Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, it is essential to the ends of justice and to the peace of Ireland, that a prompt, searching, and impartial inquiry be made into all the circumstances connected with the dispersing of a meeting assembled in the Phœnix Park, Dublin, on the 6th of August inst., to advocate the release of certain Fenian prisoners, and which resulted in injury to the persons of a large number of the citizens of Dublin."—(Sir John Gray.)
said, he was not one of those, if such there were, who would gladly welcome any shortcomings or mistakes on the part of the Irish Administration, either for the purpose of pandering to national prejudice or of gaining for themselves personal popularity. On the contrary, he acknowledged that the Lord Lieutenant had done as much as any man could possibly do to render popular both himself and the system which he represented with the people of Ireland, and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, by the candour of his disposition and the honour and straightforwardness of his character, had made himself respected by all with whom he had been brought into contact, while the abilities of the hon. and learned Solicitor General (Mr. Dowse) were universally acknowledged. But he would yield to no man in the warmth with which he expressed his conviction that, in this instance, the Government had been guilty of an error of judgment so grave, of an official blunder so glaring, of a breach of common sense so stupid and unpardonable, and so pregnant in its result, as to qualify it to rank among those mistakes which had been said to be worse than crimes. The scene of the outrage was his home, and he should be ashamed of himself if he did not spring to the front when he thought his fellow-citizens of Dublin were treated with injustice. When he first saw an 1774 account of the occurrence, he could not believe his eyes; he could not credit that the present Government—the Government which had come into power on a policy of conciliation to Ireland and justice to Irishmen—had so played the game of their opponents as to undo, in one fatal moment, all the good which the Prince of Wales and his brother, by their admirable exertions, had undoubtedly succeeded in doing during the previous week. The object of the meeting—at least, its ostensible object—was a perfectly legitimate, proper, and correct one; it amounted to nothing more nor less than a meeting to urge upon the Government to continue in a line of policy they had themselves originated; and though hon. Gentlemen opposite might smile at his describing the object of the meeting as legitimate, the Government could not do so. Similar meetings had been held before, in all parts of the country, without any interference on the part of the Executive; so that the argument was reduced to the propriety of the time and the place. It might be thought by some that the object of the originators of the demonstration was, by a counter excitement, to do away with the success which had attended the Royal visit; and if that were the case, he had no hesitation in saying that the purpose was unpatriotic, reprehensible and mischievous in the last degree. But the occult motive of the projectors of a meeting distinctly called for a specific object of a legitimate character could not be known to the 6,000 people who attended it, and they should not in justice be judged by it. No doubt the promoters thought the close proximity of Members of the Royal Family would add to the effect of their agitation; and if this were so, although the design constituted a breach of hospitality, no one would say it was an occasion for battering and bludgeoning the people almost to the extremity of murder. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary had said that a meeting in the Phœnix Park interfered with those who were using it for a legitimate purpose—namely, recreation—while those who were accustomed to use Hyde Park might on the occasion of a meeting use another. But surely the noble Lord had lived sufficiently long in Dublin to know that the Phœnix Park was four miles long and three broad, and that 50 political meetings might 1775 have been held in it at the same time without interfering with the comfort or amusement of those who resorted to it for simple recreation. Practically there was no law on the subject of meetings in the Park, as was shown by the fact that a Bill was to be introduced next year for the better regulation of such meetings; and what he blamed the Government for was that they dared to read the law one way in England and in a different way in Ireland. If, as had been alleged, inquiry was not essential to the peace of Ireland, he asserted that it was essential to the honour of Irish Representatives, and the Administration could not satisfy public indignation and shield themselves by the dismissal of a few unfortunate policemen who had only fulfilled the instructions given to them. An inquiry was necessary to ascertain by whom orders were issued to the constables to use their batons in the merciless way they did. The noble Lord had owned that after provocation had been given the police had lost their temper, and had attacked some persons who had taken part in the riot; but he would ask whether losing their temper was an excuse for such conduct, or whether it would be thought an excuse if the military, under the same circumstances, were to do the same? The Irishman distinctly stated that the meeting was not intended to make any allusion to the visit of the English Princes; but to endeavour by constitutional means to influence the English Government. Suppose that, in consequence of the natural indignation excited in Dublin by the violent suppression of that meeting, the Prince of Wales had been hooted out of the city next day, who would have been responsible for that? Why, the Government, and nobody else. And to whom did they owe it that His Royal Highness received, thank God! the same cheers when he left Ireland as when he came? Why, to the loyalty, the good feeling, and the hospitality of those Dublin people whom they had taken upon themselves to batter, and maim, and send to the hospital for nothing at all. In conclusion, he asked the Government whether they opposed the doctrine of a separate Parliament for Ireland in College Green or not; because, if they did, he could only tell them that by that one act they had done more to secure adherents to that doctrine than years of agitation 1776 could have effected; and if they were candid men they must admit that for that they had themselves alone to blame.
§ MR. SMYTH
Sir, as it may be supposed that a certain degree of responsibility attaches to me personally in this matter, I am sure the House will extend to me for a few moments its indulgence. It is necessary that the truth, the whole truth, should be known; and as that can be elicited only by means of an impartial investigation, the inference is irresistible that the party opposing such investigation has reason to dread the truth. The proposal to hold the meeting in question did not emanate from me. I did not convene it, either solely or in conjunction with other parties. It was only on Friday night I was informed that it had been decided to hold such a meeting in the Phœnix Park on the Sunday following, and I was asked at the same time if I would take the chair. The proposed meeting being for a legal and constitutional purpose, and one which commanded my sympathies, and knowing that it would be conducted with propriety and decorum, I at once consented. That same night placards were put up announcing the meeting, and that I would take the chair. Similar announcements appeared in the morning papers of Saturday. Now, I know not how far the House may be disposed to sympathise with me; but I do feel that, as a Member of this House, even as a private gentleman and citizen of Dublin, it was due to me in courtesy, if not in strict justice, that the authorities should have communicated with me, informing me of their intentions, and warning me of the consequences. No communication of any kind was conveyed to me either from the Board of Works, the police authorities, or the Castle. On Saturday night, I was informed that a notice was posted up throughout the City signed "Edward Hornsby, Secretary of the Board of Works," stating that the police had orders to prevent the meeting. I then, for the first time, met the committee. I said there are three courses open—the first is to respect Mr. Hornsby's notice and abandon the meeting, which I would regard as a fatal course; the second is, to hold the meeting, but in a different place, which I would regard as a weak and undignified course; the third is, to hold the meeting at the time and place already announced, and under the auspices 1777 of the chairman already designated, and that is the course which I recommend. For the advice so given, and for my action in accordance with it, I hold myself accountable to this House, to my constituents, and to the law. On Sunday afternoon I proceeded to the Park, and on entering the gate I observed a large body of police lying in ambush among the trees behind the Park wall. As I approached the monument I did not observe any police, nor before taking my place on the steps was I accosted by, or had I an opportunity of speaking to any member of the force. I had just begun my address when I perceived Inspector Hawe approaching, with the design apparently of speaking to me. I asked the people to make way for him; but at that moment there occurred that accidental rush down the shelving steps which led to a mélee on the ground in which, unfortunately, the Inspector received a blow. It was not of a serious nature, and he might, if he chose, have had the person who struck him arrested. This incident did not last a minute. I then resumed my address, and had time merely to say that our object was legally to test the legality of Mr. Hornsby's notice, and that if the hand of a policeman was to be laid on anyone present it should be upon me, when a powerful body of police charged the crowd, striking indiscriminately all who stood in their way. No stone had been thrown—not one. In an instant I saw Mr. Sullivan, who had exerted himself to protect the Inspector, prostrate on the ground, while Lieutenant Carey, who had seconded me to the chair—a brave man who had gone through the campaign on the Loire as a volunteer in the French Army—lay senseless and bleeding with his skull fractured. I spoke to the Inspector, telling him that all those who accompanied me were willing to give him their names, and that I was ready to accompany him before a magistrate. He asked me to take the people away. I said—"I will endeavour to do so, if you allow me for a moment to address them." He answered—"No, not one word." I made no further attempt to proceed with the meeting; nor did I ever say, as stated by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that I would persist in holding the meeting. I wish to do justice to Inspector Hawe. He seemed acutely to 1778 feel his wretched position; but he had evidently received certain orders which he felt it to be his duty to carry out to the letter. Who issued those orders? Who gave the command — make no arrests, but strike—frappez vite et frappez fort? Was it Mr. Hornsby, as his notice would seem to imply? Are the Commissioners of Police the responsible parties? Or do I understand aright the noble Lord that, with the chivalry of his house, he says—In me vertite ferrum? Oh, Colonel Lake is made the scapegoat of the battue, as Mr. Hornsby of the notice. I did, indeed, hear that Colonel Lake was on the ground, but I refused to believe it. I refused to believe that a man entitled to wear the epaulettes of a British officer could witness unmoved the massacre—for such it might have proved — of a defenceless multitude. For a full hour and a-half the battue continued, and every person in the Phœnix Park that summer afternoon was regarded as a trespasser, and every trespasser was marked out as a victim for the bludgeon. The Board of Works in Ireland is not regarded as a very important body; it is but the shadow of your English Board; and when the Government of the country resolved to inflict a deadly blow on one of the most sacred rights of British subjects—the right of public meeting, we want to know why the responsibility for such a proceeding was cast upon the unfortunate Board of Works? Why did the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary screen themselves behind the comparatively unknown name of Mr. Edward Hornsby? Seventy years ago a noble poet wrote—The Castle still stands, though the Senate's no more.But where was the Castle when a deserted Custom House lifted its head as the seat of Government in Ireland? The victim ought at least to have been fairly warned; the customary formalities should have been observed; and the spot selected for the sacrifice should not have been the base of that monument that records the triumphs of the Irish soldier who saved the Empire. The law with regard to meetings in Royal Parks is the same in both countries; but there is no law which prohibits a meeting for a constitutional purpose in either Hyde Park or Phœnix Park. Granted that the Commissioners had power under the Act to 1779 issue the notice, they would have the same power to issue a notice prohibiting a horserace, a cricket match, or a review—the citizens were not legally or morally bound to obey it. Everyone who, in face of the notice, attended the meeting exposed himself to the risk of being prosecuted for trespass, but that was the full extent of his legal risk. The legal punishment of trespass is not a broken head. The law applicable to the case is clear; and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland will, I am sure, inform the House that no statute exists authorizing the forcible dispersion of a meeting for a constitutional purpose in the Phœnix Park. This meeting was convened for a constitutional purpose; where, then, are we to find a sanction for its violent suppression? Not in the law, but in the Viceregal warrant, and the Viceregal warrant has its sanction in the discretion of the noble Earl (Earl Spencer). The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General will not set up the false plea of a riot which never took place. The trivial incident I have already alluded to was over in a minute, and a more orderly assemblage there could not possibly be than that which I was addressing at the time when the police, without notice or warning, charged it with drawn batons. No information had ever been sworn that a breach of the peace was to be apprehended; and the authorities were cognizant of the fact that, in the year 1870, 50 meetings of a similar kind, presided over by J.P.'s and M.P.'s, had been held throughout Ireland, and that no breach of the peace had occurred at any one of them. Neither will the hon. and learned Gentleman dwell on that paragraph from a Dublin paper quoted by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to the effect that patriots should be held dearer than Princes. He knows that there are papers in London which habitually use language more emphatic, and that no sentence from anyone of them has ever been quoted in this House as a justification for the suppression of a legal meeting. No; the hon. and learned Gentleman will fall back upon his last and only line of defence, and that is warrant—Viceregal warrant. I was an attentive listener to the able debate on Royal Warrants; but in Ireland the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant was a force and authority 1780 never claimed for Royal Warrant in the whole history of England. Issued to any policeman in Westmeath, and Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights vanish into thin air. Issued to the unknown secretary of an obscure board, and the right of public meeting goes down. Issued to a Colonel Lake, and 1,000 batons leap from their scabbards to vindicate the Viceregal prerogative. The names of members of the Royal Family have been very unnecessarily introduced into this controversy. The conveners of the meeting displayed better taste. They resolved that there should be no reference whatever to the Royal party, and it was upon that condition I consented to take the chair. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been furnished with the statements of the police. I, too, have been furnished with statements—the statements of wounded men and women. On the strength of those statements, and from my personal knowledge, I charge that a trap was laid by the Government; that the police were placed in ambush—the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland admits it — and that without provocation, as without warning, a savage onslaught was made on unoffending people engaged in the exercise of a constitutional right. I further charge that persons who entered the Park that afternoon, unconscious of what was going on, were pursued, knocked down, and beaten. And I affirm that all this was done by virtue solely of Viceregal warrant, in violation of the laws of the land, and in defiance of the Constitution of the realm. If there be a conflict of evidence, then our case is established, and the necessity for an investigation is proved. Now, suppose the meeting had been allowed to go on, what would have happened? A single resolution and an address would have been adopted. Here is the resolution—That the continued incarceration of upwards of 40 of the Irish political prisoners is regarded by the Irish people as cruel, impolitic, and unjustifiable, and that Irishmen cannot look on Mr. Gladstone's so-called 'Amnesty' as a fulfilment of his public pledges in relation to this matter until the release of all those prisoners has been effected.The address was of an equally innocent character. A couple of brief speeches would have been delivered, and the whole proceedings would not have occupied 1781 probably more than 15 minutes. To prevent those 15 minutes' work of mercy the Lord's Day was scandalized by the perpetration of a deed of indescribable wickedness and folly. Sir, no one in this House respects and admires more highly than I do the ability, the scholarship, and the character of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government; yet no candidate, an avowed supporter of his Government, dare present himself to-day before any constituency in Ireland. Church Bills are good—a Land Bill may be well-intended; but the Government that cannot insure peace and order in such a country as Ireland without having recourse to unconstitutional and brute coercion, stands condemned. At present, police terrorism holds undisputed sway. Were I the extreme politician I am sometimes represented to be, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman—maintain your West-meath Bill, extend the operation of your Peace Preservation Act, abrogate the right of public meeting, strengthen the Viceregal prerogative, and leave it to the discretion of the discreetest of Viceroys; let new battues of peaceful citizens be organized, and soon it will appear that the extreme politician who lifts his feeble voice for justice to-day is the most moderate man in all Ireland. But I desire, above all things, that by the ways of peace and the Constitution my country may advance to the redress of every wrong and the establishment of every right, and therefore I solemnly adjure the House to grant this inquiry that so the guilty may be punished, the Constitution vindicated, and the people protected.
