HC Deb 31 May 1872 vol 211 cc949-72

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the release of the men sentenced by the Lord Chief Baron at the Summer Assizes held at Carlisle in 1871, to twelve months' imprisonment for a riot at Whitehaven, before their term of imprisonment was expired, and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the release of the Whitehaven rioters before the expiration of their sentence was not warranted by the circumstances of the case, and has a tendency to weaken the deterrent power of the Law against offences of the like character, said, that in calling attention to the subject, he was very anxious that his motives in bringing it forward should not be misunderstood. Mr. Murphy, the Protestant lecturer, who suffered on the occasion of this riot, had since died—a fact which was sufficient to make him speak of him with respect. Having said that, however, he must proceed to state that he had not the slightest sympathy with the manner in which that gentleman enforced his views at the various places where he lectured, and that he had always been of opinion that the authorities of any town in which Mr. Murphy attempted to lecture would have been quite justified in using all means direct and indirect which were consistent with the liberty of the subject to prevent his doing so. His object, however, in bringing forward the Motion was to point out that a very serious breach of the law having been committed, and those who were guilty of it having been convicted and sentenced to certain punishment, in measuring which every weight had been given to all the circumstances which told in their favour, the verdict of the jury ought not to have been reversed, nor the sentence so pronounced mitigated, unless some very strong reasons could have been shown to justify such a course being taken. The facts of the case were short and easily stated. In April of last year Mr. Murphy delivered a lecture at Whitehaven, which was attended with considerable riot, and he subsequently announced his intention to deliver another on the 20th of that month. In the meantime, there was considerable excitement among the Roman Catholic population at Cleator, a place about three or four miles from Whitehaven, and on the day in question a very large body of them marched through the town of Whitehaven to the place where the lecture was to be delivered, their numbers quite overawing the inhabitants; and having entered the lecture hall, in the words of the learned Judge who presided over the trial, they committed a most cowardly assault upon Mr. Murphy, which was attended with circumstances of great brutality. It was right in a case of this kind to give every weight to the circumstances under which this assault was committed. He was not one of those who would deny that the causes which led to this breach of the law were such as deserved special consideration. No doubt, if a man's religion were assailed, he was to an extent justified in feeling a certain amount of indignation; but he wished to impress upon the House the fact that the mitigating circumstances in the present case had been fully considered by the learned Judge in measuring out their punishment. The prisoners were defended by a most able advocate, Mr. Charles Russell, and the learned Judge, after carefully summing up, in passing sentence dwelt upon the brutal nature of the assault, and used the words— I make allowance for some degree of irritation—I may even use a stronger term, and say a feeling of indignation, by which some of you may have been actuated, and, therefore I do not sentence you to that extremity of punishment which I cannot help saying you have merited. He (Mr. Wyndham) regretted to state that from the unfortunate feeling that prevailed between Orangemen and Roman Catholics in the North of England, and from a jealousy which existed between English and Irish miners and "navvies" which had given rise to the riot and assault in question, other assaults and riots were of frequent occurrence, which those who were engaged on the commission of the peace found much difficulty in dealing with, and the fact was that this particular case did not stand alone. Under these circumstances, the mitigation of these men's punishment was greatly to be deplored. Common justice required that sentences of this kind should not be interfered with by the Home Office. At the Summer Assizes of last year, after this case had been tried, three men were put upon their trial for what was either very aggravated manslaughter or murder, which was tried by the Lord Chief Baron, who summed up with the greatest care, and these men, to the astonishment of the learned Judge and of everybody in Court, were found "not guilty." It never occurred to the Lord Chief Baron that such a verdict could be given; indeed, in summing up, he had directed all his attention to drawing a distinction between murder and manslaughter. It was felt at the time by all who were interested in the preservation of the peace in this country that the result of that trial would have a very unfortunate effect, and in the opinion of the magistracy and of those who were capable of forming a correct opinion on the subject, many violent assaults that happened shortly afterwards might be considered as the direct consequences of that verdict, as the people who committed such assaults believed that juries were inclined to regard such offences lightly. One of the misfortunes that followed upon this sort of spasmodic interference with the due course of law was that apparent injustice was inflicted upon other persons whose punishment was not mitigated. Thus, at the Carlisle Christmas Assizes last year three Roman Catholics were charged with an aggravated assault on an Orangeman; but there was this distinction between that case and the Murphy riot—that the offenders in the former had committed the offence in their own town—Maryport—and had not