an outrage to common sense that men in high and responsible positions, and called on to cope with pressing and immediate danger, should divert their powers of defence and resistance to other difficulties, which were neither dangerous nor pressing, and endeavour to cure one disease by the application of remedies suitable for another. The object being the protection of life and property in Ireland, it was an outrage to common sense to perplex and prejudice that one great paramount and pressing object by odious invasions of political rights, and invidious restrictions on individual freedom. What was the object which the Government, in introducing this Bill, had in view, or ought to have had in view? It was the protection of life and property, which were menaced in various parts of Ireland. And by whom were life and property menaced? As a re- 333 presentative of a county (Mayo) in which lawless combinations had lately been held, he wished to disabuse the minds of some hon. Gentlemen of an impression which appeared to prevail very generally. These combinations in different parts of Ireland did not form constituent elements of one great combination—of one confederated association of men carrying out a common purpose in different parts of Ireland. They were for the most part scattered, local, occasional combinations, arising, in the first instance, out of a spirit of resistance to acts of local despotism, and dying out when the circumstances in which they originated ceased to exist. But one mischief was, that when any of these combinations became established in a district it was made to cover a sinister determination to avoid altogether the discharge of legal obligations, and the greater part of the menacing notices, of which mention had been made were, served by private individuals for private purposes, and the acts of outrage which occasionally followed expressed generally either private resentment or personal wrong. One of the most evil consequences in every country, and at all times, of these combinations of evildoers was, that they were made to assume the form of popular agitation, and that attempts were made to associate their ill deeds with the politics of the time. In all other countries every rational Executive had endeavoured to deprive all bands of brigands of that colour of excuse; but it had been reserved for the Executive of this country to introduce a penal statute for the purpose of associating acts of robbery and murder with political action and agitation. In his opinion, the action of the Executive, as represented in the present Bill, was calculated to prejudice, as far as possible, public opinion in Ireland against the object they had in view; and in the name of all classes in Ireland—in the name of every one whose property or life was menaced, and last, not least, in the names of those whose rents were not paid, as was, unfortunately, his case, he protested against this attempt to prejudice the action of the Executive in the detection and punishment of murder and assassination by associating those crimes with political opinions which they in no way represented. As to the action taken by the measure against the Press, it was 334 of a most severe and sweeping character. Suppose the action taken within the provisions of this Bill against the Press of Ireland would apply to the acts of the assassins themselves. Suppose it were sworn that a particular occupier of land in his country were clearly in collusion with acts of murderous assassination—that his house should be levelled to the ground, his crops destroyed, and all his property carried away; if he were left the mere alternative of proving to the satisfaction of a jury that it had been done on insufficient information, that would be a very extraordinary measure, and yet it was the measure which the Government proposed. Against such a measure he distinctly protested. It had not been alleged that any part of the Press in Ireland had been in collusion with the murders, robberies, and crimes against person and property in Ireland, to put an end to which was, or ought to be, the object of this Bill. On the contrary, the Bill distinctly stated that on any journal being thought guilty by Government of sedition, the Press, and the property of that Press, was to become amenable to the law. Sedition was a very wide term. He had been accused of sedition himself. He thought oven the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, in the course of his speeches in Lancashire, might not unreasonably have been accused by misguided men of something very closely bordering on that crime. And he should be very sorry, he confessed, to subject him to the alternative of a jury if such proceedings had boon taken against him as this Bill proposed against the Press of Ireland. Under these circumstances he felt bound to protest against this measure, which, under the pretence of protecting life and property in his country, sought to establish little less than personal government in Ireland. For his own part, he was prepared to say if Government separated the political incidence of this Bill from the action they were prepared to take against those who were committing crimes against person or property in Ireland he would be quite ready to withdraw his Amendment. But he could not consent to the association of robbery and murder with political agitation, which, he thought, was not only unfair towards the one side, but raised the other to a position to which it was not fairly entitled. If this measure 335 were passed, all he could say was, that, in his opinion, Irish Members had no further business there; and he hoped their constituents would call them back to Ireland. [Laughter.] That, he was very well aware, would be a great mercy to many English Members—he hoped their constituents would call them back to Ireland to resist personal government how they could, and to assist them in resisting the provisions of this Bill. He moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ MR. CALLAN
seconded the Amendment. He said he opposed the Bill for the reason which had been assigned by the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment—namely, that it mixed up polities and agrarian crime. That was, in his opinion, a thing which the House ought carefully to avoid. He thought the Government had already sufficient powers, if they were properly exercised, to put down agrarian crime. He could not hold the Government guiltless of great remissness in the detection of agrarian crime. It was well known in Ireland that the threatening letters which "had fallen like snow-flakes," had been written by schoolmasters under the mixed system of education. The Government had district Inspectors who ought to be able easily to detect who were the authors of this crime. But that was not the only reason why he objected to the Bill. He objected to the 13th section, which in any proclaimed district empowered any justice of the peace—although no person was charged before him with the commission of any offence—to require any person whom he might believe capable of giving evidence to be examined on oath, and if he refused to answer any question or to enter into recognizances, he was to be treated in the manner described in the 15 & 16 Geo. III., c. 21; for the Bill in this respect was a servile copy of that Act, with a most important proviso left out—Provided that no such examination shall subject the party examined to any prosecution or penalty whatever.In what spirit would that section of the Act be construed by the local magistracy? It would be considered in the spirit of a proceeding for the disarming of Papists. Then, again, the 20th section declared it to be lawful for any justice of the peace or other person to arrest anyone found out in the street or highway, or else- 336 where, between one hour after sunset and sunrise, and to commit him to gaol until the next petty sessions. He objected to that clause. But most emphatically he objected to the Press clause, because, under cover of a fictitious panic from agrarian outrage the Government sought for greatly increased powers over the Press for other purposes, the two matters having no real connection whatever. No such tyranny had been proclaimed in France when Rochefort and other seditious journalists were to be put down. It was reserved for the Irish Executive to produce an Algerine Act against the Irish Press under the guise of putting down agrarian crime. He could see no justification for such a course. So far as threatening letters were concerned, he had himself some experience of them. He had received threatening letters; but they never prevented him from going out to dine, and coming home at all hours of the night. He knew that the authors of such productions were cowards; and the case as stated by the Government was certainly not one to jnstify an invasion of the Constitution, which the Bill was admitted to be. He, therefore, had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Moore.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he felt that there was some truth in the statement made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Moore), with respect to the existence of a difference between those who had been disturbing the peace of Ireland. He (Mr. Newdegate) was aware that in Fenianism itself there were two elements; that Ribbonism seemed to have come to the aid of Fenianism, or to have taken advantage of the terror excited by Fenianism, for the purpose of accomplishing its own peculiar objects, which were agrarian—objects which, he was sorry to say, had received, to a large extent, the sanction of Her Majesty's Government in the Land Bill they had laid before the House. It was very important that the House should be made aware of the fact that Fenianism was no trifle, but that it was ramifying in this country. Information which he had 337 upon the subject led him to believe that the Executive should take some precautions as to the use of a large supply of arms which had been furtively introduced into Ireland. He represented the town in which arms were manufactured, and he had other means of knowing that arms had, during the last three or four months, been stealthily introduced into Ireland. He would, therefore, be the last to oppose the second reading of any Bill for the preservation of peace and of life and property in that country, which Her Majesty's Government might think it right to introduce. The present measure seemed to him a feeble copy of the Insurrection Act of 1833, deprived of some of the most efficacious provisions which that Act contained. He thought it would have been better that the Habeas Corpus Act should have been suspended; and he should have preferred that that part of the Act of 1833 had been adopted, by which the trial of murder and cognate offences should be transferred at once to the military tribunals, because he should then have felt a security that the other necessarily arbitrary provisions of the statute were not intended to be abiding regulations in the sister country. But as to resisting the introduction of this measure, he could vote for it with a clear conscience, because he felt deeply with the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), who, speaking of the Irish Land Bill, said that the measure was degrading to the Legislature, and that nothing would induce him to vote for it except the hope that Her Majesty's Government would follow it up by a measure for the preservation of life and property. So strongly did he feel with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that when the division on the second reading of the Land Bill was called for, he left the House, knowing that an arrangement had been come to by which the minority would be no less fictitious than the majority, and would be held to promote the progress of the Bill even more than the majority. That measure was a concession to agitation in Ireland. It was a sequence to the great blunder of last Session with regard to the Irish Church, and a greater blunder he believed had never been committed. ["Oh, oh!"] Did they need any proof? They were promised from that measure peace, contentment, and gratitude; they had 338 insurrection. And insurrection was, according to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, to be gratified with a still further concession—a concession demanded by the Ribbon organization, under the penalty of murder and violence. It was in obedience to the dictates of that Ribbon organization that the Government had been induced to come down to the House with their Land Bill. This he held to be degrading to the House. He did not wish to underrate the dangers to which Ireland was exposed. There were two elements in Fenianism. There was, first, the American element, which embodied a genuine national desire to free Ireland from the domination of England; this was natural, and in some degree justifiable, because some of the Fenians apprehended that England was about to submit Ireland to the domination of the Irish priesthood and the Papacy. That was a kind of Fenianism which was natural, and, to some extent, was justifiable. It was that element of Fenianism, and that element only, which Cardinal Cullen condemned. He had come to the aid of the Government to put down that class of Fenians, because they would not obey his dictates, and those of the Papacy, and for the same reason he condemned the Freemasons no less than the Fenians. It appeared that Her Majesty's Government, in their recent policy, were resting their strength upon that broken reed—the good faith of the Papacy. He was not surprised that the spirit of the Fenians rose against this. But the other class of Fenians, those who were connected with the Ribbon organization, had over looked up for support to the Roman Catholic priesthood. He would give the House a remarkable instance of the extent to which that organization was ramified. At the time of the mutiny of the Nore the officer who distinguished himself most was Sir Charles Rowley. He sailed from the Nore immediately after the suppression of the mutiny with a crew of mutineers, thus deserving the honours which he afterwards received. A mutiny took place in his ship after he had sailed; his life was attempted, but that mutiny was put down. That officer gave to a relative of his, who afterwards gave it to him (Mr. Newdegate), a copy of the oath which was taken by the mutineers at the Nore, and it was the Ribbon oath. [Cries of "Read!"] He 339 had not the document with him; but he would engage to produce it to any Member of the House who might desire to see it. He adduced this to show at what an early period this agency was at work creating those difficulties for England, which Ribbonmen and their priestly directors held to be opportunities for Ireland. The difficulties of the present position were greatly aggravated by the agitation countenanced by Her Majesty's Government during the last two years. The position was in great measure analogous to that which existed prior to 1798. There were then wild democratic ideas afloat, generated from the first French Revolution, which were adopted by a portion of the Protestants, who were discontented on account of the slights put upon them by the Government of that day, this discontent was strongest among the Presbyterians, who were dissatisfied. Now, the American revolutionary spirit was rife, and had generated a temper in Ireland analogous to the feelings he had described as prevalent at the end of the last century. There could be no doubt that a reactionary policy had been adopted by Her Majesty's Government; it was a reactionary policy, reversing the policy which this country had hitherto pursued towards Ireland, and it would be found to aggravate the difficulties with which she had to contend. He was an Englishman, and the representative of Englishmen; and he had listened with disgust to the perpetual invectives which the First Lord of the Treasury had directed against the conduct of all his predecessors, and against the action of Parliament up to the present time. He was an Englishman; he knew English legislators had not always behaved well towards Ireland, but their uniform object had been to raise Ireland to an equality with England in capability for freedom and in civil privileges; yet the Prime Minister referred all the ills of Ireland to Englishmen. He took no pleasure in trampling on his father's grave and defacing the name and the record of his good deeds on his tombstone; but the Prime Minister seemed to take a pleasure in these invectives, which had stimulated the storm now brewing in Ireland. The invectives with which the First Lord of the Treasury had characterized the former policy of England towards Ireland during the last two years had justified the Fenians in 340 the eyes of many who would otherwise have turned against them, because the Prime Minister came down to that House and stood, as it were, in a white sheet, confessing not his own sins, but such as he described to be those of his predecessors and his country. This teaching added hundreds to the enemies of England. The discontented among the Irish people said Habemus confitentes reos—we have them confessing that they have been always adverse to Irish freedom and Irish welfare. On this subject it was but yesterday that he was turning over an historical work, Wade's British History, the writer of which did not hold his opinions, but he knew the work to be accurate, for he had often tested it. That writer said—The chief transactions embraced in the second portion of the reign of George III. are, first, the commencement of the war with the North American Colonies, and the recognition, after an unsuccessful struggle of eight years, of their independence of the mother country. Secondly, the relaxation of the penal laws against Roman Catholics, and the disgraceful riots with which it was accompanied. Thirdly, the beginning of the attempts, which have never since been intermitted, of raising Ireland to an equality of civil rights and commercial advantages with England.But now Her Majesty's Government had reversed this policy, which, up to the present time, had been, to a considerable extent, successful; and for what? They had disendowed the Protestant religion in Ireland for the sake of telling the intelligent foreigner that they dared not maintain the Protestant Establishment in Ireland. They had reversed the whole policy which had brought England up to her present pitch of freedom for the sake of introducing a Land Bill, which declared that hereafter there should be no agricultural freeholder in Ireland, but that every freeholder should become a copyholder of the State. The Attorney General said that this measure was founded on the assumption that they must take things as they were; that was a stand-still policy. This standing still is but the first step towards retrogression. The right hon. Gentleman knew well that the object of the Government was to establish a feudal tenure in Ireland, and that all property in Ireland should be copyhold held of the State. He defied any lawyer to contradict him when he said that this Bill would place the State in the position of the over-lord of property, deducting, in some instances, 341 one-fourth of the value of the land, by way of fine, for the benefit of the tenant, who had no claim to compensation where it could not be proved that he had made improvements. They were told that this was to assimilate the tenure of land in Ireland to the customs of England. But there was no analogy between the two cases—the English customs were founded upon the improvements actually made by the tenant, and grew out of the progress of agricultural improvements, and could not be recovered against the landlord, unless contract on his part could be proved. The custom of England was founded upon contract. The Government declared, by this legislation, that the Irish people were so barbarous that they could not be trusted to enter into contracts among themselves. Was not that a reactionary measure? Whom would it gratify? It would gratify the Papacy, which had been struggling for this for hundreds of years. It would gratify the Papacy—that power which declared that the principles of its government were in direct opposition to modern civilization—it would gratify the potentate who, not content with the power which had been granted to all his predecessors, sought to be declared infallible, that he might exalt his authority over every monarch, and bind every State to his obedience. He had no wish to oppose the present Bill. He considered it a measure necessary to meet a melancholy state of things, from responsibility for the existence of which he could not exonerate Her Majesty's Government, who had for their own purposes fostered agitation, and had, both by their conduct and policy, aggravated the difficulties with which they now had to contend.