I will not stop to complain of the very scant encouragement which the Government and the people of England have received at the hands of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Smyth) in their endeavours to apply remedies to the evils and grievances of Ireland. With a great struggle and a great convulsion, by means of a dissolution of Parliament and the displacement of a Ministry, after two years incessant labour, we at length established a Land Code for Ireland more liberal than is to be found in any other country in the world; and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman comes here, and in the name of patriotism generously rewards us by admitting that great measure 1782 to have been well intended. Sir, that is not the manner in which the hon. and learned Gentleman will serve the true interests of his country, for the people of England will expect—not in consequence of their power, but in consequence of the power of justice—that their true-hearted and generous efforts in favour of the people of Ireland shall be met in a corresponding spirit. However, I pass from that controverted matter. I will not refer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's prophecies with respect to the fate of any candidate in the interest of the Government who should appear before any Irish constituency, because there is no present intention on the part of the Government to advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, and, therefore, there is not much probability that the prophecies of the hon. and learned Member will be either fulfilled or falsified for some time to come. I, however, beg to acknowledge the practical character generally of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, as well as the temper in which it was delivered; and the desire of the Government is to meet him in the same practical manner and in the same temper. If we approach a question of this kind in a polemical spirit, there will be very little likelihood of our getting out of the discussion with satisfaction or advantage to anyone. It should be recollected by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and also by the hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Motion (Sir John Gray and Mr. M'Carthy Downing) that this question of the right to hold public meetings in the metropolitan Parks, which are intended for the recreation of the people, is far from being a question which even in England has attained its final solution, and the fallacy that has pervaded almost every speech which has been made on this subject by those who complain of the conduct of the Irish Executive is that the law on the subject as regards both countries is clear and has been definitively settled. The hon. Members cannot have forgotten what happened in this country in 1866 and in 1867, when, with very considerable disturbance of order and with great discomfort to large masses of the English people, the question was raised as to the possibility and the propriety of holding political meetings in the metropolitan Parks, that the same question formed the subject of 1783 careful consideration by a Committee of this House, and that the matter is one that presents so much difficulty that we found ourselves compelled to postpone proceeding further this Session with the Bill for the government and regulation of the metropolitan Parks. The hon. and learned Gentleman will therefore perceive that his standard of comparison between the laws of the two countries as regards political meetings in the public Parks is fallacious, inasmuch as the subject is one that has not attained its final settlement in this country any more than in Ireland. I am glad to see by an alteration that has been made in the terms of the Motion since it was placed upon the Notice Paper that there is an indication of a not altogether unsatisfactory change in the intention with which the Motion has been brought forward. As it at first appeared upon the Notice Paper the Motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) seemed framed so as to convey a distinct Vote of Censure upon the Irish Executive. The disastrous interference of the Executive with the right of free meetings was to be declared by a Resolution of this House. A more severe Vote of Censure could scarcely have been passed, and I am exceedingly glad that it has been found, upon consideration, impossible to maintain the Motion in its original terms, and that we have now before us a question of a more moderate character. The words, even of the Motion in its present form, still retain a considerable flavour of censure, because they indicate an opinion that a considerable number of the citizens of Dublin received injuries in consequence of the action of the Irish Executive, and thereby imply that the conduct of the Irish Executive brought about the mischief that ensued. ["Hear, hear!"] Then I am distinctly to understand that, although the terms of the Motion have been distinctly altered, they are still intended to imply that the Irish Executive is responsible for the injuries that were received by a number of the citizens of Dublin. [An hon. MEMBER: Certainly.] Then, what the House is now asked to do is to pass a Vote of Censure upon the Government of Ireland under the form of a mere Motion for Inquiry. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] It has been said that the terms of this Motion mean that the injuries received by many citizens of 1784 Dublin are attributable to the proceedings of the Irish Executive. ["Hear!"] Then the Motion is intended to imply a Vote of Censure upon the Irish Government; it is a condemnation of the proceedings of the Irish Executive. ["Hear, hear!"] That is now distinctly understood. ["Hear, hear!"] Then I am prepared to contend that there is no ground for such a Vote of Censure, and I will at once proceed to analyze the terms of the Motion. It has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary (Colonel White) that my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland showed an ungenerous disposition in offering to institute an inquiry into the conduct of the police only. That is rather strong language; but its effect was somewhat lightened by the hon. and gallant Member himself proceeding to state that his own inquiry into the question had convinced him that such an inquiry into the conduct of the police was absolutely necessary. Under these circumstances, it can scarcely be said that my noble Friend was ungenerous in offering to institute an inquiry which the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself admits is absolutely necessary. In the inquiry proposed by the Motion two parties would be concerned—the Irish Executive and the police. Putting aside for the moment the interpretation put upon the Motion that renders it a Vote of Censure upon the Irish Government, I will merely now deal with it as a Motion for Inquiry into the conduct of the Irish Executive. Regarding it as such, I submit that it is one quite unfitted to form the subject of consideration by this House. How is that conduct to be made the subject of inquiry? If this House should think fit to appoint a Committee of its own to inquire into the conduct of the Irish Executive, I, for one, will at least, go so far as to say that, however strong the case of the Irish Executive may be, I should feel great reluctance in submitting the conduct of the Government to investigation by a Committee of this House. But if the proposition has a meaning, it is that the conduct of the Irish Executive shall be investigated, not by a Committee of this House, but by a Commission to be issued by the Irish Executive itself. Now, I appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, as a practical man, does he think it possible for the Viceroy of 1785 Ireland to issue a Commission to inquire into the conduct of the Viceroy, and to report thereon? [Mr. SMYTH: I think there ought to be an impartial inquiry into all the circumstances attending the disaster.] I am analyzing the general declaration, and I think I showed how unbecoming it would be for the House to part with its own jurisdiction over the Executive Government for the purpose of delegating to Lord Spencer the power of issuing a Commission. Now I come to the question as to the conduct of the police; and the part of the hon. and learned Member's speech which refers to this branch of the subject is undoubtedly a most important one. We have heard from him to-day—as far as I can learn for the first time—an authentic account not only of the intentions with which the meeting was called, but of what occurred at the time, according to the view of those concerned in projecting and conducting it. The hon. and learned Member says that the police were placed in "ambush." I think I have reason to complain of that expression. Supposing the police had been ostentatiously placed in the face of the public, what would have been said then? The police must have been either shown or hidden, and had they been shown it would have been said that they were displayed in order to carry terror to the minds of the people. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would in some degree put aside the advocate, he would greatly contribute to our attaining a satisfactory solution of this question. I took down the terms of three highly important allegations which were made by the hon. and learned Gentleman. In the first place, he stated that the Inspector of police received only a single blow; that is totally different from the account of the matter which we have received from the police. The Inspector himself, while doing ample justice to one of the promoters of the meeting, who he says did his best to protect him from the violence of the mob, states that he received not one, but several blows, and that an attempt was made by several persons to seize him by the legs and to get him off the ground—with results that may be conjectured.
I cannot say how far the Inspector has been injured, because I have not seen him; but this shows how material it is that we should not go by statements at first hand, but that every statement should be sifted by cross-examination. The second allegation of the hon. and learned Gentleman was that no stones had been thrown when the police charged the people. That, again, is directly at variance with the statement we have received from the police. The hon. and learned Gentleman's third statement was a very important one—namely, that the hon. and learned Member himself made an offer to the police to send away the people if he were allowed in the first instance to address a few words to them. With regard to that statement I have nothing to say, except that it is entirely new to me, and, I believe, to my Colleagues, and that we have hitherto not had an opportunity of learning what was said, and whether that offer was heard or understood by the police or not. At the same time, the matter bears materially and directly upon the true merits of the case; and, therefore, I say that it is not possible, with justice or propriety, to ask this House to take into its own hands an inquiry, or to direct an inquiry to be made into a matter in which either the main allegations are wholly novel, or the parties are in direct issue upon the most essential matters of fact. Do not let it be understood that I am endeavouring to insinuate an opinion either that there should be no inquiry at all, or that the time may not come when this House may not properly take the matter into its own hands. My contention is that, in dealing with a subject of this kind, order and method should be observed. I maintain that it is not the duty or practice of this House to assume to become what may be termed a tribunal of first instance with regard to such a matter as that now under discussion. The matter should be left, in the first place, to the Executive Government which is responsible for the conduct of its own servants, and then to the tribunals of the country, which will mete out to the hon. and learned Gentleman and to those who acted with him their full rights. I am informed that only yesterday an application was made to the proper authorities for the names of some of the policemen by whom violence 1787 was used, in order that the matter might be brought to a legal issue, and, of course, those names will be given. Under these circumstances, I submit that this Motion for Inquiry is altogether premature. Irrespective of whether this Motion is agreed to or not, it will be the duty of the Irish Executive to give every opportunity to the parties concerned to bring the matter under the consideration of the legal tribunals, and to examine strictly and carefully into the circumstances which have occurred in reference to it. Under these circumstances, this House will act wisely in refraining from dealing with a subject before it is ripe for discussion, and in waiting to see the result of Executive and judicial proceedings before it proceeds to pass judgment on any important question—whether as the final vindicator of the popular privileges it will or will not find itself called upon to interfere. There are very strong objections to the Motion before us, and I hope they will not be without weight. And now I must advert to the feeling which has been displayed, and which appears to me to be the root of the Motion. The hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary has intimated his belief that the law is administered in one way in England and in another in Ireland. [Colonel WHITE: Hear, hear!] If that be so, that opinion is not adequately put forward by the terms of the Motion before the House. The Motion should have contained a declaration in favour of the equal application of the law in the two countries. But, however inconsistent or illogical the conduct of the hon. and gallant Member may be in voting for a Motion which does not convey his true meaning, he appears to be induced to give that vote by the desire of venting in some way or another the strong feeling he entertains with regard to the subject. [Colonel WHITE: Hear, hear!] That is a most candid admission on the part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. His object is to express a sentiment merely, but still a sentiment on a subject of great importance, and one which I shall endeavour to treat with respect, and I shall not by any means despair of obtaining the approval of the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself on the conduct of the Government in relation to this painful subject. I am not prepared to admit that there is or has been a different reading of the law in 1788 the two countries. I am doubtful whether the law has been definitively read in England. It is certainly not an established proposition of the law of England that meetings for political purposes may be held ad libitum in the metropolitan Parks. In some instances objections have been made; in other instances there has been no interference: but the rights of the Government over the Parks have not been renounced; and there is nothing to prevent prohibition by the Government on the ground of the custody of the Parks with which they are invested. It is too much to admit that any standard law has been laid down on the subject with respect to the law in England. There are few more embarrassing questions, when they come to be controversially dealt with, than those which belong to the right of public meeting. Only a small minority of the present House of Commons can remember the extreme difficulties that were experienced in 1844, when a series of monster meetings were held in Ireland, which resulted in legal proceedings against Mr. O'Connell; but I think the doctrine was then approved and established that, in order to judge of the character of a meeting—the object of which is not professedly illegal—you must not look to one single circumstance exclusively of all the rest; but must take into view conjointly all the circumstances that bear upon the case. Well, now, with regard to the object of this meeting, my hon. and gallant Friend said that the object had the approval of the Government. I am not going to rely much upon the object of the meeting; but I am not prepared to admit that it met with the approval of the Government. It is called a meeting to obtain the release of Fenian prisoners; but we do not admit that those prisoners were Fenian prisoners. We say they were men whose motive might have been Fenian, but they had committed acts of criminality apart entirely from political offences, and we will not stretch the doctrine of immunity up to a point at which it becomes a cover for disgraceful offences against the general law of the land. I decline altogether to approve of demands which reach the point that because these gentlemen were Fenians, although they had committed acts which were punishable generally, their Fenianism ought to exempt them from punishment. 1789 But I think I may understand my hon. and gallant Friend to mean that the meeting was one not to be interfered with on account of its object. To that extent I can follow my hon. and gallant Friend. But we come now to the time and place of the meeting. The time of the meeting was chosen with reference to the Royal visit. I will not go into questions of law or of popular rights; but I ask whether the circumstances of this meeting were such as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Smyth) himself thinks ought to make it a model for those who may hereafter take into their hands the direction of popular feeling and movement in Ireland. Was it right, with regard to a meeting of this kind, that no notice of it should be given until the day before the day appointed for holding it, the day of meeting being fixed for Sunday? Was it well that the time chosen for it should be that of the Royal visit, and that the place should be the Park in which is the Viceregal Lodge where the Princes were staying? The hon. and learned Gentleman says it was determined that no reference should be made to the Royal visit; but was that communication made to the Irish Government? Certainly not. What communication was made to them? There was an article in The Irishman, which is edited by one of the main promoters of the meeting, and who was present at the meeting, The Irishman itself being a paper which is the organ of the Association that projected and conducted the meeting. In that amiable article the Princes, who were then endeavouring, to the best of their ability, to manifest feelings of conciliation and affection towards Ireland, were described by the amiable phrase of "alien Princes." Does the hon. and learned Gentleman approve of that phrase? It was contained in a paragraph which was the sole comment on the announcement to hold the meeting, and which proceeded from an authoritative source.
