Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [12th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient to continue 'The Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act, 1870,' beyond the date settled by that statute,"—(The O'Conor Don,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
said, he was unwilling to give a silent vote on the second reading of this Bill, having last Session opposed the Peace Preservation Act. He had listened to the debate very carefully, but he had failed to discover anything approaching an answer to the arguments employed the other day by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don). The hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry County (Sir Frederick Heygate) concluded his remarks on Friday last by stating that Lord Palmerston's policy with regard to Ireland was a wise one, and that during his government Ireland was calm and contented. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) also stated a short time since, in reference to Lord Palmerston's Irish policy, that if the Government left Irish affairs in the same condition as Lord Palmerston they might well be proud. But what was the condition of Ireland at the time of his death? He admitted there was an apparent calm; but it was the calm that precedes the storm. Many an Irish Member of that House had to repudiate his policy, and if he had not he would have lost his seat. The present Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Lord O'Hagan) was for years kept out of the House, because he happened to be the servant of the Government of Lord Palmerston; and on the death of the noble Lord the Fenian conspiracy, which had been fermenting during his term of office, broke out, and proved beyond 876 dispute that Ireland was not contented under his administration. He opposed the clause of the Bill that re-enacted the Peace Preservation Act of last Session upon the grounds that he opposed the Bill of last Session—namely, that they brought in a Bill nominally as a milder measure than the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, but which was in reality as severe a measure, and contravened quite as much as the Habeas Corpus Act, if not much more, all the principles of the British Constitution, and that consequently it was likely to do more mischief to the loyal and well-disposed. The Habeas Corpus Act was a means towards an end—that of giving liberty and protection to the subject; but the Peace Preservation Act not only contravened all those rights and liberties, but all those which were protected by other Acts of Parliament. An hon. Member had been ridiculed for complaining that the Peace Preservation Act interfered with sportsmen. That it clashed with the pleasures of the rich would be a matter of indifference; but if the police ventured to interfere with the proceedings of the wealthy, how much more likely would they be to oppress the poor under cover of this Act! The late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. C. Fortescue) had recommended the Act of last Session on the ground that it would induce the people to assist the police; but that was a thing Irishmen could never be got to do. They declined to become amateur detectives, and could not be made to give information to the police. That the Peace Preservation Act was inefficient in this and other respects, and was in fact a complete failure, was demonstrated by the introduction of this Bill. The Peace Preservation Act was brought in to meet the case of Meath, Westmeath, and Mayo. Inquiry had proved its failure in Meath and Westmeath, and inquiry as regards Mayo would prove its failure there also. The Act had really done more harm than good, and should be allowed to lapse. The hon. Member for Londonderry County (Sir Frederick Heygate) had expressed the opinion that as Government asked for the powers they should be granted; but surely Government should be required to prove the necessity for such extreme measures. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary had read certain extracts from American newspapers to show that it was desirable to continue 877 the Act of last Session in force; but he confessed it did not seem to him that those extracts—although very "rubbishy"—were of such a desperate character as to require a special Act of Parliament to put them down. Indeed, they appeared to be rather tame in comparison with some articles occasionally to be found in newspapers which were not suppressed or brought under the provisions of that Act. The noble Lord had mentioned the county of Sligo as being partially proclaimed under the Act of last Session; but the state of that county was most satisfactory, and Judges had congratulated it upon its freedom from crime, and the Chairman of Quarter Sessions had observed that the county had improved so much that further improvement was impossible. If this were the case, what object could the Government have in placing Sligo under the special provisions of the Bill? Should they determine to apply those provisions there, they ought also to enforce them in the counties of England—certainly they ought to do so with regard to Manchester, Glasgow, and other parts of the United Kingdom, which were known to be centres of some of these very secret societies. Assuming, however, that they were to have another Coercion Bill for Ireland, he admitted that Bill was the best which could be devised, because it had at least one merit—namely, that it must be of a temporary character, because they could not go on always governing the country by suspending the Constitution. The great difficulty of governing Ireland had been the suspicion in the minds of its people that England was always concocting coercive measures to keep them down, and looking upon them as if they were not civilized beings. The remedial legislation of the last two Sessions was tending to remove that mischievous impression; but the Bill now before the House would unfortunately retard the beneficial effects of that remedial legislation. He appealed to the Government, whether it was absolutely essential for them to pass those two Coercive Bills rolled into one; and, whether at least it would not be a graceful act on their part to withdraw that portion of the Bill against which he had strongly protested? If, however, the Government persisted in forcing that obnoxious measure on the people of Ireland, he was afraid that when their epitaph came to be written, the historian 878 would say that, having been returned mainly to do justice to Ireland and to reduce the public expenditure, they had astonished their Radical friends below the gangway by bringing forward Estimates as extravagant as any ever proposed by their opponents, and had astonished their friends in Ireland by carrying Coercion Bills which they themselves described as the most stringent that had ever been passed.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he desired, as a Member of the Committee, to say a few words on this subject. The House was placed in rather an unfortunate position by having an Amendment proposed which did not really raise the issue that ought fairly to be put before them. The course taken by the hon. Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don), and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. O'Conor) did not seem to him calculated to enable them to have such a discussion as would do justice to those who brought in that Bill and also to the people of Ireland. If England were in a state similar to that in which Westmeath was declared by competent authorities to be, he should have no hesitation whatever in assenting to a measure extending to it the provisions of the Peace Preservation Bill. [An hon. MEMBER asked, why such a measure had not been applied in the case of Sheffield?] A special law had been passed in reference to Sheffield; but if the same course had been taken with regard to Ireland that had been taken with regard to Sheffield the result would have been utterly futile, inasmuch as evidence could be obtained in Sheffield, whereas none could be obtained in Ireland. With respect to the Peace Preservation Act, he was prepared to admit that its renewal stood on a footing totally different from that of the other measures. The renewal of that Act rested not upon the evidence taken before the Committee, but upon the responsibility of the Government, who declared it was necessary, in order to continue the benefits which the measure had already produced. Although he was not one of those who professed a general confidence in the Government, he had every confidence that the Irish Executive, as an Executive, would not put the Act into further operation unless special circumstances rendered such a course necessary. There must be at the moment some reasons connected with Sligo which 879 justified the Government in proclaiming that county. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. O'Conor) had the opportunity of giving evidence before the Committee, showing that the Peace Preservation Act was a disadvantage in the county he represented, but no such evidence had been given. On the contrary, it was stated before the Committee that, excepting Westmeath, part of Meath, and King's County, the Act had operated beneficially throughout Ireland; but that when it came into collision with secret combinations and conspiracy it was found practically inoperative. Public and private information showed that there were parts of Ireland where Peace Preservation Acts, or measures analogous to them, were absolutely required. In the county of Mayo special legislation was certainly needed to cope with secret combinations that no ordinary process of law could successfully repress. He had heard with astonishment the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Downing) last Friday declare that the whole of Ireland was in a state of peace and prosperity, in the face of the declaration of Dr. Nulty, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath, that the district of Westmeath was in a condition which it would be absurd to designate as being one of peace and prosperity. Things were occurring in that district which, although they might not be openly manifest, had spread terror through all classes of society, and made every man tremble for his life. For the hon. Member for Cork to describe such a state of things as one of peace and prosperity was an extravagance hardly worthy of the representative of that large county. The question was, did this secret confederacy exist in the country? When called before the Committee, Dr. Nulty said no such confederacy existed, that these terms did not apply to Ribbonism at all; and when asked respecting ancient Ribbonism, he replied that, although it was much the same as modern Ribbonism as to crime, there were better causes for it formerly than existed for it at the present day. No witness had put forward any special ground for this species of crime, probably because they must be aware that the recent outrages committed in Westmeath and the neighbourhood had nothing of the palliation which was formerly attached to such crimes. What were the facts on this point? He learned from recent letters, of a case where a man who was about to 880 enclose his field, in order to prevent his neighbour's cattle from trespassing on it, was threatened with death; another man was subjected to a like threat, just as he was going to take a vacant farm. A magistrate stated that Ribbonism, though in the minority, governed the majority, and so held the country in terror. Ribbonmen governed Ireland with Draconian laws, for every offence against their Government was punished with death. Westmeath was now reduced to such a