walked to another place four miles distant with the intention of breaking the law. Moreover, a large minority of the magistrates were in favour of imprisoning the men for 18 months with hard labour; but the sentence actually passed upon them was 12 months' imprisonment with hard labour, whereby an apparent injustice was inflicted upon them, for their sentences had not been mitigated in accordance with the precedent set in the Whitehaven case. Now, he wished to know if the Home Secretary would advise the Crown to extend its mercy to those men? He was the last to wish that the Home Secretary should do so; but those kind-hearted people who signed this Memorial would, doubtless, think otherwise, and would believe that the Lord Chief Baron had now himself arrived at the opinion that the sentence he had passed last year was more severe than the circumstances of the case warranted. In the case of the Murphy rioters the Home Secretary had acted upon a Memorial which was sent to him on the subject. That Memorial, like all such documents, should be received with the utmost caution, for it stated facts and evidence without any of those safeguards which attended a trial in an open Court. It was stated, for instance, that the men accused were not armed with sticks or other weapons; but that was not true, for they had sticks, and one of them carried a crowbar, and no doubt some of the injuries inflicted upon Mr. Murphy were inflicted with instruments of that description. It was almost certain, also, that one of the men carried fire-arms; and it was the fact that though there were 40 police in the crowd they did not deem it prudent to make a single arrest at the time, and when they did arrest one of the men afterwards a loaded revolver and a dagger were found upon his person. Another statement in the Memorial was that great peace and good-will had prevailed in the neighbourhood since. How far that was true was shown by the fact that not only at the quarter sessions, but also at the petty sessions since, there had been many charges of assault made between Orangemen and Roman Catholics. Four or five of the magistrates who had signed the Memorial were friends of his own; but he felt bound to say, with great respect, that they did not represent the opinions of the magistrates generally, or of the people of the county upon this question. The memorialists also declared that the effect of extending the mercy of the Crown to the imprisoned men could not fail to be salutary; but certainly that anticipation had not been realized, for on the very night these men were released five others were arrested for assaults. And not only that, but the released prisoners were met at the station by cars and carriages, and were carried in a triumphal procession, which showed that these remissions of sentence were only regarded as the triumph of one party over another. Indeed, before the evening was over, one of the magistrates who had signed the Memorial had himself to try Roman Catholics and Orangemen for assaults arising out of the excitement occasioned by the procession. The Home Secretary had stated on a previous occasion that he referred the Memorial presented to him to the Lord Chief Baron, who gave his assent to the prayer of the memorialists. But nothing could be more mischievious than the practice of making such appeals to the Judges, and giving them the opportunity of revising their sentences. The Judges at present had a great amount of responsibility, and it was very unadvisable to weaken the sense of responsibility which existed in them; and it would be a great evil if a Judge, who might himself feel great doubt in dealing with a particular case, were led to think that he would have an opportunity of revising his sentence before 12 months were over. He (Mr. Wyndham) wished to know what were the general and guiding principles upon which Home Secretaries acted in these matters? He had heard it laid down as one of those guiding principles that if, after a trial, circumstances came to light which were not given in evidence at the trial, and which it was clearly shown could not have been given in evidence then, that would be a valid ground for the re-consideration of the sentence. But apply that principle to this case. So far from anything having been shown after the trial which could mitigate the offence of the prisoners, Mr. Murphy had died since the trial; and his death, though not caused by the injuries he sustained at Whitehaven, was clearly shown by medical evidence to have been accelerated by those injuries. And yet these men were released three weeks or a month after Mr. Mr. Murphy's death. In conclusion, he must say he had brought the subject forward with great reluctance; but he felt that it was his duty to bring it forward.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the release of the Whitehaven rioters before the expiration of their sentence was not warranted by the circumstances of the case, and has a tendency to weaken the deterrent power of the Law against offences of a like character,"—(Mr. Percy Wyndham,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he would have much pleasure in voting with the hon. Member if he divided the House on this question. He (Mr. S. Aytoun) entertained a very strong opinion of the manner in which the Government had acted with regard to the release of these prisoners, and he thought their conduct should not be forgotten with regard to the riotous proceedings which had occurred in various parts of the country in connection with the lectures given by Mr. Murphy. The hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. P. Wyndham) had stated very distinctly that he had no sympathy with the meetings held by Mr. Murphy, and he (Mr. S. Aytoun) begged to say that he expressed no opinion as to the propriety of holding them; but he thought at the time, in consequence of the accounts which he read in the newspapers, that