I might almost say that the hon. and learned Gentleman's ignorance is as remarkable as his 1790 knowledge. I had thought after the discussion in this House that the name of The Irishman newspaper was tolerably well known in Dublin, and that its connection with the Amnesty Association was tolerably well known also.
The hon. and learned Gentleman makes a charge against the Irish Government. I want to show in what position they were placed with regard to information. The only information they had by way of comment on the relation between the meeting and the Royal visit was that the Princes were described as "alien Princes," and it was declared to be the duty of the people to demonstrate by the meeting that the patriots were dearer to their hearts than the Princes. Patriots!—men of Fenian sentiments, who, notwithstanding and apart from their Fenianism, were criminals in the common sense of criminality, having committed crimes apart from Fenianism—these are the parties who are declared by the organ of the body to be dearer than the "alien Princes." That was the only public information which was in the possession of the Irish Government at the time when they had to take their rapid and necessarily-hurried decision. My hon. and gallant Friend has made a most extraordinary charge against Earl Spencer, who he says, should not confine his reading of the paper to one paragraph, and my hon. and gallant Friend then quoted another paragraph of a much more amiable description. But unfortunately it was published on the 12th of August, so that his charge against Earl Spencer is that he came in a state of wilful and culpable ignorance to the consideration of this subject, because on the 5th of August he had been so grossly neglectful as not to read a paragraph which appeared in The Irishman on the 12th.
I was not referring to Earl Spencer, but to the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, and I did not say that the paragraph I quoted from The Irishman was issued at the same time as the original paragraph. I said, or intended to say, that the paragraph I 1791 quoted was to be accepted for what it was worth to show what were the objects of the majority of the meeting.
I will take my hon. Friend's correction as regards the noble Lord; but he found fault with the Irish Government.
He found fault with the Government for having failed to make use of information which they could not have seen.
I accept the substitution; yet it appears that Earl Spencer had no knowledge at all of anything but the words I have read, and another document to which I am going to refer. What was the place of meeting? The Phœnix Park is a place of great extent, and the point chosen for holding the meeting, according to the allegation of the Government, was most unfortunate, if the object were not to interfere with the enjoyment of the Park by the people, because the monument which was to be the centre of the assemblage is close to the road or passage by which the people get to or from the Park, and the meeting was thought to be calculated to interfere with the peaceable enjoyment of the Park by the people. The fact that the Viceregal Lodge is in that Park is a fact that ought not to be overlooked, for there was no guarantee as to the meeting being continued at that spot, and as it might have been adjourned to a place immediately under the windows of the Lodge, that was a matter which the Irish Government were bound to take into consideration. What was the character of this meeting? We are accustomed to say a great deal strongly and justly with regard to the right of free assemblage; but what is meant by that term? I contend that it means the right of free assemblage for purposes of discussion. There is another kind of free assemblage which has sometimes, though very rarely, been attempted in this country, but which in Ireland has an important, traditional, and historical existence; and that is, free assemblage without any reference to discussion, but with reference to the demonstration of force. I do not hesitate to say that, in my opinion, there is 1792 a most important distinction to be drawn between these two objects and these two kinds of public meetings. What sort of meeting was the one held in the Phœnix Park? The hon. and learned Gentleman says it was a meeting to hear his address, to pass a resolution, and to disperse in 15 minutes; but was that the description which came, and which alone came, under the eye of the Irish Government? Was it announced to the Irish Government at all as a meeting for discussion? Here is the advertisement by which it was called—The Political Prisoners.—A monster meeting to advocate the release of the Irish political prisoners still confined in English dungeons will be held in the Phœnix Park. The chair will be taken at 4 o'clock by P. J. Smyth, Esq., M.P. Irishmen! Assemble in your thousands, and show that you are not unmindful of your brothers who are undergoing the horrors of penal servitude in England for their love of Ireland.These assemblages in thousands bring in an element of an entirely distinct and different character from that of meeting for discussion and the expression of the opinions of the people. I hold here the proceedings that took place in 1844, and the charge of Lord Chief Justice Pennefather, with regard to the description of meetings which then, I believe, for the first time acquired the title of "monster meetings," which they have never since lost. I understand a monster meeting in Ireland to be a meeting which is not for discussion. In England attempts have been made to gather together very large numbers of people, but the purpose of discussion has always been kept in view, and at such meetings there has been adopted the plan of breaking up the assemblage into a number of meetings, each of which is an integer. The mere display, however, of large masses of people without any indication of discussion, at a place from which in ten minutes the thousands who were gathered together might have adjourned to the Viceregal Lodge, which was the residence of the Princes, made the assemblage very different from what, in a constitutional country, is understood to be a meeting for free discussion. I propose to show that this is not abstract or obsolete law, but is a practical and well-understood law in Ireland, where there have been meetings at which discussion was not contemplated, which were not meant to inspire terror into the ordinary bystander or inhabitants, 1793 but were meetings dangerous to public authority and order, and were, according to the doctrine which has received the sanction of the Irish authorities, illegal meetings. I do not attempt to fix that character upon the assemblage of Sunday week; but I say that, upon the imperfect information given to the Irish Government, the language in which the meeting was described, combined with the place and other circumstances, it was not exempted from the apprehension that it might have been an illegitimate assemblage. In the proceedings which occurred in 1844 Lord Chief Justice Pennefather said that if persons went to a meeting without arms, if they conducted themselves with propriety and regularity, if nothing tending to a breach of the peace was committed, all such facts might concur towards establishing the innocence of the meeting, yet it might be an illegal assemblage; and he added that if the purpose of those who called the meeting together was to make a demonstration of immense force and physical power, and to overawe the Legislature, that would be an illegal object. I limit myself now to saying that, on the scanty and narrow information which proceeded from a quarter that was known to be immediately connected with the concoction of the meeting, and the terms in which it was announced, regarded in conjunction with the time and place of meeting, it became the duty of the Irish Government to take into view the serious apprehension that the examples of former years might have been followed. We, therefore, are not prepared to concur in any censure upon the decision to which the Irish Government were compelled to come with regard to the meeting. I wish to add one word with reference to the future. I have stated that I hope, in all proceedings that may be taken upon this rather difficult subject, above all, the principle of equality, as between the three countries, will be observed. I have endeavoured to show that the Legislature has not as yet arrived at what may be called a normal system or fixed determination with regard to the practice in England. I ask for this concession—that, in anything that is to be done with respect to the Parks, the circumstances and purposes of those Parks may be borne in mind. You would not wish, I presume, 1794 that it should be left open to any man who might be so minded, under the name of free discussion, to parade thousands of persons under the windows of the Viceregal Lodge. You would not wish it to be left to the caprice or folly of any man to interfere with the enjoyment of the people. If this be the limitation I should say, with reference not to the Phœnix Park only, but to the Parks generally, that if a more determinate system can be arrived at it should be a system resting upon the principle of strict equality of dealing; but, in our judgment, it would not be wise to found it on the absolute and perpetual exclusion of all meetings from the Parks. The discretion of the Government must always remain with regard to the nature and object of such meetings. These are considerations which, whether the meeting is in or out of a Park, must be taken into view; but remembering the responsibility of the Government and the character of the Parks, it should be in the discretion of the Government to make arrangements by which the people may harmlessly, yet freely, assemble for the legitimate purposes of public meeting and free discussion. I trust I have been able to maintain in some degree the pledge I gave to the hon. Gentleman at the commencement of my remarks; but in one thing I am certain I should have been most unfortunate—namely, if I had left it open to any Member of this House to suppose that after the labours of Parliament during our generation, and especially after the labours of the present Parliament, it was either the desire or the view of the present Government—the natural differences of circumstances being allowed for—that in any question, great or small, any principle should receive from them the slightest countenance except that of a true, genuine, just, and generous impartiality and equality in the dealings Both of the Legislature and of the Executive with the people of the three countries.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he had supported the Government for three years because of the policy they had enunciated; but in this matter it was his duty to oppose the position they had assumed. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was indignant with the hon. and learned Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth) for not 1795 giving sufficient credit to the English people for their generosity and good intentions towards Ireland; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had not really grudged a large and generous tribute to them for the good feeling they had manifested for two or three years past in endeavouring to remove certain social grievances from the people of Ireland. But that had nothing whatever to do with the question, which was, whether or not the Government had committed a gross blunder, attended with most disastrous results to the peace, tranquillity, and good feeling of the people of Ireland. For himself, he was most ready to acknowledge the splendid generosity displayed by the English people. He took exception, to a certain passage in the speech of his hon. and gallant Friend who spoke first in the debate to-night (Colonel White). His hon. and gallant Friend told the Government that their conduct and the disaster which followed would give a great stimulus to what was called home rule in Ireland. As a believer in home rule and in its success, he (Mr. Maguire) should be sorry to rest that policy on mere exasperation, as he felt when the time came to discuss that question they would be able to put it on a basis which would vindicate the sagacity of Irishmen, and appeal not in vain to the sound judgment and sympathy of Englishmen. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government endeavoured to show that there really was no difference in the administration of the law in England and Ireland; but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman clearly proved the case submitted by those who proposed this Resolution. He (Mr. Maguire), for one, condemned the holding of the meeting in Phœnix Park, on the ground of bad taste and impolicy. As a matter of policy it was not right at a time when the Royal visitors were guests of the Lord Lieutenant. He blamed the Government for having done too little and for having done too much. He blamed them for having stopped the meeting at all; and if they were determined to prevent it, they should have done so in a way that would have precluded the possibility of a misunderstanding. To some extent they had set a trap for the people, the proclamation being printed on a small piece of paper, such as might be used to advertise the sale of shrubs in 1796 the Park, while an additional trap was prepared in the disposition of the police. Should not the proclamation have been on every wall in Dublin, and should there not have been an adequate display of force? He spoke as one who had had communication with the very strongest supporters of the present Government, when he said that this affair had caused a feeling of disgust and dismay throughout the land. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Baron Pennefather, oblivious of what he might have been told by his Solicitor General for Ireland, that his law had been overruled by the House of Lords. But would, in any case, the people of Ireland hair-split with Baron Pennefather, or would they not rather remember that while meetings, where blasphemous litanies were sung, were held in London within hearing of the Royal Palace, the people of Dublin could not hold a meeting to plead for mercy for people who had, by their conduct, mistaken or otherwise, been placed in a miserable position? What made the thing more monstrous, it was only a few days before 200 people were bludgeoned in Dublin that such a meeting as he had described was held in London, blasphemous litanies being sung, and language of contempt and scorn, ridicule and outrage, applied to the Queen and her children, and dangerous doctrines ventilated. This was bad enough; but there was still a worse feature about the transactions of the Government. The next Sunday a meeting was again allowed to take place in Hyde Park. No subtlety would satisfy the people of Ireland that what was tolerated in England was a grievous and terrible event in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman sought to ride off on the plea that this was a monster meeting. He knew something of monster meetings in the time of O'Connell, when 40,000, 50,000, or 100,000 people assembled together. He could very well understand some person making a declaration before a magistrate that such meetings would be attended with danger to the peace of the country. But where only 4,000 or 5,000 people assembled—even though the form of speech "Come in your ten thousands" was used in the advertisement—a form adopted by Odd Fellows and Temperance Societies—it was ridiculous to regard it as a monster meeting. Nor was that enough to make what was legal 1797 before illegal. The right hon. Gentleman said that this meeting might have been held under the very windows of the Viceregal Lodge. The right hon. Gentleman was to be excused on the ground of having no local knowledge on that subject. He (Mr. Maguire) understood that there was a moat or fence which protected the property of the Lord Lieutenant. Suppose the Government had said to themselves — "We despise this meeting if it is intended as an insult, and if it is a matter of bad taste let the blame fall on the heads of those who convene the meeting, but we will protect the Viceregal Lodge by the aid of 20 or 100 policemen." A most serious feature of this case was that while the question of allowing meetings to be held and blasphemous litanies to be sung in London was a moot question, the Government bludgeoned people in Dublin for holding a meeting. He understood that the Government deliberately abandoned the Bill relating to the Royal Parks because they durst not face the public on that subject. But, having done so, on the principle of equality they shed blood in Dublin. That was their way of cementing good feeling between England and Ireland. There were certain principles that ought to be common in the whole Empire, and among these was the right of every man to meet and address the Crown or Parliament, and to state his grievance in the face of day. That should not be permitted in England if it was not permitted in Ireland, and if permitted in England it ought to be permitted in Ireland. That was the equality that was desired. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to establish a difference between a meeting for discussion and a demonstration of force. The right hon. Gentleman would not object to a monster meeting held in Ireland or in England to carry the Ballot, even if only one resolution were to be passed and the meeting occupied only 15 minutes. If Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House were to complain of a monster meeting, comprising not 4,000 or 5,000, but 100,000 or 200,000 people being held in Trafalgar Square or Hyde Park, the right hon. Gentleman would say that Gentlemen opposite had no right to complain; that public opinion was omnipotent; and that the meeting demonstrated the feeling of the people. The noble Lord's (the Chief 1798 Secretary for Ireland) vindication of the savage assault on the men, women, and children who had nothing whatever to do with this meeting, but were merely following a brass band, was scarcely worthy of his chivalry. The noble Lord described those followers of the band as a formidable reinforcement, stimulated to enthusiasm by the music of a brass band. If the Motion of his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray) was a Vote of Censure on the Government he would support it—though the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had nothing to do with the blunder. He (Mr. Maguire) would rather attribute that rash blunder—for such it was—to the fry of small people that hung about the Castle, and who, advising the Executive in the spirit of chamberlains or masters of ceremony, were entirely in fault. They, no doubt, bewildered the authorities by representing that great calamities would befall the Royal guests if this meeting were not stopped. He had not heard one single word honestly in justification of the Irish Executive. The explanation of the Prime Minister had only made matters worse than they were. He would accept the Resolution proposed as a condemnation of those who were directly responsible for this outrage; he would vote for it in its broadest sense, and it was a matter of indifference to him whether it was adopted or not. In conclusion, the hon. Member insisted that there were different modes of administering the same law in England and in Ireland, or this wanton, and savage attack would not have been made upon the meeting in Dublin.