state of cowed submission by these ruffians, who violated all the ordinary rules of society, that practically the Government of the Executive was abrogated. The hon. Member for the county of Cork admitted that the law now proposed would injure no well-conducted man. In that respect he entirely agreed with the hon. Member. If, then, the Bill would injure no well-conducted man, and would lay hands upon or put aside the ill-conducted, why should those who declared that they were the friends of the people of Ireland put any impediment in the way when the Government had arrived at the conclusion that, without enforcing such a measure as this, they could not possibly secure order or safety for life and property in the district in question? Formerly this evil was confined to landlords and tenants; now, however, it included agricultural labourers and other workmen. In order to show how widespread it was he would mention a case that occurred at Mullingar, a town of 4,000 inhabitants, where food and lodging could not be found for the witnesses who were to prove the murder of Mr. Anketell. Surely these were cases which loudly called for the intervention of the Government. The hon. Member for the county of Cork had spoken on behalf of Mr. Seed's special commission; but what was the use of a special commission when, in consequence of the terror exercised upon witnesses, a case of outrage could not be proved? This was the question Mr. Seed himself put—"Get your case," he said, "then have a speedy and special commission, and act upon it." Here was the very difficulty. The evidence could not be got to convict. What was wanted in Westmeath was the firm resisting power of the majority of the people, who should be ready to combine in the defence of their lives and of the lives of others. The hon. Member for Cork told the House on Friday that although this 881 Committee had been sitting, nothing practically new had been done. But when a Government had arrived at a point in which it could not protect the people under the ordinary law, the time came when, on its own responsibility at once and immediately, it should come to the House and obtain the necessary extraordinary powers to afford the protection. When he said before, and was blamed for saying, that murder was stalking abroad, he said what was morally true. He meant that men were confined to their houses for fear that if they came out they would be murdered. A man, driven to his wits' end with regard to the employment of his farm, proposed to take in cattle by agistment; but an armed band came and drove away the cattle that did not come from the immediate neighbourhood, so that it was clear that unless he gave up his farm into their hands they would not allow him to use it at all. With respect to the Peace Preservation Act, he was not going to argue a point which had been raised; but much had been said against charging the disturbed district with police and levying taxes on it for injuries done; and he would only remark that this was not a novelty, for in England, where it was supposed that a whole neighbourhood might be implicated in a disorder, the damages which had been done might be recovered from the hundred. When the Irish would not give information regarding the commission of atrocious crimes, when they thus threw themselves into the hands of the cowardly assassins, then the neighbourhood in which this occurred was justly mulcted by the expenses being thrown on the locality. Those who were arguing for this Bill were arguing as the friends of Ireland. Why did he say so? One gentleman told the House that whereas he formerly spent £40 a-week in labour, in consequence of the threats issued against those whom he employed, his expenditure in labour had been reduced to £3 a-week. Was that no injury to the labouring classes of Ireland? Let those who came to the House to say that the supporters of this Bill were acting as enemies of Ireland recollect how the system of terror which was carried on impeded the circulation of capital in Ireland, and prevented the employment of labour. He hoped that if they removed the heads of the assassination out of the 882 way the people might be led into a better state of mind. People could not live in this state for ever. They might take the law into their own hands; but, if so, they would be driven into a far worse state than they were now. The moment when Government could not discharge its first duty of protecting life and property, then he said that, whether in a Republic or a Monarchy, the State required power, and was obliged to resort to extraordinary means to obtain it. A most rev. Prelate (Dr. Nulty) was called before the Committee; and his rhetoric was a little stronger than his Christianity. He said that if he had stated that in former times Ribbonism was an organization for committing murder he would not have been listened to; but he had already told the Committee that the system of Ribbonism in former times was to carry out its purposes by terror, and by putting people to death who opposed their laws. He did not say for a moment that he really meant to extenuate crime of that description; but it was dangerous for such a man, in addressing people, to speak favourably of Ribbonism in former times, because the people would naturally say that they were carrying out the old Ribbonism, and therefore that they had his authority for what they were doing. The hon. Member for Cork took a like course, and with the same dangerous results. He (Mr. Hardy) could not doubt that this Bill would become law, and he trusted that when it had the Government would not consider their duty as at an end, but would proceed with all diligence to sift, if possible, this conspiracy to the bottom. He also trusted that they would endeavour to provide for the end of the term over which the Act was to extend—to try if they could not get over the existing difficulties, and induce the people to act not against the law, but in its favour. When the innocent felt that the law was deserting them, they felt the pressure of the taxes. He trusted that there would be no want of remedial measures, if remedial measures were needed. He would not say a word against those which had been passed. He hoped that they would work beneficially to the country, in the union of classes, and in the benefit and advantages of order; and he hoped that the land laws would be effectual for their purpose. He wished to prevent three or four men dictating who should work 883 with them and who should not; he wanted this to be rendered as impossible in Ireland as it was in England; and he wanted the Government to enforce and vindicate the laws
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he did not think there was anything in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which he wished to take exception. There was, indeed, nothing in that speech which was not of a patriotic and public-spirited nature. He rose mainly, however, for the purpose of making some comments on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don), who had been supported to-day by his hon. Friend the Member for the county of Sligo (Mr. O'Conor). That Motion was directed against the continuance of the Peace Preservation Act, which it was his duty last year to propose to the House. His hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon had described that measure, in words quoted from his (Mr. C. Fortescue's) own speech, as "the most stringent Act of the kind passed within the memory of man." Now, he was quite ready to admit that the phrase he had used required a certain qualification. It would be more accurate to say that within the districts to which the new portions of the Act of last year applied under special proclamations, and which formed but a small portion of the whole area of Ireland, it was the most stringent in its operation of any known in the present political generation. He did not intend to refer to the Act of Lord Grey; but the Government thought it right to place these particular districts under a law of peculiar severity, which he thought had proved more efficacious than any law in Ireland since 1834–5, within the memory of the present generation. And yet in so doing the Government had found less difficulty, and a far larger amount of support from Irish opinion, than was experienced in the case of those former Acts, which were of a less stringent character, because an immense effect had been produced on Ireland by the course of legislation pursued by Parliament. Enlightened Irish opinion had made up its mind to take sufficient and effectual measures to make Ireland a peaceable and an orderly country. Besides, it was well known that the Government in introducing those measures had not produced them as any substitute for deeper and more effectual remedies, but rather 884 as accidental and supplementary measures to those of a deeper and more effectual character which had happily been carried through Parliament. But what were the grounds on which the hon. Member for Roscommon fell foul of the Peace Preservation Act of last year? His objections to it were not very numerous, but undoubtedly they were strong. The first objection was to a clause in which he laboured under a considerable delusion—he meant the clause which enabled magistrates in Ireland to call a witness before them, and to treat him with all the powers of the law given to the magistrates for the treatment of a disingenuous witness, even in case there was no person charged before the magistrate with a particular offence. That he believed to be a proper provision for those districts of Ireland where it was difficult to obtain evidence. But it was a provision perfectly defensible in itself on its own merits, and which might perfectly well be made a permanent and general law extending to all parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) observed last year that the only doubt that he had about the proposition was, whether it ought not to be made permanent and general. In fact, the only reason why it had not been extended to England and Scotland was, that the state of things in those two countries did not require it. The only difference which it made in Ireland was this—that in cases where no one was charged with murder or other offence, it enabled the magistrates to call before them any witnesses who, in their judgment, were able to give information with regard to a crime which had been committed, and to treat any such witness as they would have treated him if a person was then before them under a charge of murder. He never had been able to see—and he could not see now—any objection to that principle of the law. He thought it had worked well in Ireland. Then he came to the main charge of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon the other day, and of the hon. Member for Sligo that day, against the Peace Preservation Bill—namely, the clause which imposed certain taxation on a district in consequence of crime or outrage in that district. The main charges of the hon. Members for Roscommon and Sligo had reference to those clauses which imposed extra taxation on a district; but they had 885 applied to one purpose evidence given before the Select Committee for another purpose. The unfavourable evidence cited by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon was given not against the compensation in case of crime provided for by the Act of last year, but against the system of charging an extra police tax on a district under the old Peace Preservation Act. With respect to the old extra police tax he confessed he remained entirely unconvinced by the evidence given before the Committee as to the impropriety and impolicy of the system. As to the Act of last year, having looked carefully through the evidence given before the Committee, he was unable to find in it any condemnation of the principle or the probable effects of the power of levying rates in order to provide compensation in cases of murder or injury. There were some few cases in which, perhaps, it would have been better not to make the grants; but in framing this and other provisions of the Bill Her Majesty's Government were guided to a great extent by the opinion and experience of Irish Members on both sides of the House. They had provided many safeguards to prevent the occurrence of mistake or injustice, and under the circumstances he did not think the Government would have been justified in omitting the compensation clause from the present Bill. An illustration of the effect which had been produced by the clause in question was afforded by the evidence given before the Committee of last year by Mr. Rogers, a resident magistrate in King's County. The following question was put to Mr. Rogers:—Do you think that the power of awarding compensation to the families of persons who have been murdered or who have suffered from outrages has had a beneficial effect?