riotous proceedings would be occasioned by the ill-will which Mr. Murphy's lectures would excite among the Roman Catholic population. At the same time, however, he thought it was the duty of the magistracy of this country to protect every British subject who was not violating the law, for if when any person was doing anything of which the authorities disapproved, those authorities, though not empowered to interfere with him, were to connive at and tacitly encourage attacks by a mob upon him, all safety for life and liberty in this country would be at an end. What were the circumstances antecedent to the Whitehaven riot? He believed Mr. Murphy attempted to hold a meeting in Manchester, but that in consequence of certain persons having deposed in an affidavit that such meeting would occasion a riot, that meeting was prohibited. Mr. Murphy then gave notice that he intended to hold a meeting in Tynemouth, he believed, which notice excited indignation among the Roman Catholics, the Irish population, navvies, and other persons in that part of the country. It appeared, in consequence, that the local authorities were very anxious to prevent that meeting being held, and a most extraordinary circumstance occurred. The walls of the town, he believed, were covered with a placard stating that a very old Act of Parliament would be put in force against Mr. Murphy and any of those who sympathized with him in holding the meeting or attending it. He (Mr. S. Aytoun) could not have believed that such a placard would have been put on the wall of any English town, and he therefore asked the Home Secretary whether the Mayor of the town was acting within his powers in issuing such a placard, and the Home Secretary replied that he had authorized him to issue it. The Home Secretary further said he believed he had the power to do so. Now, he (Mr. S. Aytoun) found in the Library certain Acts which were passed, he believed, when Mr. Pitt was Prime Minister, and when great fears were entertained of the spread of Jacobin principles. Those Acts, which were entirely opposed to the principles of the Constitution of this country, were passed for the purpose of punishing any person holding a meeting, or even attending a meeting; and one of the most extraordinary things that had occurred in the history of this country was, that at the time when the Home Secretary gave authority to the Mayor to issue the before-mentioned proclamation, the Government had a Bill in this House for the purpose of repealing the statute under which the Home Secretary had given that authority. He was very anxious to hear the Home Secretary explain to the House the reasons for the course he had pursued. He believed the Home Secretary on a former occasion expressed very strongly his opinion on the conduct of Mr. Murphy. He (Mr. S. Aytoun) would not debate the question whether Mr. Murphy's conduct was right or not; but if the Government thought he ought not to hold these meetings, and the law was not sufficient, it was their duty to ask Parliament for an Act to suppress them, and not to have raked up an old Act like the one they had put in force. The course taken by the Government had had a most disastrous effect, and if the hon. Member persisted in dividing the House on what was really a censure of the Government, he should most cordially support him.


said, he hoped that the House would reflect calmly before it came to a decision, and remember that this man Murphy opposed in very violent language the religious opinions of a large section of the community, accusing them of idolatry, and making use of the most offensive expressions with extreme violence of manner, thus exciting the feelings of his hearers in the highest degree, and causing the riot which had occurred. It was to be remembered, however, that the more sincere were the religious convictions of those he assailed, the dearer they were to them, and the greater the hostility which would be created. The insults thrown out against them tried their patience beyond endurance, and they were undoubtedly guilty of riotous conduct, but, at the same time, the law had been vindicated and rioters punished, and he therefore hoped that the House of Commons would not pass a censure upon the right hon. Gentleman who had shown himself so competent to deal with questions of this nature, by attempting to interfere with his discretion when exercised on the side of mercy.


said, that his conduct upon the occasion of the Murphy riots had been the subject of discussion in that House, and he had no reason to complain of the result. He should, therefore, follow the example set by the hon. Member (Mr. P. Wyndham) in strictly adhering to the terms of the Motion. These terms had nothing whatever to do with the conduct of the Government with respect to Murphy; it was simply whether, in the exercise of the functions of the Home Secretary, he (Mr. Bruce) had acted judiciously. All he had to say was, that he had proceeded in this matter without reference to Murphy, or the consideration whether it was a religious question or not; and just as he would have proceeded, if it had been a riot of colliers or of any other persons. A Memorial had been presented to him by the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. C. Bentinck), and when he put it in his (Mr. Bruce's) hands, he said it was signed by a number of gentlemen in Whitehaven who were fully cognizant of the circumstances. That Memorial was signed by seven magistrates, two of whom were clergymen of the Church of England, one of them being the rector of the principal church in Whitehaven, besides which it was pointed out that there was a number of other signatures of persons of the greatest weight and authority in the town of Whitehaven attached to the Memorial. The result was, that he had done what his hon. Friend the Member for West Cumberland had condemned, but which had been universally practised by every