said, that nothing could be further from his wish than to cast a reflection upon the Irish Executive; he did not desire to vindicate either those who took part in this meeting; but when they were told that the law was the same in both countries, its administration in the two was very different. In Ireland they say what they mean and mean what they say; but in England they say what they do not mean; they proclaim, that meetings shall not be held, and, in spite of that, they are held; so that, while authority was upheld in Ireland, it was turned into ridicule and contempt in England. He desired inquiry, not to cast blame upon the Irish Executive, but because it might lead to an alteration in this country of the law which permitted the holding in 1799 the Royal Parks of meetings to assail the Crown and the Constitution, and at which measures occupying the attention of Parliament were discussed for the purpose of intimidating Members of the House and influencing their votes. The Secretary of State said that in England these meetings were legal and constitutional; and yet in Ireland those who attended such a meeting in a Royal Park were dispersed by the police. If the power to prevent meetings in the Royal Parks in England had not been abandoned in theory, it had been in practice. The last time the Home Office made an attempt to prevent the holding of a public meeting in Hyde Park was in 1866, when the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole) was Home Secretary; a monster meeting was advertised, a discussion followed in the House; the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) said such meetings were illegal, and he hoped that announced would not be permitted; Mr. Neate, at that time the Member for Oxford, and connected with the Liberal party, moved the following Resolution:—That Her Majesty's Government, in refusing the use of Hyde Park for the purpose of holding a Political Meeting, have asserted the legal right of the Crown, and deserve the support of this House in so doing;the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) took an opposite course and advocated the meeting, both in the House and out of it; and what was the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman at the head, of the Government? Did he support the Government of the day in asserting that power which he said had never been relinquished and in preventing the meeting? Not at all. On the contrary, he asked Mr. Neate not to press his Resolution, but to withdraw it; and, in deference to his Leader, Mr. Neate withdrew his Motion. The meeting was held; the Home Secretary, so to speak, set his back against the closed gates; but he left a mile and a quarter of slender railings undefended, and the people tore them down and used the railings to assault the police; and the great instigator of the meeting, after having been dismissed from a public office by the Lord Chief Justice of England, had since been rewarded by the right hon. Gentleman with a County Court Judgeship. The noble Lord the 1800 Chief Secretary for Ireland said the other night that the prisoners on whose behalf the meeting was convened in Phœnix Park were Fenians, and were connected with the Manchester and Clerkenwell outrages. There was a certain Mr. Finlan, whose hands were not clean; and was he not honoured by an interview with the Prime Minister? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Not knowingly.] All he knew about the matter was that he read in the newspapers that the man boasted of what had occurred.
explained that a deputation of working men had an interview with him; but he was not previously made acquainted with their names, although afterwards it appeared that this Finlan was one of them.
said, he would be sorry to make any misrepresentation; but he had never heard the account contradicted before.
said, at any rate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government had opened the door so widely for meetings in the Parks that people could hardly be expected to understand the nice distinctions occasionally drawn. The observations made in the debate by the right hon. Gentleman conveyed the impression that he thought somewhat lightly of Fenianism; but was not Fenianism treason, having for its object the establishment of a Republic on the ruins of a Monarchy? Of all the mistakes the Government had made—and even their friends admitted that they had committed some—the gravest consisted in opening the gaols to the Fenian prisoners, for treason would never find favour in this country. He wished for an inquiry into the matter, not with any reference to the Executive, but because he desired to see the law altered and clearly defined, so that, while it should recognize the legitimate right of the public to meet for political purposes, it should not at the same time allow meetings to become public nuisances; and so that those who attended meetings might know what responsibilities they incurred, and that orderly and well-disposed people should not be deprived of their rights and privileges.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
said, he thought that both parties to the Phœnix 1801 Park affair were in the wrong. The object of the meeting was legal, for surely it would be conceded that the people were entitled to meet to petition for the pardon of prisoners, whether the crime was treason or murder; and therefore men should not be blamed for assembling together in order to obtain pardon, if possible, for prisoners whose case they thought worthy of attention. Pardon was, however, the Prerogative of the Crown, and would not be conceded to intimidation. The meeting was, therefore, impolitic and injudicious. Monster meetings generally resulted in prolonging the imprisonment of those who were under sentence. The question whether the law in regard to parks in London and Dublin was the same has already been answered. It is the same: and the next question to be asked was, whether the administration of the law has been the same in the two countries? The answer must be that it has not been. Had the law been different, the Executive would have had justification for their conduct in Dublin, and might have replied, in the words of the Marquess of Wellesley, a former Lord Lieutenant—"We came here to administer the law, not to alter it." But such answer would not apply in this instance, and difference of administration he regarded as a far greater offence and of more importance than difference of law. It was contended that the Government had never relinquished their authority over Hyde Park; that they had only not exercised it; but as they did not exercise it the law was either obsolete or bad. He found fault with both parties in the matter. He did not see how an inquiry such as proposed could be conducted; the Government could not try itself, and he believed that if a tribunal could be sent down from Heaven for the purpose, its report would not give satisfaction to everybody. He felt obliged in fairness to correct such phrases used in the debate as "fractured skulls" and "dreadful massacre." He had made inquiry, and he found that there had not been a life lost, a skull fractured, or a limb broken. Three days after the fight there were not three patients in Steevens's Hospital, the nearest to the fray, in consequence of injuries received at that meeting, and there was not one woman or child. These being the facts he thought there would be little good from raking up the past; but 1802 that their efforts should be directed to consider calmly what should be done with the future. An inquiry into a riot would not arrive at the truth, for there would not be, from the faculty of correct observation being so little exercised, two persons to agree as to what had occurred, and such an inquiry would keep alive heart burnings, and lead to no useful result. He remembered a few years ago, when the College boys "bonneted" the policemen's hats on their noses at College Green, Colonel Browne read the Riot Act, and gave the order, "In the name of the Queen, charge!" The charge took place, sabres flashed, and the police galloped into the courtyard. There was said to have been a dreadful massacre, and an illustrated journal published a very fine drawing of the scene, of course after nature, and not the less true that it had previously done duty as a sketch of the charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo. The whole city was kept in a turmoil for two or three months, and after a vexatious inquiry into the affair, Colonel Browne was put on his trial for the dreadful assault. No wounded men could be found to give evidence either among the students or the police. Colonel Browne was of course acquitted; and then the College boys, who had subscribed for the prosecution, carried him from the court-house in triumph. The result of an inquiry now would probably be similar, and Colonel Lake, of whom every man who knows him is the friend, would have a still greater triumph, for while he won his laurel crown with the sword in the Russian War, he has in his present command ever carried only the olive branch. He wished the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had been adopted, and that the Resolution before the House had been that the law should be administered in the same way in both countries. No doubt both the Lord Lieutenant and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland would approve such a Resolution. On them no eulogy is necessary, for all of every party appreciate their good feelings for Ireland. He was sorry to see occurrences were occasionally passed over in Scotland and England which would bring down heavy censure on Ireland. Hon. Members would recollect that early in that Session an hon. Member had exhibited a placard posted at an English election, which was a horrible 1803 travesty of that which was held most sacred by all professing to be Christians—the Lord's Prayer; and there had just been printed in the Supplement to their own Votes a Petition, presented by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), against Prince Arthur's Annuity, from the Republican Club of Edinburgh. He would ask whether anything had been said in Ireland as to the Royal Family which was as disrespectful as the language of that Petition? He knew no difference between Republicanism and Fenianism, as both sought to establish a Republic on the ruins of Monarchy; but excited Irish Fenians supported their principles rashly, while canny Republican Scotchmen were biding their time. His advice was, let Ireland have not only the same laws, but the same administration of them as England. Ireland was content to be the sister of England, but would not be her Cinderella. As to the meeting in Phœnix Park being offensive from its being held in close proximity to the Viceregal Lodge, the site of the intended meeting could not be seen from the Lodge. The place where the meeting took place in the Phœnix Park was an English mile from the Viceregal Lodge—the distance being the same within a few yards as between Buckingham Palace and the Marble Arch. Then it was said such meetings in Phœnix Park must interfere with the amusement and recreation of the people. Did they know the extent of the Phœnix Park? Kensington Park, Hyde Park, and St. James's Park put in line would not equal in measurement half the length of the Phœnix Park. The three English parks altogether measure only one mile and three quarters; the Phœnix Park is three miles long from gate to gate, and one mile and a-half wide in some places. Meetings in Hyde Park did not interfere with the recreation of the people. Why, then, should they necessarily interfere with the recreation of the people in a park of much wider area? It had been said there were other open places in Dublin where meetings might be held; but the fact is not so. Some years ago there were many such places, but there was now no place within two or three miles of Dublin where public meetings could be held. To account for the sudden gathering that occurred it was not necessary to suppose that there 1804 had been any such mysterious or Fenian pre-arrangement as had been insinuated. The sudden gathering of a crowd in the locality is very easily explained. Near the steps of the Wellington Monument, on the right-hand side of that Monument, are the People's Gardens, in which at the hour named—4 o'clock on Sunday — there are generally during summer between 5,000 and 6,000 visitors of all classes, and in the Zoological Gardens in the immediate vicinity as many as 6,000. Punch and Judy or a dancing dog would at all times be sufficient to collect a crowd, and in this instance the great attraction was supplied by the arrival of two cabs covered with placards, one of them containing a Member of Parliament. He had made a plain and impartial statement of the affair without leaning to either side; and, as he had already said, he thought both parties were in the wrong, and he would suggest as a remedy against a similar occurrence happening hereafter, that some portion of the Phœnix Park might be allotted for public meetings, just as a portion had been railed off for a cricket-ground. The great want after all was not only identity of law but of administration of law through the whole Empire. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would give them an assurance that, till the law was altered, there should be the same administration of it in Dublin as in London, and that the hon. Member for county Cork would withdraw his Resolution. Let bygones be bygones. Let us look to amend the future, and try to forget the bitterness of the past.
