§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
, in rising to call attention to the conduct of the Government in regard to the recent Derry celebrations, and to move—That the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in prohibiting the Derry celebrations, while allowing party demonstrations in Dublin and Cork, evinced a spirit of partiality which, in the opinion of this House, is highly to be condemned,said, he regretted that he was compelled to bring under the notice of the House what, he trusted, would not be looked upon as a purely Irish question, as it was one, he believed, which embraced grave constitutional questions, and which resolved itself into this—Whether we 536 were to be governed according to the principles of a free Constitution, or whether liberty was to be crushed at the behests of a mob, or by the illegal proclamations of a Government? It was hardly necessary for him to remind the House that, for a long series of years, dating from the great Revolution, which secured for this country civil and religious liberty, the inhabitants of Londonderry had been accustomed to celebrate those events which established Her Majesty's dynasty on the throne of these realms. They had been in the habit of celebrating the shutting of the gates of Derry and the relief of Derry, and for long years there was no opposition raised to this. Those two days were looked upon by all creeds and classes as holidays in the city; and on one occasion, at least, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry joined in the celebration. There was, indeed, a time, not so long ago, when the members of all persuasions and of all political creeds were agreed in commemorating the deliverance of the three kingdoms from the great and grievous thraldom in which they had so long been held—a deliverance to which the Roman Catholics of Ireland, quite as much as the Protestants, owed the freedom they now enjoyed. The custom in Londonderry had been beautifully described by the late Lord Macaulay, who said—The anniversary of the day on which the gates were closed, and the anniversary of the day on which the siege was raised, have been, down to our own time, celebrated by salutes, processions, banquets, and sermons. Lundy has been executed in effigy, and the sword, said by tradition to have been that of Maumont, has on great occasions been carried in triumph. There is still a Walker Club and a Murray Club. The humble tombs of the Protestant captains have been carefully sought out, repaired, and embellished. It is impossible not to respect the sentiment which indicates itself by these tokens. It is a sentiment which belongs to the higher and purer part of human nature, and which adds not a little to the strength of States. A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered by remote descendants.In order to keep up the recollection of these great triumphs of civil and religious liberty, a club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry was formed. Their first rule stated—That our club be established for the purpose of celebrating the anniversaries of the shutting of the gates and the relief of Derry, and thus hand- 537 ing down to posterity the memorable events of the years 1688 and 1689 connected with this city.And the second rule stated—That in the formation of this club, we are not actuated by factious or sectarian feeling, which we consider would be at variance with the cause of civil and religious liberty, the celebrations of its establishment being the special purpose for which our society was instituted.Calling the attention of the House to the latter resolution, he disclaimed on the part of the Apprentice Boys any factious or sectarian feeling in the way in which they celebrated the two anniversaries already mentioned. Unfortunately, of late years troubles had arisen in Londonderry. He would not weary the House with a chronicle of the different celebrations at Derry, but would confine himself to that of the 18th December, 1870, and the following ones of August and December, 1871. Some hon. Gentlemen in that House had been sanguine enough to suppose that when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government gave to Ireland the Act for disendowing and disestablishing the Protestant Church, and the Land Act which was intended to redress the grievances of the tenant-farmers, and when he had established perfect civil and religious equality in that country, they would hear no more of these matters of discord and disunion. But there were hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House who foretold that those Acts of Parliament would not bring peace; and, unfortunately, the prediction seemed to have been verified, and the very establishment of civil and religious equality seemed about to be followed by attempts to set up a religious and political ascendency. In October, 1870, an individual well known in Londonderry issued a proclamation "To the Catholics of Ulster," in the name of the "Londonderry Working Men's Defence Association." In that document, which was somewhat lengthy, occurred this passage—If the social pest is to be destroyed, the people must look to themselves as the means to that end.The social pest being the Derry celebrations, there appeared to have been a combination formed for the purpose of crushing the rights and liberties of the Apprentice Boys; and there seemed to have been, by means of some communication—whether by spiritual telegraph, 538 or otherwise—between those who formed this combination and Dublin Castle, an understanding come to that, if any sufficient attempt were made by those who desired to crush liberty to give the Government an excuse for interfering, the Government would come in and aid in the completion of that which an armed mob threatened to do. This meant that, in the name of liberty, they would crush liberty, by combining with those who were conspiring in Londonderry to deprive the Protestants of that city of their civil and religious rights. Now, what ought to have been the action of the Government? Surely it should have been to protect those who were infringing no statute, and proceeding in no spirit of hostility towards any class of their fellow-countrymen. If a burglar threatened to break into a house, the police did not arrest the householder; nor, if it had been understood that Her Majesty was to have been interfered with in the procession to St. Paul's, would she have been recommended to remain shut up all day in Buckingham Palace? What had the authorities done in the case of the Derry celebrations? Why, instead of interfering with the attempt of Mr. John O'Donnell to stop what was going on, they entered into negotiations with him. The proclamation that was issued was signed by eight Liberal magistrates, including Captain Keogh. But the Mayor and the Conservative magistrates were opposed to that proclamation, and would have nothing to do with it. In reference to this matter, Chief Justice Whiteside said—The jury had heard a great deal about the proclamation.… Captain Keogh, who stated that he drew it up, said, that on the Sunday he had seen Mr. O'Donnell, who was described as the leader of the Working Men's Association, who had issued their proclamation. Now, that was a little unusual. He had thought that the prerogative of issuing proclamations belonged to Her Majesty, and to her representatives in this country.…. The proclamation was to prevent the procession by force. Probably this Mr. O'Donnell was a good-natured, sensible man, who, like Mr. Rea, talked a good deal of nonsense in the country; but, if he really meant to take the law into his own hands, and really meant to march into the street, and do anything of that kind by firearms, and if he happened to be present now in Court, he had only to tell him as delicately as he could, that he had been on the very verge of high treason.So the authorities actually entered into confidential communications with Mr. O'Donnell, a gentleman who, according 539 to the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, had been on the verge of high treason, Captain Keogh having made a bargain with him that if the conspiracy in Londonderry did not put down the celebration, the Government would do it. There was a meeting of the magistrates as to what they would do previous to the 18th of December, 1870, and a proclamation was issued to suppress that which there was no law to put down. He would ask the Attorney General for Ireland whether the legal adviser at the Castle sanctioned that proclamation? He believed he was too good a lawyer to do so. Chief Justice Whiteside, referring to this matter, said—Now, if he was pinned into a corner, and forced to give an opinion on that—which he was not, and which, therefore, he would be very delicate about doing, seeing that so many learned gentlemen had already considered the matter, he could say that those gentlemen—that body of magistrates could no more make law by proclamation than they could build a house by proclamation. Lord Coke, one of the greatest legal authorities of all times, had—writing before the time that even Derry was built—laid that down. It was a custom in those days for the King, when any question arose, to call in his most eminent Judges for the purpose, cleverly enough contrived, of making them prejudge a case before it arose; and, on the occasion to which he referred, the Sovereign was in a perplexity as to the overgrowth of London, and as to the danger of being unable to feed the population. Accordingly, the Judges were consulted, and Lord Chief Justice Coke, being pressed for his opinion, as to whether the erection of further buildings in the city, or the use of wheat for the manufacture of starch, could be prohibited by his Majesty's proclamation, said—'The King cannot change any part of the common law, nor create any offence by proclamation which was not an offence before, without the sanction of Parliament.' It was, therefore, no answer to a complaint for false arrest that the person so complaining had been arrested under the authority of a proclamation, unless it were shown that he had offended against the law of the land.The question was—What were the men of Derry to do? Were they to obey an illegal proclamation, and give up a time-honoured celebration? It would have been a shame had they done so. But those who had attempted to carry out the programme were assaulted by the military and police, and illegally confined in the Corporation Hall. It might be said that, a riot being threatened, it was the duty of the Government to preserve the peace. But he (Mr. W. Johnston) would ask, whether, if a mob threatened to interfere with the deliberations of Parliament, would the Home Secretary imitate a celebrated individual, 540 and order the "taking away of that bauble" in deference to the populace, or would he do what he could to protect the House from intimidation? Surely, the Apprentice Boys of Derry, although not so august a body as that House, had an equal right to be protected in the enjoyment of their civil and religious liberties. Derry was a city which a very few military or police could make safe, and if only one-hundredth part of the money spent in endeavouring to stifle religious liberty there had been spent in protecting it, they would have heard nothing of the present Motion, as there would then have been no need for it. The illegal conduct of the Government in 1870, was repeated in August and December, 1871, on both of which occasions he (Mr. W. Johnston) was nearly ridden down by the police, as he was proceeding from the Corporation Hall to the Cathedral. Had it come to this, that when the Apprentice Boys of Derry were proceeding, on their thanksgiving day, to their old Cathedral, to offer up prayer and praise to God, they were to be ridden down by mounted police? The tyranny to which Derry had been subject was made more bitter by contrast with the conduct of the Government in respect of popular demonstrations in other districts. On the 20th of August, 1871, there had been held in various parts of Ireland grand celebrations in honour of the visit of the French deputation. But no interference on the part of the Government had disturbed the arrangements. So recently as Sunday last there was a gathering of 30,000 people in Cork, who, with bands playing and banners displayed, avowedly held what they called an Amnesty meeting in behalf of the Fenian prisoners. They did not hear of any interference with that demonstration—though, perhaps, hon. Members would agree that its object was somewhat more reprehensible than that which the Boys of Derry had at heart in their anniversary celebrations. The hon. Member read extracts from The Northern Whig of the 21st March—The truth is that with regard to this question, all parties have acted in the same spirit. They have permitted South of the Boyne what they have forcibly prevented in the North. We do not believe in the one-sided and geographical administration of the law. We shall not have peace and contentment until we have all party processions treated in the same manner. Either 541 permit all trusting to the operation of the common law for the maintenance of the public peace, or suppress all.…. There can be no doubt whatever that there was very much censurable in the proceedings of some of the officials in Derry, both last August and last December. It is, no doubt, the duty of the Executive to prevent a breach of the peace; but whether this be done by protecting the Apprentice Boys in their celebrations, or in forcibly preventing their processions, it seems that the occupation of the city of Derry by a military force twice a-year is imperative.…. The Government are, at all events, bound to act according to law. If they do not respect it, how can they expect it to be respected by the fanatical Apprentice Boys of Derry, or their equally fanatical opponents?This opinion of The Northern Whig was borne out by a still higher authority—by the Commissioners who reported on the Londonderry riots. What he ventured to ask the House to do on the occasion was to express their opinion on the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in having deviated from the principles of equality which they professed to set up in Ireland. As he had said, he did not bring an indictment against the Government that they had permitted displays of "green" in the Emerald Isle—he did not recede from the position he had taken up—that, as in Canada, so in Ireland, there should be equal terms for all—but he came to the House on behalf of a race intelligent, industrious, loyal and brave, from which had sprung some of the greatest men of modern times; and from that House for the Protestants of Ulster he asked justice, freedom, and fair play, in the name of Liberty, Order, and Law.