Home Secretary—namely, he forwarded the Memorial to the Judge who tried the case and passed the sentence. The case was not exactly as stated by his hon. Friend, who had led the House to believe that the riot had been an organized riot. The Judge was not of opinion that it had been an organized riot. On the 19th of April, Murphy proposed to deliver one of those lectures which had already involved so many of the towns of England in disturbance and bloodshed. A number of Irishmen collected to prevent the delivery of the lecture. On the next day they appeared again in still larger numbers, and the memorialists, among whom it should be remembered were seven magistrates and two clergymen, stated in their Memorial that these men were men of good character, and had not gone with any intention of committing violence. They were not armed, and they had gone for the purpose of expressing their opinion, it might be noisily. That was the view of the Judge as well as of the memorialists. Murphy presented himself at the door of the hall and appeared determined to prevent their entering. In consequence of that proceeding, their passions were roused; he was treated with great violence, and those injuries were inflicted which the hon. Member was right in saying had hastened his death. Twelve persons who had been taken into custody were identified and brought up before the magistrates. Seven of them were committed for trial, and the magistrates took the most unusual course of refusing to liberate them on bail. They remained in prison from 21st of April to July, or for about three months, after which time they were tried and sentenced—five of them to twelve months' imprisonment, and two of them to three months. At the end of their nine months' imprisonment, this Memorial was presented, and he forwarded it to the Lord Chief Baron, who tried the men. He received the following reply, which he had been especially authorized to read to the House. The Chief Baron said— I have very carefully considered the case of Dennis Doyle and others convicted at the Carlisle Summer Assizes of last year of a riot and assault upon the late Mr. Murphy. There was much provocation, and the prisoners had all borne irreproachable characters; and, though there was evidence that three or four of them took part personally in dragging about, and inflicting some degree of injury upon Murphy, it certainly did not appear that they had assisted in the attempt to throw him over the bannisters, from which he had received the severest hurts to which he had been subjected. Considering, upon the whole, that the religious feelings of the prisoners were put to a hard test, and may be said to hare been outraged by the perseverance of Mr. Murphy in publicly denouncing the observances and practices of Roman Catholics, and that the agitation caused by these contentions and conflicts has now subsided, I would venture to observe that Her Majesty might well be advised to remit the sentence pronounced as to the yet remaining portion of the term of imprisonment. There was one other reason which the Chief Baron did not mention; but which he (Mr. Bruce) did not doubt had some weight in the re-consideration of the case by the learned Judge. It was one which was constantly acted upon—namely, that, although a sentence might be right and proper at a time of great excitement, when the law had been violated, yet that upon the return of peace and tranquillity, it might be wise to recommend a remission of the sentence. The same course had been taken not long since in the case of the Thorncliff rioters. A violent riot had occurred in which several persons had been injured. A long and heavy sentence had been passed; but after a portion of it had been undergone, an application was made to the Home Office from the masters, magistrates, &c, representing that it would conduce to the peace and good order of the district if the remainder of the sentence were remitted. The Judge concurred in this recommendation. He had inflicted a severe sentence; but when peace was restored, he was of opinion that the public interests would not be injured by the remission of the sentence. A similar feeling existed on the part of the Chief Baron. The memorialists stated, among other reasons for the remission of the sentence—that since the occurrence peace had prevailed, that the feelings of bitter animosity which had been excited had been allayed; and that, in their opinion, law and order had been sufficiently vindicated. It was the opinion, moreover, as he (Mr. Bruce) had been authorized to say, of the experienced Judge who had heard the whole of the evidence, that the prisoners did not come to the place for purposes of violence, but only with the intention of preventing Murphy from delivering his lecture, and that they were led into violence by accidental circumstances. What, then, was it the duty of the Home Secretary to do? He would have been acting in complete disregard to the principles upon which his predecessors in office and himself had always acted, if he set aside the opinions of the Judge, and why? Simply to satisfy the religious feelings of certain hon. Members. It was no part of his duty to act with a view to those sentiments. He was there to administer the trust reposed in him for the maintenance of peace and good order, and he was satisfied that that had been done. Having acted in accordance with the opinion of the learned Judge who tried the case, and with the views of those who were most interested in the maintenance of peace and order in the district—magistrates, clergy, bankers, merchants—he would have subjected himself to the severest censure, and to the charge of having acted with partiality, if he had followed a different course. Without entering, therefore, into previous circumstances, he put it to the sense of justice and to the good feeling of the House to say whether that was a Motion which ought to be persisted in.