§ MR. STRAIGHT
said, he wished to approach this discussion in that spirit of coolness and impartiality which had been infused into it by the hon. Baronet who had just sat down (Sir Dominic Corrigan). He was extremely glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take warning from the discussion which had arisen; for he did not understand hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that the Chief Secretary for Ireland or the Lord Lieutenant had no power to put a stop to that meeting; their complaint was that there had not been an impartial administration of that power on both sides of the 1805 Channel—that while public meetings were allowed in Hyde Park, Government interfered in Phœnix Park with disastrous results. In considering the question from a legal point of view, he did not deny the existence of a power to interfere, but the way in which it had been exercised. The people, he thought, had a right to meet in the public Parks, which, so to speak, were dedicated to their use under certain provisions and restrictions; and if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had told them that the Irish Administration had information that that was a meeting intended for seditious or treasonable purposes, he, for one, would have supported the Chief Secretary for Ireland in putting the law in force as he had done. He did not complain that the noble Marquess, who so ably represented the Government of Ireland in that House (the Marquess of Hartington), had exceeded his duty; but he had made a mistake in not following the precedents laid down by the Government of which he was a Member in dealing with the matter of public meetings in England. The noble Marquess never could have intended the consequences which ensued—he never expected that the people would be "bludgeoned" by the police. He was happy, however, to learn from the result of the inquiries of the hon. Baronet that the injury done to anyone was small indeed. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, however, rather ran away from the point when, indulging in many general observations, he dwelt upon his desire to benefit Ireland, but did not tell them what they wanted to know—the reason that induced the Irish Executive to interfere with this meeting. If they knew it was a meeting for seditious purposes, called to insult or degrade Royalty within earshot of the proceedings, he should say they were justified in the course they took. But if it was a meeting intended for the purpose described by those who had addressed the House—a meeting to petition for the release of the prisoners—to show the Prince, who might hear the proceedings, what was the feeling of the country on a subject as to which it was entitled to express itself—then he must say many meetings had assembled in Hyde Park not so creditable in their object which had not been put down, or in the least interfered with. 1806 If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had ever taken the trouble to be present at any of those meetings in Hyde Park, he might have instructed the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government not to make the statement he did as to the object of those assemblies. That right hon. Gentleman complained of it because it was a monster demonstration; but what else were some of the meetings in Hyde Park? Republican platitudes, doctrines, and statements of a far more dangerous character were uttered in Hyde Park without anyone interfering. If it were said that the Phœnix Park was a seditious meeting, he should like the attention of the Law Officers of the Crown to be directed to the course taken by persons in Hyde Park, whose object was very declared. He did not object to give free discussion; but he objected to a mode of influencing men's minds which was adopted in the speeches in Hyde Park, and which could only have one object—namely, to disturb the feeling of confidence that there ought to be between Government and the people. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the extreme difficulties of this question; but if it were so difficult, why had the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland allowed the interference sanctioned by him? There was only one alternative for the right hon. Gentleman—if he stood by his Irish Secretary he must give up the administration of the law by the Home Secretary. If the one was right, the other must be wrong. He was rather inclined to think the policy of the noble Marquess was best calculated to prevent breaches of the peace, even though it were followed by "agony columns" from Ireland in the newspapers, which generally accumulated the largest quantity of horrible details into the smallest compass. He wished to see the Irish people treated precisely on the same footing as the English people, and the same freedom of discussion allowed in both countries. He should have preferred that the document issued in Dublin, prohibiting the meeting, had been signed either by the Lord Lieutenant or his Chief Secretary, so that it might clearly have been seen who was responsible for it. Certainly, if a meeting were prohibited here the proclamation would not be signed or countersigned by parties 1807 whose names were unknown. The meetings in Trafalgar Square used to wind up with a certain inharmonious serenade under the windows of a certain right hon. Gentleman who lived not far off. Whether that fact kept them more within the spirit of the law might be doubted; but he hoped, whatever legislation might be effected on the subject, they would find the Home and Irish Secretaries administering the law in the same way in both countries.
§ MR. DIGBY
said, he must show by his vote that he disapproved the conduct of the Irish Executive, without intending anything personally offensive either to the present excellent Lord Lieutenant or the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Marquess of Hartington), who were both justly held in the highest esteem. He had only arrived in town from Dublin that morning, and he must say that a strong feeling existed there with reference to the subject under discussion; while with reference to the injuries which had been sustained, more than 100 persons had been taken to hospital, many of whom remained there three or four days, and at the present moment Lieutenant Carey, who had served with distinction in the late French War, was suffering from a severe concussion of the brain, and his life only two days ago was in jeopardy. The question before them involved the right of public meeting in this country and in Ireland, and he desired to see the same right of meeting established in both countries. There had not been a shadow of evidence leading to the belief that there was anything treasonable about the meeting, and he believed the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth) when he said that it was an especial injunction of the committee promoting the meeting that no reference should be made to the Royal Family, but that simply an appeal should be made to the mercy and generosity of the Government on behalf of certain unfortunate men who were incarcerated in English prisons.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that as reference had been made to a Petition he presented from a so-called Republican Club in Edinburgh, he wished to explain that he had read, the Petition over and found not one word in it about Republican principles, the promulgation of which he should deem extremely disastrous. The 1808 Petition objected to a grant of public money to a Royal Prince, and even to that extent he did not concur with it, but as it was respectfully worded he deemed it his duty to present it.
§ MR. PIM
said, he concurred with many of the views expressed by his hon. Colleague (Sir Dominic Corrigan), and thought that these meetings were too often intended for intimidation; were very ill-suited for discussion; and were particularly objectionable in public Parks intended for the quiet recreation of the inhabitants of the neighbouring districts. If the Parks were to be used for public meetings some particular portion of them ought to be set apart for that purpose. Having regard to the time and place of the meeting in question, he was not surprised that some feeling of uneasiness should have been excited in the mind of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, lest something should occur to wound the feelings of his Royal guests. But however ill-judged the meeting might have been, or whatever might have been the bad taste of holding it at such a time and in such a place, this constituted no reason for prohibiting it unless it was illegal; and, whatever objections might be urged against the holding of such meetings in the Phœnix Park, applied with much greater force against permitting meetings in any of the London Parks. Why should a different policy be adopted in Dublin from that which had been pursued in London? He feared the consequences of this unfortunate occurrence would be very injurious in giving increased influence to those who were opposed to the connection between England and Ireland. The transaction had united all parties in Ireland in one feeling of strong reprehension of the conduct of the Government. He had no doubt that if the meeting had been let alone it would have dispersed peaceably, after, at worst, a few foolish speeches which would be forgotten in a day or two. But if the meeting was to be prevented, why was not an authoritative proclamation issued to that effect? And why was not the Lord Mayor, the chief magistrate of the City, applied to? It appeared extraordinary to him (Mr. Pim) that the Lord Mayor had never received any intimation of the intended action of the Government. But even if it was admitted that it was right to prohibit the meeting, and that Dublin was to be 1809 treated differently from London, why did not the Government prevent the meeting instead of dispersing it? Why was not the ground occupied beforehand by a body of police? This omission was a great mistake. If 500 police had been on the ground there would have been no danger of opposition or of riot; but the employment of a small number to disperse the meeting, instead of a large number to prevent it, had placed the police in a false position, and brought blame on a respectable and well-conducted body of men. It was impossible for a small number to disperse such a meeting without using considerable force. He was sorry to be obliged to blame the Irish Government for their conduct in this matter; but a great mistake had been committed, and he thought that, instead of trying to justify what had been done, it would be the best course for the Government frankly to acknowledge it. He bore testimony to the fair spirit with which this affair had been treated by the people of England; and it was satisfactory to observe that hon. Members on both sides of the House, and the public Press, from The Times downwards, had declared that, with regard to the right of meeting, the Irish people should be treated exactly as the English people were treated. He had presented a Petition from the Lord Mayor and Corporation of Dublin, praying forA strict and searching public inquiry into all the facts and circumstances connected with this disastrous event;and, although he believed the Government were desirous of carrying out just and liberal measures as respected Ireland, and he therefore warmly sympathized with their general policy; yet believing their conduct in this instance to have been wrong, he felt himself constrained by a sense of duty to vote, though with pain, for the proposed inquiry.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
regretted that the able speech of the hon. and learned Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth) had not been delivered in a larger House, and would remind hon. Members that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had been put in office and was supported by a large majority in the House of Commons, mainly because the right hon. Gentleman announced that his policy would give peace to Ireland. The measures which he had introduced 1810 into Parliament with that view were, however, regarded by the Opposition side of the House as the results of a policy of sacrilege and confiscation. That was a successful policy in the sense of the Tapers and the Tadpoles of the present day, for it had secured for the right hon. Gentleman a large majority; but it was by no means successful as regarded the true interests of the Empire. They had that night pretty good evidence as to that fact. They had heard that night from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Westmeath—a good authority on the subject, as he spoke in that House fresh from the hustings, and had expressed his admiration of the Prime Minister—that if there were a General Election to-morrow there was not a constituency in Ireland that would return a Member who should declare himself to be a supporter of Her Majesty's Government. It was clear, then, that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman had not produced happiness or contentment in Ireland. The question, however, which each hon. Member had to ask himself that night was—How ought they to vote on that most serious and important subject? Those sitting on the Opposition side of the House were bound to recognize the fact that the Government were supported by a large majority, and under these circumstances they had to consider whether it would be wise to give a vote calculated to weaken the Executive in Ireland. He thought it most important that the power of the Executive should be maintained, and therefore he should not be doing his duty if he voted for the Motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, for the success of that Motion would be regarded in Ireland as casting a slur upon the Executive. He might be told that the policy of the Government was inconsistent, in pursuing one course in this country and a different course in Ireland; and he certainly considered that the conduct of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland was more becoming a Government having a powerful majority in that House than the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. With regard to meetings in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park, the conduct of the Government — and also, he was sorry to say, in former times, of some right hon. Members sitting on the Opposition 1811 benches—was not calculated to maintain the peace of the Metropolis; but he trusted the Government would seriously consider the course that ought to be pursued on this matter, and be prepared to bring in a Bill next Session dealing with meetings, whether held in Phœnix Park or Hyde Park. A Bill had been introduced with respect to the management of the Parks; but as soon as the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) carried a provision against permitting meetings in the Parks, the Chief Commissioner of Works abandoned the measure. If there were any Member of the Government deserving of censure in connection with the subject it was the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for the course pursued by the Government in reference to meetings in the Parks and in Trafalgar Square was not calculated to conduce to the authority of the Government in the Metropolis, and if any hon. Member had at the time proposed a Vote of Censure on the Government he would have cordially concurred in it; but entertaining a deep sense of the necessity of maintaining the power of the Executive in Ireland, he felt bound on the present occasion to vote with the Government.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, that after the speeches of the two Ministers who had addressed the House on that question, no other speech from the Treasury bench would be worthy of much attention. Neither the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government nor the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland contended that the Government had a legal right to put down the meeting, that the people had not a legal right to be there, or that their object in meeting was not a legitimate one. It had been said that the time and the object were inopportune; but he had yet to learn that, before holding a meeting, the people of Ireland or of England must consult the Government on either of those points. The speech of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland seemed to him a Tory speech, and he regretted to hear the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government endorse it and make another Tory speech to the House upon this question. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think a great distinction was to be drawn between a monster meeting in England 1812 and one in Ireland. But he (Mr. Jacob Bright) failed to perceive the distinction. Wherever held, a monster meeting was, so far, a display of physical force. But the object was a display of the force of public opinion rather than to make a display of physical force, or to give an opportunity for discussion; and, seeing of what service monster meetings had been, it was remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman should speak of them as he had spoken that evening. It was doubtful whether the Reform Bill of 1832 would have come about but for monster meetings, and no one could have forgotten that they made possible the Reform Bill of 1867. The right hon. Gentleman said that the law was not defined in England. Now, he believed the law was defined in England. They had it on high authority that the Government had no right to interfere with meetings in Hyde Park, and, as a matter of fact, the Government did not now interfere with them. The Dublin meeting was held for a legitimate object; and he could not entirely withhold his sympathy from the men who attended that meeting. It would be difficult to maintain that politics had no part in the offence of which the Fenian prisoners were convicted; and, but for the terrorism which the Fenian agitation had caused, it was doubtful whether the magnificent measures introduced by the right hon. Gentleman could have passed in their integrity, or whether, as in the present Session, a phalanx of men might not have banded together to defeat them. But then it was said that in the Phœnix Park was the residence of the representative of the Queen. Now, from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace was only a stone's throw, yet, as far as he knew, the Queen had submitted, without complaint, to many meetings in Hyde Park. It seemed, therefore, that the mock Sovereign in Dublin complained of that to which the Sovereign in London submitted without complaint. If he were the Prince of Wales he should regret to find his presence in Dublin alleged by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland as one of the reasons why this meeting was put down; for if the presence of Members of the Royal Family made it difficult or impossible for men in any of the three kingdoms to exercise what they believed to be their political rights, the Royal Family would soon become 1813 intolerable to the country. On first hearing of the suppression of the meeting he thought it must be the work of some subordinate; it seemed almost impossible that it could have been sanctioned by a Government whose laudable object was the attempt to conciliate Ireland. He did not know whether the injustice and the humiliation inflicted upon Ireland in the past might have deadened the self-respect and impaired the spirit of her people, so that such an event would attract little notice; but if an outrage like this had been committed in London, or among the men of the North, a generation would have passed away before it had been forgotten. Both the Lord Lieutenant and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary should remember that, whatever their personal merits and public services—he was not there to disparage either the one or the other—neither would, but for the accident of birth, occupy the high political position they now held? That being so, they should exercise a little more forbearance, they should show a little more courage and a wider sympathy with the people and with popular aspirations, even when those were such as they could not altogether approve. In that case they would never have committed a fatal blunder like this. The Irish Executive had bestowed the most assiduous attention upon Members of the Royal Family. Of that he made no complaint, and rejoiced that the Royal Family had met with a good reception in Dublin. But the fact that at the same time the Irish Executive had attacked with brute force a peaceable and defenceless crowd, sending, at least, 100 persons with broken heads or bruised limbs to their homes or to hospitals, showed a marked difference of treatment which had produced a most painful impression upon millions of persons in the United Kingdom. How was it that when an open-air meeting was to be held, Government authorities of every party always lost their heads, and acted with more or less of imbecility? It was quite as innocent to hold a meeting out-of-doors as in-doors, and an out-of-door meeting was much less excitable, chiefly, perhaps, from the fact that most of those assembled could hear nothing of what was said. Open-air meetings must necessarily be held near to the places where people lived; and that being so there was no place so suitable as 1814 a great national Park. There was room in such a Park for tens of thousands more than ever congregated there; and, as a gentleman said of a recent meeting in Hyde Park—"I had to ask a policeman where it was before I could find it." Such meetings, if let alone, would generally be insignificant things. At all events, it was better that the language and the sentiments used there should come out into the light of day, instead of smouldering in alleys or squares, in obscure parts of our great cities. If 20,000 people had assembled in the Phœnix Park to see a review or cheer the Prince, the Irish Executive would have regarded them with smiling approbation. But when one-fourth or one-tenth of that number met together to perform what they regarded as a political duty, they were driven away with violence by the police. He sympathized with the protests of Irish Members on that subject; and if he were an Irishman he could not but feel that the chief Members of the Irish Executive had shown themselves to a considerable extent disqualified for the government of a high-minded and sensitive people.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
regretted that on his (the Conservative) side of the House any encouragement had been given to attempts by the Irish Executive to suppress everything and everybody. He utterly abhorred Fenianism, and had no sympathy with the demand for home rule, but he should heartily support the Motion for inquiry into the conduct of the Irish Executive and the Dublin police. There could not have been a more suitable time for holding the meeting by those who entertained the views advocated by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth), than the visit to Ireland of the heir to the Throne of England, whilst he was receiving a hearty and a cordial welcome from the citizens of Dublin, in order to advance a claim for the clemency of the Crown towards those who by a large portion of their countrymen were looked upon as having been unjustly and wrongly imprisoned. The suppression of the meeting was an attempt to prevent freedom of discussion, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government in his remarks had foreshadowed that an attempt would be made next Session to limit the right of the people to hold public meetings. ["No!" and "Hear, hear!"] Such, 1815 at all events, was the impression the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman had made upon him. He trusted, therefore, that the House would not make light of this matter, for the question was one which concerned England and Scotland as well as Ireland, and he hoped that the Government would concede an inquiry. If they had nothing to fear they would do so; but if they wished the Royal visit to leave in Ireland an impression of injustice and wrong they would resist the inquiry. If there was to be tyranny for one country, there should be tyranny for all; but he hoped there would be equal liberty for all.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, that having regard to the number of hon. Members who had already addressed the House, many of whom had anticipated observations which he would have made in support of the Motion, he should not at that period of the debate have risen to prolong it, were it not that like his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tipperary (Colonel White), Dublin had been his home for many years; and knowing as he did the genial, kindly, and social character of its people, he could not deny himself the opportunity of testifying to the fact that their feelings had been outraged by the late unhappy proceedings. He had known that on many occasions the various Judges who had from time to time presided at the various Commissions which had been holden in Dublin had, one and all, expressed their opinion — derived from statistics and from their personal knowledge—that in no city of the Empire, possessing the same number of inhabitants, did there exist so little crime, or was the general conduct of the people more praiseworthy. He did not join other hon. Members in imputing the blame of those proceedings to the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Marquess of Hartington). Although his family had long been connected with Ireland, his personal experience of the country was but limited, and time had not been afforded to him for ascertaining thoroughly the feelings and dispositions of the people of Dublin, and he had necessarily for some time to gather any information on which he might have to act from others. Under such circumstances he had made a grave mistake. The question before the House had been 1816 viewed in a two-fold aspect—first, in a legal point of view; and, secondly, as regarded its policy. On the legal question he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) could not pretend to speak with any authority, as was stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General. He had been, no doubt, a barrister in his early life, but he had left the Bar some 18 years ago; but it did not require him to be a lawyer to know that, as far as the debate had gone, no one in that House had ventured to affirm that the projected meeting was not a strictly legal one. No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General might, when he came to state the legal case of the Government, show that was otherwise; but until he did so he would assume that the meeting was a perfectly legal one. He was surprised at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, drawing a parallel between the projected meeting and those truly monster meetings which had taken place in 1844—such as the meeting of Tara, of Mullaghmast, Clontarf, and others, where in some instances more than 100,000 persons had attended, and where, he might add, no crime of a political character had been committed; and the right hon. Gentleman, when quoting the judgment of the late Chief Justice Pennefather, in reference to those meetings, had forgotten to add the circumstances connected with one of them—he alluded to the meeting proposed to be held at Clontarf, in which the conduct of the Tory Government of Sir Robert Peel strangely contrasted with that of the present Liberal Government. When it was intended to suppress that meeting, what was the conduct of the Government? The Privy Council was summoned, and the propriety of suppressing the meeting was subjected to the most anxious consideration, and when the signatures were about to be appended to the proclamation which had been prepared, and was subsequently issued, one of the Council, to his honour—the then Commander-in-Chief, Sir Edward Blakeney—refused to append his signature to the proclamation till he received an assurance that full notice should be given to the thousands of people who were expected from all parts of the country to flock in to the meeting—and that messengers, whose expedition would be as great as the fiery cross mentioned in 1817 Scott's novel, should be sent to all places from which persons were expected to attend to warn the people, and save them from the massacre which otherwise might have ensued. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that the Dublin meeting was not a legal one, he held that the people were entitled to similar notice on last Sunday week; but regarding the policy of the late proceedings, any layman in that House was as well qualified to pronounce an opinion as the greatest lawyer. And it was his conviction that no more impolitic course was ever adopted than the proceedings which they were then considering. Had the meeting been allowed to take place, it would not, he believed, in numbers have even approached to the character of a monster meeting. Some resolutions would have been passed, and there the matter would have ended. But by the course which the Government had adopted they had positively set up the few disaffected persons in the country, and, in addition, had excited the deepest feeling of irritation in the breasts of the most quiet and orderly of the Dublin population. Journals of the class to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred had been making but little way. An observant population had remarked that where the Government of the State of New York had, on a late occasion, permitted Irish American citizens to be massacred in the streets of New York, those journals, though giving the occurrences as matters of news, had failed to attack the United States' Government in the style and the temper that they would certainly have adopted if Her Majesty's Government had committed one tithe of the offence; but the Government had, by their action, given them a just occasion for bitter remark—an occasion which they had improved in no niggard manner; and, what was more, in the remarks which they made, they had the concurrence of the most well-conducted and peaceable citizens who had suffered in the late affray, as well as of others who were justly indignant at the treatment which unoffending citizens had received. His hon. Friend the hon. Baronet the Member for Dublin (Sir Dominic Corrigan) had recommended that bygones should be bygones. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) would willingly endorse such a recommendation, but not until full inquiry should be first had, and that they had seen that outrage 1818 could not be committed with impunity. When that was done he would wish that those unhappy events should be forgotten, and that good feeling should be again restored to Dublin.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, that the real question at issue had been obscured by the Government, and that the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown had construed the Motion into a Vote of Want of Confidence, thereby eluding the real point as to whether there should be an inquiry. When he (Mr. M. Chambers) was studying constitutional law, he was taught that one of the most undoubted privileges of the people was the right of meeting openly to discuss public affairs. That right had never been abandoned, and could not be gainsaid. The next question was, what was the authority of the Crown or the Minister of the day to interrupt the people when they were about to exercise that undoubted right? This was a branch of the subject that was not sufficiently studied in these days. The object of the right hon. Gentleman had been to avoid that question, and to put an erroneous issue before the House. He had no wish to pass a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government of Ireland; but he could not allow the real question to be thus evaded. The Prime Minister had looked at the words, while he rejected altogether the substance of the Motion. It was essential that there should be an inquiry and a thorough and impartial investigation, and he regretted that the Ministry had not had the manliness to express the same opinion. Such an inquiry was necessary to vindicate the Irish Government, and his opinion, as a lawyer, was that they would commit a great mistake in refusing it. The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth), who had been invited to preside over the meeting, had given the House an account of what took place which was evidently truthful and honourable, and he agreed with him in thinking that it was the duty of the Irish authorities to have communicated to the hon. Member the conclusion at which they had arrived as to the illegality of that meeting, and, at the same time, have given him and those who were about to attend notice that they intended to suppress it. That was the first error of the Irish Government. The police next, without any warning or intimation, suddenly attacked 1819 the meeting with, their staves, and, according to the hon. Member, assaulted indiscriminately in the most violent manner all who were present. Now, what used to be the custom, in England at least? When a meeting was held which was likely to endanger the public peace the authorities took a magistrate with them who read the Riot Act, and before the police or the military were permitted to interfere, an hour was allowed to elapse to give time for the meeting to disperse. All that seemed altered now, and the fact was that they were making progress towards preventing or suppressing public meetings, by encouraging the police, without any warning, to draw their staves, and to make what was an illegal attack on the people. He was not a Fenian, and might think that those misguided men had only received a just reward for their evil doings in the penalties inflicted upon them; but the people had an acknowledged right to meet for the purpose of petitioning for a mitigation of the punishment of political offenders, and when a meeting was called ostensibly for that purpose, the Government ought not to assume that it had another and an illegal object. He also thought that those who assembled in the Phœnix Park had a perfect right, and could not be blamed, if they had so chosen, to make allusion to the Royal visit in furtherance of the merciful object they had in view. Moreover, a statement had also been made by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland which gave the transaction a different complexion, and when there was such contradiction with respect to the real facts of the case, inquiry became desirable. He trusted, therefore, the Motion in substance would be agreed to, not only in the interests of those who had suffered at that affair, but for the justification of the Government and those who acted under them.
§ MR. EASTWICK
said, that if one party more than another was bound to support the Government in the steps which they took for the maintenance of order it was that which sat on the Conservative benches. He regretted, however, while he made that admission, that he could not give them his support on the present occasion. He was unable to find in the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government any justification of the course 1820 which they had pursued in reference to the meeting in the Phœnix Park. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), in condemning the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, called it a Tory speech, which, no doubt, was, in his opinion, the worst epithet he could apply to it. But, for his own part, he objected to it on other grounds. The right hon. Gentleman entered into a number of details to show that the treatment which the people had received at the hands of the police was justifiable.
I said nothing of the kind. I said, on the contrary, that the gravest allegations against the police were made by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth), and that it would be the absolute duty of the Executive Government to inquire into those allegations and the circumstances of the case without receiving any instruction to that effect from this House.