THE EARL OF YARMOUTH
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that the Protestants of the North of Ireland vied with the people of any other portion of Her Majesty's dominions in attachment to the Throne and loyalty to the Constitution, and it was with feelings of deep pain that they found themselves debarred from carrying out their demonstrations, when they read almost daily of the Fenians being permitted to flaunt their flag in Dublin, Cork, and other towns without molestation. Not only that, but an Act once passed ought to be fairly and impartially administered; but that was not the case in the subject under notice. The House had heard a great deal of the complaints of Protestants with regard to the conduct of the Government in reference to these celebrations; but he thought the complaints 542 were justified by the fact that other processions of a somewhat similar character were dealt with in an altogether different manner, and that they would never have arisen, if the Protestants of the North of Ireland had been permitted to continue their anniversaries which had been observed for the last 150 years. These processions had been declared to be legal by the highest judicial authority, and yet the Government had interfered to suppress them, in order to stifle if possible those grand and just feelings of pride which the Protestants had in the great deeds of their ancestors. He had heard of a procession formed, with banners, waiting at a gaol in Dublin to welcome the liberation of the man who had been convicted of writing seditious articles, and yet the Government did not interfere. In Cork, on St. Patrick's Day, there was a procession, with bands and banners, openly sympathizing with Fenianism, and yet it was not interfered with by the Government. The Government, indeed, had tried various ways of conciliating and satisfying Ireland; but if in future they would act with greater fairness and impartiality towards all parties, they would find the task of governing Ireland much easier than it had been of late years.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in prohibiting the Derry celebrations, while allowing party demonstrations in Dublin and Cork, evinced a spirit of partiality which, in the opinion of this House, is highly to be condemned,"—(Mr. William Johnston,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he should reply shortly to the Motion and speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Mr. Johnston). He felt sure that though some hon. Members seemed to think it necessary to celebrate the Londonderry anniversaries twice a-year in that House as well as in Londonderry, the House generally would wish that as little time as possible should be taken up with their discussion. The hon. Member for Belfast thought it necessary at the close of last Session to call the atten- 543 tion of the House to the conduct of the Government in prohibiting the demonstration made in August last, a fact which should have rendered it unnecessary to go over the whole ground again, instead of confining himself to the circumstances which occurred on the 18th of December last. He complained alike of the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast and of his speech, that they were misleading. The conduct of the Government might have been judicious, or it might have been the reverse; but he denied most emphatically that they were actuated by the motives of partiality attributed to them by the hon. Member. They had acted on every occasion in Londonderry, in Dublin, and in Cork, on what seemed to them to be plain principles of law. The noble Lord who last addressed the House seemed to think that in suppressing the Derry demonstrations the Government had acted under the Party Processions Act; but in that he was under a misapprehension. The Government might have acted under the Party Processions Act, if they had chosen to do so; but they simply carried out the common law of the land, which made it the absolute duty of the Government to prohibit and restrain any proceedings which were likely to lead to a breach of the peace. If they had not interfered with other demonstrations in Dublin, Cork, and other places in the South of Ireland, it was because they had no power to interfere with proceedings which were not in themselves illegal, and which they did not think likely to lead to breaches of the peace. The hon. Member for Belfast contended that the Government ought, instead of interfering with the procession, to have protected those who were legally engaged in it, and he (the Marquess of Hartington) agreed with the hon. Member in thinking that the conduct of Mr. O'Donnell and the Catholic Defence Association was more reprehensible than that of the Orangemen who assised in the celebration. [Mr. W. JOHNSTON: Not the Orangemen, but the 'Prentice Boys.] Just so: the conduct of Mr. O'Donnell in threatening to prevent the celebrations by force was in the opinion of the Government so far reprehensible, that they were sorry to find that there were not sufficient grounds for a successful prosecution. With regard to the question of the Government protecting the persons 544 taking part in the demonstration, he could only say that it was tried for some years, but with very partial success; and that the nature of such proceedings as were under consideration were to grow worse instead of better. He therefore need not dwell upon the absurdity and injustice of coming upon the taxpayers to pay twice a-year the cost of sending to Londonderry a large force of constabulary and soldiers for the purpose of seeing a number of extremely respectable gentlemen arrayed in scarlet and crimson scarves marching through the town. That, however, might not have been a sufficient reason for departing from the plan of affording protection to the processionists; but, as he said before, protection had been tried and failed. The week previous to the 18th December, 1871, the Government received a communication from Captain Keogh, a magistrate, enclosing a sworn declaration that if the demonstration was attempted to be held, a large party were determined to prevent it, and that in consequence it would be absolutely impossible to prevent a collision, accompanied with serious loss of life. The Government, therefore, had no alternative under these circumstances. If it was their duty to administer the law, and if the law was, as they believed it to be, to prevent certain proceedings from taking place that would inevitably lead to a breach of the peace—whether they liked it or not—it was their duty to put the law in force. The Government had never for a moment asserted or entertained the idea that the proclamation made anything illegal that was legal before its publication. It was issued, not for the purpose of declaring any particular thing illegal, but as a notice or caution. It was issued by the magistrates to caution the public against doing an illegal act. If, however, the hon. Member considered the proclamation was illegal, he could test that point in a court of law. It was true that damages were obtained against an official, but the reason of that decision was, that the gentleman in question carried out legal orders in an illegal manner. It did not cast any stigma on the character of that excellent officer, who was placed in a position of great difficulty, and who might have made a mistake; but the hon. Member opposite did not venture to test the legality of the Go- 545 vernment in originally prohibiting the procession. Any further information which might be desired with respect to the last three anniversaries his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland would be prepared to give. He had nothing more to say now, than to repeat what he said in August last, that however disagreeable it might be, and it was most distasteful and disagreeable, it was the fixed and firm determination of the Government not to allow these processions, or any processions or demonstrations to be held, which they were convinced would lead to a breach of the peace and loss of life; and on the other hand they were determined, however disagreeable or distasteful it might be, in a different sense, not to interfere with any demonstrations or processions elsewhere which, not illegal in themselves, were not calculated to lead to a breach of the peace; because they were not required by law to interfere with such demonstrations. With regard to the reception of the French deputation, a committee had been formed for the purpose of receiving certain foreigners, and there was nothing in the public announcement of the meeting which gave an illegal or even objectionable aspect to it. There was no information sworn that any breach of the peace was likely to occur, and as a matter of fact no breach of the peace did occur. The same observations applied to what occurred at Cork the other day. The demonstration might have been of—and very likely had, in some respects—a disloyal character, and one extremely offensive to peaceful and loyal people; but there was nothing absolutely illegal in the object for which the demonstration was convened, and there was no breach of the peace. Under these circumstances, he held the Government could not interfere to prevent it. He did not for a moment assert that this state of things was satisfactory. What was that state of things? In the North, where the Protestants were a large majority, they held to the observance of certain anniversaries. These proceedings were held to be offensive by their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen; and the Roman Catholic portion of the population, generally belonging to the lower orders, and being of a somewhat excitable, and he might say without offence, turbulent disposition, they were pre- 546 pared, and frequently attempted, to prevent these demonstrations, which they considered offensive, by force. Collisions were certain to occur; and the law to which he referred making it the duty of the Government to prevent a breach of the peace then came into operation. In the South, other demonstrations which the noble Lord described were also held. These demonstrations, as he had admitted, although not of an absolutely illegal character, were frequently very offensive to the peaceable and loyal inhabitants; but the peaceable and loyal inhabitants in these cases being generally of the higher classes, and not being disposed to resort to physical force, it could not be said that there was any danger of a breach of the peace, and therefore there was no excuse or justification for the Government interfering with them. He repeated, he did not consider that a satisfactory state of things; but, although they were there as legislators, the office he held was an Executive one, and it was the duty of the Government not to make the law, but to execute it. He believed he had correctly stated what was the law and what were the legal powers of the Government; but he would go farther. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who preceded him in office, proposed to repeal the Party Processions Act, and substitute for it an Act which dealt impartially with processions, either Orange, Green, seditious, or of whatever kind calculated to create animosity in Her Majesty's subjects. His right hon. Friend was induced, by very specious promises on both sides of the House, to introduce the measure, but the reception it met with from both sides when he did introduce it was not such as to induce him to persevere with it. It was difficult to frame any general enactment applying equally and impartially to all demonstrations of the character described, without also giving to the Government a power—which he believed the House would never sanction—to interfere with the innocent, harmless, legitimate means of discussion. If the present state of the law was unsatisfactory, the Government were not alone to blame. The Government had attempted to amend it but failed; and till Parliament devised a better law the Executive Government must be content to execute the law as it stood. There was one enactment on the 547 statute book which he admitted might have the appearance of partiality, although it had not been applied in the instances brought under the notice of the House. The Party Processions Act, whatever might have been the intentions of its framers, never had been applied except to the Orange and Protestant processions in the North; and it had been held by hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was not capable of being applied to any demonstrations, except those which occurred in the North. The Government had never, during their tenure of office, instituted one single prosecution under that Act. It had an injurious effect on the minds of the people—because respect ought to be paid to the law—when people were aware that an Act existed on the statute book which was constantly violated and never enforced. Well, then, believing that the power the Government possessed under the ordinary common law was sufficient, and that the maintenance of this Act with the semblance of partiality on the statute book had an injurious effect, the Government were prepared to propose to the House to repeal the Party Processions Act, and not to substitute any other enactment dealing with this particular class of demonstrations. Of course, that would not interfere with the extension of the summary jurisdiction of magistrates better to preserve the peace and deal with disturbances in their several localities; but the Government were determined to try, at least, the experiment of dispensing with this Act, and rely, as they had relied practically, on the enforcement of the common law. He did not know that there was any other point on which it was necessary for him to touch; but before concluding he could not help making an appeal of a very earnest character, although he was afraid it might be feeble and unregarded. He would appeal to both sides of the House, and especially to hon. Members opposite, most earnestly to accept this proposition of the Government in the spirit in which it was made—a spirit he would not say of conciliation, for he did not think they required that—but of justice and fairness. The hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this Motion had spoken in the name of men who well understood what truth and honour were; and he knew they would not doubt his truth and honour when he said from the bottom of 548 his heart, that the Government in dealing with these matters had no other aim, object, or intention than making absolutely no distinction on account of religious opinions. If hon. Members opposite believed that, they could not make it a point of honour to continue these demonstrations. Did they really believe that the demonstrations answered any good or useful purpose? Did they believe that the Protestant religion was really defended by them against the attacks which they professed to apprehend, and which, he believed, they did apprehend from the Ultramontane party? Did they believe for one moment that loyalty to the Grown was promoted in Ireland by continued defiance of, and opposition to, the servants of the Crown? If they did not believe these things he thought they would deserve well of their country if they would take the course which duty pointed out, and which they could now take without a shadow of suspicion resting upon them, and abandon these demonstrations as being productive of so much evil to Ireland. He must oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