said, he was very sorry that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, towards the conclusion of his remarks, had hinted that the Motion had been brought forward from motives of religious animosity. [Mr. BRUCE said that he had made no such statement.] However that might be, he must say that for his part, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was very much obliged to his hon. Friend and Representative for having brought this matter under the attention of the House, and he thought his hon. Friend would have failed in his duty as a Member for West Cumberland, if he had not taken notice of the proceedings of the Home Office in this business, as the course taken by his right hon. Friend had been the subject of very unfavourable comments in the county. What were the facts? His hon. Friend opposite had stated them ably and most succinctly; and in dealing with that statement, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) altogether disputed the construction which the Home Secretary had endeavoured to put upon this outbreak. In his opinion, it could be proved that there was a preconcerted plan, and that the men who took part in the outrage marched into Whitehaven in hundreds, in regular battle array. He believed they were armed with sticks, and his hon. Friend said that fire-arms had been found on some of them. These men marched up to the hall where the lecture was to be delivered, set upon Mr. Murphy, beat him with sticks—he believed drew out knives—and left him half-dead upon the spot. He was not exaggerating, but he did not think anything much worse could be done. His right hon. Friend had appealed to what the Judge said. But surely what the Judge said on the trial, when the facts were fresh in his memory, and he was doing his duty as Judge was still more important. He had not a copy of the exact words used by the Judge on that occasion, but he took the following statement from a well-informed and respectable journal. The Chief Baron said, there was no doubt that there was a riot, and that the prisoners had taken part in it, and he could find no excuse for the riot and assault. When a verdict of guilty was returned, his language was equally emphatic. He dwelt upon the cowardice of the attack, the brutal nature of its incidents, and said that he found himself compelled, in vindication of the law and in the interests of peace, to pass a severe sentence. The paper went on to say— The words conveyed to each prisoner that the sentence was the least that the Judge felt himself justified in passing. So minutely did his Lordship go into the details, that he apportioned out the exact amount of punishment for each offender according to his guilt. His right hon. Friend had talked about the men not having been admitted to bail; but surely that was known to the Judge when he was passing sentence, as were, indeed, all the other features of this remarkable case which had been commented upon. The result was that the men bad served the greater part of the sentence inflicted upon them, when up came this remarkable Memorial, upon which the Home Secretary had said that the Judge would rest his case, and the first argument in which was, that there was at the time when the Memorial was signed peace in the county. Well, probably there was, for the rioters were shut up; but the fact was there was not peace, for his hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Fletcher) knew that for months past there had been smouldering religious feuds between one party and another, which was continually breaking out in riot and tumult. The second argument was that the particular riot in question was an exceptional circumstance, Yes, it was a case of an ex- ceptionally brutal outrage. The third argument was that the men had previously been men of good character; but all that was brought forward in Court, and was known to the Judge. But what rendered the conduct of his right hon. Friend still more extraordinary was that on the recommendation of the Judge he remitted the sentence absolutely a few weeks after Mr. Murphy had died in consequence of the outrage, and in doing so, his right hon. Friend's defence was that he acted ex officio on the report of the Judge. But the public looked to the Home Secretary for a knowledge of the state of the county, and for acting with a sense of responsibility, and if the right hon. Gentleman had gone to those who knew the condition of the county, he would have received advice which would have led him to act in a very different manner, and which might have tended to induce him to avoid pursuing a course which tended to bring justice into contempt in this country. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) regretted very much the religious feuds and animosities which existed; he had no sympathy with any of the parties, and for the life of him he could not understand why men should do evil to one another for holding different beliefs; but they must look at facts as they existed, and when there were feuds it was for the Government to prevent them from doing harm. The course, however, which the right hon. Gentleman had taken would tend to make those men be looked upon as martyrs, for it would be said they were cruelly treated, that they had been sentenced to 12 months, but 10 months had been found sufficient. And not only would they be made martyrs but heroes, for their own party would say that they had triumphed over the other party, as he understood from his hon. Friend the victory had been celebrated by some other disturbances. The present, moreover, was not a time to let men of the kind out, for there had lately been symptoms of a great desire to interfere with the freedom of speech, as, for instance, the chief magistrate of Staley bridge not long since declared that the people who came to lecture in his town ought to be mobbed out of it. Then, a man at Bolton was killed some time since at a disturbance arising out of a public meeting; while in other places where lectures were delivered riots were got up. He himself recently took part in a meeting to promote temperance, and they were attacked by drunken ruffians, and covered with flour as though they had been to the Derby. And now in this case, where there had been a ruffianly, dastardly attempt of the same description, the men guilty of it had been set free before their sentence had expired. In his opinion the course taken by his right hon. Friend in this matter had been most mischievous; and if the Motion were pressed to a division he should certainly vote for it. If not, the speech made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Percy Wyndham) would still do good service, for it would tend to prevent in the future a course calculated to foment strife, to encourage disorder, and weaken that respect for law which it should be the object of every Government to maintain.