§ MR. SAUNDERSON
said, he was sure that all those Members who were interested in Ireland must have felt deep regret at the Government being forced to bring forward this measure, especially when they reflected that the measure before the House was diametrically opposed to the tendency of the recent legislation; but the Government had refrained as long as was consistent—some hon. Members might think longer than was consistent—with the safety of life and the security of property in Ireland, from bringing forward measures to secure those two objects, which most people thought desirable. As one whose ideas had been sharpened by re- 342 ceiving a threatening letter, he felt interested in this matter, especially because, for some years past, the state of Ireland had caused anxiety, and had given rise to repeated discussions in this House. Two years ago the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) drew a lamentable picture of the condition of Ireland, and stated his opinion as to the course which ought to be taken in order to bring about a state of things which everybody wished to see prevailing. He said in Ireland there is an alien Church; pull that down; in Ireland there is a feeling very generally spread among the tenantry that the tenure of land is not of a character to satisfy them; therefore, bring in a Land Bill which shall give them security of tenure. Two years had passed, and the Irish Church no longer offended the hon. Member for Cork, since all that now remained of that Church was the echo of her fall, a sound which was still ringing in the ears of many Irishmen, while the peace and prosperity which all then hoped for had not yet been obtained. He did not desire to rake up nearly forgotten subjects, because although the past might be remembered, it could not be recalled. The Government had, however, attempted to deal with the present condition of Ireland in a measure which was introduced by his right hon. Friend (the Chief Secretary for Ireland) with his usual lucidity and placidity, but without any statement of his opinion as to the real causes which had led to the present lamentable state of that country. With honourable candour, his right hon. Friend said that recent legislation—meaning the Irish Church Act—and legislation which was now in progress—alluding to the Irish Land Bill—had doubtless excited the minds of men in Ireland, a statement which was creditable to his right hon. Friend's candour and perception. But as the Chief Secretary had not stated his own opinion as to the causes which had led to the present condition of Ireland, he (Mr. Saunderson) would address himself to that topic, because he was afraid that the prevailing agitation in that country would continue for some length of time. For centuries a controversy had existed between the landlords and the tenants of Ireland with regard to the possession of the land of that country, and it could not be denied that the te- 343 nants had some sort of right on their side, because, owing to circumstances which neither landlords nor tenants could control, the interests of both had become to a great extent mixed up together. Hon. Members should recollect that the land of Ireland was subdivided to such an extent that it was impossible for the landlords of that country to build and repair farm buildings, and drain, and make hedges, because those improvements would exceed in cost the value of the fee simple of the estate. No one who knew the circustances under which Irish landlords were placed could blame them for not effecting such improvements as wore made by landlords in England. He had an estate in Ireland on which there were about 800 tenants; but on a similar property in England, there would not be more than 100, if so many, and if he had built all the houses for those 800 tenants, had drained their farms and made their fences, he certainly never would have been in that House. The tenants of Ireland having carried out improvements, thereby creating an additional value in the land, he did not deny that they had a certain amount of right on their side. The controversy between landlords and tenants had been carried on with great vivacity and determination on both sides. But as regarded some of the demands put forward, the law of the land, the laws of justice and political economy, and last, though not least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were on one side, while blunderbusses, rifles, revolvers, shillelaghs, crowbars, bludgeons, and political agitators were on the other. Well, the tenants of Ireland having succeeded in introducing into the minds of the Irish landlords, to a very considerable extent, feelings the reverse of pleasant and secure, thought at one time that they would have things very much their own way. They forgot the law which was at the root of all political economy—that a disturbance of the relations between any two classes of society caused a disturbance of the whole social machine. The labourers—the Lack-Land Looters of his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho—got up their cry and said—"We, too, have some right to the land; we labour the land, we drain the land, we assist in building houses." Accordingly, they put in their claim, and commenced 344 shooting the tenants. [An hon. MEMBER: Where?] That was the present condition of Ireland. Great insecurity existed, because the tenants invariably shot the landlords, and because the labourers sometimes shot the tenants. Thus, there was in Ireland at this moment a state of things such as never had existed in any other country. Poland was referred to by some persons; but there was no analogy between the case of Poland and that of Ireland. In Poland the religion of the country was oppressed, but in Ireland there was now no State religion. In Poland the national language was prohibited; but had that embarrassment ever been felt in Ireland? Why, the possession of the strongest and most redolent vernacular had not precluded its possessor from a seat even on the Treasury Bench. That being the lamentable state of things existing in Ireland, and the minds of the Irish people not having been educated in respect of the rights of property, the Government brought in the measure the House was now considering. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a very fair speech in introducing the measure. He clearly and boldly told the House his opinion, and there was nothing to complain of in what was said by his right hon. Friend; but a speech had been made from the Treasury Bench of which he did complain to a certain extent. In the interests of his country he wished to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to what he thought was a most unfortunate statement of his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Dowse). His hon. and learned Friend, in the eloquent speech delivered by him the night this measure was introduced, made use of these words, speaking of the Irish magistrates, a class to which he and other Gentlemen on that side of the House belonged—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, because he happened to sit on the Treasury Bench.No doubt that was the candid impression of his hon. and learned Friend; but he thought that persons in a responsible position should be careful of giving utterance even to candid expressions when they might be followed by results the 345 reverse of happy. He supposed his hon. and learned Friend meant to convoy to the House that he had never had much opinion of the Irish magistrates; but really such a statement coming from the Treasury Bench at a time when the Government was proposing to double the powers of those magistrates was one of the most extraordinary things he had ever heard. It reminded him of an announcement once made in an Irish newspaper, and which was to this effect:—"Not having any news or any remarks to make we only publish a supplement." The announcement of the Solicitor General for Ireland that not having any opinion of the Irish magistrates, he proposed to very much increase their powers was, he thought, quite as logical as that of the Irish editor. He hoped Her Majesty's Government did not share in the opinion of his hon. and learned Friend, because he did not think the Irish magistracy had ever behaved in a manner to justify such an attack. He now came to the measure itself. He intended to give it his cordial support. At first he thought it did not go far enough; but if the Government should find that it was not sufficient to meet the evil, they could come to the House before the end of the Session and ask for additional powers. Some hon. Members had asked him to name the case of a labourer having attacked a tenant. [An hon. MEMBER: Shot.] In his own county the other day a respectable Roman Catholic farmer was dragged forcibly from his bed by an armed party of ten men. He was not shot, but those men presented revolvers at him and made him swear to give up a farm he purchased some years ago from a person who was going to America, but now wished to come back and resume possession of the land. They not only made the farmer do that, but, adding insult to injury, they compelled him to pay their expenses from Tipperary to Cavan. Then, as to threatening letters, he presumed that there were other Gentlemen in that House who had received such missives. Just before he came over to attend his Parliamentary duties he received a threatening letter and—so curious was the development of the Irish mind—it ordered him to turn a tenant out. The writer said—"If you don't turn him out, you shall fall a victim to my balls." However, if the writer did not shoot with greater 346 accuracy than he wrote, perhaps he was not in so much danger after all, because he spelt "balls" in this style—"bawls." He wished now to say a few words about their prospects—about what might be the result of this legislation. If this Coercive Bill were the only measure the Government intended to bring in for the pacification of Ireland, he should indeed despair. Under such circumstances, he could have had no hope for the pacification or the welfare of Ireland; but Her Majesty's Government had a hand of mercy as well as a hand of justice. They had introduced what, in his opinion, was the greatest measure ever brought forward on the subject of land. That measure asked of the Irish landlords a sacrifice of many of those rights which they had always regarded as inherent in the possession of property. Though he did not want to make a merit of necessity—he might say that the landlords of Ireland were ready to make that sacrifice without sorrow or regret, because they felt that in the end it would have the effect of bringing peace and satisfaction to their country. Many prophecies had been made as to what would happen in Ireland. He did not want to add himself to the number of those who had so signally failed in their predictions; but he did hope that Her Majesty's Government and the great party who followed them did not intend to do justice to any one set of persons at the expense of another. He trusted they would do justice to all, irrespective of rank or religion or party. He did derive courage from the words of Sacred Writ, which he hoped they would take as their motto—"The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand."
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he should have liked to hear from the Government some reply to the remarks made by previous speakers before intruding himself at that critical hour of the debate upon the attention of the House; but as no Member of the Government had seemed disposed to rise, he trusted he might be permitted to offer a few observations on the Bill before them. He thought the Chief Secretary for Ireland had on Thursday made out his case fully, and had proved not only that the Government were justified in bringing forward a measure for the repression of crime in Ireland, but that it was incum- 347 bent on them to do so. If he had any fault to find with the Chief Secretary's speech, it was that he had under-stated rather than over-stated the gravity of the present circumstances of the country. One part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech had caused him great satisfaction. In former discussions the right hon. Gentleman, when seeking to justify the conduct of the present Government, had been rather in the habit of attributing to the preceding Government some of the encouragement that had been given to agrarian crime in Ireland. Believing it was not impossible that the right hon. Gentleman might take up that subject again, he had come down prepared to vindicate the late Government and repel that charge; but he was happy to find that in his statement on Thursday the right hon. Gentleman so thoroughly refuted, and, he might say, annihilated, all accusations of that kind, that it was entirely unnecessary for him to trouble the House on the matter. The Chief Secretary, on a former occasion, had alluded to the Ballycohey affair, and sought to impute blame to the late Government for not taking proper steps after that occurrence for the repression of future crime, as if to that cause these outrages in Ireland were to be ascribed. ["Hear, hear!"] If the hon. Gentleman who cried "Hear, hear" thought that was the case, he would refer him to the Chief Secretary's speech on Thursday last, in which he would find such a notion entirely refuted. The Chief Secretary had quoted the criminal statistics of different periods, and proved that the interval between the Ballycohey outrage and the next crime of a similar kind which succeeded it was longer than the interval between any two of those agrarian outrages in any of the periods quoted by the right hon. Gentleman for the purposes of his comparison. The right hon. Gentleman showed that the Ballycohey affair occurred on the 14th of August, and that the next similar outrage was committed on the 30th of December, or more than four months afterwards. That rendered it quite superfluous for him in any way to defend the conduct of the late Government in the matter, or to vindicate his official predecessor, the Earl of Mayo, who, when he read the right hon. Gentleman's speech in India, would be glad to see in it so complete a refutation of all the 348 charges made on that point. Having gone very narrowly into the present state of crime in Ireland, he had come to the conclusion that it was more terrible—more horrible—than the right hon. Gentleman had represented. He believed, indeed, that at no period of Irish history had there been so near an approach to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution as at the present moment. He had in his possession papers to prove that not only were life and property in the greatest danger in Ireland, but that the landlord could not insure his property, nor raise money upon it, nor assist his tenantry; while in some districts not only his own existence, but that of his whole family was seriously imperilled. The Chief Secretary seemed to think that the present phase of crime in Ireland was more of an agrarian than of a political character; but the measure now proposed was directed more against political than agrarian crime. No doubt, the origin of the present state of crime in Ireland was agrarian; but within the last few months there had been an increase of political agitation. Since Fenianism had been successfully put down by the late Government, its leaders had had recourse to agrarian outrages to resuscitate it and keep it alive, and by means of the Press they had sought in every way to foment disloyalty, and thus to produce a more dangerous state of things than even agrarian outrages. It was plain that the Fenian writers in the Irish Press had the lowest appreciation of the intelligence of their readers, for there was no falsehood too gross, no argument too ludicrous, no occurrence too trivial for them to use for the purpose of instilling disloyalty and disaffection into the minds of the people. He did not think the state of things in Ireland could be much worse than it was now; and, under these circumstances, he was prepared to support that Bill, being perfectly convinced that the Government could not, and durst not, in the face of the country, allow matters to remain as they were, without introducing some additional measures to those now in existence for the preservation of order. At the same time, he felt bound to make a few remarks on the causes which had led to the present increase of crime in Ireland. At the outset, he would state that he believed there existed causes in that country which 349 were themselves sufficient to account for that increase of crime; but he could not altogether acquit the Government from some responsibility in the matter. He thought if they had acted with a little more firmness and decision they might have prevented, at any rate, a portion of the present amount of crime. They had found Ireland when they took Office, not indeed in a quite satisfactory state—far from that, and nobody could speak of the state of Ireland for years past as having boon satisfactory—but, as contrasted with the present condition of things, it was then comparatively tranquil and satisfactory. The Chief Secretary had established that point when he gave them an account of those crimes in Ireland for a period of four or live years. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the agrarian crimes in that country in the year 1867 were 123 in number, in 1868, the period when the late Government were in Office, they were 160; and in 1869 they mounted up all at once to 767. That was a serious change for which the Government should account in some way or other, and for which he must hold them in some degree responsible. He gave the Government credit for good intentions; but he thought they had acted injudiciously with respect to advising the Crown to exercise the prerogative of mercy. He would not for the world interfere with the prerogative of mercy. He believed that crime was followed by punishment for the sake of repression, and if they could duly exercise mercy while benefiting the country, he would not be the man to find fault with it. But what he did find fault with was, that the Government had let the Fenians out of prison at a time when not a trace of feeling was shown by the convicts which could lead the Government to believe that they had changed their characters, and that the exercise of mercy in their regard would conduce to the peace of the country. On the contrary, looking to the publications of the day, it appeared that these men were liberated exactly at the time when the leaders of the Fenian party were seeking to join themselves to the agrarian conspirators, and when forced from one position they were taking up another, by which they might arrive at the same object by different means. And what was the result? Why, that the liberated convicts were welcomed as 350 a little army of martyrs; they threw up their caps in the face of the Government, and he believed it would be found that almost every one of them, from the moment they were released from gaol to the present, was either directly or indirectly promoting the present agitation. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury shook his head; but he was assured that such was the ease. He would not willingly state what was not true; and he should be glad, if in error, to be corrected by Her Majesty's Government. But that was not the only act which was injudicious. He would instance another—namely, the case of the Mayor of Cork, which was under discussion last Session. The Mayor of Cork, holding the position of chief magistrate in one of the largest towns in Ireland, had been guilty of inciting to rebellion, and had abused his office for the purpose of subverting the Government of the country. For a moment Her Majesty's Government showed some symptoms of vigour. They came to that House with a Bill of Pains and Penalties, and it appeared as if they were going to exercise their power by stigmatizing this magistrate, and by depriving him of his office, one of the provisions of their measure being that he should be disabled for ever from holding the office which he then held or any other in the service of the Crown. That was like an act of vigour. But it was as the last spark of a fire, which glittered for a moment and then vanished. Political pressure, he knew, was brought to bear upon the Government at the time. They not only let off the Mayor of Cork, on his assurance that he did not intend by his speeches what was attributed to him, but they did not carry into effect any portion of the Bill which they had introduced, and the Mayor rode off in triumph; the only accusation ever brought against him by the Fenians being that he had not offered sufficient opposition to the Government. He could tell his right hon. Friend this conduct of the Government had produced a very bad effect, and, coupled with subsequent acts, had led to the belief that the law in Ireland was administered in one way with regard to one party, and in another with regard to another. He might allude for a moment to the Motion made a few evenings ago by his noble Friend (Viscount Crichton) on the subject of the late Sheriff of Monaghan. He voted 351 with the minority on that occasion; but though he would support his own opinion, yet he did not wish to go in the teeth of the majority of that House. He would, however, make use of the case for a particular purpose. That transaction was of a political nature. The accusation of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was that Captain Coote was exercising his power to pervert the ends of justice; that he had an under-Sheriff who had improperly made up a panel for the trial of a prisoner; and because he would not dismiss the under - Sheriff, the Government deprived him of his office; and not only did they do that, but they superseded two other gentlemen of the highest character, who stood next on the list, simply because they were of different politics from themselves. His right hon. Friend denied that; but he must own that it was because he could not trust them with the appointment of an under-Sheriff that he cast this stigma on two most respectable men. His right hon. Friend appointed a Roman Catholic Sheriff in Protestant Ulster. [Murmurs.] Well, he knew what the hon. and learned Gentleman would say, and he would withdraw the expression. And what was the first act of that gentleman? It was to appoint an under-Sheriff, who was treasurer to the subscription fund that was raised to defend the prisoner M'Kenna. He knew that the person in question was deposed from his office; but what must have been the effect of appointing such a man in Ireland, where party spirit ran higher than in any country he was acquainted with? What must be the effect of the lenient way in which the Government tried crime on one side and the vigour they displayed on the other? He was not going to accuse the right hon. Gentleman of a perversion of justice in Ireland. If he had been in the right hon. Gentleman's place he would have adopted every means of securing a proper panel for trying the prisoner; but there were two ways of doing things. And, looking to the fact that they had a Roman Catholic Lord Chancellor in Ireland, and that lately the course of legislation had been such as to give rise to great bitterness of feeling in the North of Ireland, it created very considerable suspicions against the Government when such unwarrantable means were resorted to for carrying out the object of the right 352 hon. Gentleman. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Government could hardly be aware of the dissatisfaction to which the transaction to which he had referred had given rise, and that dissatisfaction was by no means confined to the right hon. Gentleman's political opponents. Indeed, he had heard the strongest dissatisfaction expressed by men who were supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. He would pass by all the speeches made at public meetings by justices of the peace, supporters of the Government, intended to excite discontent. Nor would he dwell on the case in which a Peer of the Realm had, at a tenant-right meeting, aluded to the memories of Vinegar Hill. That he would pass by; he would only say that he had not heard, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, in Ireland, of any expressions of disapprobation, or that they had taken any measures to show their disapproval. But there was coming on the case of Mr. Madden, on which he would express no opinion until he should hear it discussed. He would use it only for the purpose of showing how very vigorous the Government were in their treatment of those who were opposed to them. What was Mr. Madden's crime? As stated by the Chief Secretary it was this, that he had offered offence to Her Majesty's present Government. He was not one of those who would support Mr. Madden or anyone else in showing disrespect to the Government, because every magistrate should show proper respect to the Government of the day, whatever their politics might be. But in this case it required no time at all for the Irish Government to decide Mr. Madden's fate. The Lord Lieutenant was advised to draw his pen through Mr. Madden's name, and to deprive him of the offices which he held, and which he was never likely to be restored to as long as the present Government was in power. Let the House look side by side with this at the case of the Mayor of Cork, who was treated in a very different way. The Mayor of Cork might be elected Mayor to-morrow without the Government having any power to stop it, and might again become first magistrate of one of the largest towns in Ireland. This difference of treatment created the greatest dissatisfaction in a country where party spirit ran so high. Another point was, the time at which this measure had 353 been brought forward. His right hon. Friend had stated that the subject was not taken up by the Government at the opening of the present Session, and was not included, as would have been the case under ordinary circumstances, in the Queen's Speech, because about that time there was a sort of lull in the crime committed, and because it was therefore hoped that it would not be necessary to resort to extreme measures. He could not understand what his right hon. Friend meant by saying that there was a lull about that period; because he found, on referring to the monthly records, that in November, 1869, there were 144 cases of agrarian crime, and that in December there were no less than 337 cases—more, indeed, in one single month than had occurred during the whole of the two years during which the late Earl of Derby and his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Disraeli) wore in power. In January, 1870, the Returns showed 207 crimes, and in February they had increased to 271; and his right hon. Friend had therefore, in his opinion, himself proved that if such a measure as this were necessary, it should have been introduced at the commencement of the Session. Then, again, his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) had asked the Government why they had not used the powers vested in them by the present law. His right hon. Friend had stated that the Government were anxious not to fail. No doubt it was a very proper thing that any Government should take care, when they found it necessary to prosecute, to prosecute with success. But there was every reason to believe that the Government, had they felt disposed to prosecute, could have done so with success; and he was most struck by the circumstance that his right hon. Friend, in vindication of the course which the Government had pursued, had brought forward an extract from the Northern Whig, which he should rather have regarded as a condemnation of that course. The purport of the quotation was that treason was rampant throughout the land; and if that were so, it was surely a reason why the existing laws should be put in force. He could not, however, find any record of such an attempt having been made; and he believed, therefore, that there was some ground for the objection offered by the 354 hon. Member for Mayo. Holding, as he did, those opinions, it might be asked why he did not oppose the further progress of this measure? His answer was simply that he dared not. Looking at the present state of Ireland, he dared not refuse his support to any measure which the Government might think it their duty to assume the responsibility of bringing forward for the purpose of restoring peace and tranquillity to that country. It was a melancholy thing that they should be called upon to legislate exceptionally for Ireland; it was a matter which he viewed with the deepest and most unfeigned regret; but, however much he differed from the Government as to the course they had pursued, he felt that it was their bounden duty to support the Government in their endeavour to restore peace and tranquillity.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he believed that the House, upon consideration, would acquit the Government of the charges brought against them by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Colonel Wilson-Patten), who he was pleased to find—and he believed that the House would be pleased to find—nevertheless intended to give his support to this measure. The present time was one when the state of Ireland ought no longer to be dealt with in a party spirit. A grave crisis in the history of Ireland had arrived—a crisis in which patriotic men on both sides of the House ought to combine with a view to the restoration of peace and tranquillity. To the restoration of that peace and tranquillity he did not say that the existence of the present Government was a necessity, for he believed that peace and tranquillity in Ireland did not altogether depend upon the particular party which occupied Dublin Castle. He confessed that at one time he held a different opinion; but short as had been his tenure of Office, it had convinced him that the effectual repression of crime did not entirely depend upon whether a Whig or a Tory Administration was in power, and he no longer believed that the restoration of peace and tranquillity depended solely upon the existence of a Liberal Government, any more than he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his party came into power good government would be the rule and disorder the exception. 355 Whatever Government was in power they had the same tools to work with, for he had yet to learn that the magistrates and police and the other machinery for the detection and punishment of crime were changed with every Ministry. He believed, therefore, he was correct in stating that this question far transcended political considerations, and it was hardly worthy of the right hon. Gentleman to introduce his support to this Bill by bringing all these charges against Her Majesty's Government. Since, however, those charges had been made by a Gentleman whose high character would in Ireland lend them weight—which was more than could be said of every speaker on Ireland's wrongs—it was his duty to offer a reply to those charges, and as he believed a refutation of them. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had stated, not only that at no previous period had Ireland been in such a state, but that the present condition of that country was worse than the state of France during the Reign of Terror. [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN: Equally bad.] He accepted the correction, and would take the liberty of objecting to the comparison. The condition of Ireland had teen greatly exaggerated; but though it had been greatly exaggerated, he did not deny that the condition was a sad one, and one much to be deplored. But it was far superior to what it was even in 1832. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary had said that there were 767 agrarian crimes in 1869; but in 1832 there were nine murders, 172 homicides, 465 robberies, 568 burglaries, 455 cases of houghing cattle, 2,095 illegal notices, 425 illegal meetings, 796 cases of malicious injury to property, 753 attacks on houses, 280 arsons, and 3,156 serious assaults. That catalogue of crime justified him, he believed, in asserting that even in 1832 crime in Ireland was ten-fold what it was at the present time. Bad, therefore, as the state of Ireland undoubtedly was, it was still but right that the House should approach the consideration of the question in a judicial spirit, and not be led away by what, had it come from any other hon. Member, he should have regarded as a clap-trap assertion about the Reign of Terror. Now, the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) who, he perceived, was glad to elicit Conservative cheers when it suited his purpose, had referred 356 to the release of Fenian prisoners; but his hon. Friend had not, as far as he could understand, dared to say that the Government had not exercised a wise discretion in the release of prisoners who, with two or three singular exceptions, had not abused the clemency of the Crown. It was true that one or two American Fenians vapoured a little in Dublin after their release; but as they departed by the next steamer, that, perhaps, was of no great consequence; but those who had remained behind had acted differently, and, like the man whose name had been put forward at the election in Tipperary the other day, had retired into private life. He had as good means of knowing who took part in those meetings as most persons, for he not only saw the public prints, but had access to the official Returns in Dublin Castle, and he had no recollection whatever of seeing the name of anyone of the discharged Fenians as having been mixed up with any of the political demonstrations that had taken place. Upon that point, therefore, he might take his stand, and say that the first set of particulars in the Bill of Indictment brought by the right hon. Gentleman opposite had failed. Next, there was the case of the Mayor of Cork. He protested that if there was any one thing which he had supposed could not be charged against the Government it was the case of the Mayor of Cork. The Mayor of Cork certainly was not an Orangeman, yet they had administered in his case the same even-handed justice which they had administered in Monaghan. But the Government were placed in this singular position, that they received shots from both that and the opposite side of the House, fired, on the one hand, by the hon. Member for Mayo, and on the other by the right hon. Gentleman. From the fact that the Government were not able to please the two extremes an impartial spectator would probably come to the conclusion that the Government had administered even-handed justice. What were the facts as to the Mayor of Cork? He was a justice of the peace by virtue of his mayoralty, and not by virtue of any commission from the Crown. Her Majesty's Government could not dismiss him from the office of Mayor of Cork; and, accordingly, when that gentleman misbehaved himself—as they were led to believe that 357 he had done—Her Majesty's Government introduced a Bill with the object of removing him from office—a Bill which was denounced by some hon. Gentlemen opposite as a Bill of Pains and Penalties, though it was supported patriotically by the great bulk of the Conservative party. Ultimately, when the Mayor of Cork resigned, the Bill was dropped; and he was at a loss to know where, in any newspaper or pamphlet or speech Her Majesty's Government had been blamed for allowing the measure to drop, after it had accomplished the object for which it was introduced. Then, if the Government were not to be blamed, what was the use of bringing this matter forward? Was it to show that they were the cause of the present state of crime in Ireland? Her Majesty's Government were said not to have acted with firmness and decision; was that the cause of all the crime in Ireland? [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN: No.] Then, if not, what was the use of bringing those things forward? If his right hon. Friend—if he would allow him to call him so—was only criticizing in the abstract, or from an historical point of view, the acts of the Government, apart from any connection with the question of crime in Ireland, let him write a book upon the subject, which would be interesting as a contribution to history, but in no way could influence the course of events. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Sheriff of Monaghan. Surely that case had been disposed of. But the right hon. Gentleman, as he could not get any fresh arguments, took a case that was already decided, and, remembering that it was decided against him, lie took another that was not yet decided; but he ought to take some case that was germane to the point. The hon. Member for Mayo went out of his way to get a cheer from the Conservatives by saying that in this Monaghan case the Judge was not consulted. Did his hon. Friend vote with the majority upon that question? If so, did he approve the course which the vote of the majority endorsed? And, if he did, what was the use of his trying to catch a cheer from the party with which, for the moment, he was unnaturally connected? As to not having consulted the Judge, Her Majesty's Government acted advisedly in what they did; they had the facts before them as well as Mr. Justice Morris; and there was no analogy 358 at all between that case and the reference which was made to a Secretary of State in England in the case of convicted prisoners. However, the case had been disposed of, and it ought not now to be brought forward as a ground of accusation against the Government. Then the right hon. Gentleman told them that two gentlemen had been superseded by the Government on account of their politics. To that statement he respectfully gave a denial; no such ground had been suggested or imagined for passing over those gentlemen. [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN: The statement was that you could not trust them.] They could not be trusted with respect to a particular thing. ["Oh!"] Why, there were some things in which the right hon. Gentleman himself could not be trusted—he could not be trusted to make a successful charge against Her Majesty's Government. The point with regard to those gentlemen was that they might appoint the same sub-Sheriff, in which case there would be the same imbroglio over again. The right hon. Gentleman had talked—and something of the old leaven crept out there—of the idea of appointing a Catholic Sheriff in Protestant Ulster. [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN said he had withdrawn the expression.] Very well; I then he would also withdraw what he was about to say. But he took the liberty of respectfully wishing that the ghost of Protestant Ulster might be laid so effectually that it never could be even galvanized into use for the purpose of affording to Gentlemen on the other side of the House a bad argument against Her Majesty's Government. As to the Earl of Granard, he thought it a peculiarly unfair thing to bring a charge against that Nobleman, who could not be there to meet it. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House might not think it a peculiarly unfair thing—they might even think it a fair thing. But he had the honour of being acquainted with the Earl of Granard, and a more estimable and high-minded Nobleman did not exist in Ireland. He was perfectly satisfied that if put upon his trial before a jury of his Peers Lord Granard would be able to clear himself from having said anything unworthy of his honour as a man, or of his character as a loyal subject of the Crown. Mr. Madden's case was the last which had been referred to; he would not go into 359 that, as it was to be discussed upon another occasion; but the Government would be able to defend their conduct with regard to it, as they had done in every other case. Now, that was the whole of the indictment brought against Her Majesty's Government, and he asked himself in what they were to blame. And what was the remedy? Was it to bring back the late Government? [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN: No, no!] The right hon. Gentleman said not, and he agreed with him in that. None of the matters laid to the charge of the present Government had led in any way to the increase of crime. It might, perhaps, be contended that the measure of last Session and the measure of the present Session, producing, as they did, excitement in the minds of the people in Ireland, might have led to a different condition of things from what existed before; and no doubt such was the case. Ireland had been in the torpor of death. She had no hope from any Administration, and very little indeed from the last. No man had said, or could say, that the Irish Church Bill would at once restore peace and tranquillity to Ireland; but, whether it did or not, Members upon his side of the House believed the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church was a great measure of justice, and if the measure were right in itself, and had proved the means of stirring the minds of Ireland, it must be accepted with all its consequences. The land question was another question of the same kind, and the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that it must be settled. The right hon. Gentleman supported the Bill, but he did it saying that he dared not vote against it; from which it was to be inferred that if he dared he would vote against it, but that his fears overcame his reason, and to some extent his judgment too. He passed now from the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who, he thought, would have no reason to complain that, as far as he was concerned, one speaker on the side of the Opposition, at any rate, had not been answered by any Member of Her Majesty's Government. To his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo he always listened with great pleasure, because he was certain that he should always hear the speech of a scholar, and, though he was somewhat rash and inconsiderate as a politician, he conveyed his rash and 360 inconsiderate ideas in the most choice and polished language. His hon. Friend's objection to the Bill was that it associated together matters connected with political disturbances and matters connected with the misdeeds of bandits. He would do his hon. Friend the justice to say that, notwithstanding the eccentricity of some of his political movements, he had always been opposed to lawlessness when it arrayed itself on the side of agrarian disturbance; but in the view which he had expressed that between the two things of which he had spoken there was no connection existing he believed him to be entirely mistaken. The Fenian conspiracy which at present existed in Ireland was connected with the land, and running through all the Fenian ideas and utterances were questions connected with the land. [Mr. MOORE: No!] He was foolish enough to retain his own opinion, notwithstanding the dissent which had just been expressed. He held in his hand one of the journals which had recently attained such unenviable notoriety in this country, and which the hon. Member, he supposed, would admit discussed the question according to Irish ideas—We had thought that the execution of ejecting landlords and agents was not only one of the ways, but the only possible way, for staying this intolerable oppression. We had thought—and have long ago written and printed the sentiment—that as there is no law in Ireland for peasants, but all the laws are against them, they must take the law into their hands or die; and, further, that the people of Tipperary (Dr. Leahy's flock) had not slain half enough of the exterminating landlords and their agents.[Mr. MOORE: What is the date of that?] The middle of last year. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would inform the House that these people had changed their minds since then. This was a statement contained in a letter by John Mitchell, who was at the head of, or connected with, the Fenian Conspiracy. [Mr. MOORE: No!] Well, his hon. Friend knew bettor than he did. From the public Press, at all events, there was every reason to believe that such was the case. The hon. Member for Carlow County (Mr. Kavanagh) had referred to a paper the other day which in general terms advocated the extermination of landlords. Another paper advocated, not the shooting, but the hanging of landlords, holding that this was a more appropriate way of putting them to death, 361 and further reasoned quite syllogistically that that was the only way of logically exterminating them. But one and all referred to the land in connection with the views which they advocated; and he might take one passage by way of illustration. The Irishman of October 16, 1869, said—There are 100,000 men in the country to-day who are ready, if necessary, to go to the fullest extent for its liberty. Now, if every man among them was self-reliant we could see their work. Say, let each pay a penny per week for their country's good, and the result would be over £20,000 sterling, just the price of 10,000 rifles with bayonets on the top, or the money would found a national library or something else profitable. Self-reliance and a penny per week, as the result of it, could do this. Read that, young Irishman, and ponder; it is surely worth your while. If there were a thousand Irishmen to collect that small sum there might be 20,000 rifles yearly purchased, duly licenced, of course, to defend our hearths from the invader—French, Russian, or others.In another paper, in an article headed, in very conspicuous type, "The Fenian Idea," he found the following:—Now, anyone can see that the United States is the only true base of operations in behalf of Irish liberty; and while the United States Government is at peace with England, and an unfortunate international law prevails, there can be but little hope. It is, therefore, the policy of every true Irish patriot to advocate and precipitate a war with England. The people in Ireland could then rise, take England in the rear, while Canada would fall, and might be occupied by the Irish exiles. If a revolution in Ireland during such a war failed—and we don't believe it would—then Canada, at least, would be certain when a better hour might strike. These are some of the chances of Irish liberty—chances at first sight, merely upon the surface of this great business.He maintained that these newspapers, of which he had scores with him in that House, were saturated with sentiments of a similar description, and yet his hon. Friend seemed to say that an Irish tenant, when he read his weekly supply of refreshing literature, would draw a nice distinction as to whether he ought to shoot one of the Grenadier Guards or to kill his landlord who was nearer at hand. For his own part, he thought no person could reasonably draw such a distinction. These newspapers constituted one of the chief curses of the country. He would now read the last quotation he intended to trouble the House with. It was taken from the Irishman of Christmas Eve—the eve of what all people who believed in the words of Holy Writ held to be the advent of 362 "peace on earth and good-will towards men," or, as his hon. Friend would say, "peace to men of good-will," which was much the same thing. The following were the words used:—General Corcoran has not lived in vain. And with the blessing of a just and merciful Providence the gallant soldiers he so often led will one day aid in raising a trophy to his memory under the blue skies of liberated Ireland.The liberty of Ireland was, in the opinion of the writer, to be secured by a national Legislature and the overthrow of the British Empire. Newspapers containing sentiments like this were scattered broadcast over the land. But his hon. Friend (Mr. Moore) asked why the Government did not prosecute them. It was true that the Government were successful in two prosecutions which they instituted against newspapers for articles about the so-called Manchester massacre; but at the present time the condition of the country was such that Her Majesty's Government, aided by the Law Advisers of the Crown, had come to the conclusion that, though these articles were of such a nature that there could be no doubt they were calculated to stir up the minds of the people to sedition and treason, yet there would be the gravest difficulty iii submitting them to the opinion of a jury, because if one Fenian sympathizer happened to be in the jury-box the prosecution must fail. His hon. Friend also said that he was unwilling to entrust the present Government with the large powers conferred by the Bill, and talked about the Government having professed to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, whereas the hon. Member maintained that there were many Irishmen who had no ideas at all. His hon. Friend went on to say that the state of crime in Ireland at the present moment spread terror among all honest men—a term which, he apprehended, was large enough to include the hon. Gentleman himself. Yet, after admitting all this, and declaring that, were it not for the Press Clauses he would support the Bill, the hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that it be read a second time that day six months. Now, without going through all the mazes of his argument, he must say that the hon. Gentleman did not approve the principle of the Bill, and that the whole tenour of his speech was that 363 he would give it all the opposition in his power. The hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan), who seconded the Amendment, said that the Government were already possessed of ample powers of detection and of punishment; but if the hon. Gentleman had a little of the responsibility of Office on his shoulders, he would understand how difficult it was to bring to justice the writers of threatening letters. When the threatening letter was sent to the hon. Gentleman, did he go before a magistrate or take any other steps for putting the law in force? If not, the hon. Gentleman himself was to blame, and not Her Majesty's Government. To attribute these letters, as the hon. Member had done, to the mixed system of education, was one of the most extraordinary arguments he had ever heard. It was, indeed, a most unjust aspersion on a highly respectable body of men, who, if not overpaid, as the hon. Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Maguire) remarked, were highly zealous and industrious, and who reflected great credit on the country. His hon. Friend seemed to convey the impression that a National School master had written the threatening letter which was sent to him; but, if so, why did he not prosecute the schoolmaster? In the present discussion it would be out of place to enter into the merits or demerits of mixed education; but he could not help saying it was an injustice to use the argument which had been adduced by his hon. Friend. As to Clause 13, which the hon. Gentleman objected to, it had been drawn up with an earnest and sincere desire to strengthen the hands of the Executive, but the powers it gave would in no case be used in an unreasonable manner. With regard to the assertion of his hon. Friend that the so-called national newspapers were always among the foremost to denounce agrarian crime, all he could say was that he was prepared to give him an opportunity of reading them through, and of then stating—outside the House, of course—that he had come to an erroneous conclusion on this point. No true friend of Ireland or of liberty would desire to do anything that would be unfair and unjust; but if the country were in the condition of a feverish patient, it was the primary duty of a good physician to remove the aggravating causes of her complaint. Passing to the 364 speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Saunderson), he could only say that the remark he (Mr. Dowse) made the other night had reference to what had fallen from the Member for the county of Cork (Mr. M'Carthy Downing), and that it ought to be read in connection with what preceded it. The hon. Member for the county of Cork—and having known him many years ago, long before he had a seat in the House of Commons, he was bound to say that there was no one in whose statements he could place more perfect reliance—pointed out a district many miles in length in his county where all the magistrates except two were Protestants, while the vast majority of the inhabitants were Catholics. Thereupon he stated that he did not regard the condition of the Irish magistracy as wholly satisfactory, and that, though he occupied a seat on the Treasury Bench, he would not on that account state what he did not believe to be the case, for this he was blamed by the hon. Member for Cavan. He did not attach much weight to the censure. If he managed to get through the remainder of his official career with equal success, he should indeed be a lucky man. His hon. Friend the Member for Cavan had said, in the course of his admirable speech, that the condition of Ireland was different from that of Poland. Well, he was not going into that question; but he believed his hon. Friend was wrong in saying that the language of Ireland was never proscribed. Both its language and its religion were proscribed, and, indeed, if they had not been, there would be no Irish question in this year of grace 1870.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, of course it was not proscribed now, because it was extinct. The hon. Member might just as well have said that the animals referred to in the work on Prehistoric Man by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock)—the dodo or the mammoth—were not proscribed. The hon. Gentleman further proceeded to make a remark about the "redolent vernacular" of one of the occupants of the Treasury Bench.
§ MR. SAUNDERSON
, interposing, said, his remark was not applied to any 365 Member of the Government, though, if the cap fitted, he, of course, could not help it.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
If, at all events, he happened to be the Member of the Treasury Bench whom the cap fitted, he should have remembered his Latin, and should hardly have pronounced his adjectives as his hon. Friend had done, for his ideas of pronunciation seemed to be as eccentric as those of the man who wrote him the threatening letter were with respect to spelling. To return to the Bill before the House, he believed it to be a fair, a just, and a wise measure; but, as an Officer of the Crown who had had a great deal to do with the preparation of the Bill, and who had a certain amount of responsibility with regard to it, he wished to make one or two observations with the view of removing some misconceptions as to the manner in which the Bill dealt with the existing law. The Arms Clauses of former Acts were re-enacted in this Bill, and the punishment for the illegal possession of arms was increased; but that only applied to proclaimed districts. Whiteboy, drill, and other offences connected with arms were the only offences which were placed under summary jurisdiction; and when his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan spoke of the Government as having first condemned the Irish magistrates and then given them higher powers he would remind him, in addition to what he had already said, that the 25th section specially enacted that a resident magistrate should sit with the other justices at the petty sessions. These matters, however, could be discussed in Committee. The Bill, he believed, would be found to be as stringent in its operation as circumstances required. Its provisions would be judiciously administered under the authority of a careful Executive Government and a discreet bench of magistrates, and the result would be that Ireland would be brought to a condition very different from that in which it now was. It would be impossible that those crimes which now prevailed in Ireland could be committed with impunity. Armed bands of marauders who prowled about the country by night would be brought to justice; arms would be sought for wherever there was reason to suspect they might be found; and, besides, those public-houses, which were nothing more 366 than mere dens of infamy, in which the worst enemies of society met together to hatch their plots would be more strictly under the supervision of the Executive than they were at present. That Press, too, which, written as it was with such ability, power, and zeal, did so much to poison the minds of the Irish people against England and English institutions, and against Irish institutions also, would only be able at the risk of the loss of property to sow treason and sedition, broadcast through the land; and he believed he might say he had the sanction of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government when he stated that if the new Act, rigorously and honestly administered, failed to produce that tranquillity which Ireland so much required, the Government would not be slow in coming to Parliament to ask for additional powers. He hoped there would be no necessity for that. He believed that they were entering upon a merciful course for Ireland itself by investing the Government with these additional powers; for the best friends of Ireland must be desirous that the reign of law might be established where terrorism now prevailed. The enemies of Ireland must not be allowed to deliver her over to anarchy and bloodshed, and to force that warm-hearted and noble people into a line of action that could only end in the rejection of everything consecrated by justice and upheld by law.
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten) had left the House, as he should like to give him, from his own personal knowledge, some information about the Ballycohey affair, to which he had referred in the course of his speech. That affair, and the management of it by the late Government, was, in his opinion, the fons et origo of all the misfortunes of which Ireland had at the present moment to complain. The Government, instead of consulting the gentry or local authorities, communicated as usual with a stipendiary magistrate or police officer, and, in accordance with the advice given them, withdrew the force which had been sent down. After those transactions the country was illuminated with bonfires, while people, rejoicing, said—"We have shot police, wounded our landlord, shot his bailiff; we have got our land at a rent considerably less than 367 before, the police have been removed from our farms, and here we are perfectly triumphant over law and the Government." That spread like wildfire through the country, and the result had been most disastrous. Now, the right hon. Gentleman, though he objected to some of the provisions of the Bill before the House, said he dared not vote against it. He (Mr. Bagwell), however, though he resided in Tipperary, and in the vicinity of Ballycohey, did not share in the right hon. Gentleman's apprehensions, and he should take an entirely opposite course. He had supported many Bills for the pacification of Ireland, and had had occasion to vote for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, proposed by both parties; but this was a measure which he could not support. The measure, in his opinion, was not really one for the protection of life and property in Ireland, but rather one to prevent honest men from holding their own and defending their properties. It provided that a man must go to a stipendiary magistrate if he wished to have arms, and procure a licence for the purpose. But did anyone imagine that a person wishing to commit a murder in Ireland would not find a weapon to do so, even though it might be a revolver? The fact was, it was the honest man who would not be allowed to carry arms for his own protection. He must add that he did not think the Solicitor General for Ireland had explained the phrase which he had used on a former occasion, with respect to the Irish magistracy, in a very satisfactory manner. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he had only echoed the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Maguire), and also that the Treasury Bench would not alter his opinions. He did not, indeed, believe, that the hon. and learned Gentleman, because he happened to occupy a seat on the Treasury Bench, had changed his nature; indeed, he could not help thinking that before he reached that haven of rest of Irish patriots—the Irish Bench—the Government would find that it was not easy to muzzle the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the probability was they would hear a good deal from him which they would much rather not hear. It was proposed that the magistrates of Ireland should exercise great powers, and, as a body, they were quite willing to undertake arduous duties, provided the powers 368 conferred upon them were given fairly and generously. But the manner in which these powers were conferred amounted to an insult. They were not allowed to exercise them without the presence of a stipendiary magistrate. He was glad to say, notwithstanding what had fallen from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who endorsed the opinion of the Solicitor General as to the unsatisfactory state of the Irish magistracy, that in the part of the country in which he lived the very names Protestant and Catholic appeared to have died out—indeed, he heard more about such differences in one night in that House than he hoped to hear in Tipperary for the rest of his life. But be that as it might, it was an insult to such men as the noble Lord the Member for Kerry, who occupied the foremost position in that county, to Sir James O'Connell, who was held in so much honour, and others of high position, that if they met together to administer the law, and the stipendiary magistrate happened to have a cold, or be otherwise indisposed, they would be unable to deal with the prisoners brought before them, and would be left to look like so many fools. It was intended, under the Bill, to require the grand juries to levy a fine, and impose rates for compensation in certain districts, without reference to the ratepayers or the Judge. He did not think a more odious duty could be imposed upon them, and, as an Irish gentleman, he must protest against being being called upon to discharge such functions. If the police of Ireland were properly organized there would be no necessity for such measures as this. But at present they were dressed in such gorgeous uniforms that they forgot that they were police, while their time was mainly occupied in preparing those reports which had such a fascination for gentlemen in office. Not long since he had occasion to suggest to a police officer in Ireland the advisability of pursuing a criminal who had made his escape, and the man replied—"Why, Sir, I should lose my situation if I did not go immediately and write three reports—one to the Government, one to the county inspector, and one to my own officer." He went away to write his report, and the Government never caught the offender. As to the proposed prosecution of the Press, he regretted very much that there should exist in 369 Ireland a taste for literature which he called extremely pernicious, but the London Press was pernicious too in its way, and more damage was done to morality by prurient reports of cases in Westminster Hall than by the high-flown and absurd language used by the so-called national Press in Ireland. In its proposals respecting the Press the Bill carried one back to the days of 1798. It used then to be said—"Hang a man first and try him afterwards!" and that was what the Government were now going to do in Ireland. They would shut up a newspaper office, seize the plant, and then tell the proprietor to bring an action against them, they having the Consolidated Fund to fall back upon for damages. He would point out a danger which was likely to arise from dealing with the Press in the manner proposed. When the Government seized a newspaper the people would at first miss their daily dose of sedition, but by-and-by the craving for it would die away. When, however, they had become accustomed to the altered state of affairs, the action brought by the proprietor of the paper against the Government would revive all their interest in the matter. He could imagine what difficulty the Government would have in obtaining a verdict upon such an occasion. He did not believe they ever would get a Dublin jury to give them a verdict in acting upon a Bill which was contrary to every principle of right and justice. The utmost the Government could hope for was that the jury would not agree. But would such a result be satisfactory? Why, from Slievenaman to the shores of the Shannon, and from the top of the Galtees to the Devil's Bit, there would be a blaze of light at this failure of the Government. The Government, he feared, were in a sad state. They had been in Office only one year, and were nearly in the position of having not a single adherent among any party in Ireland. Last year they did an act of justice; but did it with such harshness and want of consideration that great numbers of Protestants who otherwise would have been reconciled to the passing of such a Bill, had the most bitter feelings against the Government, and now, if not hostile to the Government, stood with folded arms and said—"Keep the peace if you can!" This Bill, at once so mischievous and so 370 weak, would not bring the Government many adherents; and as to the Land Bill—he might point to the numerous meetings which had recently been held, and to the general sentiment expressed in Ireland, in support of his assertion, that it would prove a total failure. The people looked upon themselves as betrayed, and regarded the Bill as a mockery and a snare. As regarded the present measure, he never voted with a clearer conscience or more deliberately against any Bill than he should give his vote against this.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, that as far as his knowledge of the country went, he must protest against what had been said by the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell) as to the effect of the Irish Church Bill upon either Protestants or Roman Catholics. The hon. Member's nerves must have boon peculiarly sensitive now or last year if he took offence at the manner in which the Bill was passed, especially as the lion's share of the property was retained by the Church. The question before the House was a peculiarly painful one for an Irish Member to address himself to. Such a Member it placed in this difficulty—if he did not oppose the Bill he would be regarded by a certain party on his own side of the Channel as betraying the country; and if he did oppose it lie would be regarded by a certain party on this side of the Channel as a friend of anarchy and crime. Under such circumstances of difficulty an Irish Member had to tread the path of duty, and in discharge of that duty he would speak his mind freely and firmly, without regard to any party or any faction, without regard to consequences, and with contempt for any accusations that might be made hereafter. He thought the Government entitled to some credit for resisting the demands of those who desired by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act to suspend the Constitution in Ireland; but previously to entering into an analysis of the Bill before the House, he must ask how it happened that a Government, which by the measures it had introduced both last year and in the present had shown itself friendly to Ireland, should find itself in the same difficulty as its predecessors, and under the necessity of bringing in a Bill like the present. The answer to the question was that this was merely the consequence of centuries of misrule 371 —the Nemesis of retributive justice—the sin of the father falling on the innocent child; and the present Government, though it had initiated a policy of conciliation, could not conciliate Ireland in a day or year. The state of things reminded him of the position of Macbeth, who wished to retract from the course he had entered on, and to retrace his steps, but who said—I am in bloodStepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more,Returning were as tedious as go o'er.So the Government of to-day found itself in difficulty in retracing the steps of an old policy, and in order to pave the way for conciliation found itself under the necessity of having recourse to repressive measures. Nevertheless, the Irish Members, though bound to support a policy of conciliation, were not bound to support a policy of coercion, unless satisfied that the Government, in pursuit of a policy of conciliation, asked for powers within the Constitution; and such powers in such a case he was not prepared to refuse. Therefore, as far as the powers asked for were constitutional he would support them, and as far as they were unconstitutional he would oppose them. The Bill, besides extending the powers given by the Peace Preservation Act, proposed to arm the Government with repressive powers, or, as he called them, unconstitutional powers, for the purpose of striking at the liberty of the Press. With regard to the proposal to repeal the exemption as to game licences, he was not at all aware of its necessity until he read the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He believed that the persons who generally took out game licences were not dangerous as a class; but as his right hon. Friend's sources of information were very wide, he must give way to his opinion on this point, and as he was neither a Whig nor a Tory he should not oppose the proposition. He had no objection to the repression of the revolver in Ireland, inasmuch as the use of this instrument had a significance in Ireland, borrowed from America. He objected to the powers of searching for arms as being too wide in their range, and he hoped this part of the measure would be considerably modified in Committee. Having made these observations on the first part of the Bill, he would observe that, though the second part, relating to the issue of 372 new proclamations, had excited some hostility on account of the power given to magistrates and to grand juries, yet the magistracy of Ireland, a body of which he was a member, generally discharged their duty honestly and efficiently, and he strongly protested against the calumnious imputations which had been cast upon them. The