§ MR. EASTWICK
, in continuation, said, that the right hon. Gentleman, at least, had endeavoured to show that there were circumstances connected with the meeting which justified the interference of the police. But passing from that point, he must complain of the change of conduct which had occurred in the mode in which the meeting in the Phœnix Park was dealt with as compared with that in which the Government had dealt with previous meetings in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. In his opinion it was incumbent on the Government, after the disastrous occurrences in Hyde Park, to have cleared up the law on the question, so that the people at large, as well as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, might know how the matter really stood. The right of public meeting he regarded as one of the most important of the popular privileges; but he thought it well to consider whether the Act of George III., which declared that no meeting should during the Session of Parliament be allowed to be held within a mile of that House, should not be supplemented by some such legislation as that by which in the United States meetings were not permitted to be held within six miles of Washington. That House ought, at all events, to be free from anything like terrorism. Everybody knew in what terrorism had resulted in France: how the Chamber had been menaced, and 1821 how such menace led to revolution in the end. The Royal residence also should be kept free from any approach to invasion. The House had been told that the matter would be looked into. He hoped it would, and regretted that it had not been done sooner, for he thought it of greater moment than many questions which had lately been forced upon the House, and for that reason he thought the Government deserving of censure for not having taken it up before. Though admitting that Conservatives were bound to support the Executive in their attempts to preserve order, on this occasion he felt that Ireland had been treated with injustice and harshness, and, therefore, he felt compelled to vote against the Government on the question.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, he hoped before the discussion was over that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Eastwick) would be able to come to the conclusion that the better and wiser course would be for him to vote for and not against the Government. This Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Sir John Gray) had been declared by himself, and by several other hon. Members, to involve a Vote of Censure on the Irish Executive. The Notice of Motion, as it originally stood on the Paper, distinctly conveyed that such was the meaning of the hon. Member. He had since altered the terms of his Notice more than once, and as it now stood in its fifth edition it was this—That, in the opinion of this House, it is essential to the ends of justice and to the peace of Ireland, that a prompt, searching, and impartial inquiry be made into all the circumstances connected with the dispersing of a meeting assembled in the Phœnix Park, Dublin, on the 6th of August inst., to advocate the release of certain Fenian prisoners, and which resulted in injury to the persons of a large number of the citizens of Dublin.He (Mr. Dowse) regretted that his hon. Friend had pursued that course, because he thought it always desirable that a Motion should show the real intention of its proposer, and therefore he thought it would decidedly have been more to the purpose if it had been left as originally framed. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Chambers) did not understand this Notice of Motion as it was understood by the hon. Mover of it, for he seemed to 1822 think that it was a Motion for Inquiry only. But his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government was ready to give an inquiry in the way his hon. and learned Friend wished it to be given, but not in the manner for which his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny contended. What would the inquiry which his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny desired amount to? His hon. Friend wished the House to express an opinion that an inquiry should be held into the conduct of the Irish Executive? Who was to hold that inquiry? Was it the Irish Executive? Was the Lord Lieutenant to appoint a Commission to inquire into his own conduct, or was the House of Commons in a future Session to appoint a Select Committee for the purpose? He hoped the House would not pass a mere abstract Resolution without pointing out how the inquiry was to be held, by whom, and where; for the Motion of his hon. Friend conveyed none of those important particulars—in short, it appeared to him to be an illustration of the saying that language was given to conceal one's thoughts, for if the originator of the Motion had any idea as to the kind of inquiry he desired, his Notice of Motion was silent on the subject. If the House was merely anxious that all the circumstances of the case, and the conflicting statements connected with it, should be investigated, the Government had already promised that they should be, and in that sense the Government could agree with the Motion, but in no other. Assuming that the House on this the 17th of August was to pass a Vote of Censure on the Irish Executive, upon whom would it be passed? Upon his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for, as far as Ireland was concerned, they were the responsible Ministers of the Crown, and the "small fry," as some one in the course of the debate had said, would escape unscathed, whether they were innocent or guilty. He was not going to say anything in praise of his noble Friends, for if their names and characters did not speak for them, anything that he could say would be of very little use. His hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had said to-night that if it were not for their birth neither of those noble Lords would have occupied the distinguished 1823 position which they now held. That was a very unworthy sentiment. Did his hon. Friend merely mean that if Lord Spencer had not been a Peer he could not have been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? If so, that was a mere truism, and with respect to his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he had been born plain Jacob Bright he would have won the race against Jacob Bright himself. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devonport had read the House a lecture on Constitutional Law, and other hon. Members had spoken of meetings in Trafalgar Square, and had compared the conduct of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department with that of the Lord Lieutenant at one time to his prejudice, at another to his praise. But all that was beside the question, for the simple reason that a meeting held in the one place could not be compared with one held in the other. The Phœnix Park was part of the Crown property, and Trafalgar Square was differently circumstanced, and therefore different principles must be applied in the two localities. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), referring to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, had said that any other speech from the Treasury bench would not be worthy of attention. That was aimed at himself (the Solicitor General for Ireland). There was one thing, however, with which the hon. Member could not reproach him, and that was noble birth, and not being able to do that the hon. Gentleman said that his speech would not be worthy of any attention. But it should be rembered that he was the only legal representative of the Irish Government at present in the House; neither the right hon. Gentleman, nor his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland could be expected to discuss that matter as a question of law, and both, he believed, stated that any question of that kind would be brought before the House by another Member of the Government. He would now deal with the legal question as briefly as he could. The law in England and Ireland with regard to the Royal Parks was substantially the same. By the 14 & 15 Vic., c. 42, the Commissioners of Public Works in England were intrusted with the management 1824 of all the Royal Parks, the Phœnix Park included; but by a subsequent Act, the 23 & 24 Vict., the Phœnix Park was transferred from their control to that of the Board of Public Works in Ireland. That Board, therefore, was the agent of Her Majesty for managing the Phœnix Park, just as any gentleman might be the agent of a landed proprietor for the management of his estate. The Board of Works, however, was to bear in mind that the Park was to be managed to a great extent for the public good, and was never to lose sight of the purpose for which it was established. The Phœnix Park had been in existence for above 200 years. A distinguished predecessor of his, Sir John Temple, was the person who originally acquired it, and who, though not of noble birth, was the founder of a noble family; sums of money, the property of His Majesty, were obtained for its purchase, and from about 1660 to 1666 it became a Royal Park in the manner in which it now was. His hon. Friend the Member for Cork County had stated the other night that a public meeting was held in it in 1792 for the purpose of petitioning Parliament. He saw that such a meeting had been alluded to in some Irish newspapers, but, having referred to the Journals of Parliament on the subject, he had not found any record of the matter. But, at all events, this was certain—that for 80 years no public meeting, political or otherwise, had been held in the Phœnix Park. Moreover, there was this additional matter which should not be lost sight of—Ireland was a country in which many public meetings had been held, whether monster meetings or not. The House could not forget the distinguished Irishman who for many years filled so conspicuous a position in the history of his country—the greatest Irishman of this century—who had taken such a fast hold of the affections of his countrymen. That great man held many meetings in Ireland; he proposed one at Clontarf, but never dreamt of holding a meeting in the Phœnix Park. As he had said before, the Park was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works, who were a body incorporated by Act of Parliament, and who with respect to their executive functions might be said to be represented by Mr. Hornsby. Now, he complained that Mr. Hornsby had been described as an unknown man. It might suit hon. Members 1825 to describe him as an unknown man; but in 1869, when the great agitation for the release of the Fenian prisoners was on foot in Ireland, Mr. Nolan, who was Secretary to the Amnesty Association, and who was present at the late meeting in the Phœnix Park, applied to Mr. Hornsby for permission to hold a meeting there. ["No!"] An hon. Member denied it, but there was no ground whatever for such a denial. Mr. Nolan had denied ever having had any communication with Mr. Hornsby; but he (Mr. Dowse) held in his hand a letter written by Mr. Nolan on the 28th September, 1869, directed to the Secretary of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. In that letter Mr. Nolan stated that he was directed by the Committee of the Amnesty Association to ask the Commissioners to accord them permission to erect a temporary platform in the Phœnix Park, on the Fifteen Acres, for the purpose of holding a public meeting. Yet Mr. Nolan now asserted that he never had any communication with Mr. Hornsby at all. The reply sent to Mr. Nolan's application, in the absence, on the Continent, of Mr. Hornsby, was signed by the Chief Commissioner of Public Works in Ireland, and was to the effect that the Commissioners could not grant permission to hold the proposed meeting, and that as guardians of Phœnix Park they could not permit any such meeting to be held there. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Dublin (Mr. Pim) had alleged that there were no other places in the neighbourhood of Dublin where large public meetings could be held; but surely his hon. Friend must have forgotten the monster meetings held in O'Connell's time and the memorable gathering at Cabra, at a place nearer to Dublin than the Phœnix Park. The meetings which had been held had delayed the granting of pardons to the Fenian prisoners, and it was now acknowledged that those large displays of physical force retarded the exercise of the clemency of the Crown. Yet the promoters of the recent meeting summoned the people to assemble on a Sunday, when the Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur were under the Viceregal roof in the same Park, in order to demand the release of persons whom his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny called Fenian prisoners. What were their names? Why, not a half-a-dozen men 1826 in the meeting could have answered that question. The persons now in custody were not Fenian prisoners properly so called, but men connected with the Manchester transaction, and soldiers who had forfeited their allegiance to the Crown. Those were the "patriots" who were to be preferred to the "Alien Princes." He could make every allowance for the men called Fenians; he defended many of them when in the dock without fee or reward; and he believed that many of them had been led to violate the law by feelings of misdirected patriotism, and without any serious design to overturn the Constitution or dethrone the Queen. But the position of a soldier who had placed himself under the sacred banner of his regiment, who was unfaithful to his Queen and to his oath of allegiance, and who endeavoured to instil treason into the bosoms of his comrades, and many of whom had been sentenced to be executed, but had had their sentences commuted, was very different. What was the meeting declared to be for? He would endeavour to satisfy the House on that point. On the morning of Saturday the following advertisement appeared in some of the Dublin newspapers, and was placarded on boards, on the obverse side of which it was announced that a collection would be made for the person accused of murdering Constable Talbot—The Political Prisoners.—A monster meeting, to advocate the release of the Irish political prisoners who are still confined in English dungeons, will be held in the Phœnix Park on Sunday-next. The chair will be taken by P. J. Smyth, Esq., M.P. Irishmen! assemble in your thousands, and show yourselves not unmindful of your brothers who are undergoing penal servitude in English dungeons.That notice being thus widely circulated, of course the Executive Government had to consider how the matter ought to be dealt with. In 1869, when the meeting was about to be held at Cabra, the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was taken. In that opinion the present Master of the Rolls (Mr. Sullivan) and the present Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Barry) stated that the public had no right to hold a meeting in Phœnix Park against the will of the Crown, and that they entirely subscribed to the view taken by Lord Westbury and Lord Chief Justice Cockburn in the analogous case in London. The foundation of that opinion was not that the meeting was an 1827 illegal meeting, but that the Park was the property of the Crown, and that if the parties attempted to enter the Park for the purpose of carrying out their object, they could be legally prevented from so doing. That opinion was strengthened by the fact, as he had before observed, that for 80 years nothing of the kind had taken place in the Park. The Phœnix Park contained the Wellington Testimonial, the Zoological Gardens, the official residence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Vice Regal Lodge, and the People's Park and Gardens, while within gunshot of the place where the meeting was held there was one of the largest powder magazines in the three kingdoms. The opinion given by Lord Cairns and Lord Chief Justice Bovill had been referred to; but it should be borne in mind that the "case" submitted to those eminent lawyers was whether after a meeting had been assembled in a park for the peaceful discussion of political topics they might be dispersed by force. The answer was that, though there might be a power to do so, there would be practical difficulties in the way. ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that. But the opinion was, that there would be practical difficulties in dispersing a peaceable meeting who had gained their station and opened their proceedings, by the exercise of open and unrestrained force. That was a very different question from the one before the House at present. He would now give what he considered to be the law as applicable to the present case. He and his right hon. and learned Friend (the Attorney General for Ireland) were of opinion that no legal right existed to hold a meeting, such as was intended, without the licence of the Crown; that the persons attending it, after due warning, became trespassers, and might be removed as such without unnecessary violence; and that the police attending in sufficient force could, in point of law, prevent the meeting from being held, and if persons persisted in occupying the ground, and assaulted the police, they would become rioters, and could be dealt with accordingly. Now, if a meeting was assembled, and the police came forward acting on the authority of the Board of Works and warned the people to depart, and they refused to do so, they were entitled to remove every individual who formed the body of the 1828 meeting. He admitted there would be a practical difficulty in 100 policemen removing 10,000 people. But if they used any force in resisting the police they became a riotous meeting, and were to be dealt with as if they were rioters. But he would go further. It was a grave question of law whether if in a public park a body of men combined together to hold a public meeting against the expressed opinion of the authorities, it did not, ipso facto, become an unlawful assembly. The next thing that occurred was this—As soon as the placard calling the meeting appeared, notice was issued stating that such meeting would not be permitted in the Park, and that instructions had been given to the police to prevent the same. That notice was issued by Mr. Hornsby, and after the statements which he (the Solicitor General) had read, could it be said that Mr. Nolan did not know who Mr. Hornsby was? That was the entire action of the Irish Executive. At the time the notice was issued prohibiting the meeting the Royal Princes were in Dublin. In taking these steps the Executive was much influenced, not only by the fact that a political meeting had been called in a place which had not been so used for 80 years past, and where permission to hold meetings had been refused within recent times, but also by the time chosen and the nature of the demonstration, as described in the paragraph read by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) from the newspaper edited by Mr. O'Byrne. It was impossible, therefore, to draw a comparison between a meeting in Hyde Park and this meeting. What would have been said if 10,000 people had been assembled in the Park with bands of music, which had been invited as a contribution to the debate, and insults had been heaped on the Royal visitors? It would have been said—"There is no Government in Ireland. You allow insults to be heaped on the daughter of your Sovereign, and do not raise a finger to stop it." Hon. Members seemed to think that they could govern Ireland in a better manner. All he could say was, let them try, and he would wish them joy of their success. An Irish paper, edited by one of the parties who attended the meeting, in announcing the time and place for holding it, said it was intolerable that alien Princes should come there in search of welcome 1829 whilst 50 Irish patriots were in prison. There was an occasion when in that House a distinguished Irishman denounced an English Peer for having spoken of the Irish race as aliens in blood, in language, and in religion. But here was a writer in an Irish newspaper, describing the son of the Sovereign as an alien Prince, and requesting the people to assemble in thousands at the foot of the Wellington Testimonial to tell the Prince that the great bulk of the Irish nation had no sympathy in his welcome, and that they met to sympathize with a man who had been convicted of the charge of murder at Manchester. That was a libel on his country. The writer went on to say that it was the duty of the people to demonstrate that patriots were dearer to their hearts than the Princes; that it was the duty of the people to assemble in thousands to protest against the incarceration of their brethren; and that it was the duty of every honest Irishman to be present to show that Sergeant Major M'Carthy, who broke his oath of allegiance, was dearer to him than the son and daughter of the Monarch. These were the circumstances under which the Irish Government were brought to deal with that question, and he wished that hon. Members for England would make sufficient allowance for the Executive in Ireland under the circumstances of the case. First of all, there was the Phœnix Park, in which no meeting had been held for 80 years; there was the Heir of the Crown beneath the Vice Regal roof; there were bands playing Fenian airs; there were these meetings; and there was the Government brought face to face with all this, and what was the Government to do? He believed that the Irish Executive were convinced—he could not state of his own knowledge that they were so, for he was not there, but he believed it from what he had since heard—that that meeting was not held for the mere purpose of advocating the release of the Fenian prisoners, but as a counter demonstration, and to take all the warmth and heart out of the welcome which had been given to the Royal personages. That was the position of the Government; and how did they act? They acted on the powers they possessed, and gave instructions to the police to prevent the meeting. Now who were the police? One would think, from what had been said, 1830 that they were all Englishmen. Why, they were all Irishmen, of the creed and feelings of the Irish people, and taken out from among the Irish people—a fine, noble body of men, without whom peace would not be so easily secured within the walls of the city. And who was the commander of the force? Was he a stripling who had been promoted from favour to the high place he held? The House had heard of Colonel Lake, of Kars—a man eminent as a military man; and it was to him that was committed not the dispersing of the meeting, but the preventing of it from taking place. The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Smyth) stated that he ought to have received notice of the intention to prevent this meeting. The House would bear in mind that the hon. Member's name was not to the placard: he (the Solicitor General) would go the length of saying that it would have been better if he had got notice. If, however, the hon. Member had got notice he would have gone to the meeting notwithstanding. How was he (the Solicitor General) to prove that? He would prove it, as he had proved every other step in the case, by documents which could not be refuted. The hon. Member for Westmeath, on the 7th of August, the day after the meeting, wrote a letter to the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which ran as follows:—It appeared to me on reading that notice (Mr. Hornsby's notice) that the people of Dublin were not bound to accept Mr. Hornsby's notice as law, and with the view of testing its legality I determined that the meeting should be held;so that the House would see, as the event turned out, it would not have mattered much if he had got notice. He took the liberty of telling the hon. Member that, in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland, the people who took part in the meeting, after being warned, were all trespassers; that every one could be removed by force, using no more force than was necessary; and that if they resisted they became rioters, and could be dealt with accordingly. The Irish people were impulsive, and sometimes their tongues got the better of their judgment; and he really believed the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) had erred in this way when he had suggested that the Irish Executive had laid a trap for these unfortunate people. Surely 1831 there was no warrant for this charge; none of those forming the Executive took action in the matter but with the bitterest pain, and he cast back the allegation with scorn, he would not say, considering the source whence the suggestion came, with contempt—
§ MR. MAGUIRE
rose to Order, and complained that although it might be in the full flow of his rhetoric, yet the hon. and learned Member the Solicitor General for Ireland had no right to speak of another hon. Member with contempt.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Cork had entirely mistaken him.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. and learned Member the Solicitor General for Ireland had distinctly said he would not use the word "contempt."