—I think it has had a beneficial operation upon the people about me. The best way is to give an illustration. A most respectable farmer in conversation with me the other day, in the presence of several others, said, 'Mr. Rogers, for a long time past we have allowed many things to pass round here; but after what occurred at the Assizes the other day it is rather too expensive to let crime run about here as it has done.' I said, 'That is quite true, and I trust you will all to a certain extent be your own police.'In regard to the restrictions imposed upon the Irish Press, it was not the case, as had been alleged, that the articles in the so-called "National" Press had been of so mischievous and seditious a character since the passing of the Act as before. It was true that they had enjoyed, 886 within certain broad limits, full freedom of discussion, as anyone who consulted the files of their papers would discover; but in consequence of the special powers conferred on the Executive these journals had ceased to treat the Government and laws of the country with the absolute defiance they showed before the passing of the Act. Their articles might have been "spicy," but they no longer inculcated treason as the first duty of the Irishman, and he was informed that, in consequence, the popularity, circulation, and profit of those papers had largely fallen off. Another good effect of this clause had been to prevent the circulation in Ireland of papers printed in New York, in which not only treason, but murder, was openly advocated. The Government considered that it was for the interest of the country that the special powers conferred on them should be continued, in order that, as one of the witnesses had described it, there might be a "lull" in Irish crime, though he would rather hope that it might prove to be a permanent cessation of the exceptional outrages to which that country had so long been subject. He need say little on that occasion in reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Downing), because the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Russell Gurney) had so well replied to it, and had pointed out in the most conclusive manner that special legislation was required for Westmeath, not merely on account of the crimes actually committed in it, but even more urgently because of the state of terrorism those crimes had inspired. He must also point out to his hon. Friend (Mr. Downing), who was a consenting party to certain paragraphs in the Report of the Select Committee, that those paragraphs did, in point of fact, establish the case set up by the Government, because in one of those paragraphs it was stated that the outrages of the Ribbon Society, "besides leading to the perpetration of crime, have infused a feeling of terror into the district;" and again, that the Peace Preservation Act had not "furnished the Executive with all the power necessary to deal with crime of that organized and secret kind which characterizes the district in question." Until some hon. Member had disproved the statements in the Committee's Report, to which he had just referred, the House could show 887 no valid reason for refusing to accept the proposal made by the Government. It had been made a subject of complaint that nearly all the witnesses before the Committee had been official ones. That was not altogether the case, inasmuch as three or four unofficial witnesses of the highest character had given evidence; but even if the complaint was well founded, he must remind his hon. Friend that the fault rested with himself, seeing that it was in his power to have produced as many unofficial witnesses as he thought proper. One or two facts had been brought out in a remarkable way in the evidence given before the Committee, and to them he should for a moment refer. The first was, that the district of Westmeath stood in striking contrast to the rest of Ireland. That fact was established by all the witnesses in the most conclusive manner, and it was shown that the Peace Preservation Act, which had produced the most beneficial consequences elsewhere, had failed in Westmeath alone, where it was brought into contact with the long-continued and deeply-rooted crime of Ribbonism. Mr. Cusack had stated that, except in that county, the districts served by his railway were generally quiet and peaceable; and Mr. Julian had said that, in his opinion, nothing could exceed the peculiar difficulty of dealing with crime in Westmeath, and that it was more difficult to eradicate there than in any other part of Ireland. In reference to this point, he wished to correct a singular error into which the hon. Baronet the Member for Londonderry (Sir Frederick Heygate) had fallen, when he stated in his speech a few days ago, that during the three first months of the present year 1,050 agrarian outrages had been committed in Ireland. The error of the hon. Baronet consisted in this—that he had confounded last year's figures with those of this year. The fact was that in the first three months of last year—before the passing of the Peace Preservation Act—1,050 outrages were committed, and after the passing of that Act, only 250 were committed in the course of the whole remainder of the year. In the first three months of the present year the agrarian outrages in Ireland numbered—not 1,050, as the hon. Baronet had said—but 119 in all. That was a sufficient proof of the beneficial operation of the Act generally, though he was fully, however unwillingly, convinced that further special 888 legislation for Westmeath was necessary. He had no desire to separate himself at all from the policy of the Government in asking these powers from Parliament, and if he had still been holding the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, he should certainly have felt it to be his duty to have brought forward this Bill. The other point to which he desired to refer was the remarkable success already shown to have attended the operation of the measures of the last two years. Nothing could be more striking than the evidence given by the most impartial witnesses of the success that has already attended the Land Act—evidence given by gentlemen not only of great experience, but also of perfect impartiality, for two of these witnesses had been appointed to the posts they hold by a Conservative Government. Mr. Mooney had stated that a better feeling had now begun to prevail between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and that a notice to quit did not produce the same ill-feeling as before, as compensation could be obtained in cases of unjust ejectment. Mr. Julian had expressed the same opinion. It was, therefore, with the greatest surprise that he had listened to the speech of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Frederick Heygate), when he said that the evils of Ireland had been inflamed and increased by the legislation of last year; and he could only account for such an assertion by remarking that the hon. Baronet lived in a particular part of Ireland, very much detached from the other parts of the country, and that he consequently had little knowledge of their condition. He was surprised that any man could say that the legislation of the last two years, instead of doing good, had increased the evils of Ireland. The Government had passed measures of permanent redress which consoled them in now applying a temporary remedy. They did not regard this exceptional measure as a substitute for just and far-reaching legislation; but they asked the House to assent to it as an accessory to the permanent measures already adopted, and to confer on the Irish Executive the powers which were necessary to give these and all other good influences in Ireland a fair chance of producing their full and permanent effect.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he desired to express his views in reference to the proposed measure of the Government, which it was his intention to oppose— 889 not because he had the slightest sympathy with the state of things against which the measure was aimed, but because he believed it was not the right mode of dealing with it. He was aware how easy it was to misinterpret the motives of those who opposed measures of this kind; but he confidently relied on his own character, as one who had preached peace, and desired to see the law obeyed, to protect him from insinuation of any kind whatever; and without caring anything for taunt, coming from what quarter it might, he would be guided solely by the conviction at which he had arrived—that the measure was not suited to its purpose, and that the evil to be remedied could be removed by other means. Now, he did not for a moment deny that crime had existed in Westmeath, and that it might exist in it again to-morrow. It was no part of his case to deny the existence of serious crime in that district. He admitted it, and he deplored it, and he wished from his heart to know that it was at an end for ever; but the Bill of the Government would not put an end to it, and therefore at all hazard of misconception, he recorded his vote against it. The Government, and those who supported this measure of coercion, quoted and relied upon only such evidence as suited their purpose, and they rejected or passed over all such evidence as told against their proposal. For instance, they accepted the evidence of Dr. Nulty when it suited their purpose; but they treated it with practical disregard when it was not in favour of their views. Then there was the evidence of Mr. Mooney, and that of the Rev. Mr. Crofton. That evidence was quoted and relied upon when useful to their object, and passed over when it tended in a different direction. So long as the opinions of those and other witnesses went with them, they went with the witnesses; but the moment the witness stopped short, or turned into another path, that moment the Government treated the views of the witness as if of no value whatever. But he was justified in resisting this measure on the testimony of Dr. Nulty, on that of Mr. Mooney, and that of the Rev. Mr. Crofton, and also on the admissions made not only by other witnesses, but upon the admissions of those who had charge of the Bill in that House, and in "another place." No doubt it had been said that the passing of a measure of 890 this kind was indispensable to the safety of human life in Ireland; but he had heard declarations quite as strong, and that within so short a time as a year or two since. Thus, for instance, he remembered the Solicitor General