vice and defect of that body was that it was not representative; it was not from the people or of the people, and had no sympathy with the people. The people, consequently, had no confidence in the body, and did not trust it. That, however, was not the fault of the magistrates. In order to bring about a different state of feeling time was required, and the settlement of the Church question was the first step in the way of producing that result. The Bill proposed to give to the magistrates the power of taxation. He did not object to that, as the proceeding would be an open one, and the public would be witnesses of it. But what he objected to was the power proposed to be conferred on individual magistrates of torturing persons with questions. What the hon. Member for Clonmel had said as to the future position of magistrates being an undignified one under the operation of this Bill might be a tangible objection or not. He would express no opinion upon it. For his own part he would sooner sit, as a magistrate, without a stipendiary magistrate's adjudication. They would have the power of questioning everybody they liked or disliked, and if they had some little pique against anyone, they had the power of sending him to prison if they thought him guilty of contempt. Why, such a power would not be given in this country to the chief Judges in the land! Had these gentlemen the training to fit them for acting as judges—for being above all prejudice, all feeling of animosity towards their neighbours? Had they the training of a procurator-fiscal? This was an attempt to introduce French law in Ireland. It was a perfectly monstrous innovation. It was unconstitutional. No man ought to support it. He was still inclined to say this was a matter for Committee, and if the House of Commons was what it used to be, and what it ought to be, they would not consent to grant such a power to any Ministry. The liberty of the subject would be at an 373 end; there could be no liberty if a magistrate could examine every person he pleased and send him to gaol for contempt; and the gaols would not be large enough to hold all who might be committed. That clause of the Bill must be modified. The grand juries of Ireland, economically, were most cautious in their presentments and in the application and expenditure of public money, but they had the same vice as the magistrates—they were not representative; they were not of the people or from the people; they had not sympathy with the people, and the people had not confidence in them. He could not approve the power which was given to the grand juries of presenting for damages in case of people unfortunately murdered in the present state of Ireland. He would sooner that the power were given to presentment sessions, if that could be done; but they, too, were not representative. He would suggest to his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary that he should provide in the Bill that notice of these applications should be given before the Assizes. He now came to what he considered the most unconstitutional part of the Bill—that relating to the Press. The Government had been congratulated on not asking for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, but in his opinion they asked for powers still more extensive. If those powers could safely be intrusted to any one they might be to the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. By him they would be administered faithfully, cautiously, and honestly. But they ought not to be given to any man. They were unconstitutional powers. They amounted to no less than an abrogation of the liberties of the Irish people. The Irish people regarded that portion of the Bill in this sense. Talk not to him of agrarian crime or Fenianism. Ireland was not all chargeable with agrarian crime—Ireland was not all Fenians; and, though weakly and badly represented, Ireland had still sufficient spirit to resist such a measure. What were the arguments advanced in support of these unconstitutional powers? They were told of the powers which had been exercised to put down immoral books and obscene prints in this country. Everybody knew what an immoral book or obscene print was, but was everybody a judge of sedition or treason? There was no analogy—the argument did not 374 apply. They did not confiscate the printing press which produced the immoral publications; but by this Bill they would confiscate the printing press in Ireland. Then it was said they gave the unfortunate victim a remedy—to come before a jury and prove his innocence. He could not but think that the legal advisers of the Government in Ireland had been consulting the code of Rhadamanthus when they prepared these clauses—Gnossius hæc Rhadamauthus habet durissima regna:Castigatque, auditque dolos; subigitque fateri.They condemned the man without trial; they confiscated his property; they drove him naked into the world or the workhouse, and then they allowed him to come before a jury and seek damages. This was a mockery, an insult that could not for a moment be endured. They confiscated the property of the type-owner or the type-setter; but the real miscreant who wrote the article perhaps altogether escaped. Under these circumstances, he had made up his mind no power on earth should induce him to give his sanction to this part of the Bill. He appealed to the House as the guardians of public liberty and the rights of the Press to protect the liberty of the Press in Ireland. Pitt would not have dared to ask for such a power as this. The Bill would be sufficiently workable if this part were struck out. He appealed to the Government; he appealed to the Prime Minister to pursue his policy of conciliation in Ireland.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he had been surprized at the jocular tone of the speech of the Solicitor General for Ireland—a speech which might have led a stranger to suppose that the subject before the House was of a frivolous and amusing nature, instead of being one of the most melancholy which could engage public attention. The hon. Gentleman, being himself an Irish Member, and the Legal Adviser to the Crown on Irish matters, had announced to the House and the country that the time had arrived when the Government must ask the House for extra powers, which some people called "coercive," to enable them to maintain public peace in Ireland, and he should rather have shown regret and remorse, or even humiliation, at having to state that the Government had brought Ireland into such a position. Nor was 375 the speech of the hon. Gentleman calculated to afford the House any consolation, because he merely endeavoured to make out that the statements as to the condition of Ireland were somewhat exaggerated, while he did not show in what respect. He told the House that the state of affairs in 1832 was much worse than at present, which was but sorry consolation, even if it made out his case. But it did not prove his argument, for although the hon. Gentleman had quoted the statistics of crime as brought before the Assizes, yet every hon. Member who was acquainted with Ireland knew that the great majority of cases which in 1832 came before the Judges of Assize, were now tried at quarter sessions. No person knew that fact better than the right hon. Gentleman, yet, to meet the convenience of his argument, he did not mention it, while he also forgot to mention that the population was then 1,500,000 greater than at present. The most deplorable feature of Irish crime was the confession of the Judges that it was impossible to obtain either evidence or convictions, and the Bill before the House showed to what an extent that was the case, because it contained special clauses which were directed towards obtaining evidence. In previous years Judges had not had to make such unfortunate confessions, nor was there any such difficulty as now existed of protecting witnesses. There did not then occur cases in which jurymen who were supposed to be ready to give an honest verdict, were mobbed and nearly murdered, nor where Judges of Assize insulted while proceeding from the Court-house; yet, after these things had happened, the Solicitor General asked the House to be guarded against being carried away by exaggerated statements. It was hardly possible to contemplate a more melancholy picture than that afforded by the First Lord of the Treasury, who, last week, in reply to the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) respecting an amnesty for the Fenian prisoners, said—Until we are able to see a state of things in Ireland when Her Majesty's peaceable and well-conducted subjects may be enabled to pursue the ordinary avocations of life with that degree of comfort and confidence which is the best test and criterion of a civilized and a Christian country—he could not grant the request. That "was not the state in which the right hon. 376 Gentleman found Ireland when he took Office, and therefore, while he (Lord Claud Hamilton) granted that there was a painful necessity for this legislation, he hoped that the Government would endeavour to show how it happened that since they had come into power with an enormous majority, to enable them to carry out any measures they deemed advisable, the country had fallen into such an awfully degraded state. Such an explanation was due to the House before the Government asked for powers which were almost unconstitutional. At present, in a great portion of Ireland the law was openly insulted and defied—a state of things painfully humiliating in a country which was supposed to have free institutions, and said to be owing in some measure to the unguarded expressions which Members of the Government had used. He had heard with surprise that the First Lord of the Treasury now denied having ever used the expression that he would "govern Ireland according to Irish ideas." [Mr. GLADSTONE: Will the noble Lord quote any speech in which I made use of such an expression?] As the right hon. Gentleman had withdrawn it—[Mr. GLADSTONE intimated that he was under no necessity of "withdrawing" the expression which he had never employed.]—well, he could only say that he much regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had, without contradiction, allowed that phrase to be so long imputed to him. It was greatly to be deplored that he had not before this publicly announced that he never made any such suggestion, or intended to convey any such idea, because at many meetings throughout Ireland his supporters had used those words, which they freely attributed to him, and until to-night there had never been any doubt on the subject. Much of the prevalent disorganization in Ireland had arisen from the use of that phrase, and it could not be doubted that in committing the outrages which had recently occurred, the people were only instructing the right hon. Gentleman as to what Irish ideas were. The names of both the right hon. Gentleman and another Member of the Cabinet, whose absence all regretted, had been constantly associated in doggrel rhymes and disgraceful verses as actually encouraging and promoting assassination. He would not read those verses, but merely mentioned 377 the fact in order to show the extreme danger of indulging in declamation, which might be misinterpreted by an acute and active-minded people. Anyone who had read the Charges recently delivered by the Judges in Ireland must be aware of the great number of crimes that were committed; some of them being peculiar to Irish life, such as the digging of graves in grass lands, and placing therein letters to inform the occupiers that unless they followed a specified appropriation of their occupations they would be shot. After the language which had been used by the Government about governing Ireland according to Irish ideas, perhaps the Irish people thought themselves entitled to inform the Government what the Irish ideas which were to be their future guide in legislation were, and they had endeavoured to enlighten them upon the subject by means of threatening letters indicating how they desired the land to be divided and cultivated. This was a specimen of the great danger of indulging in the species of rhetoric that had been adopted by the Government, which had encouraged the disaffected to believe that their wildest suggestions would be carried into effect. It was not only with reference to agriculture that threatening letters had been received—there was hardly a trade carried on in Ireland in which they had not been received. In one instance, a threatening letter had been sent to a Roman Catholic priest because he had refused to marry certain parties, and in another to a farmer because he had dismissed certain hands, and a third person had received one because he had bought certain potatoes. In fact, this system of interfering in every pursuit of life by means of threats of death had become so extended as to call imperatively for further legislation in order to check it. Finding that the country was reduced to this state of things, he felt that it was his painful duty to support the Government in carrying this measure. In doing so, however, he wished most emphatically to declare that he did not believe that any amount of legislation would have the slightest avail unless there was the determination on the part of the Government fairly, impartially, and firmly to administer the law. It was entirely owing to the apathy of the Government in the administration of the law that 378 Ireland had readied her present degraded position. During the last fourteen months, while Ireland had become a by-word among civilized nations, no word had been dropped by any Member of the Government to show their regret for the evils under which the country laboured, neither had the slightest degree of vigour been exercised in the administration of the law. Newspaper after newspaper devoted to the cause of the Government had called them to task and had denounced their apathy without effect. Magistrates had appealed for aid to enable them to protect life and property, and had been met by the cry—"Pray tell me what I am to do." That was the answer which men pleading for their lives and property had received at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. If their Colleagues were weak, why had not the Government sought out men of greater firmness to discharge the duties they were bound to see performed? Was it not humiliating to see an Executive armed with such enormous power admitting their complete inability to meet the state of things that existed in Ireland, which had arisen in consequence of the endeavour on the part of the Government to gain popularity from the very class who were the main violators of the law? In the words of Mr. Fitzgibbon, who knew Ireland well—"The quiet were despised and ignored, while the seditious and clamorous were favoured and respected." Although the Government were now driven to adopt coercive measures, he was afraid that they still sought to obtain political capital by letting out the Fenian prisoners; and, if so, those who had still hopes of the future prosperity of Ireland would be grievously disappointed.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
, while thanking the First Minister for the Irish Church Act, which he hoped would, in time, have a tranquillizing effect as a great measure of religious equality, yet looked upon all measures of conciliation introduced by the Government as mere temporary nostrums, not calculated to have any permanently beneficial effect. Ireland had all the disadvantages of a pro-Consulate with none of the advantages of a colony. He believed that if Parliament were occasionally to as semble in Dublin to discuss Irish business, if Her Majesty or other members of the Royal family were to visit Ire- 379 land more frequently—if the Vice-regal mummery that now existed were abolished, and a palace were built in that country, and members of the Royal family were to reside there a certain portion of the year, disloyalty would speedily die out.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he would not put forward any arguments against the Government measure, because he believed that the speeches of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), and of those who had followed him must convince every person that this measure, miserably inadequate and uncalculated though it was to meet the present state of affairs in Ireland, was still a step in the right direction. The speech with which the Chief Secretary for Ireland prefaced the introduction of this Bill must have surprised hon. Members, who must have felt astonishment that Her Majesty's Government, knowing the real state of affairs, had thought it consistent with their duty to delay for so long to apply to Parliament for powers to enable them to preserve life and property in that country. The hon. Member for Mayo had taunted the right hon. Gentleman with having committed a slight slip of the tongue in introducing this measure; but he must confess that when he heard the right hon. Gentleman make that slip he believed he was but too faithfully portraying the uppermost feeling in the minds of Her Majesty's Government. He was not about to charge Her Majesty's Government with having any undue regard for the preservation of property, nor, on the other hand, was he going to charge them with having any criminal disregard for life; but it must be manifest that what had been uppermost in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and of his Colleagues was the success of his measure for tenant-right, which he placed above the lives of Her Majesty's loyal subjects in Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland represented that the Government had been in receipt of information of that kind day by day and hour by hour, and that at length they thought it their duty to apply to Parliament. He did not wish now to ask why it was only at the eleventh hour that decision had been arrived at. He would merely remark that the circumstance was one which required some explanation. The right hon. Gentleman fixed on the date 380 of what was known as the tragedy of Ballycohey, in 1868, and said crime in Ireland had been increasing in intensity since that occurrence. He ventured to suggest that there was another date, in 1868, which might have been fixed upon with quite as much accuracy. He alluded to the date at which the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government introduced the Suspensory Bill for dealing with the Irish Church. From the statistics quoted by the Chief Secretary, it would be found that crime had increased in Ireland from the time of the introduction of that measure, in which was for the first time embodied the great policy whereby Her Majesty's present Advisers undertook to establish security of life in Ireland through the abrogation of security of property in that country. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that among the causes of the present unhappy condition of Ireland were Fenianism and the spirit of what was called "nationality." If the Fenians, or any other parties connected with treasonable organization in Ireland, were asked to quote authorities for the principles they advocated, he thought they could find words more eloquent than any they could use in speeches of hon. Gentlemen very high in the confidence of the present Government; and if they wished to save themselves the trouble of hunting up the works of Vattel or other ancient writings, they might point to despatches which, under a former Government, about the period of the fall of the leaf, emanated annually from the Foreign Office and bore the signature of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) till lately the head of the Liberal party. During the present century there had scarcely been propounded any scheme, whether practical or chimerical, having for its object the disintegration of a foreign State or the dismemberment of even our oldest and most trusty allies, which had not been warmly applauded by the party opposite. Those who had so loudly proclaimed Italy for the Italians, Hungary for the Hungarians, Poland for the Poles, could ill afford to complain if unprincipled agitators at either side of the Atlantic now raised the kindred cry of "Ireland for the Irish." Now, though it was scarcely the function of independent Members to suggest a policy, he might, perhaps, be expected to say what he would do with Ireland, as he had 381 taken the liberty to criticize the policy of the other side. Church Bills, Land Bills, and Coercion Bills had been tried and found wanting. One remedy had been partially tried, and as far as the trial went he believed it had been eminently successful. He asked the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to look to the boundless territories across the ocean and, in the language of those who inhabited them, "to their illimitable resources." He believed his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was right when he said that the curse of Ireland was the wretched system of small holdings. What was wanted was some statesmanlike scheme which would float this seething mass of pauperism, ruffianism, and crime thousands of miles from her shores. [Laughter.] There was not a single Member who laughed but knew that that was what was wanted in Ireland; and any statesman who should frame a measure to effect that object would entitle himself to more than ephemeral applause. He would earn the gratitude of the nation.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he found it impossible to allow the Motion for the second reading to go to a division without making a few remarks. Bad as was the scheme of the Government, he preferred it to that shadowed forth by the hon. Member who last addressed the House. That hon. Member thought that what the statesman had to do in the case of Ireland was to get rid of Irish pauperism, ruffianism, and crime, by sending it a thousand miles away. [Mr. J. LOWTHER: Several thousands.] He presumed that the hon. Member himself was an ambitious statesman in embryo; and he would ask him to deal with Irish pauperism in the first instance, leaving the ruffianism and crime for another occasion. But coming to the question before the House, he was one of those who felt that he must go into the Lobby against it. Up to a certain extent it was right to strengthen the hands of the Government, for the maintenance of law and order; but there were in this Bill principles so vicious that they overshadowed the better part of it, and, therefore, he felt bound to vote against it, not with the hope of defeating it, but as a protest against those principles. If the Government had brought in a Bill less severe and better 382 suited to the real emergency, though he might deplore the necessity for it, he should not have offered it any opposition. Let the House descend from the region of imagination to that of sober sense. One of the most estimable men on the front Opposition Bench (Colonel Wilson - Patten), who for a time had filled the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and for whom he had a profound respect, had indulged in exaggerations which, coming from such a source, he greatly deplored. He represented the city of Cork, and he was acquainted with the counties of Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Waterford, which, taken together, formed a large portion of Ireland. Did the state of things in those counties resemble that which existed in Franco under the Reign of Terror?