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
, in continuation, would assure his hon. Friend the Member for Cork that the words he had used were not mere words of course, and would most decidedly say that no trap whatever had been laid for these people—in fact, he thought there was no other conclusion to be arrived at than that the trap was laid for the police. When Colonel Lake received his orders he made inquiries and was informed that the meeting was not to be held in the Park, but at Harold's Cross, and that the Dublin bands had gone in another direction; and he supposed, therefore, that Mr. Hornsby's notice had effected its object. He, however, gave directions to a superintendent of police to have a body of men brought into the Park as a precaution in case they should be required, and they were accordingly brought in to the number of 116, and placed, not in any ambuscade, as had been alleged, but in a position in which it could not be supposed that there was any desire to intimidate or overawe the people. The wish of the Executive Government was that they should have occupied the ground, and that was the opinion of the Irish Attorney General; and if that had been done the result would probably have been different. But Colonel Lake believed the intention to hold the meeting in the Park had been given up, and he left the ground and went to his office at the Castle, in order to be in a central position between Harold's Cross and the Park. Afterwards, 1832 however, a cab drove up towards the place in the Park originally fixed for the meeting, with a placard on it, stating that the meeting was to be held there. The superintendent of police remonstrated with the members of the Amnesty Committee; but they declined to give way, and said the committee had decided to hold the meeting. The superintendent directed the inspector to bring up his men, and immediately afterwards another cab came up with Mr. Smyth and Mr. O'Byrne in it. The inspector advanced to them and entreated them not to hold the meeting, saying it would not be allowed; but he was pushed back, repeatedly insulted, thrown down violently, and set upon by the crowd, and a policeman who was with him had his clothes literally torn off his back. The police said that Mr. Smyth and Mr. Sullivan tried to prevent their being injured, but still insisted on holding the meeting, and in combining as they did to hold it in spite of the warning given them, the persons present at once became an unlawful assembly. The inspector ordered his men to fall in, and while they were doing so stones were thrown at them, whereupon he directed them to proceed to clear the space; but the police emphatically said they never cleared the space nor used their truncheons until stones were thrown at them, and they were first attacked. After that the people went out of Phœnix Park and ran up the quays, breaking the windows of houses wherever they saw the Union Jack flying, so much so, that Mr. Kerr, of Capel Street, estimated the damage done to his premises at £300 in consequence. No doubt, personal injuries were sustained in the affray, but they were grossly exaggerated, and at this moment the casualties of the wounded were more numerous among the police than among the people. The Government had no desire either to make victims of the police or to shield them. They would protect the police, but would not uphold them if they did wrong. The police themselves were willing that a full examination should be made into their conduct, and they were ready to substantiate their statements upon oath. Legal proceedings had in some instances been already taken against them, and a Commission of Inquiry pending those proceedings might prejudice the case; but the Government 1833 pledged itself, without any Resolution on the part of that House, to institute, on its own authority, the strictest investigation into the whole matter, so that the citizens of Dublin should have no reason to complain that defenceless and quiet people had been injured by the bludgeons of the police. No person simply because he was in authority should be shielded from the consequences of his own acts. But the Government could not submit to an inquiry into its own conduct initiated by an abstract Resolution in this House, and they would not admit, without being compelled to do so by the voice of Parliament, that any Vote of Censure ought to be passed upon the Irish Executive when that Executive did not deserve censure. Earl Spencer was well known, not so much for his splendid Vice Regal hospitality as for the assiduous and painstaking manner in which he devoted himself to the discharge of his high functions. As a man and a ruler, Earl Spencer had done his duty to Ireland; and if his Lordship did not happen to be an Irishman, it should be remembered that they could not be all perfect. His noble Friend the Chief Secretary was no stranger in Ireland; his family, which had held large estates in Ireland for generations, stood deservedly high in that country; and he was sure that his noble Friend had striven to do his duty both to England and to Ireland. There was no intention on the part of the Prime Minister, or of the Government, to interfere with the liberties of the Irish people, but every desire that they should have equal justice in all cases meted out to them, and as the Government had not been guilty of any wrong towards his countrymen in the past, neither would they do them any wrong in the future. Every cause of complaint should be fully investigated, and the Irish people might rest content that any wrong which had been done would be set right. But it never could be set right by censuring the Executive, and by thus severing Lord Spencer and the Chief Secretary's official connection with Ireland, which he would look upon as nothing short of a public calamity, for he was certain they had only one object in view—namely, the peace and well-being of the country which they had been called upon to govern. He called upon the House, by its vote that 1834 night, to reject a Motion which had neither law or facts to support it.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he had on a former evening expressed his belief that when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland came to reply on that question he would endeavour to mystify the House, and he now found that he had not been mistaken. The hon. and learned Gentleman had that night attempted, as he so often did in Courts of Justice, by his wit to divert attention from the real question at issue and to prevent their viewing it in the serious light in which it ought to be regarded. They had not now to consider whether Mr. O'Connell held meetings in the Phœnix Park, or whether the Secretary of the Amnesty Association had sent a letter to the Irish Board of Works, or whether an article had appeared in The Irishman, which every man in that House deprecated and condemned; but to consider the conduct of the Executive in Dublin, and whether, in the exercise of the power and Prerogative conferred upon them, they had not exceeded their proper authority, and administered the law in Ireland in a different way from that in which it was administered in England. The hon. and learned Gentleman had sought to obtain the cheers of that House at the expense of those who were suffering in dungeons; and it was easy to elicit applause by referring to the disloyalty and the violated oaths of men. But that was not the question now before the House, which had to determine a matter of a much more practical nature. He charged the hon. and learned Gentleman the Irish Solicitor General, the Attorney General, and also the Executive in Dublin with not discharging their duty, because, if the article in The Irishman was the cause of the step taken by the Government in the present instance, why did they not adopt the straightforward and manly course of seizing The Irishman under the Act passed only last April, for giving them power to seize such newspapers. The Government, however, were afraid to seize the national papers, because they were masters of the situation at this moment in Dublin. Colonel Lake had been instructed by the Under Secretary for Ireland to take the necessary steps to prevent this meeting being held, and it was his duty to have been on the spot 1835 at the time, so that he might exercise proper control over the police, and not to have intrusted the carrying out of those orders to a mere inspector of the police on a critical occasion like the one under discussion. That fact alone called for the condemnation of those who had the control of the police. Then, again, why were the police massed under the shadow of trees, instead of being placed around the base of the monument where the meeting was to be held, or placed at the entrances of the Park in order to warn the public that the meeting was not to be allowed to be held; and why were not notices to a similar effect printed and distributed among the public? Even the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland himself admitted that the meeting was a legal one until the first assault was made upon the police inspector. But that matter had been disposed of, and there was perfect calm and quiet, when a strong force of police appeared upon the scene with staves in their hands, and they at once set to work to strike at and knock down the people. With respect to these occurrences, the statement of the police, and that of several gentlemen who were present at the time, were at variance, and that was sufficient to justify Parliament in directing an inquiry to be held in order to ascertain the real facts of the case. When the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. S. Walpole) was Home Secretary, he said he never thought of putting down a meeting by force; and in 1855, when the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) was Home Secretary, he stated that when a monster meeting was advertised to be held in Hyde Park, he gave notice that such a meeting could not be held, yet that it was only until noise and hooting endangered life in the carriage way that orders were given to clear the ground. When subsequently the question was raised, the right hon. Gentleman said if a Committee were moved for he would state what he would do; and some weeks afterwards he was willing to agree to a Committee being appointed, but the then hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe) stated he would not be satisfied with that, because it would be an inquiry between the Home Office and the police, exactly what would be the case if the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the 1836 Solicitor General was adopted. Ultimately, Sir George Grey granted a full and searching inquiry, such an inquiry as his hon. Friend (Sir John Gray) moved for. Three learned Recorders were put on the Commission, and they should not have less than was granted then. With respect to the law of the case, he would remind the House that both Lord Cairns and Chief Justice Bovill had given the opinion that there was no legal power to disperse a meeting after it had assembled, even although previous notice had been given. Chief Justice Cockburn, Lord Westbury, and Justice Willes had said that the only power vested in the Crown was the power of a private proprietor to prevent trespass. That power could not be exercised without previous warning given, and the only penalty for refusing was a fine of 10s. In addition to that, it must be recollected that there was no analogy between the rights of the Crown and those of a landlord over his property, the rights of the Crown over the public Parks being merely that of the representatives of the people over property that was maintained by the money provided for that purpose by the taxpayers among the people themselves. He would ask them to suppose for a moment that in this affair the people had been triumphant, and having taken the revolvers of the police, had, in their frenzy, made an attack upon the Viceregal Lodge. In that event the Executive in Dublin would have been responsible, and the mere consideration of such a possibility showed how wrong they had been to endeavour to disperse a meeting which was admitted to have been legal. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would not have attempted to disperse such a meeting in England, and had, in fact, allowed a meeting in Hyde Park last Sunday to denounce the Government for their conduct in Ireland. Therefore it was evident that the Government did in Ireland what they dared not attempt in London. He denied that this Resolution was a Vote of Censure on the Administration in Ireland. All they asked for was an impartial inquiry into all the facts, and if the result showed that the Government deserved a Vote of Censure, he hoped the House would not hesitate to pass it. The Lord Lieutenant and the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for 1837 Ireland doubtless desired to promote the happiness of Ireland, but when a grave error like this was committed, it became the duty of hon. Members to assert the rights of their constituents.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, that some questions had been raised during the debate to which it was necessary he should give an answer. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland had entered into a long discussion respecting the law, which was identical with that affecting the rights of the owners of private property. The Executive did not exercise their proper powers to disperse this meeting, for they gave no warning to those who assembled. They allowed the meeting to be legally constituted, and then dispersed it by force, and they were to be condemned for having in that instance committed an illegal act. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had referred to the opinion of Chief Justice Pennefather, and no wonder that he should have done so, for he was a Member of the Government to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged, but he (Sir John Gray) would remind the House that the decision was afterwards overruled by the House of Lords.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 75: Majority 52.