Sir, it has been my misfortune to have to impugn the conduct of successive Home Secretaries in the exercise of the discretion which is intrusted to them for the remission of sentences; and in doing so, I was guided by no feeling of party, for, in the first instance, I had to impugn the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) when he was Secretary of State for the Home Department. That right hon. Gentleman had commuted a capital sentence for a murder committed in Birmingham, against the remission of which I presented a Petition which was signed by 3,000 respectable inhabitants of that town and 10 magistrates. I had again to complain of the remission of a sentence in the case of a murder in my own county, and in my own neighbourhood, which remission was made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, by a strange perversion of the law, managed to commute the capital sentence into one of a year's imprisonment; but under what statute he assumed that power, I have never yet been able to discover. I am sorry to say that the right hon. Gentleman remitted a sentence for murder in the city of Coventry, and that almost immediately afterwards there was a case of manslaughter in the district; and although I do not mean to say that that crime is to be traced to the remission of the sentence, there certainly was a general impression that such remission had been unfortunate. I mention these cases in answer to the observation which fell from the right hon. Gentleman, that in commenting on the present case, I might be influenced by a feeling of religious animosity. Now, I beg to say that, in these cases, I am performing my duty without reference to anything of the kind. I have brought before the House the whole subject of appellate jurisdiction; and in my observations that I may make on this subject, I claim to be exempted from the imputation of being actuated by anything like a fanatical or religious feeling. But it happens that Mr. Murphy lived in the constituency that I represent, and I feel bound in duty to his friends and relatives to question the propriety of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on this occasion. For what are the circumstances? The late Mr. Murphy died, and after his death a post-mortem examination was made by the most eminent surgeons in Birmingham, and they unanimously declared that the cause of his death was distinctly traceable to the injuries which he received at White haven on the 20th of June in the previous year. That was their unanimous decision with regard to the transaction. The funeral of Mr. Murphy took place on the 18th of March last, and the remission of the sentence upon the men—who were, I venture to say, if the judgment of the Lord Chief Baron is to be believed, directly implicated in the riot in which Mr. Murphy met with those fatal injuries—was announced at Whitehaven on the 1st of May. Therefore, in about a month after this man was buried—and it was known throughout Birmingham and the whole country that he had died from the effects of this outrage—Her Majesty's clemency is extended to the rioters who participated in this outrage, although the sentence was originally but one year's imprisonment with hard labour, and would undoubtedly have been of a much more serious character had Mr. Murphy died sooner, as was expected by his medical attendants and those who saw him after he had been injured. Now, the right hon. Gentleman has relied upon some of the statements in that memorial to which he has referred. They distinctly contradict both the charge and the judgment of the Lord Chief Baron, and I will show the House that they do so. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) is a magistrate for the county of Cumberland, and he knows—and it is a singular fact—that the evidence given before the magistrates was infinitely stronger as to the existence of a previous conspiracy than the evidence adduced upon the trial, and to that in a great measure I attribute the fact that the opinion of the Lord Chief Baron was more lenient than the opinion of the magistrate. I am sorry to have to impugn, or seem to impugn, the judgment of one of Her Majesty's Judges; but I say this—that the remission of a sentence passed by a Court of Justice is scarcely a judicial proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is not expected to act as a Judge; he is expected to act as a politician, or as a statesman: it is to him in that capacity that the matter is referred, and if he chooses to consult the Judge who tried the case, he does so as a statesman, and it is upon him as a statesman, and not as a Judge, that the responsibility of recommending a remission of the sentence devolves. The Judge himself cannot do it without the Home Secretary; it must be the act of the Home Secretary, and it is on that ground that I impugn the policy of the right hon. Gentleman in this affair. I am sorry to say that when the funeral of Murphy took place there was an exhibition of malignant triumph among some of the Irish Roman Catholics in Birmingham which convinced everyone who witnessed it that the feeling which had prompted the outrage had not died out. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he has acted in the case of Mr. Murphy as if he had never heard of him before. Sir, he has acted as a statesman, not as a Judge. He was bound to remember what had occurred in reference to Murphy on previous occasions. What was the history of this man? He was the son of an Irish schoolmaster, who had been a Roman Catholic. Father and son both changed their religion; the father was persecuted in consequence, and so was the son. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State cannot plead ignorance on the subject of the history of Murphy. He may deprecate the course the man took; but in no one instance has the right hon. Gentleman been able to prove that that man acted in contravention of the ordinary law of the land. Yet the right hon. Gentleman went so far as this—as to revive the operation of an Act of Parliament passed in the year 1795—an Act for the suppression of seditious meetings; an Act which was passed after the King had been fired at on his way down to Parliament; an Act which was passed after the infection of the first French Revolution had reached this country, and only two years before the Mutiny at the Nore. Such was the Act that the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary was obliged to invoke in order to find legal means by which to deal with this public lecturer. I will now glance shortly at what happened previously to this man. If Murphy had been guilty of libel or slander the law was always open to his opponents; but they never ventured to appeal to it. The man entertained strong religious opinions; he expressed them, and that was the crime for which he was persecuted. It is true that, like others, before it was condemned he had promulgated the pamphlet which is known as The Confessional Unmasked; but until that pamphlet had been condemned in a Court of Law, he had a perfect right to make use of it. It has since been condemned—first, in the Court of Queen's Bench, and next in the Court of Common Pleas. That is an illegal pamphlet; I am ready to admit it; but why is it illegal? Because it contains extracts from Roman Catholic works of high authority, which works have never been condemned, and may be circulated throughout the country. I do not think, however, that that is a state of things which is likely to continue. The extracts from these works having been condemned on the ground of their obscenity, doubtless the circulation of the originals will now have to be condemned also; but until those judgments of the Courts of Law were pronounced, this man was doing nothing illegal in promulgating that pamphlet. Well, what was the history of this man? At Chelmsford, in July, 1865, owing to the influence of Roman Catholics in that locality, Mr. Murphy was refused the use of a hall to lecture in. At Bury St. Edmunds, in August of the same year, a murderous attempt was made upon him at one of his meetings, convened in a meadow, where the people had erected a platform for his use. In October following, there was an attempt to inter- rupt him at Lincoln. In November of the same year his life was threatened and attempted by men under the influence of the Roman Catholic priests at Newark. At Beverley, a Roman Catholic priest, named Smith, told the magistrates while sitting on the Bench— That he would not be responsible for the peace if Mr. Murphy were allowed to lecture, for that some of his congregations think no more of breaking Murphy's head than they would of twisting the neck of a duck. At Frome, in February, 1866, the mob assaulted Murphy, and threatened to hang him, while they offered to bribe him if he would not deliver his lecture on the Confessional. At Stonehouse, in the month of June the same year, Bishop Vaughan, Canon Mansfield, and other Roman Catholic dignitaries failed to prevent Murphy from lecturing, whereupon a body of from 120 to 200 of their flock were organized to upset the meeting by assaulting the attendants, &c. At Stone, in January, 1867, an attack upon Murphy and a serious disturbance were the result of a priest denouncing him from the altar as a heretic, and calling upon his flock to do their duty. Then we come to the visits at Newcastle-under-Lyne, in February, 1867, and these bring me next to the attack upon Murphy at Birmingham. It is the attack in Birmingham with which I have now to do. In 1867—and the case was brought under the notice of this House—Mr. Murphy and his friends erected a building of their own, and one Sunday were about to celebrate Divine service in it when they were attacked and wounded, and his life endangered—this the population resented, and in consequence there was great destruction of property. In 1868 there was another attempt to interrupt him; and now, Sir, I come to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself. He ought to have known that this man's life was constantly in danger; and he said so himself; he stated it in this House. He ought to have known that there was a conspiracy against this man. As a statesman, he should have known it when he proceeded to remit the year's imprisonment pronounced upon those who, according to the charge of the Lord Chief Baron, were implicated in the riots which produced this man's death. Why, nothing could be more distinct than the evidence of Mr. Superintendent Little, He saw these men, he saw Dennis Doyle, and he heard Dennis Doyle say—this is his sworn evidence before the magistrates—"Don't strike him now." And why? Because Superintendent Little had reached the spot. And what was the other evidence? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary says that Murphy had excited these men's passions! Did they want to go into the hall to hear the lecture? No; the evidence is, that they dragged the man out of the hall, and trampled him almost to death in the street. How does that accord with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman? I have the whole of the evidence here which was given before the magistrates; but that I may not commit any mistake, I will read to the House that which was given by Superintendent Little on oath. This, then, is the evidence which was given by Superintendent Little before the magistrate as I find it reported in The Whitehaven Herald of April 29th, 1871. Superintendent Little says— I was on duty in the streets that night with Inspector Howard, Inspector Wood, and one or two more constables. 