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he could not but think that the right hon. Gentleman's statements exaggerated the real facts. In neither Cork nor Kerry was there any crime save the ordinary crime that was to be found in any county, and, comparatively, there was no crime in the city of Cork. Certainly, in the large portion of the country to which he was referring, he could see no reason for the extraordinary powers which this Bill would confer on the Executive. He would give the House one single fact to show how far the spirit of exaggeration went, and how the people of England were, to a large extent, led astray by the accounts they heard from Ireland. Not far from his own city several incendiary fires occurred in the same year, or in parts of two years, and sensational paragraphs were at once sent to all the leading London papers about the fearful state of things in the county of Cork, and the insurrectionary spirit of the population. Now he regretted to say that property to the amount of nearly £4,000 was destroyed by those fires; but it was one man that did the mischief—namely, an ill-conditioned and half-witted member of a family who had been sent to America, and who came back and out of revenge burnt the property of his own relatives. Yet that was telegraphed to London as giving an indication of the alarming state of things in Ireland. He could mention a number of other incidents which had been as grossly and in some cases wilfully exaggerated. Let 383 the House take care, then, not to legislate in a panic; for no such state of things existed in Ireland as that depicted by the right hon. Gentleman. He admitted that there was no exaggerating murder; and they must all wish to see the murderer brought to justice. But even on that point he had to make a complaint both against the late and the present Government. The Chief Secretary the other night said the Government were about to infuse a certain proportion of the detective element into the Irish Constabulary force. Now that had been suggested over and over again to successive Governments, but up to the present moment it had not been adopted. The constitution of the Constabulary must be changed to a great extent from that of a military to that of a police force before it could be made effective in bringing home crime to the perpetrator. Everybody knew that a man belted up in uniform, and with a rifle and a bayonet, was not fit to track the scent of blood and hunt down the assassin. He was quite willing to give the Government any powers to discover and bring to punishment the writers of threatening letters. In speaking of that species of crime—one of the most cowardly and wicked of which a man could be convicted—an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Callan) had that night inadvertently seemed to make a very unjust charge against one of the most meritorious bodies of men, the National School teachers of Ireland. In that body, as in all others, there might be a few bad men, but surely the whole class ought not to be condemned on that account. The last instance of a person being found guilty of sending a threatening letter was not the case of a National School teacher, but that of a bailiff on the property; and he was glad to say the man was punished by penal servitude for five years. Men had been known to send threatening letters to themselves where they wished to obtain credit with their employers or bring other persons into discredit. As to the selling of arms and gunpowder, he cordially approved discouraging the practice of carrying arms, which was unsuitable to a civilized country; and he believed that the man who went about with a revolver in his pocket was likely to use it on the first temptation. He objected to that part of the Bill which conferred such vast powers on the ma- 384 gistrates. As a class, the magistracy of Ireland were most worthy and respectable; but before it was intrusted with the power given by that Bill it ought to be reconstituted and liberalized, so as to make it thoroughly representative of both religions and both parties in the country. There was not that confidence in the impartiality of the tribunal which those who had to administer the law ought to command; and the mere presence of a stipendiary magistrate was not sufficient to secure that object. No doubt many of the stipendiary magistrates were men of great good sense, prudence, and discretion; but it would be too much to say they were all remarkable for those qualities. He now came to another important part of the measure. He had now been connected with journalism in Ireland for nearly thirty years, and he had little fear that if he still continued in the same position he would come under the operations of that Bill. But he had to consider how far its provisions would interfere with the liberty of the Press in that country; and whether, as a Member of the House of Commons, he could vote for a Bill which struck a blow against the liberty of the Press such as had not been struck even in France against that institution. Having himself read the Rappel, the Marseillaise, and other violent Parisian journals, he thought the quotations given by the Solicitor General for Ireland were mere milk and water compared with what he had seen in those French papers. M. Rochefort was prosecuted and was now in gaol; but his paper still existed, and was sold in the streets of Paris. Before the French Government would exercise the tremendous power which the House of Commons was asked to commit to a very few men in Dublin Castle, one, two, and even three avertissements were given to the offending journal. He maintained that by the 27th clause of the Bill the Government were creating a new crime in Ireland, and he challenged the Solicitor General to disprove that assertion. That clause contained these words—Where any newpaper printed in Ireland contains any treasonable or seditious engraving, matter, or expressions, or any incitements to the committing of any felony, or any engraving, matter, or expressions having a tendency to foster, encourage, or propagate treason or sedition, &c,385 "Foster or encourage sedition!" Why, there was not a man in that House, who, in the advocacy of a great question, might not come under that new law. That might be a matter of life and death to a large number of the people in Ireland; and if they were to give the Government that tremendous sword and axe, let it be done deliberately and after argument. How would the clause work? He supposed it was aimed mainly at certain papers in Dublin. Well, one of those papers might come out in the morning with a bitter and virulent attack upon the Solicitor General or some of his Colleagues, or, perhaps, with an engraving that did not do justice to his personal attractions. Perhaps it was a group, and the letterpress was about as violent as the other was grotesque. Well, who were the Executive in Ireland? Now, putting altogether aside the amiable and kindly nobleman (Earl Spencer), who, he ventured to say, would wish always to administer the law in a spirit of mercy and kindness, and taking the active men in Dublin, there was the Chief Secretary—but his duty, perhaps, might keep him in London; there was the Attorney General, if he were at home; there was the Solicitor General, if he could be spared from that House, and there was the Under Secretary. That was the bureau in Ireland—clever men, but he would be sorry to give them the power, upon reading an article or seeing a pictorial representation, of ordering a commissary of police to enter an office, scatter the typo, smash the machinery, and ruin everybody connected with the office. That decision might be arrived at about ten o'clock in the morning, when they came in heated after seeing this horrible production. Before the sun set the establishment might be seized, and ruin brought upon those connected with it. What was the redress? It was said—"You have your action." That any man like the Solicitor General for Ireland could rise and gravely say to those across the Channel who might be affected by this tremendous clause—"You have your action," showed a power of face that he could hardly have expected. But let them follow the proprietor of the newspaper. Let him seek to recover damages from the Government. What jury would he have? A special jury—that very class which viewed with morbid 386 horror, not merely treason and sedition, but whatever they believed had a tendency to treason and sedition. Suppose that man asked for redress from that jury. If they were twelve men "of the right sort" they would go for the Government, and that would be utter ruin. If there was only one man for the Government, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, why, the unfortunate man that sought redress would be equally ruined. But was that all? Had hon. Gentlemen seen the 31st clause? Why, according to that clause, forfeiture was to be only in addition to other penalties. That was the way they were going to maintain the liberty of the Press in Ireland. He maintained the law was strong enough. Let the Government, let the Solicitor General prove that the law had failed, and failed signally, and then he (Mr. Maguire) might alter his opinion. But taking the very last case, in which Mr. Pigott and Mr. Sullivan were defendants, did the law fail then? Nothing of the kind. A jury were found to convict them. He knew one of the reasons why the late Government were induced to give them their freedom was that the Earl of Mayo found that from the difference between the prisons in England and Ireland, the punishment for misdemeanour was much more severe in Ireland. But he denied that the law was insufficient. The Judges of the land would be more severe if necessary; but let not the Government pass a Bill which struck not only at the liberty of the Press, but at the very life of a nation. He took his stand against that clause, and because of its existence in the Bill he must go into the Lobby against it. There was another point of great consequence which had been alluded to before in the course of the debate. There was a Report of a Committee recommending the division of the county rate between the landlord and tenant, and the altering of the constitution of the presentment sessions body, so that there might be an equal representation of ratepayers and magistracy, and that the latter might not swamp the former. So jealous was that Committee where the proposal was merely to tax a certain portion of the community. But now the House was asked to intrust to the grand juries of Ireland the most invidious and obnoxious power they could possibly have. Now, much as he wished to guard 387 against confiding too much in the Government, he would rather see it left to the Lord Lieutenant to impose taxation upon a district than to a body who were naturally suspected—the very body who had called for this Bill, and who had done their best to excite in this country extraordinary alarm. But his chief objection to the Bill was that it went beyond the necessities of the occasion, for there was great exaggeration as to the condition of Ireland; and the ordinary powers of the law, exercised in combination with some additional powers placed in the hands of the Government, would be quite sufficient for the restoration of law and order. The reorganization of the constabulary force would give great additional powers; while a too severe law would defeat its own object. The Bill violated the liberty of the Press in an important manner; and as the precedent of to-day might be the justification of a worse measure to-morrow, he would say to English Gentlemen—"Take care how you sanction a bad example, because if to-day, in order to put down treason or sedition, or the fostering of treason or sedition, you place a bad law on the statute book, you may to-morrow find a dangerous power turned against the freedom of this country." On this ground, if on no other, he would oppose the Bill, and he regretted above all that it should have proceeded from a Liberal Government.
§ DR. BALL
I rise, Sir, to give my cordial support to the Bill now before the House. It is stringent, it is severe, and it is framed, in my judgment, so as to be efficacious for the repression of crime; and it is because it is stringent, because it is severe, because it is so framed as to be efficacious that I support it. The Bill adopts and reproduces various clauses and provisions of previous Coercion Bills, and adds to and supplements them with new and important provisions. It is a singular fact that, though this Bill has been under discussion this entire evening, no person has entered into any examination of its effect, of its provisions, of what is new in them, or what is taken from former measures. Now, I am not prepared to give my assent and my support to the Bill without pointing out what its effect is, and why it is that I so much approve its provisions. I shall not allude to those provisions which, having been con- 388 tained in former Bills and having been applied to Ireland, hon. Gentleman may be supposed to have some familiarity and acquaintance with; but I shall refer to the new provisions which appear eminently calculated to meet the present evil. In the first place, I approve the power which is given here to search in proclaimed districts for documents in the handwriting of persons suspected of having written threatening letters. I regard this system of threatening letters as one of the clearest manifestations that there is an evil spirit abroad in the community. I regard the multitude of them as an evident proof that there is a widespread organization for the purpose of terrorism, and I say that the Government would be wanting in its duty if it had not introduced some provision—I care not how coercive—which would effectually deal with a system which strikes at the root of social life and the happiness of families; and by creating suspicion and apprehension and terror is worse than the worst blow that any Government could inflict. The second provision of the Bill which I highly approve, and which I also believe to be new, is a power in districts specially proclaimed to arrest persons found out at night under suspicious circumstances. Far from my joining in the suggestion that such a power should not be vested in the magistrates, it is because that power is vested in them that I approve it; because by vesting it in the magistrates you enable the action of justice to be prompt, to be efficient, and to be decisive. On the other hand, if you had introduced the whole machinery of reference to others, and a long train of correspondence with Dublin Castle—that central source of authority in Ireland, which, by assuming to itself the entire authority and government of the country, has paralyzed the action of a magistracy equal, I would say, to that of England—you would have gone far to defeat the object you have in view. I say, then, I do approve this provision, because it tends to restore the rapid and effective administration of justice by an independent local magistracy. The third power in this Bill, which I believe to be new, is a power to arrest strangers in districts specially proclaimed. A large part of the present disturbance of Ireland is due to foreigners from America 389 coming there with the design of seducing from their allegiance to the Sovereign of this country the unfortunate people who are their dupes. I highly approve a provision which, without requiring the circuitous plan of instituting legal proceedings through the Law Officers of the Crown, enables the magistrates to force those persons to disclose their real business, and to commit them to prison in case of the answer being unsatisfactory. Now, the fourth power, which I highly approve, is also new. It is the summary power given to magistrates in certain offences against this Act to decide at once and inflict immediate punishment. Rapidity and certainty of punishment are of immeasurably more consequence than the extent or amount of the powers conferred. Then, again, it is essential for the peace and welfare of society that a check should be placed upon offences before they develop into great crime, while it is at the same time a mercy to the man concerned that, before he has had time to proceed far in his career of guilt, he should be arrested, and restrained. The fifth provision of this Bill, which I highly approve, contains summary powers for the change of venue, and, without that provision, any Bill of this kind would be nothing but a mockery. There have been laid before this House statistics of crime in Ireland; but to my mind there is no more convincing proof of the necessity for the new provisions of this Bill, and especially that facilitating a charge of venue, than the affidavits made upon oath in Barrett's case, affidavits upon which the venue was changed by the Queen's Bench in Ireland. Those affidavits, sworn by highly trustworthy persons, showed that there existed in the county of Galway a conspiracy to intimidate the juries from discharging their duties; that this conspiracy pervaded the whole county; and that it had gained such extent and influence that the Crown could not proceed to the trial safely in that great county. I regard these statements, and the fact that they were acted on by the Court, as a most important testimony to the wisdom of the course adopted by the Government in this Bill. The next clause of the Bill to which I refer is one that has been made the subject of much comment. It is the power of seizing a newspaper guilty of publishing treason- 390 able articles. No power is more indispensable. Why, what was the position of the Executive Government in Ireland when the Fenian conspiracy first broke out? It did not possess this power. It was called upon with inadequate weapons to cope with a gigantic conspiracy supported by foreign money, by foreign agencies, and by foreign assistance. Fortunately, the Earl of Kimberley was at that time at the head of the Irish Government, a nobleman whose executive abilities have not received sufficient acknowledgment, and who, with vast administrative power, combined great courage. He waited for no Bill. He did not delay the stroke for one single hour. Without any clause or powers of this kind to protect him, he suppressed the rebellious paper, the Irishman, and took possession of the house and property, thereby gaining information and the secrets of the conspiracy; for out of that place were taken documents in which the men engaged in it were afterwards found guilty and punished. With this experience before you, and with the knowledge that at such an emergency and at such a crisis, it is necessary to resort without law to the very measures contemplated in this Bill, can you refuse the Executive the protection and assistance which this clause affords? I disagree altogether, too, from the doctrine that the existing law is adequate to cope with seditious and treasonable writing. What is the result of a prosecution under the present law? The proprietor of a journal is fined and imprisoned; but this, unfortunately, only increases his influence and the sympathy felt for him, while there are others to write. In a case in which I was engaged of this nature, the paper which was the subject of the prosecution never displayed more animosity towards the British connection than it did after the trial and conviction, and the sale of the paper was increased by the prosecution. Proceedings of that nature do not go to the root of the mischief. There is only one way of meeting it, and that is the mode provided by this Bill—extinction of the power of printing, and reproducing this poison throughout the community. I now come to the 7th clause, which, as far as I know, is new; it is a great boon, and I only regret that it is not permanent. I refer to the power of apprehending absconding wit- 391 nesses. Everyone engaged in the administration of criminal justice in Ireland must be aware of the difficulty, first of obtaining your witness, and then of retaining him. I know that in one most important case in which I was engaged, the administration of justice was defeated, and the trial was prevented by the absconding of one of the witnesses the day before the trial. I wish that this provision had taken a permanent form, in order to meet the general tendency of the people of Ireland to evade the obligation which lies upon every right-minded man to do what he can for the purpose of punishing offenders, and thereby preventing crime. There is an 8th clause in this Bill which is also new, and it is one which I confess ought, in my opinion, as well as the last, to be made permanent—that is the clause which provides compensation for the families of persons deprived of life by the hand of an assassin. I do not see any reason why that clause should be temporary. You now throw the obligation of maintaining the peace of a district upon the neighbourhood where the crime has been committed, and what can be the objection to demanding recompense for the family of the sufferer from those whose connivance or unwillingness to discover the offender rendered the crime possible? The clause is framed so as to impose the taxation upon houses, and not upon land; and this will have the effect of placing a most deserved punishment upon those persons who, either by their previous assistance or subsequent connivance, must, to a certain extent, be regarded as parties to the commission of the crime itself. I say, therefore, that the Bill contains several valuable new clauses. Criticisms have been made upon the absence of particular provisions in this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir Frederick W. Heygate) rose immediately at the close of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and was pleased to say that the absence of any clause providing for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was a subject of congratulation. My hon. Friend the Member for Donegal (Mr. Conolly), however, rose afterwards, and not only demanded the introduction of such a clause, but appeared to think that the Bill was weak and impotent without it. On the question as to the 392 propriety of inserting such a clause, I am not, however, disposed to take the opinion of any private Members. The power of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act is, undoubtedly, a power which is indispensable if you have to deal with rebellion, insurrection, or perhaps extensive organization of any kind. But it is not a provision suitable for crime. A prisoner arrested under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is not a criminal. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is a measure of caution and foresight; it is not a punitive measure. The parties arrested under it cannot be viewed or treated as criminals, for when arrested they are not charged with any crime. A warrant of arrest is issued by the Lord Lieutenant, and no Habeas Corpus writ can be granted to remove the party; but no guilt is attached to him, as there is no trial or condemnation. That is not the way in which you should deal with crime, or even with suspected agrarian crime. And, further, I say I am not disposed to join in any censure for the absence of such a provision, for the additional reason that no private Member can judge what is the state of Ireland and what measures are proper to meet political and insurrectionary organization; while in the hands of the Executive Government there is a vast mass of information as to the state and condition of the country which is unknown to the community at large. It is because I know that, and because I feel convinced that those who brought in this Bill would, if they had deemed it necessary, have also introduced a clause suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, that I, for my part, am satisfied with its omission from the Bill. Again, it has been said that this Bill ought to contain something more with regard to juries. My reason for not objecting to that omission is that this Bill is a temporary Bill, and if you deal with the jury system you should deal with it permanently. As connected with the constitution of one of the tribunals engrafted into our very institutions, exceptional legislation is objectionable. If the system is faulty, improve it; if there are alterations demanded, let them be the result of a calm and deliberate examination of all the views of those who are competent to judge and to decide upon such a subject. But, for my part, I own that as to the proposition to give the decision to 393 a majority of the jury, I entertain, considerable doubt. I doubt it because there is the recommendation of the Royal Commission, containing great names, great wisdom, and great judgment, in which stress is laid upon unanimity; I doubt it because I have myself heard the very able and wise Judges express their opinion against the system of giving the decision to the majority; and I doubt it because I believe that the appearance of dissent within the jury, when exhibited to the world, would weaken the force and final result of the verdict. For what is most satistory in trial by jury, what makes every man acquiesce in its decision, is that, whether right or wrong, and without being obliged to furnish reasons, there is, at least, presented to the public the strength which lies in unanimity. Therefore I am not prepared myself to advocate such a measure. Then, as to improvement in the mode in which the panel is to be arrayed and arranged, that appears also to be a subject demanding permanent legislation, and not, therefore, to be treated in this Bill. But I say at once that in my opinion there ought to be the means of selecting first, and then of coercing the attendance of persons of the highest station and of the greatest education in the country, for the discharge of these duties. Having said so much as to the Bill, I shall add one other expression as to the way in which we ought to administer it. We ought to give, and I shall give, my cordial support to the Executive Government, and to the Law Officers of the Government, in every way that we can, whenever and wherever they put this Bill in force. We ought to indulge in no narrow criticism; we ought to strengthen their hands and give them confidence and support in putting into execution, in a country in the state that Ireland now is, every one of these provisions, however stringent and however searching. I now leave the provisions of the Bill, but I cannot leave the consideration of topics connected with the introduction of this Bill, which must press upon the mind of every man connected with Ireland. In one of his speeches, either in 1846, when introducing the Coercion Bill, or in 1847, when supporting the introduction of a similar Bill by Lord Morpeth, Sir Robert Peel stated that Coercion Bills, or Bills to 394 protect life and property, for Ireland, had, previous to that date, been introduced fifteen times, and uniformly success had followed their operation. I regret to say that without these Bills I believe it is impossible to cope with crime in Ireland. My experience is that the crime of Ireland lies among and is perpetrated by a class to whom the legislative measures on which you so much rely, never roach. I have not seen farmers, or farmers' sons—persons in a comfortable and respectable class of life—arraigned as criminals; I have found crime in a grade below them. And this is not all. I do not agree with the pictures that are drawn upon this subject occasionally on both sides of the House, so far as the extent to which it is alleged agrarian crime prevails. Crimes in Ireland which are connected with personal violence will be found to exist chiefly and mainly in particular districts—in Tipperary, Westmeath, Meath, on the borders of the Shannon, the borders of the King's County, and in the King's County. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] That part of the King's County which borders on West-meath has as many crimes as the others; I know it, for it was on my circuit. I say, then, that crime exists in an inferior class, and that it is not universal, but localized; and, further, I will state that I believe there is no period of their history when these counties have been free from crimes; and that there is in these districts a race with whom you can avail nothing by any measures except measures of repression. And, therefore, I believe it has happened that those Bills, being put in operation in these places, have, as Sir Robert Peel stated, been successful in every instance. And here I must take the opportunity of justifying my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Colonel Wilson-Patten), from some observations of the hon. Member for the city of Cork. My right hon. Friend did not apply what he said to the entire of Ireland, and he had no idea of including the county of Cork, which, although it is a county that I will not speak of very highly as regards its political views or its insurrectionary proceedings, is certainly not a county that deserves to be reproached with crimes of an agrarian character. My right hon. Friend never meant to allude to the county of Cork; but he had in 395 mind the districts with which every Government in succession has had to cope, and he was speaking only of them. The truth is, in these particular districts it is impossible not to see that they deserve the description given of a part of Limerick in his Charge to the grand jury of the county of Limerick by a Roman Catholic Judge (Judge Fitzgerald), distinguished by his great ability and singular impartiality and calmness, that there is in them a low state of civilization. The peasantry are, in these particular districts, not the peasantry of the North, not the peasantry of Wexford, not the peasantry of Carlow, but a different race, in a low state of civilization, and must be operated upon, as they have always been, by a law thoroughly, and effectively administered. You must protect life before you can enable men to live well, and without that protection you will in vain try what are called your remedial measures. The remedial measures are time enough when you have reduced society into a proper and orderly state. But I go further, and say that it is a great mistake to connect a Bill of this character with measures which you avowedly put forward as political, or, as you are pleased to call them yourselves, remedial. I support this Bill, not because it is the supplement or the complement to any other Bill, but because it is right in itself and imperatively demanded. I have supported and shall support many of the clauses of your Land Bill; but I support them, not by way of compensation for this Bill, but because they are right in themselves. I say that the boundaries which divide the legislative and executive departments should be kept distinct; it is a fatal error to confuse and intermingle them. If, at the same moment that you are declaring your determination to deal sternly with crime, you accompany that declaration with a statement that you cannot proceed against it until you have first redressed something that appears to you to need redressing, what is the effect? I say that you confuse the boundary between crime and matter of opinion. Crime is crime——a monster of such hideous mien,As to be hated needs but to be seen.But do you not take away the effect of this when you begin to argue with men—when you say to them in effect—"You might have been justified in what you 396 were doing last year, but you are not justified this year; we have offered you measures to conciliate and harmonize all classes, what excuse have you now for acts of violence?" I say that when you proceed with that line of argument you go far to efface from the minds of the men to whom the argument is addressed the true and honest teaching on the subject that nothing—nothing whatsoever—can justify murder. The two things, I repeat should be kept distinct. It should be distinctly understood that there is no paltering with and no palliation for violations of the law. And the objection, and the only objection, which I make in connection with the Bill is this—it should have been brought in independent of, and should have been brought in before, the Land Bill. It should have been placed on the table by the Government as the cardinal and essential measure. A Bill of this kind was never so much demanded as at present. Allusion was made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the crime existing in that country in 1832, when Earl Grey was in power. In 1833, Lord Grey's Government brought in a Bill for the pacification of Ireland. No doubt the circumstances then were special in their character—the numerical statistics of crime at that period were larger than at present. But is there no alteration in the circumstances of the country? In 1832 Ireland was overpeopled, with a pauper population living in huts, and feeding on potatoes and a little milk; they were in the lowest condition consistent with human existence, as anyone may have proof, who reads O'Connell's evidence before the Royal Commission. The population numbered nearly 3,000,000 more than at present. The farming classes are now absolutely wealthy, having sums of money in the bank, and the labouring classes are fairly comfortable. If you take into account the diminished population, the increased comfort, and the independence of the people, the present state of affairs is more alarming than it was in 1832. I say it is more alarming because there is less in the material circumstances of the country to suggest the possibility of men embarking in such rash and infatuated courses. I say the population is less, the comfort greater, and the crime relatively equal. In 1832 you had the most prodigious political organization ever raised against the Go- 397 vernment. At its head you had the great tribune of the people—O'Connell—surrounded by men not his equals, but approaching him; you had the agitation for the repeal of the Union adopted by men of that stamp, and what have you face to face with you now? Pigmies! Yes, it is the misfortune of the present day that the whole country is stirred by political or social agitation, and there is not a man of note or mark at the head of it; it makes the matter the more alarming that in an agitation not adequately represented by leaders of ability, and with an organization far inferior to that which previously existed, the country should have boon brought to its present state of confusion. The numbers stated by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, even if you do not enter into comparison, are, it is obvious, sufficiently alarming. Upwards of 700 cases in the year, and of these the greater part accumulating in the last months of the year; the progressive increase of crime, the increased audacity as regards crime; two only of these great offences brought to trial—and in one of these the prisoner is acquitted, and in the other the jury is twice discharged unable to agree. And what are the crimes? Can anyone hear without considerable emotion what these crimes are? Let us take the case of Mr. Nicholson. That gentleman, accompanied by a lady, proceeds to visit a neighbour, and, returning home, he is shot at. He escapes, but the lady is wounded. Why, it was perfectly well known that lady accompanied Mr. Nicholson, and those who fired at him knew they might have taken the life of a woman. In another case, an unmarried lady, who possesses property, and is resident in the country, is shot at through her window, with the very design of assassinating or wounding her. Is it any wonder that Chief Justice Monahan should have spoken with the indignation he did at Trim. "There was a time," exclaimed that able Judge, "when the fact of being a woman would have been a sufficient protection for her to any man in Ireland?" Look, again, at the character of the crime. It is interference not arising from or connected with the tenure of land. Look at the case of Brett—Mr Brett, the surveyor in the county of Limerick. He had nothing to do with the land; he was neither tenant nor landlord; 398 he was an officer discharging his duty as acting surveyor; but shots are fired into his house, and he is wounded. For what? Not for anything connected with the land, but, as was believed, because he had disapproved before the grand jury some account connected with the roads. Look, then, at Walsh; he is no tenant and no landlord; he aids the development of the industry of the country; he exports eggs to England, and introduces to that barbarous district where he lived a profitable speculation. [Laughter.] That is the truth. He is shot dead; and, from that hour to this, not a trace of the murderers has been found. Take a third case—that of the station-master at Mullingar. The railway company has an official in its employment, in whom it places the greatest confidence, and the official is highly esteemed on all hands; no one has breathed a word against him; he has nothing to do with the land, yet he was actually murdered. I say these three instances which I select—and I select them because they are remarkable and likely to strike the mind—indicate the motive of most of the crimes which have been perpetrated; and that motive is to establish in the country a reign of terror. The object is, by occasional acts of daring magnitude and appalling criminality, by habitual perpetration of smaller crimes, by reckless violence, by unscrupulous menace, to intimidate and affright all those who respect life and property, and are anxious for the social welfare of the country. I have no hesitation in saying that civil war would have been infinitely better than this. In civil war you at least know your adversary; but what have you here? Murder, creeping from its lair, and striking with none to prevent, none to detect. Crime, unappalled and unabashed, confronting the puny efforts of your Executive to crush it, and—relying confidently on the sympathy of affrighted jurors—audacious in the dock before the very tribunal appointed for its punishment. A Government that did not grapple with such a state of things would not deserve the name of a Government. Not only is it time for Government to interfere, but I say it was time long since for Government to interfere. I admit there are great difficulties in the way of the Executive in Ireland; I admit it is not easy to cope 399 with a system with which the people appear so far to sympathize that they neither give evidence nor afford the means of discovery; I admit that—but difficulty does not excuse from the obligation of meeting it, and meeting it so as to extinguish it. I say it is wiser to meet the case at the commencement, and not to dally with it until the infection has spread and infused itself into large districts before untouched. Where was this spirit of outrage at the commencement? Confined to a small district; now, I find by the last accounts, it has even spread to a county which, up to this time, has been one of the most peaceful in Ireland—the county of Mayo. That county is now covered from one end to the other with outrages and burnings. I see in Baron Deasy's Charge that while the very Judges were in the town of Castlebar these crimes were committed openly, ostentatiously, and defiantly. Why does it spread? Why does it infect districts before peaceful? Because it has not been crushed when it first broke out. I make no charge against the Executive Government in Ireland; I admit the Executive has done its best with the existing machinery. What I complain of is, that the existing machinery having proved inadequate the more perfect machinery we have here was not introduced long before. The Solicitor General for Ireland, in speaking on the introduction of the Bill, stated—significantly alluding to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—that what Ireland demanded was a strong Executive. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) in which that expression occurred has been often cited; it has been cited with disapprobation, but I confess I give my cordial assent to every line of it. It saw much and it foresaw much, and if there is one truth in it more certain than another it is that the state of Ireland does demand a strong Executive. I was happy to hear this sentiment adopted upon the Treasury Bench; but what do you mean by a strong Executive? Do you mean strong in police and military force, equipped with all the discipline and pomp and circumstance of armed battle? Do you mean strong in supplementing that armed force with cohorts of spies, informers, and agents pervading the whole of society? These powers I am 400 willing to give, and these you are taking; but if you imagine that they, or even greater powers, will create a strong Executive, you are mistaken. You may have all these powers, and be at the same time a weak Executive. This is but the machinery; the strength of an Executive is in the men who compose it. What constitutes a strong Executive? Justice, inflexible justice, impartiality, and disdain of low ends and mean objects. With these qualifications you may be a strong Executive, and the machinery placed in your hands may be rendered efficacious for the repression of crime and the improvement of the country. But, Sir, it is idle to speak of a strong Executive which rests solely on force and fear, and which has not the assent and support of those classes which form the strength of a community. You cannot be strong if you are isolated and alone. There are forces, influences, and powers which in civil polity are the natural allies of Government. These are the education and the social eminence of the country; the wisdom and the judgment which come, as the wise man says, by opportunity of leisure. You cannot be strong if you alienate and repel these from you. The first requisite for a strong and effective Government is the cordial sympathy, support, and co-operation of every man who is its natural ally by property, by education, and by an enlarged and enlightened view of public affairs. In the absence of such co-operation, you may have all the machinery of law, and you may be armed with all the means of putting in force the administration of justice, but you will fail. Nor will mere strength suffice. You must import into its exercise some of that generous spirit which characterized my noble Friend the present Governor General of India (the Earl of Mayo), when he said in this House—"I desire equality, but I desire to attain it not by confiscating and degrading, but by elevating and restoring." You must abjure the spirit which refuses to deal with the just demands of every class and every creed. You must adopt towards all a generous, an impartial, and a just system of government, not divorcing yourselves wholly and utterly from the natural alliance which Government ought to form with those agents of virtue, the ministers of religion; for if you deprive your
401 selves of the support which you may obtain from such an alliance, what powers do you reserve to yourselves save force and fear? Sir, it has been said by a writer of ability, not perhaps without some exaggeration of language, that when he looks to Ireland, its unhappy position, its not-to-be-explained violence, its exaggerated demands, and the language in which they are couched, he knows of nothing with which to compare the condition of Ireland, except that of the maniac whom the affecting story of the Gospel has pictured as having torn off his raiment. And it may be that to particular districts the image is not inappropriate. But even if it is, are we to despair? Are there no influences, no remedial measures, no healing processes potent to restore? I say there are. I say you will find them in the spirit to which I have alluded—if you carry it through all the agencies of government—if you act in conjunction with those classes which operate on public opinion—if, acting in conjunction with them, you infuse it through the whole mass of the community. Yes, subject though my country may be to a possession not less evil than that which afflicted the unhappy sufferer of old, there is that in this spirit which can rescue and regenerate, expelling whatever oppresses and degrades, and conducting her again to the beneficient influences of law, social peace, and social order, clothed and in her right mind!