for Ireland stating, in his place in that House, that if the Party Processions Bill were not passed into law that Session, it would be impossible to carry on the Government of Ireland; yet the Bill was quietly abandoned in four days after, and the Government of Ireland had been going on very well nevertheless. So that they must not be frightened by those emphatic statements from official sources. Then, again, the Government assured them that this was a momentary measure, and that it was to last only for two years, and no more; but after his long experience in that House, and having heard such assurances given over and over again, he must confess he could not give implicit credence to any statement of that kind. One portion of the Bill was the renewal of the Act of last year, which was passed for one year, and to end then; and they were asked now to renew it for two more—at the termination of which time the House would be asked to renew it for another period. There were certain portions of the renewed proposal to which he gave his assent last year, as being essential in some respects; and the late George Henry Moore—the brilliant and gifted Irishman now no more—was also willing to assist the Government up to a certain point. But there were other portions of it to which he entertained the strongest objections at the first moment, and which he still regarded with the strongest aversion; those were its Press clauses. He should refer to them immediately, and show, from the statement of the noble Marquess himself, that it was impossible to believe that this Bill was intended to endure but for the two years demanded by the Government. But now with respect to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. First, as to the evidence of Dr. Nulty, who did not deny—on the contrary who admitted—the existence of serious crime in the district. What remedy did Dr. Nulty recommend? Greater vigilance on the part of the police, fearlessness and independence on the part of the local magistracy, and adding to the number of stipendiary magistrates, besides greater care in reference to public-houses of evil 891 repute. But that advice was not to be listened to; the suspension of the Habeas Corpus was an easier remedy, and gave less trouble to the authorities. What did Mr. Mooney recommend? Mr. Mooney, who had resided for 15 years in Mullingar, in the very heart of this district, and knew the state of things thoroughly, assured the Committee that, with an efficient police, a fearless magistracy, and a vigorous administration of the law, the evil could be grappled with and suppressed. They would not accept Mr. Mooney's opinion. Perhaps the opinion of Mr. Crofton would be more valuable. Mr. Crofton was asked a most important question by the Solicitor General for Ireland. He was asked what would the result be of taking up the leaders of the alleged conspiracy, keeping them in gaol for two years, and then letting them out? His reply was, that the result would be, they would come out of prison at the end of that time like mad dogs foaming at the mouth—that they would be worse coming out than when they went in. Now, surely that opinion, of a witness, too, who should know something of the matter, was no sufficient encouragement to induce him (Mr. Maguire) to vote in favour of this portion of the measure. But how was this measure described by the Government? As one of the "most unconstitutional character"—entrusting "a great and novel power" to the Executive. But was it really to the Executive they were asked to entrust this great and novel power? Nominally it was to the Lord Lieutenant. Anyone who knew anything of Lord Spencer must give him credit for prudence, humanity, and gentleness; but it was to the constable and not to the Viceroy the power was really entrusted. He objected to place in any man's hands the power of imprisoning another man for two years without a charge being proved against him, or without anyone being able to ascertain whether that man was rightfully or wrongfully committed. They were told, in speeches in that House and "elsewhere," of the Lord Lieutenant's "belief" of the person's guilt or complicity. But the wording of the Bill was quite different—it was "suspect." It was a Bill of suspicions—anybody might suspect anybody—and anybody might be put into prison for two years, because somebody suspected him of being a Ribbonman, or in any way connected with 892 Ribbonism. No wonder the noble Marquess should describe such a power as "a great and novel one," and one of a "most unconstitutional character." He blamed the Government for this—that they did not sufficiently rely on the beneficial influence of their own remedial legislation—that they did not give it time to work out its salutary fruits—that they were, like others, impatient of the natural results of wise and just measures upon the mind and feeling of the people of Ireland. The maddest idea that could enter into the minds of Englishmen was to suppose that a good measure was to bear fruit in a moment—that in an hour they were to witness the happy results of their good intentions towards his country. Change of feeling did not grow up like magic—it took time; and if they only gave it time to grow, and followed up the good measures of late years by a further policy of justice and conciliation, they would certainly witness the result in the feeling they desired to witness. With respect to the Press clauses in the Act which they were asked to renew, what assurance had they that those clauses would not be retained on the Statute Book for the next 10 years? He saw no hope whatever of their repeal for that time, and he would state his reason why he came to that conclusion. When those clauses were first introduced, he resisted them most strenuously, for he believed them to be conceived in the worst spirit of French despotism. No doubt, the resistance made to them on that occasion induced the Government to modify them in some degree; but as they still existed, they were wholly incompatible with the freedom of the Press, respecting which they heard so much in this country. The noble Marquess, when introducing the Bill, in which those clauses were renewed, said they had been inserted for the purpose of preventing the circulation of "downright treason and incentives to murder," which appeared in American papers sent to Ireland, or of those being copied from American into Irish papers. And the noble Marquess read some extracts from certain American papers in vindication of his retention of those clauses against the Irish Press. Was it because some miserable trash was written in reference to an Irish subject in an American newspaper, that the people of Ireland were to be deprived of the benefit of a free Press? There were many able and brilliant 893 writers on the Irish American Press; but there were others who indulged in bombast and extravagance; and was it because paragraphs might be written in a spirit of menace or braggadocio, or in a worse spirit of suggestion, that the Irish Press was to be the victim, of an unconstitutional law? He put it to the candour of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, to say whether he was of opinion that the Irish Americans were likely to write in a more tender spirit of this country, and its relations with Ireland, for the next 10 years? If not, then those Press clauses must be retained for the next 10 years, if not for a longer time. And was that fair to one portion of the Press of the British Empire? Suppose certain persons were to write in the French Press against this country, and the French newspapers were directed to persons in this country, or reached newspaper offices in this country, would that be a just reason for restricting the liberty of its Press? But would the Irish Americans cease to write in a hostile spirit of England? Certainly not. On the contrary, whenever any difficulty between this country and America might arise, be certain the American Irish would endeavour to aggravate that difficulty, and, if possible, turn it into a disaster to this country and to its interests. The time might come, and he hoped it soon would, when the present hostile feeling might die away, and give place to one of a kindly nature; but as to when that, day would come they must altogether depend on the feeling existing in Ireland—which, he prayed, might be one of contentment and cordiality. But was it because a writer in America wrote in a dangerous spirit, or suggested a foolish course to Irishmen, that the Press of Ireland was to be gagged? They were told it was to prevent the circulation, in the Irish Press, of those incentives to treason and murder. But, he asked, ought not an English Government be ashamed to make such a statement in that Assembly? Incentives to murder and treason! Were not those punishable according to the common law of the land? Where were their Treason Felony Acts? Where were special Acts? Why not rely on such lawful means of suppressing and punishing writers of such a character? Surely they had Law Officers—they had an Attorney General, 894 who, not being in that House, had ample time to attend to that important branch of his duty. There was no one who respected the public peace who would not support the Government in bringing all its legitimate powers to bear upon those, whoever they might be, who deliberately preached or propagated such doctrines as those referred to; but he insisted upon it that the law, such as it existed, was sufficient for the repression of any such writings, if really indulged in. The present Bill, embracing two measures of coercion, was based—at least in the minds of some speakers and writers—on a justification which he, as an Irishman, indignantly resented. It had been said that Ireland was a Celtic country, or was peopled by a Celtic race, and therefore must be dealt with differently from a country inhabited by an Anglo-Saxon race. Now, he called that arrant rubbish. It was false in fact and vicious in theory, and if accepted as true would seem to justify any cruelty, or tyranny, or blundering. But, as a fact, it was false—at least, in such a sense as to justify coercion, or account for special crime. Those parts of Ireland which had given the Government the most trouble were not those inhabited by a purely Celtic population. Wexford, at one time, was one of the most difficult counties to deal with. Was that a purely Celtic county? Not at all. It contained a large infusion of the English element. So did Tipperary, so did Meath, so did Westmeath, so did other counties within the Pale; and some persons even went the length of asserting that it was owing to the infusion of this foreign blood that the people were so hard to manage, and so strong and fierce in resisting injustice. However that might be, the fact was notorious that the quieter portions of Ireland were those inhabited by a purely Celtic race—such as Kerry, Donegal, Galway, and others. He had heard it told of people living in disturbed districts who, referring to those living in undisturbed districts, and those notoriously Celtic, had said of them—"Ah, they have not the courage to defend themselves as we do;" or "Those fellows haven't the pluck to handle a pistol, and act like us." That theory of races, the necessity for different law for different races, was not only utterly baseless, so far as Ireland was concerned, but it was villainous in spirit—a theory which 895 would justify any oppression, or any course of proceeding, however illegal or unconstitutional. Its very suggestion was unstatesmanlike and ungenerous. Nay more, so far as respected that country, it was absurd and foolish, and not creditable to its pride. They called themselves an Anglo-Saxon people, a Teutonic race. They were nothing of the kind. They were a mixed race, but more Celtic than Teutonic. The French had been beaten for this time, and therefore you were "Teutons"—part and parcel of the conquering race! Really they ought to be ashamed of such folly. Where was the old British stock? Did not that still exist?