said, his own experience of the people of Ireland led him to believe that what had fallen from the noble Lord the Chief Secretary in his concluding observations was worthy of the serious consideration of all parties in the country, and that if it were possible to persuade all parties to acquiesce in the suggestion made, that would conduce more to the good of Ireland than any repressive measure which could be adopted. What was the cause of these demonstrations which met with such diverse commendation? There were in Ireland two distinct parties, unequally divided in regard to numbers, the minority being in the North, and the majority in the South. Processions took place in the South which were never interfered with for reasons stated by the noble Lord, while those in the North, for reasons likewise given, were interfered with by the Government; and that difference of treatment gave the semblance of partiality on the part of the Government. For his part, he did not impute any partiality to the Government, though, he thought, the noble Lord had not sufficiently justified their conduct. No doubt the party in the North was a minority; but it was not a sufficient answer to say 549 that protection should not be given them, because it would be expensive to the taxpayers. That seemed to be the only defence the noble Lord had made of the conduct of the Government. It was one of the first duties of the Government to see that the law was administered with the strictest impartiality, without regard to political or religious differences. It was almost impossible to persuade the inhabitants of the North that impartiality was exercised, when they saw, whatever might be the cause, that the course pursued towards them was different from that pursued towards others. They did not appreciate that discrimination in the law which required it to be enforced only when there was likely to be a party collision. They saw that they were treated differently from others, and they rightly claimed that they should be protected, even if it were at the expense of the taxpayers, in displays similar to those which were permitted in the South. Whatever was the reason, it was a mistake that any class should have grounds for entertaining the idea that the Government was not doing strict justice as between it and another class. At all hazards the Government was bound to take care that equal justice was done as between all parties.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that if he, an Irish Catholic, had any influence with his co-religionists of Derry, and of Ulster generally, he would earnestly implore them to abstain altogether from any interference whatever with those demonstrations which were so grievous a cause of conflict and disunion—yet which were persevered in by those who ought to know better, and whose object, as good Irishmen and Christian men, ought rather be to elevate their country by the union of all its people for the common good. He must admit that he, as a Southern Irishman, residing in that part of the island in which no such demonstrations were to be witnessed, and where no such irritation existed as in the North, could take a much more philosophical view of these matters than could his fellow Catholics of Ulster, who were goaded and tortured by these recurring insults to their religious feelings. Still, men like himself might be in a better position to take an impartial view, and to suggest what would be more conducive to the objects they all had in view—the final termination of these 550 most ridiculous and injurious demonstrations—these constant provocations to ill-feeling and outrage. If his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Johnston) had followed in his footsteps through Canada, he might have there learned how the evil seed, sown by reckless hands in Ireland, had borne evil fruit in that free land, which had been made prosperous by the labour and industry alike of Celt and of Saxon, of Catholic and of Protestant. Their families in ordinary times dwelt together in kindliness and good feeling—their young people mingled in friendly intercourse; the elders felt and acted as good neighbours should feel and act. All went on well until one of those fatal anniversaries came about, bringing with it its evil memories of past strife. For many days before the day itself arrived, its influence began to operate upon these friends and neighbours. A shadow of something evil darkened the brow of the honest Protestant, and day by day that shadow deepened—the families instinctively retired the one from the other; the young people no longer mingled together in love and friendship or in sport; all good and kindly offices ceased—in fact, the alienation was complete. As the day was near at hand the Protestant shunned the Catholic, and the Catholic did not cross his neighbour's path; but should they happen to meet on the anniversary, collision was most probably the result—perhaps bloodshed. Such was the miserable consequence of this insane clinging to anniversaries and celebrations which had no justification in sense, or reason, or principle of any kind. For his own part he wished that his fellow-Catholics would not in any way interfere with these celebrations, and he believed that in a short time they would entirely cease. Reference had been made to certain demonstrations in the city of Cork, which he (Mr. Maguire) had the honour to represent; he trusted the House would permit him to refer to them. The one was that of last Sunday; the other that of August last, on the occasion of the reception of the French Deputation. As to the object of last Sunday's meeting—that of making a demonstration in favour of the pardon of the remaining Fenian prisoners—he denied that that was a disloyal demonstration, or one in any way calculated to promote hatred between class and class of Irishmen. He (Mr. 551 Maguire) stood there a Catholic Member of that House, openly proclaiming his loyalty to the Throne and Constitution, and he there declared his belief that those men ought to be liberated—that the clemency that had been shown to others should be extended to them. Then if he (Mr. Maguire) might do this without disparagement to his loyalty, he asked why might not the working classes and other classes of his constituency assemble together with the same object and motive, and to advocate the same wise policy? They were then told that the meeting was a disloyal meeting, because certain words had been used. By whom? Perhaps by some irresponsible person on the skirts of the crowd; but he (Mr. Maguire) had read the report, and could declare that nothing had been said or done that could in any way bring the meeting within the definition of a seditious or dangerous meeting. He saw, in fact, that some expressions, unfriendly to Protestants, had been immediately cried down. Then as to the reception of the Trench deputation at Cork last August. He (Mr. Maguire) was not then in his city, being attending his duties in Parliament; but he knew from excellent authority—from a gentleman holding the same opinions as the hon. Member opposite—that the whole proceedings of the reception were in the highest degree creditable—that nothing could exceed the order, the regularity, and the decorum that prevailed—that it was not only in every way successful, but that it was really beautiful as a spectacle. There were many and obvious reasons why the French deputation should have been well received in Ireland. The friendship of the two countries was historical. The two nations were bound by the ties of a common faith; the French had received under their banner, and had often promoted to the highest ranks, thousands of gallant Irish exiles; she had afforded asylum to Irish priests, when English laws did not permit them to exist in their own country, and educated her children, when to educate a Catholic child was penal; and, for more immediate interests, there was the all-pervading sympathy of Ireland with Prance in her sore distress and agony—a sympathy enlarged to enthusiasm by the tone of exultation adopted by a portion of the English Press at the triumph of Ger- 552 many and the humiliation of the French. He (Mr. Maguire) could declare that there was nothing in the addresses presented to the deputation inconsistent with loyalty, and there was not a word in the answer to these addresses inconsistent with the duty and obligations of those who in their persons represented a friendly ally. The whole thing was an expression of gratitude on the one hand for services eagerly rendered, and on the other, of sympathy for a nation that was bearing her tremendous reverses with a courage and fortitude so marvellous as to astound the world, and exhibit the character of her people in a light more glorious than any which success could impart. He had, he thought, shown that the meetings referred to were not in any way illegal, not of a nature to justify the interference of the Government, and bearing no analogy whatever to that demonstration against which it was the duty of the Government—as it would have been of every other Government—to act. And what could the Government have done in the case of Derry other than they did? They did just what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire would have done, must have done, in their place—and possibly he might be there at no distant day. If there be danger of collision and bloodshed, the authorities must interfere and prevent the consequences of wanton folly on the one hand, and keen exasperation on the other. But he would earnestly appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. Johnston), and ask him why should he not himself give the example of abandoning demonstrations that by mere lapse of time had lost their significance, and that brought his country into discredit—nay, excited towards her people the humiliating astonishment and pity of the stranger or the enemy? Could it be for the purpose of irritating their Catholic neighbours, that honest men—men of good position, of good intelligence, and of good feeling in all other matters—tricked themselves in scarves, and endured the strains of inharmonious music? Was it for this small gratification they risked the occurrence of scenes unworthy of a Christian people and a civilized country? But if his hon. Friend, and those who acted with him, were still enamoured of these meaningless anniversaries and dangerous demon- 553 strations—these celebrations of events which they might all relegate to the student of history and the antiquarian—for they in this living age had no practical concern with them—if he and they would not be wise, and must have their annual or half-yearly show, he would earnestly counsel his Catholic brethren neither to molest nor interfere with them in any way. He had faith in the honesty and good sense of his hon. Friend, and in the influence of time; and he believed the day would come when he, and men like him, would lay aside whatever interfered with the union of his countrymen of all creeds and classes. In the meantime he would implore his co-religionists—nay, he would go down on his knees to pray them to abstain from all future interference with their Protestant neighbours in Derry and elsewhere. For if they would only do this, there might ere long be witnessed a more glorious spectacle than any witnessed, at least in modern times, in that city—the honest but now misguided men of Derry, headed by the hon. Member for Belfast, their breasts decorated, or un-decorated, with sashes and emblems, marching in procession to their Cathedral, there to return solemn thanks to God for having inspired them with wisdom to abandon for ever those annual causes of pain and suffering to their Catholic neighbours, whom they ought to honour and respect, and with whom they were bound to live in charity and in peace.