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Dowse) told us, and with great truth, that we were in the midst of an Irish crisis. Sir, ever since I have had the honour of sitting in this House the state of Ireland has been one continued crisis. Every successive Coercion Bill has been necessitated by a crisis, and I have voted for more Coercion Bills than it is pleasant to remember. They have all been dealt with in the same way. Some support them, as the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Saunderson) does the present measure, because they heartily approve of them; and others, like the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) on this occasion, give their support because they dare not withhold it; but the result is always the same, and hon. Members, whatever their opinions may be, find themselves in the same Lobby. Many condemn Bills, all deplore 402 them, and some declare they will never vote for another Bill of the same kind; but yet, when the time comes, we all find ourselves succumbing to the pressure brought to bear upon us. In the few remarks which I shall make I shall not follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) through his examination of the provisions of the Bill, because to those who have been longer in the House than the right hon. and learned Gentleman its many provisions are, unhappily, too familiar. These provisions have appeared in every previous Coercion Bill, and as long as, on this question of Irish coercion, we are under a system of routine, they will appear in every Bill which we shall see hereafter. I will not now enter into the question whether this Bill is more lenient than its predecessors, although on that point I differ from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), for its leniency, in my eyes, would be a recommendation; or whether, as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Dr. Ball) it is more severe than other Bills, especially with regard to the power it gives to the Government to seize upon newspapers. On the latter point, however, I may remark that we all acknowledge that the occasion demands such a provision, and being sure that in these days no Government would ask for more powers than the occasion required, we accept that portion of the Bill. If I have any regret to express with regard to the Bill it is that while it contains exceptional, temporary, odious, and irritating provisions, which are acknowledged to be necessary, it contains nothing but those provisions. It deals with evils which are confessedly and notoriously of a permanent character by means of the old, stale, temporary expedients. Not only does it not create a policy—for it is impossible to do so in a temporary measure—but it contains nothing which is connected with even the semblance of a policy. I make this remark, because I must confess I did expect something different from the authors of such measures as the Irish Church Bill and the Irish Land Bill. On these questions, which had baffled the efforts of previous Governments, the present Cabinet rose above mere conventionality and routine. They brushed all those difficulties away, and brought to bear upon those questions 403 new views, new powers, and new resources, which infused into their legislation a new life and spirit. Therefore, knowing as I did, both officially and otherwise, that the difficulties on these questions were almost insuperable, I could hardly find words to express my sense of the great service they rendered to the country, and of the great dangers they averted by their masterly treatment of those questions. And I hoped that in this coercive department of Irish administration, also, the same resources and the same originality would have lifted us out of the old ruts—that there would have been some variation from that wretched, discredited, used-up system; but I find myself to-night, a Member of a House, as much the slave of routine as at any time during the last thirty-five years; and if some Rip Van Winkle were to return to-night to this House after a long sleep, he would find it transacting the very same business it was engaged on when he saw it last. It appears as if my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary had searched the pigeon-holes in the Irish Office and brought out a dusty old Bill which has been re-cast for this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech precisely similar to those we used to hear thirty or forty years ago; he has been followed by Irish Members, bombarding with the same reproaches; he has been sustained, as usual, by promises of support which cannot be withheld from the other side of the House; and the unsatisfactory and irritating character of the measure is admitted by the apologetic promise that it is only to be in force for a limited period. That, construed by my experience, means for an unlimited period interrupted by occasional breaks. I know of no precedent of a Bill of this character being brought in for a year which was not followed by an extension of the time. If there were in Yorkshire or Lancashire any tumultuous outbreak of discontent it might be dealt with by a temporary measure, because there there is a law-loving population. The danger would be as short-lived as it was sudden, and the storm of passion once expended the people would return to their habitual orderly condition. But in Ireland we have to deal with a population whose feelings are deep-rooted and whose character is unchangeable, at all events 404 in the present generation. Consequently, I think the Government ought to have looked more below the surface of things, and dealt by means of a more permanent measure with evils acknowledged to be of a permanent kind. The first difficulty mentioned by the Chief Secretary for Ireland was that the Government could not get evidence, especially before a prisoner was committed, for trial. But then they have not come forward to ask for the right mode of getting such evidence. There is no portion of the United Kingdom in which the criminal law is more wise or more just, or its administration more popular and efficacious, than in Scotland. Ask the Lord Advocate, and he will tell you how you can meet this case. The moment a suspected man is arrested in Scotland he is taken before the local functionary, examined and compelled to give an account as to what he was doing with himself at the time at which the offence with which he is charged happened to have been committed. His statement is taken down in the form of a declaration, and that declaration is signed by him, and produced at the trial. If his statement is confirmed by other witnesses it is a great point in his favour; but if it is proved by the testimony of other witnesses to be false, it goes very strongly against him. The innocent man has nothing to fear from such a declaration; he is often liberated without a trial. It is the guilty man to whose prejudice it operates; and all the provisions of this Bill put together cannot deter a man from contemplating the crime of murder so much as a declaration of this description to be used in evidence at his trial. There is another change to which I wish to allude. It is one that has been suggested to the Government, and my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government has set it aside for reasons which seem to me so insufficient that I suspect there must be something further behind. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken says there is great strength in the unanimity of a jury; but has he never heard of weakness and failure following from the necessity for such unanimity? It is not required in Scotland, and but very few persons ever now justify it in England. The locking up of a jury who fail to agree is looked upon as a remnant of barbarous times, and serves far oftener to defeat than to 405 promote the ends of justice. Remember you have now an opportunity of making these changes which may never occur again. It is when you are giving great boons that you have a right to exact fresh securities. You are dealing with the Irish difficulty as a whole, not for the hour but for all time, and although it may be difficult, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, in a temporary Bill to make permanent alterations of the law, I think we ought to have a simultaneous Bill by which that object might be effected. There is another subject which was alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland when introducing this measure, and which is of great importance. He referred to the police. He talked of the danger to which witnesses were subjected, observing that any of them who gave evidence against a criminal in Ireland was a marked man. It has been said that the Irish police are too much of a military and too little of a detective force. Now, there is in that a great deal of truth, but it is not the whole truth. It does not account for the impunity with which crime is committed in Ireland, nor for the helplessness and inefficiency of the police. We do not deal fairly with the police in Ireland. We trust them to perform very difficult and dangerous duties, while we afford them neither adequate motive nor adequate protection. It is a fact that witnesses whose evidence leads to the committal and conviction of the member of a family in Ireland are marked men, and the policeman, as he takes his solitary walk, may sometimes be a doomed man. Without, however, pursuing this subject, I think that while taking compensation under this Bill for those who may suffer injury we should not forget the protection of the policeman, who is a public servant, and ought not to be lost sight of, and that the case of such a man if ever he be murdered in the discharge of his duty ought not to be left to be dealt with by the grand jury. A crime so inhuman and dastardly ought, it appears to me, to be visited with the heaviest fine which can be wrung from the district in which it may occur. Another change which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken relates to the powers to be given by the Bill for the control of 406 the Press and the seizure of newspapers. That is a power which, in my opinion, may be well placed in the hands of the Government. There is this, however, to be considered, that whatever may be the writings in the Press, they are not so mischievous or atrocious as the speeches we have heard from the platform. The agrarian population in Ireland do not read the newspapers. ["Yes, yes!"] Well, those of them that do so are not to be compared with the number who listen to speeches. They heard speeches during the Recess in Tipperary and Louth; speeches made by their own priests, and in the presence of priests, which have been alluded to in this House, and with which the whole Press in England has been ringing for months. Now, we have not heard that these speakers have been visited by any ecclesiastical censure. We know that they were not subjected to any prosecution by the Government, and that, I should suppose, must have arisen from some defect in the law which I, for one, should be glad to see remedied. I would add one or two remarks to which I hope my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government will not object. I think the Government in the mode of introducing this Bill have not shown their sense of the gravity of the proceedings I have adverted to. The crime of murder has been talked of, but is it occasional or even frequent murder that is the root of all this evil? No, it is not. Judge Long-field tells us in his admirable essay—"You cannot expect the benefits you wish for from your legislation until the people are taught to regard murder with horror as a crime." People in a Christian country not taught to look on murder as a crime! We should have regarded the thing as incredible had we not the evidence before us, and did we not hear in every direction that the spiritual teachers of a population which we know is quick-witted, excitable, and inflammable, have made murder a subject of merriment on the hustings, while letters from an exiled patriot advising wholesale assassination have been read from a public platform. When the Irish Church was to be dealt with the Government showed their sense of the magnitude of the occasion. My right hon. Friend the First Minister of the Crown came down to the House and gave dignity and solemnity to the occasion by introducing his measure in 407 a speech which was read with interest and admiration from one end of the kingdom to the other, and which anticipated while it demolished opposition to his policy. Then, when the land question came on us, and when agrarian grievances were to be dealt with, the Government again showed their sense of the importance of the subject, and their earnestness in taking it up. My right hon. Friend appeared again at that table, and once more lent all his authority and influence to the exposition of a question which had not been rendered generally intelligible until he explained it. He will, I am sure, excuse me if I say that it would have been well if upon this occasion, too, which is not of less, but of greater importance than those which I have just mentioned, he had adopted a similar course. The best results would have followed from his coming forward, and in the name of his Colleagues and in the noblest language he could command, conveying to Ireland his own conviction that the heart of the stoutest Minister must sink within him and all legislation must be unavailing so long as the springs and motives of action were poisoned at the source by those whose whole authority was derived from their mission to humanize and elevate their flocks by their guidance and the example which they set. I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last, I may add, as to the lateness of the period at which this measure has been brought forward. I think that if, in their position and with their antecedents, the Government had introduced it before it would have been an unwise proceeding on their part. It would have weakened and damaged them as inconsistent with their previous pledges. It would have excused and justified the unfavourable reception which the Bill would then have met with in Ireland, and it would have procured for the Irish Members who oppose the measure an amount of sympathy which they are not now likely to receive. If the Government had introduced this Bill before the second reading of the Land Bill, I frankly say I, for one, would not have given it my support. But the longer it was delayed the more carefully ought it to have been considered, and the more complete it should have been. I confess I am in this respect somewhat disappointed. I find myself voting once more for a bald, stale, old Coercion Bill, 408 with which I have been familiar ever since I have been a Member of this House, when I supposed I should be voting in favour of a Bill linked with a policy which it was to complete and to crown, which I have thankfully supported, which I deemed just and beneficent, and which I hoped and believed would be effectual.
Sir, I am unwilling to give a silent vote on this question. I have given much consideration to the grounds on which the Chief Secretary for Ireland asked the House to sanction the proposed legislation. The Chief Secretary tried hard to diminish the force of his own statements in a manner which, from anybody else, would have been called hardly fair. He said the present state of things was not so bad in Ireland as it was twenty years back; but then he did not tell us what the circumstances of the country were twenty years back, just after the time of the Irish famine, with the population 50 per cent larger than it is at present. Notwithstanding this weakening of his own case, I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman made out a strong case, and I cannot refuse to support the second reading of the Bill, or refuse to the Government the powers they now ask for. But while saying this, I am also bound to ask myself and the Government why they have so long delayed to try to obtain these powers? What is the difference between the state of things now and five weeks back? Why, upon the principles they have themselves laid down in the Bill, have they delayed up to this time to come to Parliament for these additional powers? The Government have revived the old practice of attaching a penalty to neighbourhoods where crime has been committed. Now, I do not at all object to the revival of an old practice; but apply the same principle to the Government themselves, and see how they come out of it. They have stood by with their arms folded for the last five weeks with all these facts in their possession, and with all these crimes before their eyes, and have done nothing; they, being not private individuals, but the sworn servants of the Crown, whose duty it is to protect the lives of the Queen's subjects, have absolutely done nothing to that end. On whose heads will be the blood of the people who have suffered during these five weeks, 409 or who may suffer before the Bill becomes law? I do not think you would come and ask for those powers if you did not believe they would do good. But if you honestly believe they will enable you to stop these outrages, how ran you justify yourselves for not asking for these powers five weeks back? I am unable to excuse the Government of what, in my opinion, is a serious laches. As to the provisions of the Bill, much has been said upon the subject of the Irish magistracy; but, so far as I have been able to read the Bill, almost all the powers given appear to be handed over to the stipendiaries. In one case the Bill says that two magistrates may do certain things, but the stipendiary must be one of them—he having before been turned into two. That is a curious provision; but, coming to other parts of the Bill, I see no possible objection to impose a penalty upon any places where crime may be committed, and I think this proposal may do good. Then we come to the serious question of the Press, and here, again, if additional powers are needed to stop the mischief which is now being done by some Irish newspapers, I have no objection to enable the Government to put the tire out by stopping the issue of the paper and seizing the printing materials. It is a new and a vast power; still, if it be needed, I will not stand in the way of it. But the provision that follows requires consideration. You lay violent hands on the whole of a man's property, and confiscate it to the Crown; you then give him only fourteen days to consider whether he will contest the point by bringing an action. See in what a position you thus place him! You say you will give him notice of what the charge is in the warrant under which his goods are seized. But instead of pointing out the passages you allege are seditious or mischievous, you may found upon any number of papers published at any interval of time, so that they are the same paper; and how is the man to satisfy himself, within fourteen days, as to the passages which have been joined together out of several papers, and upon which the seizure is founded, and elect within that short time to bring an action for his justification? It seems to me that, under such a provision, he would not have a reasonable chance of establishing his innocence, if innocent he be; and, ac- 410 cordingly, that the proposal is unfair. It would be worth considering whether you ought not to take the converse of the proposition; and whether, having made up your minds that such and such passages amount to an offence, it ought not to be for the Government to bring an action or indict the alleged offender, giving him the privilege which belongs to every accused person—namely, the benefit of any doubt which may exist as to his guilt. By making yourselves the defendants you take from him this privilege and enjoy it yourselves, so that if a doubt exists you will be acquitted, while his property will be confiscated. That is not justice. In order to stop the circulation of this mischief you are entitled to every advantage; but when the object is attained, you ought to give the man a fair chance by allowing his offence to be proved in the ordinary manner. These are the points which have struck me in reading over the Bill, and which will want consideration in Committee. As it stands, I cannot think the provision a just one; and though I shall support the second reading of the Bill, I hope in Committee some of these proposals will be amended. Much has been said of late to throw discredit upon legislation dating many years back, and a morbid sentiment has arisen, which I cannot excuse the Government of pandering to. I observe, however, we have gone nigh 100 years back for some of the contents of this Bill. It is very hard that we, not knowing, perhaps, all the difficulties of those who have gone before us, should accuse them of Algerine legislation in the way we have heard. Certainly, to those who have sat in this House as long as I have, the retrospect is not a pleasant one. We have hardly ever been two or three years without an Arms Bill, a Coercion Bill, a Peace Preservation Bill, or something of the kind. We are like the man we have been told of, who for fifty years had been constantly draining his five acres of bog and had never got to an end of the water; we have always been passing these Bills, and when they have had a temporary effect and have expired, sedition crops up once more and we have to do the same work over and over again. I hope the present Bill will be more successful than many of its predecessors.
said, he naturally very much regretted the necessity for the adjournment of the debate; but it was impossible to take objection to the Motion for adjournment in a matter of this kind. [Cries of "Go on!"] If the House were disposed to go on, he was quite willing to do so; but if the debate were adjourned, he hoped it would be closed to-morrow evening.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.