—and was not that Celtic? And would anyone say that at any time—especially at a time when miserable vessels struggled with difficulty across the sea—there was such an infusion of the Saxon or the Teutonic blood into this country, as to alter the character of the old British or Celtic stock? No doubt there had been a blending of many races in this country; but so there had been in Ireland—Danish, English, Norman; and therefore it was absurd to attribute that to difference of race which was really owing to difference of laws and government. They had been told that no Celtic jury would return a fair verdict. That was either a stupid fallacy or a wilful slander. Irish juries, be they of whatever race, would generally return a verdict according to evidence; and in such cases as they did not, it was not the Celts who were insensible to the value of evidence. The whole theory was foolish and wicked, and might be used as a cloak to cover all manner of injustice. So far as the administration of the law was concerned, what was required was evidence; and how was this Bill to procure it? Why, by the 13th clause of the renewed Act they might imprison in order to obtain evidence; but all the person so imprisoned had to say was—"Yes, I will be sworn;" and when he was sworn he had only to swear he knew nothing about the matter. They supplemented that failure by absolute imprisonment for two years; and they must do that on the suspicion of a subordinate, not on the belief of the Lord Lieutenant. He would now call the attention of the Government and of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, to a subject of great gravity, and that was with respect to the police 896 of Ireland, as bearing on the question now before the House. He called the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to it, for so changing and shifting was the state of parties, that it was impossible to state what might occur even in the present Session. He had seen majorities of 140 dwindle rapidly down to 20, and become minorities—all in a single Session; so that whatever really concerned the tranquillity of Ireland also concerned the interest—the political interest of Gentlemen who might at any moment have to govern that country. He asserted that it was necessary to deal with the question of the Irish police. Against that body he had not one word to say. On the whole, he regarded them as a splendid body of men, as fine as the world could produce, who had done their duty nobly and faithfully; who had been exposed to temptations sufficient to test in the severest manner the moral courage and fidelity of men, but who had come scatheless from the ordeal. But many of those men were discontented—not disaffected, but discontented. And that was what he would ask the Government to inquire into. So far as he could judge there existed a kind of despotism—an extraordinary power held in the hands of one man—which he did not believe to be useful or beneficial either to the force or to the public service. Louis XIV. speaking of the State, said—l'Etat c'est moi! So with the Inspector General. The police—c'est moi—I am the police. The power ought to be placed in the hands of a responsible Board, with an efficient person at the head, but not with absolute authority; and the more the Government exercised influence in securing promotion according to merit, the more the force and the country would be benefited. He did not speak for the officers—they could fight their own battle; he concerned himself only with those whose friends were few. So much as to the body generally. The noble Marquess admitted that the detective system in the police was not as perfect as could be desired. Then why not improve it? But it was an easier matter to suspend the Constitution than to effect this required improvement. There could be no doubt that a proper detective system was absolutely necessary, especially in a district such as that now referred to. A semi-soldier, with a rifle and bayonet, strapped and collared, was not the right 897 instrument for the detection of crime, and pursuing the offender into the darkness that shrouded him from the glare of day. He would guard the culprit as well as any soldier in the world; but to pursue the criminal and detect the crime required other attributes than those of strength and discipline. It was said by more than one of the witnesses in reference to this very point—"If you send a detective down, he will be twigged in a moment." But it was stated, on the contrary, that in one instance a detective who had been sent down from Dublin was arrested by the police as a dangerous character, and as such was taken before a magistrate. Something the same was told of another detective. Those men were able to get among the people, and would have discharged their duty with success. Thus it was proved that members of the force could disguise themselves so well as not to be known; and, if so, why not employ them in larger numbers, and use them to detect and bring to justice those who were said to be the leaders and chief actors in the alleged conspiracy which the Government were trying to suppress? The Government complained that the people would not give evidence. But who gave evidence in the Fenian conspiracy? Was it the people? No; it was the police. The principal evidence given in which the Fenians were convicted was the evidence of the police acting as detectives. Why, then, could not the same course be followed now, instead of resorting to this clumsy expedient for procuring tranquillity? As to the police, he should only repeat what he had said, and what he had good reason to know—the rank and file, meaning thereby the majority of the body, were discontented, because public service was not followed and rewarded by proper promotion; and he said that was so serious a matter that it deserved to be inquired into by the Government. His mode of putting down the crime which he admitted to have existed, and which might again re-appear, was to send a larger force into the district, and do so without charging the district for them; to add to the number of stipendiary magistrates, and divide the county into small districts for each; and to employ a sufficient body of detectives to get at real offenders. That, in his opinion, would be a far better plan than that of suspecting everybody, and imprisoning 898 everybody suspected by everybody. The noble Earl, who, in "another place," introduced this measure (the Earl of Kimberley) took special care to guard himself from expressing any sanguine expectation as to its useful results; and in that "other place" two experienced statesmen—Earl Russell and Earl Grey—were represented as having spoken strongly against its principle, and of its liability to be abused. The noble Marquess was not very confident of success; but the President of the Board of Trade—who might be said to be more hardened in political life than his noble Colleague—spoke with a feeling of strong hope of the result. Now, taking the whole question honestly into his consideration, he maintained that there were other means of repressing crime, if the Government chose to adopt them, instead of passing this Bill—against which he and others could only offer their protest; and he therefore, so far as his vote was concerned, would not consent to impose on Ireland this stupid and clumsy measure of repression, which was neither suited to the genius of the people nor to the circumstances of the case.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
supported the Government, as he thought the time had come for putting an effectual stop to these murders and outrages. He was not less fond of his country than the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, but he believed that the stoppage of crime and outrage would enable that country to prosper more rapidly. Various arguments had been used against the Peace Preservation Act, but nothing had been shown to prove that that Act worked badly; and, considering the state of things which existed in Westmeath and the immediate neighbourhood, it was essential that the Government should adopt repressive measures, and he thought that every Irish Member ought to support them in that course.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
opposed the measure, on the ground that the Government should rely on the powers conferred upon them by the ordinary law for the suppression of outrages in Ireland, without seeking for the despotic powers which this measure would place in their hands. The result of the appointment of the Westmeath Committee had been to show the existence of great diversity of opinion among the witnesses, most of whom were summoned 899 by Her Majesty's Government. The remedies to be suggested, the wants to be supplied, the measures to be taken, varied in almost every instance as each witness was produced. It was true that the resident magistrates and the official witnesses advised the Government that their proper course was to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, and no doubt such a course would be effective in saving those officials from further trouble; but in the evidence of Mr. Seed it was proved that since 1846 crime in Westmeath had decreased tenfold. No doubt some crimes were alleged of a sensational character; but would they all bear examination? There was the case of the Rev. Mr. Crofton, an Episcopalian clergyman, who was fired at and missed five times; and could it be believed, under such circumstances, that the man who fired at him really intended to kill him? It was evident that he believed himself not to be the object of the attack, because on feeling himself struck on the occasion of the third shot, slightly losing his temper, he had told those who were firing at him not to be such fools, as he was not the individual whom they were seeking to punish. Having been fired at five times, he had calmly continued his walk, and had then returned to his home and continued his ministrations to his parishioners. If the intention had really been murderous, was it not extraordinary that Mr. Crofton should have survived, those five shots? The fact was, that crime had lessened in Westmeath, and the Government ought to try all the ordinary measures which were within their control before they resorted to an unconstitutional measure of this sort. The evidence before the Westmeath Committee showed that in certain districts the local magistrates did not co-operate with the resident magistrates, and it was unquestionable that that want of co-operation must lead to disastrous results in the minds of the people, by creating the impression that the law was not properly administered. As to the police, they were utterly valueless as detectives. The Inspector General of the Police, who was a military man, and who was never in Ireland until he was appointed Inspector General of the Police, said they were the finest corps in existence; but he found it necessary to introduce reforms, and he was now engaged in reorganizing 900 the police. In King's County the Bill proposed to come into operation, not merely in the one barony tainted with Ribbonism, but in other baronies concerning which no word of evidence was given before the Committee. If the Bill passed, as he supposed it would, he hoped the Government would allow it to remain simply upon the Statute Book, and never put it into active operation.