§ VISCOUNT CRICHTON
said, there was one part of the speech of his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland to which he had listened with much satisfaction. He referred to the announcement of the intention of the Government to repeal the Party Processions Act, which he, for one, had always regarded as a most one-sided and unfair piece of legislation. As he heard the speech of his noble Friend, he could not, he might add, help thinking of the change which must have come over his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland since, three years ago, he spoke in that House on the subject. He then said it would be impossible without that Act to preserve the peace in the North of Ireland on the occasion of the Orange anniversaries, and that the common law was totally insufficient for that purpose. Now, however, acting, he presumed, 554 under his advice, the Government had not only announced their intention of repealing that Act, but had said that they intended for the future to trust to the common law to enable them to deal with these celebrations. Allusion had been made to the visit of the French deputation to Ireland last year, and the reception they met with. He was sure that no one would find fault with the people of Ireland expressing sympathy with a gallant nation in her misfortune; but he was afraid that the demonstrations which then took place were intended more to express animosity against England than sympathy with France. It could not be denied that the plain and simple people of the North of Ireland smarted under the feeling that they were hardly dealt with, when they found the celebration of an anniversary which was dear to them, interfered with by the police, and they themselves very often roughly handled; while in the South of Ireland processions were permitted to march with banners and sashes, and other emblems were allowed to be worn; as long as such difference of treatment was observed in the two cases disorder must inevitably ensue. Holding the opinions which he did on the question, he should gladly support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that he felt much sympathy with the citizens of Derry in the maintenance of the privilege of celebrating the event which had conferred glory on their city, and he should therefore vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Belfast. Derry had rejoiced for many years in celebrating their victory, not, however, for religion, but for liberty. The victory was against a Monarch who, the inhabitants of Derry thought, was undermining the liberty of all his subjects. No matter whether they were Catholics or Protestants, they equally imagined that the Monarch was seeking to establish absolute monarchy. Absolute monarchy would never be permitted in this country, and, he believed, would not be sought for so long as the House of Hanover existed. The grand stand made in Ireland was certainly made in a Protestant city, but that did not make it simply a Protestant triumph. The Siege of Derry broke the power of James II.; but this did not make it a religious war. The Apprentice Boys of Derry wished to preserve the 555 glorious memory. He regretted that the Roman Catholics, who now were opposed to them, did not feel it consistent with their duty to join with them as they had done in former times. The hon. Member for Belfast talked of the proclamation as a proclamation simply of the Liberal magistrates of Derry. He said the Conservative magistrates of Derry would not join them, thereby—he (Sir Hervey Bruce) was sure, unintentionally—appearing to infer that the Conservative magistrates were unwilling to do their duty. He would show them whether such was the case. Under a new Act of Parliament, passed in the last Session, or the Session before the last, persons injured in a riot could obtain redress by going before the grand jury. A young and thoughtless boy—Orange—chose to go into a part of the country where he was sure to provoke animosity with a bit of ribbon in his coat; he was savagely and cruelly beaten, and left almost for dead. The physician who attended him told the grand jury that his life was in danger for several days. The grand jury was assembled under the orders of the sheriff, and consisted, with one exception, of those who had served on juries before. He happened to be the foreman of the grand jury before whom the case came, and they felt it to be their duty to give the young man something for the dreadful wounds he received; but they told him at the same time that he would in all probability have received a much larger compensation if he had not thrust himself into a hostile district of the country with an orange and blue ribbon in his coat. The case subsequently came before Judge Lawson, who so far concurred in the opinions of the grand jury that he added the cost of the traverse to the sum awarded. He quoted that case to show that the Conservative magistrates of Derry did not flinch from the performance of their duty. And this grand jury was impanelled by a sheriff not holding Conservative opinions; but he had confidence in the integrity and honesty of purpose of those whom former sheriffs had called, as they placed confidence in him that he would not allow political opinions to sway him in the discharge of his duty. Was it, he asked, to be permitted that the glorious testimonial raised to Walker, and which the men of Derry venerated, was to be occupied by an unwilling police, for the 556 purpose of preventing the loyal citizens from honouring that memorial of olden times? Was it to be tolerated that the Town Hall of Derry on those great anniversaries should in the same way be held by the police, to the exclusion of the loyal inhabitants; and that the 'Prentice Boys should be trodden down on their way to the Cathedral by the myrmidons of a Government, who professed to be liberal, and to have sent "messages of peace" to Ireland? The hon. Member opposite spoke much about the flags that were carried in processions in Ireland. The orange flag meant attachment to the House of Hanover; but the green flag, which was once the glorious flag of ancient days, he was sorry to say now received an interpretation which he for one rejected—an interpretation not, perhaps, of disloyalty, but a want of friendship to the English Government. He did not like the exhibition of either of those flags. It appeared to him that a man might be as good a loyalist to the House of Hanover or as great a rebel to British authority without using the one or the other. For the Government uniformly to break the law in regard to Derry and one section of Her Majesty's subjects, while they took no notice of what occurred in other parts of the country, was a course by no means likely to produce that harmony and goodwill which the Prime Minister said would be the result of the two measures he had recently passed—the one to despoil the ancient Church of the kingdom, the other to transfer—as stated, he believed, by the hon. Member for Kilkenny—£70,000,000 of property from the landlords of Ireland to their tenantry. What had been the results of those "messages of peace?" Why, that hon. Members, avowedly hostile to English rule, and desirous of separating this country from Ireland, had been returned to that House. He cordially supported the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, although he did not entirely agree with all the words by which he had supported it.