§ DR. BALL
It is not with the intention of occupying much of the time of the House that I now rise; but having held a law office in Ireland, I will not take upon myself the responsibility of remaining silent while this measure is under discussion. The Bill consists of two entirely distinct parts; the first of which enables the Lord Lieutenant in Council to suspend the operation of the Habeas Corpus Act in a very limited district in Ireland, while the second part continues and revives the Peace Preservation Act of last year. With regard to the first part of the Bill—suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in Westmeath and the surrounding district—I said on a previous occasion when the Motion was made for the appointment of the Westmeath Committee that I should support that or any other measure which Her Majesty's Government might deem it right to adopt for that district, and that I required no Committee of Inquiry on the subject, as the facts were established by Returns and by the Charge of Chief Justice Whiteside in Meath, and the Charge of Chief Justice Monaghan in Westmeath, which summed up all that the Committee have since found as the result of their investigation. With regard to the second part of the Bill, which has not been the subject of any investigation, I also as strongly support the Government in reaffirming the Peace Preservation Act as in suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. The Bill does not seem to be understood by hon. Gentlemen who oppose it. A large part of the Bill continues previous powers, which for years have been found necessary in Ireland, and which do not touch in any extraordinary degree upon any constitutional system, and cannot be looked upon as exceptional. Objection is made to these powers as standing outside the ordinary limits and paths of the Constitution; but it is a great fallacy to talk of them as necessarily interfering with the Constitution. There is no positive 901 enactment in the Bill which interferes with any part of the Constitution; but a discretionary power is lodged in the Lord Lieutenant, not by himself, but with the advice and sanction of the Privy Council, to supersede the regular system for such time as they in their discretion may think fit. This is a very different thing from passing a measure which would necessarily interfere with the ordinary system of law. How is the Privy Council of Ireland composed? Largely of Common Law and Equity Judges. The most frequent attendants are the Judges. Is there any man can labour under the idea that the Judges in Ireland will give their sanction to the suspension of the law unless a cogent, irresistible, and unanswerable cause arises? Wherever has such a power as this been used oppressively? There is not an Irish Member will rise and say that any Act of this kind that ever passed has been applied by the Lord Lieutenant so as to oppress any place or any person. The Bill is a mere preventive measure. It may never be required to be brought into operation. What, then, will be the effect of it? The effect will be, without any extraordinary proceeding or harsh measures, to deter persons criminally disposed, and thus prevent crime. Sir Robert Peel, when introducing a measure similar to the present, stated that previously to that time sixteen measures of this character had been introduced into Ireland, and that in no instance had they failed. I prophesied that if a strong measure was passed it would not fail; because it is the nature and character of the Irish, when dealt firmly with, to submit, and abandon what rendered the measure necessary. The Peace Preservation Act introduced last year has so well operated that I find in Ireland one most forcible evidence in regard to the degree to which the suppression of crime has taken place. I see that the Estimates for the prosecution and suppression of crime in Ireland for the year since that is £11,000 less than the Estimate for the antecedent period; and there has been a decided diminution of crime. But it is not because crime has diminished and lawless persons been suppressed that we are to abandon the course, and throw away the very weapon by which this end has been effected. Anyone who believed that because crime was suppressed it would not break out 902 again would assume a great fallacy. It is always ready to break out, and there is now a county in regard to which I have reliable information to the effect that at this moment great part of it requires the operation of this Act. That is the county Mayo. As the Judges left Castlebar a person who had been serving on the jury was fired at and wounded, and I find by Returns moved for by the Marquess of of Clanricarde—whose opinion in regard to the West of Ireland is entitled to the greatest weight—that there is a portion of that county which imperatively demands that the discretion proposed by this Bill should be in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant. Again, only to-day I saw an announcement of a murder, plainly an agrarian one, which had occurred in the county of Monaghan. It would, therefore, be the utmost folly on the part of the Government to abandon the wise provisions of the Peace Preservation Act, especially as they had been so instrumental in preventing crime. The clauses relating to the freedom of the Press have been made the subject of strong observation. But, Sir, the Press is the fount and source of a great part of the disaffection of Ireland. If the people have their minds fed continually with stimulants in the shape of articles against the connection with England, against law and authority, the inevitable result will be that they will cease to respect the law, and fail to have any adequate appreciation of the evil of crime. Only a year has elapsed since these provisions became law, and yet the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland mentioned recently that a consider able supply of seditious and treasonable writing had been seized coming from America. Why were these writings thus sent over? Because the demand is in the country, and when you suppress the native article the people seek to be supplied from a foreign market. I am not prepared to withhold from any Government these powers when they ask them, because there is a vast amount of information in the Castle of Dublin which is not known to Members of Parliament. Ireland is governed in an extremely peculiar manner, and I doubt whether there is anything like it in England. Every fact respecting crime and disaffection is daily transmitted to Dublin Castle, and the authorities there are thoroughly acquainted with all that is going on in 903 every part of the country. If, then, the Government, acting on that information, came forward and said they thought it necessary to obtain, not repressive, not coercive, but preventive powers, on what ground could anyone be justified in refusing to give them to them. I, for one, am not prepared to undertake such a responsibility. There are other things which appear to me to necessitate this measure, and these are found in the Report of the Committee. I entirely dissent from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) in regard to the conduct of juries in Ireland, because in consequence of the condition of the juries and the constitution of the panels you are placed in a position that you can only use preventive measures. Captain Talbot states that the panel in Westmeath, not being a large one, is soon exhausted by challenges, and when it is you can only get a jury upon which there is the greatest chance there will be one or two sympathizers with the prisoner. Consequently, the jury generally disagreed. Mr. Julian, the Crown Solicitor for Westmeath, also gave it as his opinion that after the challenges were exhausted juries could not be depended upon, and Mr. Seede, the Senior Crown Solicitor for Ireland, declared that—When the country is disturbed it requires a very large amount of moral courage to act uprightly as a juror in an agrarian case. If some of the higher class come forward to do their duty, they may find themselves in the same jury box with some relations or allies of the prisoner; then the jury disagree, and the honest and faithful jurymen incur all the odium and danger. A class of jurors will be found on all the panels of petty jurors in Ireland as now constituted, who are wholly unfit to be entrusted with the trial of any prisoner for an agrarian crime. I heard it stated that on an important trial lately three of the jurors had actually subscribed for the defence of the prisoners they were trying. The formation of the petty jury panel is now entirely at the discretion of the sub-sheriff, who is often the friend of, and influenced by the attorney for the prisoners."—[Q. 2355.]Mr. Seed goes on to say—.. I think that the state of the petty jury panels in Ireland at this moment is perfectly frightful; it is utterly absurd at present, in my opinion, to expect that justice can be effectually administered if the petty jury panels are not amended. Now, for instance, take the jury empanelled for the special commission in Meath last June; I would not have returned that panel, nor would I, as Crown Solicitor, have ventured to prosecute a case for the Government at the quarter sessions if the persons returned on that panel were to try the cases; I knew them to be 904 influenced by fear; I knew some of them to be implicated in the Ribbon conspiracy, and quite unfit to try any case."—[Q. 2395.]Mr. Seed proceeded to remark that he made a representation of this very important fact to the Government. He said—I had a consultation at the Castle with the Attorney General, and the Attorney General was quite shocked, as he well might be, when I handed him the panel for the special commission of Meath. He said to me, 'What do you say to this?' I said, 'Leave the matter to me, I will select a jury;' and three days before the commission opened I wrote to the inspector of the county, and desired that he would have every sub-inspector from each district in the county before me, in order that I might go through the panel and ascertain the character of each juror; the consequence was that I set aside 47 of the gentlemen, and I succeeded in getting a jury of six Roman Catholics and six Protestants, one of whom was a Presbyterian; so that there were the three great sects represented upon that jury; and I think, as regards the state of the panel at the present time, a great deal might be done by a little previous trouble and inquiry."—[Q. 2397.]We have heard from the Crown Solicitor and the stipendiary magistrate for Westmeath that when 20 jurors had been challenged there was no chance of getting an unanimous verdict from the remainder of the panel, and also that it was impossible to obtain information on which to base criminal proceedings with any hope of success. This being so, what course is open to the House but to support Her Majesty's Government in passing a law which they believe to be essential for the maintenance of law and order? The right hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) had certainly suggested a curious remedy, and one which I should be sorry to adopt—namely, to swear in a number of special constables and immediately put an end to disorder. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, when before the Committee, stated that he had resorted to this plan himself on one occasion, and so put down a number of disorderly persons; but when the Solicitor General for Ireland endeavoured to obtain information as to the persons so put down the facts appeared to be as hazy as those narrated by Falstaff in his account of the 12 men in buckram suits at Gadshill. If they had such a force I should recommend them not to trust them. Lord Chief Baron 0'Grady, the first man of pure Celtic blood who sat on the Irish Bench, when asked by Lord Anglesey, in regard to the Terry-Alt movement, 905 how such things could exist in the country, made a witty reply. "Here in England," said Lord Anglesey, "we should have had out the posse comitatus." "That, said the Lord Chief Baron, "is the difference between England and Ireland; we want the posse comitatus to remain at home." One of the most extraordinary documents produced before the Committee was the pastoral charge of Dr. Nulty, in which he said that before many days they would witness these secret societies co-operating with the weak and pusillanimous Executive, in order to hand over the people to the tender mercies of a party that was never known to exercise absolute power with moderation. I am afraid we shall not be likely to achieve much good by listening to the advice of gentlemen who talk or write in a strain like this. The Bishop, indeed, said he did not intend the Charge for the House of Commons, but for his people, for whom it was posted on the door of every chapel. But I must say, if he intended to put down Ribbonism the worst way to do so was to say that the Executive in Ireland was weak and pusillanimous, for if ever there were people who needed strength in the Government: they are the persons who commit these crimes. But I cannot let the expression pass without saying that if by "weak and pusillanimous Government" is meant my learned Friends the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland, I beg to say that I do not agree with it. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General showed the firmness of his character in the trial in Meath, and if you will give him the means he will be equal to the emergency. But the Bishop may have alluded to very different matters, and may have founded his remarks on speeches and declamations tending to foster notions of Ireland for the Irish, and governing that country according to Irish ideas, and may have attributed to the Executive that in which they have no concern. In conclusion, Sir, I have no fear as to the result, and I most cordially and heartily give my support to a Bill which I believe capable of coping with the melancholy state of Westmeath, and which may meet the dangers apprehended in other parts of Ireland.