I would have preferred not to have been obliged to speak, but I must make an explanation, or my vote might be misunderstood; and I am called upon as in some measure representing the defenders of Derry, connected as I am with them by inheriting their religious faith—for five-sixths of them 557 were Presbyterians—and adhering to their political principles. That faith and those principles I am not ashamed to avow, for that struggle was for liberty of conscience and freedom of worship for all, and not for the ascendancy of any one sect or party. The great importance of the stand made at Derry has been alluded to. Dr. Reid, the historian, after giving an account of the shutting of the gates, adds—"On this sudden and apparently unimportant movement the fate of the Three Kingdoms ultimately depended." The commemoration of this event was for a time joined in by all the inhabitants of the city, and none felt aggrieved. Unfortunately, an ascendancy party, Protestant in name only, by enforcing the Test and Corporation Act of a previous reign, had driven from office and influence many of those to whom the country was so much indebted. From that time the commemoration became more and more identified with party triumph and religious and political ascendancy of principles; the very reverse of those which had animated the defenders of the city. The celebration has now fallen into the hands of a section, of whom I will say no more than to mention one of their last exploits—no less an achievement than bombarding the Corporation Hall with stones and brickbats, while my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland was addressing a meeting of his constituents inside. But although I do not compliment those who now desire to appear as the successors of the 'Prentice Boys of old, I cannot but speak with respect of the character and honesty of motive of a large number who are associated or sympathize with what is known as the Orange body—a great proportion of whom are my coreligionists. Descended from those who sought in Ulster an asylum from persecution elsewhere, they have always been ready, at any peril, to come forward as the defenders of what they were told was the cause of civil and religious liberty. These men, encouraged one day to make demonstrations, cannot understand—especially when those from whom they derived their inspiration are in office—why they are the next day to be put under pains and penalties for continuing the course which has helped their quondam friends into power. They felt keenly when the late Lord Derby 558 pronounced processions in the South to be not illegal, while he put down processions in the North. This, I believe, was due to a defect in the law, as stated by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary; but still they had a reasonable cause of complaint in the partial operations of the Party Processions Act, making processions in the North penal, when more objectionable processions were permitted in the South. The present Government prepared a measure which would have brought all under the same rule; but Parliament did not accept it. I must congratulate the House on the announcement made this evening by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, that Government has determined on repealing the Party Processions Act. I may now mention that I advised them to adopt this course at the time the Irish Church Bill was passed. As to the course pursued by Government with regard to the Derry celebrations, it has been judicially decided that an officer overstepped the bounds of the law. But the question now before us is the conduct of the Government, not of their subordinates. They certainly cannot be accused of having been the slaves of any one policy; for they have tried no less than four different methods of averting disturbance, with varying success. In December, 1869, they allowed both parties to hold a procession. In August, 1870, they allowed the 'Prentice Boys to march, and prevented the Catholics from marching. In December, 1870, they acted on a proclamation by the local magistrates, and prevented both parties from marching. In August, 1871, and in December, 1871, the central authority, vested in the Lord Lieutenant, was called into force, and both parties were prevented from marching. What other course remains to be tried? My hon. Friend and Colleague would, if I understand him aright, allow every section and party alike to have their pro cessions without interference. It may be that if all were allowed to do as they pleased, and not restrained by military or police, the possible consequences of collision would make them avoid causes of irritation towards each other. But this would be an experiment more hazardous than any Executive charged with keeping the peace of the country would be justified in trying. I must here venture to express my hope, in 559 which I trust all true Protestants will join, that the day is approaching when all of their own accord will feel that it would be more consistent with the principles of the religion which they profess, to refrain from demonstrations which may have any appearance of triumph, or cause needless offence. And, Sir, while I would avoid any reflection on those who honestly adopt means calculated, in their opinion, to uphold the cause of religion, I must say that those who play upon the passions and prejudices of men as a mere political game—who cry out that Protestantism is in danger, when their real object is place, power, and influence for a favourite section—are unworthy of the cause they profess to serve. I am glad that men are beginning to judge of parties by acts rather than words. They—the Presbyterians—have observed that a very different principle was applied to the settlement of the claims of the favourite section of the Protestants in that place when the dominant party had everything their own way, from that conceded to those whose influence had contributed to give them power. Those are not true friends of their country who, upon a false issue, desire to keep up a spirit of alienation between Irishmen, and drive them into hostile camps, continuing in a state of chronic civil war, and not only retarding the progress of Ireland, but even endangering the peace and safety of the Empire.
§ MR. VANCE
said, that the Party Processions Act, which it was now intended to repeal, had been for a considerable time a dead letter, having been infringed in all quarters without any attempt being made to put it in force; the doing away with it, therefore, was a matter of very small importance. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary said the Act had been directed exclusively against one party, and that was a reason in fairness for its abolition. But why had it been directed against one party? Because the Government, of which the noble Lord was a Member, and preceding Liberal Governments generally, instead of carrying out the Act in an impartial manner, enforced it against the Protestant party alone, and studiously abstained from enforcing it against the other. In 1850 Lord Clarendon said the Act was to put an end to all processions; but after the passing of this Act, in 560 the city of Dublin four or five processions of a seditious and most objectionable character were allowed to traverse the streets with banners, flags, and all the paraphernalia which the Act prohibited; and one of those processions, he believed, was the origin of the Fenian conspiracy. That was on the occasion of the funeral of M'Manus. In 1862 similar proceedings disgraced the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Roman Catholic University, and these were followed by treasonable displays on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the O'Connell monument, and the procession in honour of the so-called "Manchester Martyrs." Lord Abercorn had attempted to dispense justice equally to all in regard to these party demonstrations, no matter to which party the offenders belonged; but the present Chief Secretary had promised only to apply the common law; and his reading of the common law seemed to be that demonstrations might be made, no matter how treasonable their character, unless affidavits were made that a breach of the peace was threatened. The minority in Dublin and Cork declined to interfere with the demonstrations of the opposite party for fear of causing a breach of the peace; but the Roman Catholic minority in Derry were permitted unchecked to override the majority of loyal men and interfere with the celebration of the achievements of their forefathers. There was another great objection to those processions—namely, that they were usually held on Sundays, to the serious annoyance and dissatisfaction of the loyal inhabitants of the district. He should support the Motion most cordially as a Vote of Censure on the Government.
§ MR. BRADY
said, that the effect of bringing forward the Motion could only be to revive the passionate feelings of all parties in Ireland, and for that reason he deeply deplored its introduction. He had hoped that they had begun to forgive and forget; but so long as such Motions as these were made, so long would be engendered in the Irish people the worst and most deplorable strife. Now, he knew well enough the district in which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) was born, and he remembered well enough the orgies of his youth—["Oh, oh!"]—he meant the orgies committed in his youth by the opponents of 561 the hon. Gentleman. The people of Ireland had a right to be treated with justice, and so long as this principle was not acted upon they would he dissatisfied. He had listened with great satisfaction to the conciliatory speech of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he was convinced that if influential Conservatives could dissuade their followers from introducing these discussions, they would not only be serving their party, but would be promoting the peace, happiness, and contentment of Ireland. In his opinion a Motion of that kind should never have been brought forward in the House.
LORD CLAUD JOHN HAMILTON
recalled the statement of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, that the Government had been actuated by the best and purest motives in dealing with this matter. He had no doubt that the noble Lord was so actuated, for no hon. Member was more distinguished than he for straightforwardness and integrity; but, unfortunately, he was not the whole Government, and in dealing with the Government it was necessary to look at their acts rather than their motives. It was owing to the Church policy of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the 'Prentice Boys of Derry, hitherto a non-political body, had allied themselves with the Conservative party. When, in 1868, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland came down to Derry, of which he (Lord Claud John Hamilton) was then the sitting Member, the right hon. and learned Gentleman beat him by a large majority. He confessed that he must have been beaten; but he wished to point out how it was that the large majority by which he lost his election was obtained. In furtherance of the canvass of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, an association called the Working Men's Defence Liberal Association was formed, the object of which was to collect together on the day of the election, with the purpose of intimidating the opponents of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, a number of the very wildest fellows to be found in Derry. A large subscription was made by the Liberal party of Derry, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself contributed. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND: No!] He was only sorry that the right hon. and 562 learned Gentleman had not paid his subscription, and he trusted that when he did he would add interest in consideration for the delay. On the day of the election 5,000 men, brought into the city from the surrounding country, full of religious fervour and primed with a sufficient modicum of whiskey, succeeded in establishing in the city a reign of terror, and the large majority by which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had obtained his election was directly owing to the operations of this Working Men's Defence Liberal Association. Having once tasted the sweets of victory, the association determined to go a step further, and the 'Prentice Boys of Derry having incurred their displeasure by voting with the Conservatives at that election, they turned their attention to them, and determined to suppress their well-known celebrations. In 1869 they issued a proclamation, signed by their president, a Mr. O'Donnell, a small publican of the town, of rather intolerant and wild habits, announcing their intention of putting down these celebrations by force. On the 18th of December, 1869, however, the Irish Executive sent down a very large body of troops and police to protect the 'Prentice Boys from violence, and the consequence was that everything passed off quietly. The association were not satisfied with this state of things, and in the autumn of 1870 they came to the conclusion that if the Government would not put the celebration down, they would themselves do it at all hazards. Thereupon the Government sent down a resident magistrate, Captain Keogh, brother of the eminent Judge of that name, and the president of this association was put in direct communication with him. Captain Keogh has stated in his evidence before the Commission, that Mr. O'Donnell was very angry because the Government had done nothing in the previous year to put down the celebration, and Captain Keogh says that, to please him, he promised that the same thing should not occur again. He accordingly communicated with the Law Adviser of the Crown at Dublin, and that mysterious individual drew up a proclamation prohibiting the procession, which he sent down to Derry with instructions that it should be signed by the Mayor and the magistrates before being published. A meeting of the magistrates was called under the presidency 563 of the Mayor, but that gentleman objected in toto to the magistrates adopting the proclamation, stating as his reason that he doubted its legality. The whole of the Conservative magistrates agreed with him, and refused to sign the proclamation, and eventually the document was signed by seven Liberal magistrates and by Captain Keogh, on behalf of the Government, and was posted throughout Derry. The 'Prentice Boys, having taken the advice of counsel, refused to obey the injunction, and the Government then threw into the city a force of from 1,000 to 1,200 troops, who held the place as if it were in a state of siege. What was the object of the Government in bringing together so large a force of soldiery? A mere handful of men could have held the city, but the Government brought in a small army. And what for? The mission of Captain Keogh was not only to prevent the procession, but to get possession of the effigy of a certain Colonel Lundy, who proved a traitor to the people of Derry in the time of their siege—and which effigy it was the great object of the 'Prentice Boys to burn publicly, in token of the horror and detestation in which they regarded his crime. The House would hardly believe what a state of discomfort and inconvenience the citizens of Derry were thrown into in the endeavour of the Government to get possession of this effigy. The constabulary went in the middle of the night to the rooms of the 'Prentice Boys in search of the effigy, the gas was put out, and the brave policemen vanished. Then, under Captain Keogh's directions, they went with a warrant to the house of the Bishop of Derry, under the impression that this ridiculous effigy was concealed there. These persons were met by the Bishop's wife, to whom they stated, in reply to a question, that they believed a statue of Colonel Lundy was concealed in the house. She assured them that such was not the case, and placed the whole of her children's dolls—these being the nearest approach in the house to the article of which they were in search—at their disposal. Satisfied with the assurance which the lady had given them, the constabulary departed; but on the same evening they searched, among other places, the house of a respectable citizen in Derry, in pursuit of a foolish effigy, not unlike the Guy Fawkes of former 564 days. On the afternoon of the 19th of December the 'Prentice Boys held a meeting in the Corporation Hall, for the hire of which they had paid, and suddenly a figure of Colonel Lundy, which had been conveyed into the building, was seen hanging from the ceiling. The result of this was, that the building was surrounded by troops, and at the end of an hour and a-half the 'Prentice Boys were arrested without warrant, on behalf of the Government. In consequence of these arrests actions were brought against the officials of the Government; and in those cases which were not compromised, verdicts were returned in favour of the persons who had been illegally taken into custody. At one of the trials, the Lord Chief Justice, who presided, expressed an opinion that the conduct of Colonel Hillyer, in making the arrests, had been based upon an illegal document, and commented in the strongest terms upon the fact that the Government of the day had superseded the authority of a mayor in his own borough. He should like to know how such conduct would have been received in an English borough? The conduct of the Government in Derry was, in his opinion, due to a desire to keep on good terms with the party in the city which returned the Attorney General at the head of the poll. It was impossible to disconnect the action of the Government in the North of Ireland since 1868 from the political events which occurred at that time. There was no single occasion in which the Government had not behaved with the greatest partiality towards the Roman Catholics and Liberals of Derry. It was very charitable on the part of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) to give paternal advice to the North of Ireland to discontinue these celebrations; but he would remind the hon. Member that charity began at home. The Government put down a demonstration in Derry which was of a loyal character—for he could not regard as disloyal the burning of the effigy of a man who proved disloyal to the party defending the city against the enemies of the House of Hanover, but on the same day allowed to be held in Cork a demonstration in honour of the liberation of a batch of Fenian prisoners, at which demonstration speeches of the most bitter, seditious, and disloyal character were de- 565 livered. The feelings of the Protestants in the South were not less sensitive than those of the Catholics in the North, yet the Government allowed the former to be outraged while they protected the latter from assault. The reason of this was that the Government feared the people of the South. They were afraid of the vote by means of which priests sent hon. Members to their side of the House. ["Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] It was very easy to say "No;" but the Petition now in progress in reference to the recent election in Galway would soon show hon. Members how the Representatives of the South of Ireland were returned to Parliament. On the 10th of October, 1869, an immense amnesty meeting was held in Dublin without interference by the Government; and in the same month similar meetings were held without Government interference in Nenagh and Newry, although Protestants were insulted on their way to church, and in one case a clergyman was assaulted It was all very well to talk about the purity of the motives which actuated the Government, but it was absurd to say that the motives of an Executive which prevented the Derry celebration, but permitted proceedings such as occurred at Newry, were either honourable or straightforward. The noble Marquess said the Government only put down demonstrations likely to produce breaches of the peace; but, to his thinking, the duty of the Government was, in cases were the demonstrations were in themselves loyal, to protect the persons desiring to take part in them, or to forbid them altogether irrespective of creed or party. Perhaps, the best course to be adopted for the future prosperity and happiness of Ireland would be to put down all processions whatsoever. He knew that opinion was not held in the North of Ireland; but as the country was advancing in civilization and education, he thought the time had come when these celebrations might be observed with perfect propriety and great éclat in buildings specially reserved for the purpose. He was glad to hear the noble Marquess say that the Government would consent to repeal the Party Processsions Act; but he hoped that in future the Government in dealing with these celebrations would act with the strictest impartiality—that they would 566 either allow these processions in their entirety, or that if they thought of putting down processions in the North, they would also put them down in the South. The people of Ireland were a generous and warm-hearted people, but they were also a very excitable people, and on some matters were not very wise. They were rather apt to cling to an idea, such as the idea of Home Rule. The manner in which Home Rule had grown in some parts of Ireland was extraordinary. Home Rule was but an idea some years ago; it was now, no doubt, a great fact. Let not the Government, whoever they might be, treat the Protestants of Ireland in such a way that they would get the idea that they were treated in a partial and unfriendly manner. If Home Rule were to go on extending as it had done in some places, it would soon reach the Province of Ulster, and if the Protestants of Ireland got into their heads the impression that Her Majesty's Government were not dealing in a friendly and impartial manner towards them, it would not be long before they joined that movement. He trusted they would never join that movement; but considering the wrongs they had suffered during the preceding two years, and the great wrong which they believed the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government was capable of doing them in the matter of education, he could only tell Her Majesty's Government, that if a policy of even-handed justice and strict impartiality were not shown to them, the day might come when good government in Ireland would become an impossibility, and the existence of the Government in this country in connection with the sister island would become intolerable.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
said, it was quite time the House should be brought back from sentiment to the practical issue under discussion. There was now under consideration a Motion to censure the Government on a charge of fancied partiality. Whatever opinions might be held on the general question, a Government that was responsible for administering the affairs of a country like Ireland ought not to be censured by the House of Commons without having before it all the facts, and without giving the case a fair and calm discussion. It 567 might be said that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland might be free from blame in this matter, and yet that blame should be attached to some other person. The noble Lord who had just sat down said he wished the Chief Secretary for Ireland were the only Member of the Government. If he were, perhaps the Government, being less numerous, might be more easily dealt with; but his noble Friend the Chief Secretary would not for one moment assert that he did not share the same responsibility which every Member of the Government shared with respect to its Irish policy. If the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland was free from blame in this case, the only other person that was blameable was the Lord Lieutenant. Again, it might be said that not the Lord Lieutenant, but the Attorney General was to be blamed. It should be borne in mind that he (Mr. Dowse) had not always been Attorney General; but he was willing to take his share of responsibility with the other Members of the Government. This was a Vote of Censure upon the Government as a whole. Now, the Government had great difficulty in dealing with a question of this kind. It was perfectly open to any hon. Member of Parliament, like his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, to bring forward a Motion of this nature, and to quote in support of it such extracts from newspaper articles as he chose. The Government were not aware that his hon. Friend would quote scraps from The Northern Whig and from a Charge of Chief Justice Whiteside. It was difficult for any person to meet such a case with any sort of accuracy; but he wished it to be understood that he would meet it, and he hoped that in doing so he would not use a single observation that would give pain to anyone or say anything that he could not substantiate. The hon. Member for Belfast gave Notice a month ago that he would that day month call the attention of the House to the conduct of the Government with respect to the Derry celebrations and move a Resolution. That Resolution was put on the Paper. In a short time it assumed another form. The hon. Gentleman thought it was not sufficient to call attention to the conduct of the Government with respect to the Derry celebrations. He wished to contrast the conduct of the Government with respect 568 to the Derry celebrations with their conduct in allowing demonstrations in Dublin and Cork in favour of the French. Well, the Government thought that would form the Resolution they would have to meet; but the day before yesterday, upon looking at the Paper, it was found that the Resolution had been again changed. The Government were placed in a difficulty when they had to meet charges made at random and Resolutions altered to meet the exigencies of the case from day to day. He understood his noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say that the Government suppressed the Derry celebrations because they were in their judgment illegal, and might lead to riot and a breach of the peace. His noble Friend stated that the Government did not interfere with other celebrations or demonstrations in various parts of Ireland because they were not advised they were illegal, though very much to be deplored. That he (Mr. Dowse) said was the justification of the Government on the present occasion, and he thought he should show that from the words used by a distinguished statesman, whose name should never be mentioned in Parliament without the respect which was due to the late Earl of Derby. With regard to the mock funeral celebration that occurred in 1867, the late Earl of Derby said he was advised they were not illegal. The defence of the then Government was, that they had acted honestly and had not favoured one class more than another; and in respect to that point, he was glad to receive from his right hon. Friend the former Chief Secretary for Ireland (Colonel Wilson-Patten), the assurance that however he might find fault with the conduct of the Government, he believed they had acted honestly in the matter. Their desire was to carry out the law fairly, and therefore it was impossible to pass a Vote of Censure on them. Would hon. Members consider the difficult position of any Government called upon to govern Ireland? [Laughter.] He could assure hon. Members that he, for one, did not intend to say a single word against his native country; he had always stood up for her; but it was difficult to govern a country which was so divided as Ireland was into various sections and various parties, each making claims at right angles to the other. The Government was necessarily a party Government, notwithstanding that the Lord 569 Lieutenant and Chief Secretary were fully convinced that the only way of governing Ireland properly, with a view to the rights of the people, was to govern it