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, that something was necessary to be done in order to put an end to a state of affairs which 906 had been correctly described as intolerable. But there were two ways of arriving at the same end, and he thought the Government ought to have exhausted the powers to be obtained by using and improving the existing law before resorting to extreme coercive measures like the one before the House. What was the present state of the country now in regard to its police administration? The rank and file of the police were, physically and morally, the finest body in the world. But how were they officered? By literary competitive examinations. When there were three or four vacancies, 12 or 13 young gentlemen competed, and men such as were needed—men who could take hold of a man and make him prisoner, and ride effectively over a country—did not succeed; but those who were, it might be, diminutive and very poor, and very chicken-hearted creatures, though having a little more ability for taking in information. The men of the constabulary generally had no confidence in their officers. He did not mean to blame a Liberal Government more than a Conservative Government, because, when the question was the coercion of Ireland, unfortunately all political parties in that House, excepting the Liberal representatives of Ireland, sunk their differences in order to unite together in the work of inflicting a penal measure upon Ireland. The Government had taken from the country gentlemen of Ireland such power as was given to the justices in England, and had transferred it to those who were now called "resident magistrates." Their appointment, however, was entirely a political matter, and it was wholly a chance whether the man appointed made a good magistrate or a bad one. He contended that, as those resident magistrates were intrusted with more power than a nobleman who was the Lord Lieutenant of a county, the Government ought to take care that proper men were appointed to such posts. The head of the police—the chief director of everything in Ireland—was Sir John Stewart-Wood, a most gallant officer, a man of great experience as a soldier, but who was selected wholly irrespective of his qualifications for the discharge of the duties of the chief of police. That gallant officer, in his evidence before the Westmeath Committee, stated that he had never been in Ireland in his life 907 before he was given the post of deputy-inspector. Was that such an appointment as would tend to reconcile the people of Ireland to the Government of this country? Sir John Stewart-Wood also told, the Committee that he objected to the Irish constabulary doing many duties which were performed by the police in England, his greatest objection being to their having anything to do with gun licences, although that ought to be their chief duty, as the Government had endeavoured to prevent the importation of arms into Ireland, and it was one they might have undertaken without doing away with their self-esteem. With respect to this Bill, it seemed that the House was called upon to re-enact the Peace Preservation Act of last year without going into Committee on the clauses of that measure, or having any opportunity of making such amendments as might be thought necessary. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The 30th section of that Act enabled grand juries to give compensation to persons who suffered loss in consequence of the murder of those on whom they were dependent. At the last Assizes for Tipperary the grand jury (of whom he was foreman) had two such cases before them, and they, feeling that they were bound to carry out what the Government thought a wise measure for the preservation of the peace of Ireland, gave £500 each to the wives of the men who were murdered. In one case the murder was committed in the district in which it was planned, and therefore there was no difficulty in levying the compensation on the proper persons; but in the other case, the parties concerned in the murder lived seven or eight miles from where the deed was committed, yet it was the latter place that had to pay. Some amendment in that respect was, he submitted, required to avoid such an injustice. If they desired to prevent the introduction of American newspapers, why was it not possible to do that without restricting the liberty of the whole of the Irish Press? He was not one of those squeamish friends of Ireland who would object to anything if he believed it to be necessary. If the Government had proposed simply to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, they would have done it upon their own responsibility; but believing this Bill to be unfair, to be unjust, and to be calculated 908 to do great harm to Ireland, he should give his support to the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don).
§ MR. JOHN MARTIN
Sir, before the passing of this Bill I wish, with the permission of this House, to make a few remarks upon the character of the measure and upon the state of things prevailing in the parts of Ireland affected by this Bill. I do not, however, intend to vote upon this Bill, nor, indeed, upon any other measure which this Parliament may think proper to pass in respect to the Government of my country. It is, Sir, I contend, the inalienable right of the Irish people to be a free people; and, as a free people, to be bound only by laws made by the Queen and a free Parliament of that kingdom. It is true that in 1800 the English Parliament usurped the power of making its laws, and also that for the last 70 years Her Majesty's Irish subjects, yielding to superior force, have submitted to that usurpation, and have been ruled by the will of Her Majesty's English subjects. But the Irish nation has never consented to that usurpation, and the right of Ireland to a free Parliament of her own, and to a distinct government from that of this country, under the Queen, is as valid in principle of law at the present day as it was in the year 1783, when the English Parliament solemnly declared that right to be established and ascertained for ever, and one not to be questioned or questionable hereafter. As an Irish Representative, therefore, holding the national sentiment prevailing amongst the vast majority of the people of Ireland—and which, it seems, is well known to hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this Bill, does prevail with the vast majority of my countrymen—as an Irish national Representative, therefore, I do not intend to vote on this question. Indeed, if I could prevail upon myself to vote at all in this House, it would, be idle and vain for me to think of voting in the present case; because this Bill being introduced by the Government, and having for its object to put the people of Ireland under new coercion—it being a new Coercion Bill for Ireland—the measure will be sure to have the support of the great majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Many of the Liberal 909 supporters of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government might fall away from him when the question was a match tax, or an additional 2d. in the pound income tax—at least, many of the right hon. Gentleman's English Liberal supporters. And as to hon. Gentlemen on the Opposite side of the House, they are no doubt making a fierce and obstinate fight against the Ministers' Army Regulation Bill; but when the question is merely to cast a new insult upon the people of Ireland, they will, with open-handed liberality, bestow upon the Ministers any powers which, in the very wantonness of despotism, they may ask for. Alas! it is very painful, Mr. Speaker, for me to be expressing my sentiments in this House. I am, however, thankful to the House and hon. Members generally for the courtesy with which they have listened to me so far; I shall not trouble you long. I say that I find that the feeling in this country, and the feeling of the English people as represented in this Parliament, is still one which regards the people of my country as "the Irish enemy." ["No, no!"] Yes; I say yes—such at all events, is my impression—the Irish enemy—a section of the Queen's subjects, to be treated by exceptional legislation, exceptional in every sense, exceptional even in the measures that are proposed and intended to conciliate the Irish people, and which are called concessions to the Irish people; and which are exceptional in this sense—that whereas the measures for England, passed by this Parliament, are always such as the majority of the English people wish or demand, the measures, on the other hand, passed for Ireland are generally such as are opposed to the opinions and desires of the great majority of my country people. Therefore, I say, it is not that alone which convinces me, but the language which has been used in this debate, and that of the English Press generally, proves that I am not mistaken in the unhappy, the sad conclusion I have come to—that this nation, which has usurped the power to rule Ireland, still looks upon the Irish people—still regards them as the Irish enemy, and that the policy of the English rule, and the maxim of the English legislation for Ireland is now, as it was 400 years ago,—Adversus hostem æterna auctoritas.910 [A VOICE: Fine words.] Better than fine words, they are true words. Now, as to the merits of the Bill itself, I think that the principal reasons against it are—first and chiefly, and therefore a sufficient reason if there were no others—that it is against law; next, that it is founded on false and frivolous allegations; again, that it will not remove the causes of discontent and disorder in Ireland; and, again, that it will cause terror and losses to innocent persons and increase disaffection; and, finally, that the true method of dealing with these disorders—and here I may observe that I yield to no man in this House in desiring that order should be maintained—I repeat that the true method of dealing with the disorders that do exist in Westmeath, but by no means to the extent represented, is not to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, but to suspend for a time the system of illegality with which this Parliament and this country rule my country. I say, Sir, that the title of this Bill is a misnomer. It is called a Bill for the Protection of Life and Property in certain Parts of Ireland. But like all the other Bills which have been introduced for the purpose of violating or suspending the Constitution of Ireland, such as the Peace Preservation Act, the Crime and Outrage Prevention Act, and a great many of the similar Acts passed especially within the last 25 years, there is a falsehood implied in the titles of all these Acts, when it is alleged that in Ireland the crimes are more numerous and of greater atrocity than those committed in