fairly and impartially. He believed that was the idea Government had taken up; on the whole, it was better to do what was right than what was wrong, if it was only for this—that it required a little ingenuity to act wrong and to be able to explain and defend it afterwards. It was a mistake to suppose that these Derry celebrations were to be considered with reference to the Siege of Derry or the Battle of the Boyne. There was no Roman Catholic of education and intelligence in Ireland who did not value the great results achieved by the siege; but what they said was that the only result now growing from the celebration of the events of the civil war was the perpetuation of irritation and ill-feeling in the minds of their fellow-countrymen. They had given up celebrating the Battle of Waterloo in order not to give offence to their French neighbours. Well, if they had done that for their French neighbours, how much more ought they to give up celebrating the anniversaries of a civil war 200 years after it ended, that they might not offend the susceptibilities of their own fellow-countrymen? It was a great mistake to say that this commemoration of the opening and shutting of the gates of Derry had only recently given offence to the Roman Catholics, or that he, unhappy man, was the cause. He regretted very much that his noble Friend (Lord Claud John Hamilton) had brought his (Mr. Dowse's) name forward so prominently in connection with this subject, being as inaccurate in that as when he said that the House of Hanover had had its rights defended at the siege of Derry. He held in his hands the Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland presented to Parliament in 1836, in which it was stated that the celebration of these anniversaries was accompanied by circumstances and associations which roused the passions of the two classes into which society in Ireland was divided into ferocious excitement, often leading to bloodshed and loss of life. That was in 1836, and certainly he was not a candidate for Parliament then. The Report went on to state that one of the circumstances which tended greatly to aggravate the sense of annoy- 570 ance felt by the Roman Catholics was, that the persons who took part in the celebration were not the citizens of Derry alone, but persons supposed to belong to the Orange party, who crowded to the city not only from the county of Derry, but from the counties of Donegal and Tyrone, thus giving it the appearance of a rally of that party. The Report went on to state that the effect of these celebrations was to interrupt industry, alarm families, embitter political and religious feuds, produce periodical breaches of the peace, and leave as their consequences renewed and continual disturbance. After that Report, he thought we should hear nothing more of the Roman Catholic Bishop who walked in the procession 100 years ago, and had been walking in it ever since. He came now to the recent election of Derry. It had been said that all the parties in Derry were once agreed, but that he was the cause of all the disturbance. Well, he might have been the cause in the same way that Tenterden Steeple was the cause of Goodwin Sands, but in no nearer way than that. He held in his hand the Report of the Commissioners sent to inquire into the outrages in Derry, on the occasion of Prince Arthur's visit, when a deplorable riot took place and two men were shot. The Report, referring to the election of 1868, stated that Parliament was then on the eve of dissolution, and that Lord Claud John Hamilton and Mr. Dowse were seeking the representation of the city in anticipation of the General Election; that Mr. Dowse, for the purpose of expounding his political principles, and securing the general support of his party, decided on delivering a lecture in the Corporation Hall; and that as it was known that the hall would be attacked some 50 or 60 unarmed workmen were introduced into it by way of security. [Laughter.] Well, he believed that if this precaution had not been taken, he would not now be addressing the House. The Report went on to state that a body of young men, having attacked the Hall, broke into it and drew their bludgeons, the city police giving way before them; but that the men in the building extemporized weapons by breaking up the balusters, with which they defended themselves against their assailants. A number of bludgeons belonging to the attacking party was seized by the police—ugly three-cornered 571 instruments of warfare—some of which were described in the Report as murderous weapons. As it was, a great riot ensued, and the military were called out. [Mr. DISRAELI: Was the lecture delivered?] Yes, it was; and the most telling part of it related to the right hon. Gentleman's own policy. His noble Friend, moreover, had said that the Catholic Defence Association had been organized for his (Mr. Dowse's) election. He never heard of that before, and he did not believe it. All he knew was this—that the noble Lord's friends presented a Petition against his (Mr. Dowse's) return, and brought every possible charge against him, including that of intimidation, every one of which they failed to prove, and that they had to pay the costs. Having finished that portion of his noble Friend's attack, he would now return to the subject of the Motion—the Derry celebration. In the year 1870, preparations were made to celebrate this anniversary, which was a regular Irish one, for it occurred twice in the year—namely, in December and August. That was inconvenient, for no sooner was one over than preparations for the next began. The state of feeling grew so bad that the Government found that if they stood passive there would be a regular internecine contest, and Derry would become a disgrace to the civilized world. They therefore came to the conclusion that they must step in and enforce the law. Precautions were taken, and this celebration passed without disturbance. Many Protestants as well as Catholics disapproved of those celebrations; and one thing was remarkable. At one time a regular cordon was drawn round the walls of Derry, and the people opposed to those celebrations were kept out of their own town. The consequence was, that the crowd charged the city gates, and so dangerous was the practice that it had to be given up. After 1870, the resident magistrate tried another plan. The 'Prentice Boys' procession was allowed, and when they were in the church the other party were permitted to show themselves. That nearly led to a deplorable breach of the peace. The only other plan was to put down these processions altogether. In the extracts read from the charge of Lord Chief Justice Whiteside, he recognized the style of the master. That learned Judge had 572 before him the case of John Rea, a Belfast Protestant Catholic Orange Fenian Republican, as he described himself. Mr. Rea, as an Orangeman, was against the law, and as a Fenian, was against order, so that he managed to go over the whole ground. He got £100 damages, because, to use an Irishism, instead of being dispersed, he was arrested, and therefore he brought an action for false imprisonment. There was no earthly defence to the action. The arrest was illegal; but the general policy of the Government was not shown to be illegal because one man in carrying it out exceeded his authority. The hon. Member for Belfast had alluded to Captain Keogh; who was he? Captain Keogh, the resident magistrate at Derry, was the brother of a distinguished Irish Judge, and a Catholic gentleman of large sympathies. He had to discharge very onerous duties and was called upon to exercise his judgment upon startling facts at a moment's notice, without any opportunity of communicating with the Castle. At the last celebration, therefore, he induced the magistrates, Tory, Conservative, Whig, Liberal, and Catholic, unanimously to pass a resolution asking the Government to send a troop of cavalry, 20 mounted constabulary, and 600 police to preserve the peace. That was the "small army" mentioned by his noble Friend (Lord Claud John Hamilton). At the same time, Captain Keogh forwarded copies of informations sworn before him by officials, to the effect that unless the demonstration was prohibited nothing could prevent riot and loss of life. Now, with these informations before them, what would have been said of any Irish Government which stood by with folded arms, taking no steps to prevent the procession, the result being probably a loss of life? Captain Keogh himself said that if party banners were displayed, and emblems worn, deplorable consequences, and even loss of life, might be the result of the procession. That was the statement of the resident magistrate, a gentleman of experience, character, ability, and education, placed in most difficult circumstances. The Government saw it in the same light, and accordingly sent down a troop and a-half of cavalry and 600 constabulary. Further information was asked for, and the Government were told that a gentleman had issued an address to his Roman 573 Catholic countrymen asking them to enter the town in force in order to keep the peace. The Government considered whether they should not prosecute the man who issued this document, for they were determined to put down every display. But did not the issue of such a document show a spirit of irritation greatly to be deplored and also to be guarded against? Well, the burning of Lundy was prevented. It might be a very amusing thing to see the burning of a figure stuffed with fireworks and gunpowder, but it was not so amusing to those who had to preserve the peace. A proclamation was issued calling on the citizens to obey the law, and that was the end of the last anniversary of Derry. Now, he took his stand firmly on this—these proceedings in Derry were illegal because they were unlawful assemblies, calculated to endanger the public peace; and with that information before them no Government would be worthy the name if it did not interfere. It was, however, a mistake to suppose that proceedings were taken on this occasion under the Party Processions Act. Last year the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Johnston) attended a meeting at Comber, when 40,000 to 50,000 persons were present, and many standards were displayed, with innumerable drums and fifes. No proceedings were instituted in that case. For three years no proceedings had been instituted by the Government for violation of the Party Processions Act in Ulster, while they were advised that the meetings in Dublin and other places did not infringe the law. There was nothing illegal in the demonstrations given to the French deputation. They came over to thank the Irish people for their liberality. He had been sorry to hear the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn state that Ireland did not subscribe as much to the relief of the French as England. [Lord CLAUD JOHN HAMILTON denied that he had said this.] Then it was the hon. Member for Coleraine. [Sir HERVEY BRUCE also disclaimed the statement.] Then it was the noble Lord the Member for Enniskillen. ["Yes!"] At last he was right. There was a very good reason why the Irish did not subscribe as much—they had it not to give; but they gave according to their ability, and they sent some of their countrymen to form an ambulance corps. The Frenchmen of 574 various opinions who accordingly came over to return thanks had a hearty welcome. Green emblems might have been used, and he saw no reason why green was a colour to be condemned; nor, indeed, was orange. The processions were not prohibited, because they were not illegal. Every case of the kind which had happened since the present Government had been in office had been carefully considered, and if no proceedings had been taken it was because the law had not been violated. Under the late Government there was a procession a mile and a-half in length at Dublin, with flags, and banners, and three empty hearses, bearing the names of the three Manchester so-called martyrs. It proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, where a tomb had been erected to their memory. The late Earl of Derby, a noble, patriotic statesman, entitled to great respect, was reproached in "another place" with having allowed those proceedings; but his reply was that, however much to be regretted was the feeling which made these persons regarded as martyrs, the proceedings did not come within the Party Processions Act, nor had the actors exposed themselves to the penalties of the law, the local authorities apprehending no breach of the peace and no disturbance actually occurring, and that the Government would, at least, be guilty of straining the law, if they interfered to put down the procession. That precisely applied to the demonstrations now under discussion. Had a disturbance appeared probable, as was the case at Derry, the same steps would have been taken to prevent it. If the law was not broken, the Government should not step in with puny attempts to exercise authority. Every demonstration was carefully considered by the Government, their decision depending on whether the law had been, or was likely to be, violated, and they had latterly acted on the principle of enforcing simply the common law. There being in the case of Derry sworn informations that a disturbance was certain, the Government would have abdicated its functions if it had not interposed to preserve order, even though the hon. Member ran the risk of being trampled upon by the horse of one of the 16th Lancers. He might say, in conclusion, that these celebrations and disturbances had very little to do with the election of 1868, for he could state that 575 he never knew a more peaceful election than that in which he beat the noble Lord. It was far more so than his election when Solicitor General, when the Carlton Club sent down the attorney for the "claimant" to oppose him. He had now vindicated the conduct of the Government, and he would conclude by saying that he hoped that the 'Prentice Boys of Derry and their friends, when they were approaching the next anniversary, would, as good citizens, obey the law, and remember that far above party politics and factious watchwords was the noble maxim to do unto others as they would have others do unto them.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, after I read the account of the celebrations at Derry, I was not surprised that the hon. Member for Belfast should have brought the subject under our notice; and I must say that I think he has done it in a very temperate speech, both in sentiment and expression. It seems to me that there is one point upon which the House is entirely agreed—namely, that these party processions should either be equally put down, or should be permitted. I speak with some diffidence on the subject, because I have observed that though this debate has been continued now for many hours, only Irish Members—or at least Irishmen—have taken part in it; but, representing as I do in that respect about 500 English Members, I hope I may be permitted, as amicas curiœ, to make some observations on the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, described himself in the beginning of his speech as a part of the responsible Government of Ireland. I was not previously aware of the fact. I knew that the Attorney General for Ireland was a Member of the Government; but I was not previously aware that he was a Member of the responsible Government. But being a responsible Member of the Government, he has addressed us, of course, with a most entertaining diffuseness. It certainly appears from the narrative of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the circumstances attendant upon these public celebrations at Derry are peculiarly tumultuous and turbulent, and they seem more full of peril and danger than the celebrations and processions of any other part of the Green Isle. But I think the reason for 576 that peculiar result was supplied by the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself. It was evidently occasioned by the lecture which he delivered there, to the fervid indiscretions of his rhetoric, and the inflammatory invective which he acknowledges he pronounced against my character and the Conservative Government in particular. The consequence of that appeal to the sympathies and the prejudices of the people of Derry were unexampled in its immediate result, and is still to be traced in this unfortunate discussion which we are now called upon to sustain. I think the House will agree that we ought to have equal justie secured to Ireland upon this matter. Either put down all these processions, or permit each party, or each portion of the nation, to celebrate them with impunity. Either policy would satisfy me, because it would be a consistent policy, would be founded on justice, and might, perhaps, lead to general content and satisfaction. I confess the bias of my mind is not to interfere too much in these matters. I think that in the long run you will find that it is impossible to suppress expressions of strong convictions founded upon national feelings, whether they be shared by Protestants or Roman Catholics, by the descendants of the Saxon, or the representatives of the Celt. It is impossible to make people discard the memory of great acts, or forget the existence of great men who have passed away. Whether it be Walker, or Sarsfield, his memory will always excite great sympathy in large masses of his countrymen. I think, therefore, that all forcible suppression of these celebrations, which, after all, are national incidents, will generally fail in the contemplated effect, and that it is better to trust to the course of time, and to the feeling of both parties that there is an equal and impartial opportunity offered to them to join in these celebrations, as a safeguard for public tranquility. The general impression in this country, and apparently to a great extent in Ireland, is that you should either legislate or trust to the common law for the general suppression of these celebrations; whatever policy is followed by whatever Government may be in existence, I should be myself perfectly content if there is that obvious impartiality in the administration of justice upon these matters which I 577 think all parties and all factions of the Irish people have a right to expect. Now, with regard to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, I consider that he was perfectly justified in bringing these matters before the notice of the House; and the manner in which he has been met by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant is one which I think justifies the course, and ought to satisfy us, and everyone who wishes these questions to be impartially treated, that the step which he has taken was perfectly justifiable. I understood from the noble Lord the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that he sympathized very much with the natural feelings of the Protestants of Derry, who believed and justly felt to a considerable degree, that they were not treated in the same manner as their fellow-countrymen in the South of Ireland. And I understood from the noble Lord that if he had followed his own feelings, and if the forms of the House had permitted, he would have moved the Previous Question on this occasion.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman, and I believe one or two hon. Members, have misunderstood me. I meant I should support the Original Question put by the Speaker, and oppose the Resolution moved by the hon. Member.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I gave the noble Lord credit for a gracious act. The noble Lord has, at least, announced in his speech that the policy which he and the Government of which, indeed, he is a responsible Member, are prepared to pursue, is to propose the repeal of the Party Processions Act; and I think that, under those circumstances, the hon. Member for Belfast is scarcely justified in pressing the Resolution which he has brought forward upon the judgment of the House. I think he has been met on the part of the Government with courtesy and good temper. The noble Lord has shown by the announcement he has made, that he is prepared to adopt a policy which meets the approval of the majority of this House, and which the hon. Member for Belfast and his Friends have always advocated; and, at the same time, it must be admitted that the speech of the Attorney General for Ireland showed that there was on the part of the Government, a sincere desire to do their duty 578 under circumstances of difficulty. I think that the circumstances of difficulty were very likely increased by the election of the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the city, and by the unfortunate lecture to which I have before alluded. Probably, if he had not been the Member for Derry, the outburst might not have been of the envenomed character it turned out to be; but no one can doubt after the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that he did with energy deal with circumstances of extreme difficulty for any man at any time to encounter. I think, therefore, that the hon. Member ought to be content in having done his duty to himself and his constituents in bringing this matter before the House; in having obtained from Her Majesty's Government the announcement, for the first time, that the Party Processions Act will be repealed; and in having obtained from the Attorney General for Ireland a vindication of the course of the Government. That statement must have made known to the hon. Gentleman many circumstances with which he appears to have been unacquainted, and shown that the attention of Her Majesty's Government was drawn to those processions and celebrations in the South of Ireland, which he was under the impression had been entirely neglected by them, and also explained that there were peculiarities connected with those processions which justified the Government in not believing that the peace of the country was endangered. Under those circumstances, I think the best course for the hon. Member for Belfast to take is not to press the House to give an opinion upon his Resolution, but to ask the House to allow him to withdraw it. He will probably feel that the explanations which have taken place to-night will be satisfactory to the country, and that this discussion has done much good. For my own part, I am prepared to hope that the repeal of the Party Processions Act, and the distinct announcement that the Government will in future trust only to the powers of the common law for the preservation of order will secure that desirable end, and yet not interfere with those national celebrations which I cannot but believe must possess much interest for a large portion of the Irish people.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, the noble Marquess the Chief Secretary for Ireland 579 has made an announcement of the future course of the Government with respect to the application of the common law to cases of assemblies and processions. I rejoice at the announcement that the Party Processions Act is about to be repealed, because it is perfectly clear that it is not applicable to all processions equally. But what was the announcement of the Government with regard to the application of the common law? It was this—that, whenever there is an apprehension of disturbance, the procession or the meeting, legal as all processions and meetings whether of a party character or not are, will become, under the change of the law, the meeting or procession to be prevented—that is, if anyone appears and swears that such meeting may lead to a breach of the peace. Now, Sir, there may be a blind application of the common law; because, although it is perfectly true that, at the discretion of the authorities, they may suppress a meeting or procession, because they have a sworn information before them that it is likely to produce a breach of the peace, the authorities are bound to consider, in the first instance, whether such breach of the peace would be occasioned by a turbulent determination on the part of certain persons to interfere with a legal right, or whether there is something in the object announced for the meeting or procession which is in itself culpable, and calculated to cause disturbance of the public peace. Now, I allude to this, because, in the constituency which I represent, in Birmingham, a person has lately died from violence inflicted upon him, when attempting to vindicate the right of free meeting and free discussion in this country. I attribute that man's death, in a great measure, to this fact—that the Government blindly applied the principle of suppressing many meetings he attempted to convene, although legal themselves, but with respect to which it had been sworn that a breach of the peace was apprehended, What was the case? No one can deny that the object of the meetings which were held, or were, attempted to be held, by Mr. Murphy in various parts of the country was perfectly legal; but in repeated instances he was threatened with violence, and breaches of the peace were apprehended, and in several instances under the sanction or by direction of Her Ma- 580 jesty's Government, the local authorities prevented the holding of these legal meetings, because certain persons connected with Irish mobs in this country, had threatened to create a breach of the peace if this legal right were carried out. What was the result? At last a perfectly legal meeting was held at Whitehaven—or perhaps I ought rather to say that an attempt was made to hold a legal meeting at Whitehaven; but a mob, encouraged by the conduct of the Government, rushed in, and inflicted fatal injuries upon Mr. Murphy. And I affirm that, vindicating, as I shall always be prepared to do, the great principles of the common law of the United Kingdom, that thus to pervert the application of the common law is wrong and unconstitutional. I am convinced that in Ireland it will be found that such perverted application of the common law will become the source of infinite danger, if anyone hereafter shall attempt to exercise a legal right in defiance of a threatened breach of the peace. I wish particularly to call the attention of the House to this—because, although I rejoice to hear that the Government intend to propose the repeal of the Party Processions Act, such repeated instances of a perverted application of the common law have occurred in the case of the late Mr. Murphy, that the Executive and the local authorities have become the instruments and representatives of lawless turbulence against established right. I trust that in any future legislation which maybe contemplated, either for Ireland or for England, it will be borne in mind that the first principle of English common law is the protection of the subject in the exercise of his legal rights against the turbulent acts of any who may attempt to interrupt or interfere with him; and that in the future application of the law, another great principle will be observed, and that is, that punishment shall, in every instance, fall upon the aggressor. Sir, I regret to have known so many instances in which that principle has been lost sight of; where the law has been blindly applied, and the innocent rather than the aggressor has been punished by the perverted application of the law, which is, however, just and expedient in itself when properly administered and applied.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
said, that, in accordance with the suggestion of the 581 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, he would ask the permission of the House to withdraw his Amendment; and, in doing so, he hoped the discussion would be attended with beneficial results. What was wanted in Ireland was impartial justice, and he begged to thank the Government for the determination they had arrived at to repeal the Party Processions Act.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.