England—that life and property are less safe in Ireland than in England, and that the peace is more difficult to preserve in Ireland than in England. Now, the fact is that both life and property are much less insecure in my country than they are in England; that crimes are both fewer in number, and, as a general rule, less atrocious morally in Ireland than they are in England; and that it is quite as easy to preserve the peace in Ireland as it is in England, provided that the same means be applied in both countries. If I were to go on I could give proofs, as they appear to me, of the general statements I have made as to the comparative degree of criminalty in the two countries; but I shall not go into the details, because that will not remove the cause of discontent and disorder. There are 911 in Ireland certain crimes and outrages as there are in every country, and there are in Ireland crimes and outrages of a peculiar kind and peculiar to that country; but the state of things in which they are committed has been produced by exceptional and peculiar circumstances; and this House has certainly admitted that there were, and that there had been in Ireland for many years, peculiar causes of discontent, and that it was natural that the discontent of the people, caused by injustice, should manifest itself occasionally in the violation of the law. As to the comparative criminality in the two countries, and as to the Returns of crime upon which is based the present measure, and upon which it is supported by its advocates, I will only make this remark to illustrate the manner in which hon. Members of this House, from ignorance of my country, are accustomed to deal with it. The right hon. and learned Member for Southampton (Mr. Russell Gurney), on the first day when this question was debated, called the attention of the House to the Returns of crime and outrage that had been reported by the police to have been committed in Westmeath during 14 months from the 1st of January, 1870, to the 28th of February, 1871, and he told us 115 cases of crime and outrage were reported by the police as having taken place within that period. But he neglected to analyze them, for if he had done so, he might have told the House that of the 115 cases, 65 were for sending threatening letters and notices, and 36 cases of intimidation, reducing the number to 14, and of these 3 were for murder, and 4 for attempts at murder. I remember when I was last in attendance in this House, the Spring Assizes for the county of Chester were being held, and I recollect reading Mr. Justice Mellor's charge to the grand jury, in which he stated that the calendar for that single Assize contained 50 cases of homicide; and as to the comparative criminality of the Irish and English county, admitting that Chester contained six times the population of Westmeath, it appeared to be three times less in the Irish than in the English county. As to the argument dwelt on by a great many speakers, that it is very difficult to detect crime in Ireland and bring the criminals to punishment, I have seen a statement which gives the number of 912 coroners' inquests for murder in England within the last 10 years at 2,497, whilst only 247 criminals out of that number were detected and punished—that is to say, less than one in ten. If, then, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act be a proper means to employ for detecting and punishing crime, it seems to me you have very great need for it in England. But the difference between the government of my country and that of England is, that in England it is held to be the rule of the Government and the Legislature that the Constitution shall not be suspended—that the Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended except in the case of foreign war or insurrection; it is not employed in England for the detection and punishment of crime when there is no insurrection nor any foreign war going on. Then, with regard to conspiracy and the disposition to conspire in Ireland, there can be no doubt there has been that disposition in the people; but the circumstances were such, as has been acknowledged by the passing of the Land Act, as to account for that desire in Ireland to resist the law. There have been Tories, Rapparees, Terry-Alts, White-boys, Captain Rock, Captain Moonlight, and such like combinations in Ireland, ever since this country got possession of the whole of the Irish territory, and attempted to extirpate the Irish, planting English descendants on that soil. It was natural that such a state of things should cause the people of Ireland to feel that they were put outside the protection of the law, and so they combined to endeavour to be a law unto themselves, and form themselves into a Vehmgericht or Vigilance Committee. But has there been no conspiring against public order and law in England? I remember reading accounts of the rattening system in Sheffield, and am still under the impression that the rattening conspirators committed many crimes in Sheffield; but that very few of the crimes were detected, and the offenders punished. I never heard the proposition hinted at by any hon. Member of this House that it would be well to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act to deal with the conspiracy which existed in Sheffield; but, on the contrary, Parliament sent a Royal Commission to inquire into the cause of the discontent and the disorder. But this was in England: a different system is 913 always employed in Ireland. I do not like to weary the House, and it would be vain in me to try to produce an argument that would do justice to my own sentiment and my own knowledge in this matter, if time even permitted; it is sufficient for me to repeat that I consider the proper way to deal with the disorder that really exists in Westmeath is by the adoption of just such a scheme as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Dr. Ball) described, with an attempt to be very funny, when he mentioned that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) had related to the Committee how such a scheme was put in force in that county in 1848. I remember hearing my old friend Mr. Smith O'Brien say he made a similar suggestion, which proved successful in Clare against the Terry-Alts, and I will go a step further than the right hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon, and will say that the proper way of checking and suppressing the disorder that really exists in Westmeath is to cease for a time the system of jury packing, to suspend the Discovery of Arms Act, and allow the population of the county to arm themselves—[Laughter]—to arm themselves; and allow the population of Westmeath and all Ireland, whom you call your fellow-subjects in bitter irony, to arm themselves, and form themselves into Volunteer companies for the preservation of the peace within their own bounds. [Laughter.] This scheme seems laughable to many hon. Members of this House; and the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Dr. Ball) has told a comic anecdote about the posse comitatus in Ireland, to the effect that a certain Judge, when it was proposed to call out the posse comitatus to suppress disorder and preserve peace, said—"What we" (the rulers of the country) "desire is to keep the posse comitatus at home." Now, I think that in that remark the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin admitted the whole of what I have been alleging—namely, of England being a dominant country and Ireland being a subject country. It is the fashion to talk of the Irish as the fellow-subjects of the English; but if this were truly so—if the Irish subjects of the Queen were governed by law and in accordance with the principles 914 of the Constitution, as the English subjects of the Queen are, then there would be no objection to calling out the posse comitatus to preserve peace. The English Parliament and the Government have been ruling my country against law, and in spite of law, and in violation of the principles of your free Constitution, for the last 70 years, and you are endeavouring now—at least, your dominant party are—by measures of conciliation, to reconcile the Irish people to the rule of England; but I give you my opinion that, though it is possible you may be able to preserve your superior power over Ireland for a long time to come—to keep the people of Ireland subject to your superior force—you will never reconcile the people of Ireland to be your subjects. We are content to be the subjects of the Queen, but not of the English; and the sooner the people of England and her statesmen make up their minds to look to the matter from that point of view the better it will be for England. The Irish are quite willing to be your friends—to be good neighbours; but we will not consent to be your subjects—for, practically, that is what my countrymen are this day—subjects not to the Queen, but to England. This may seem to many hon. Members the dream of an enthusiast; but I warrant that if you inquire into it you will find that I speak the truth when I say that I believe, before many years have elapsed, that truth will be shouted into your ears by the people of Ireland, as represented by your permission in this House. If England's rule were to last 700 years longer in Ireland, the Irish would still keep up their love of freedom—their resolute adherence to their national right.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE moved that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. DISRAELI
wished the Prime Minister to re-consider the proposal for adjourning that debate to Friday morning, because these Morning Sittings were practically a great strain on the privileges of independent Members; and the right hon. Gentleman must see that Morning Sittings, although extremely effective when they had to deal with a Bill in Committee, produced very little despatch when they were discussing the principles of a measure on the second reading. If the right hon. Gentleman would only fix on an evening for proceeding further 915 with the second reading they would make much greater progress, and not interfere with the privileges of private Members.
said, that Thursday evening had already been appropriated in compliance with the request of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and it was impossible to postpone that measure till Monday. Sensible as he was of the inconvenience of fixing it for another Morning Sitting on Friday, he had no alternative but to do so. As the debate had shown some symptoms of being nearly exhausted, he proposed to put the Lords' Amendments on the University Tests Bill down as the second Order on Friday.
§ House suspended its Sitting.
§ House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the Clock.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Nine o'clock.