8 o'clock was the hour at which he was to give the lecture. I was in the street between 6 and 7 o'clock, and everything appeared very quiet and orderly at that time. Near about 7 o'clock—perhaps 10 minutes to—we observed a large number of men coming down Lowther Street. They were coming as you may have seen them coming from the train, all in a group or nearly so, and they came quietly down the street, passed the inspectors and myself, and went into the Oddfellows' Hall quietly. After they had gone up, I spoke to one of the inspectors, and said—'Can Mr. Murphy be in.' He replied—'No, I think it too soon; it is not yet 7 o'clock.' However, after they had been in a minute or so, I said—'He must be in, because he is checking them; they are coming back.' Immediately we heard a yell, a cry out—'They are murdering Murphy.' We immediately repaired to the entrance door. At that time there was such a scene of confusion as I have not seen for some time. They were all in a crowd, and appeared as if they had got some person under their feet. When we got to the spot, I saw Mr. Murphy on the ground, face downwards, bleeding very much, and these parties round about him. As soon as I sprang in I raised my stick, and they fell back. I saw then that they seemed very much enraged, and that our only chance was to try to get Mr. Murphy taken safely back into the hall through the iron gate, and that we ought to lose no time in doing so. By that time the parties who were kicking him, rushed back into the crowd, some hundreds of people having collected round about. I thought that the man was killed outright. He was taken into the hall and carried upstairs, and I immediately sent for Dr. Lumb, who was not at home. Dr. Henry came in his stead, and, with the assistance of Dr. Horan, attended Mr. Murphy. He was very much cut about the head. They laid him on a bench in the anteroom, and he was obliged to remain there all night. A bed was provided for him; but as he was in such a prostrate state the doctors did not consider it advisable to remove him until next day, when he was taken to his lodgings. I may state that at that time I did not attempt to take any of the parties into custody, because I knew if I had done so there would have been a serious breach of the peace. I have not the least doubt that some of the men might have been armed with firearms. On one of the prisoners taken last night—Dennis Doyle—this loaded revolver (produced) was found in his breast, also this dagger-knife, bullet-mould, and a box of caps. That was the first time that Dennis Doyle was seen after he was known to have taken part in the outrage upon Mr. Murphy; but I have further evidence than this. These men were all identified as having been engaged in trampling Murphy to death, and upon the pavement were found a broken stick, a poker, and several stones, and upon one of the stones was some hair which seemed to have come off Murphy's head. Sir, I hesitate not to declare that there never was a more determined attempt at murder. True, the man did not die at the time; but that which the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) has most justly impugned is the discretion of the statesman, who, within five weeks or a month after this man's funeral, at which a disposition to renewed outrages was manifested, remits a penalty of one year's imprisonment inflicted on the only men who had been convicted fairly as participators in the outrage from the effects of which Mr. Murphy died. Let me again assure the House, in conclusion, that I bring forward the facts to which I have referred from no vindictive feeling or animosity towards the Home Secretary; but I do, in this instance as I have been compelled before, impugn his wisdom and discretion in the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, and do declare before this House my deliberate opinion that his conduct in this particular case has produced a most evil impression with regard to the administration of justice not only in Birmingham, but throughout the county generally.


said, that if it were allowed that Murphy observed some want of judgment in his method of treating the subject upon which he lectured, it should not be forgotten that opposition usually arose in eases when he quoted extracts from Roman Catholic writers, the accuracy of which had never been questioned. But however that might be, he (Mr. Holt) had yet to learn that when a man entered a hall to deliver a lecture—a hall that was engaged by himself, and which, though open to all persons, no one was compelled to enter—that he had committed an offence for which he should be punished. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had broadly asserted that no evidence existed of any conspiracy to injure Murphy; but he would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the evidence reported at the time—that Dennis Doyle, one of the prisoners, was heard to say the first thing that would be seen was "Murphy coming out from yonder top window." That was said before Murphy had entered the hall. It was likewise proved that there were wounds on Murphy's body which must have been given by a sharp-pointed instrument. And not only that, but the men were seen approaching in a body to the attack, and, generally, the evidence clearly showed a preconcerted intention to injure Murphy. The right hon. Gentleman had also said he had decided the case without reference to Murphy's death. That was precisely what was complained of. Usually sentences were remitted when circumstances came to light after the trial showing that those found guilty were less culpable than was supposed at the time; but in this case, subsequent events would have required the infliction of a more severe penalty if the sentence were interfered with at all. When the sentence was passed it was clear a brutal assault had been committed; but when the penalty was in part remitted, it was known that that brutal assault had resulted in the death of the victim. The intervention, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect was both unjust and impolitic; for if the right hon. Gentleman had desired to show clemency there were scores of prisoners at present in gaol whose sentences were far more severe than those passed by the Chief Baron upon the assailants of Murphy, and which he might have remitted without fear of adverse criticism. Indeed, he believed that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman would lead the people to think that in the estimation of the Government killing is no murder—that if lawless men had a grudge against any person all they had to do was to collect a mob, to create a riot, and kill him in concert. Then if any fatal result should happen, and the guilty parties should be convicted, an application to the Home Secretary would obtain the remittal of their sentences. He thought that the course which had been adopted was calculated to prevent freedom of speech and action, and for that reason he should most heartily support the Motion.


said, he thought hon. Members ought not to depart from the Motion under consideration; and that if it invited the House to review the judgment of a Criminal Court, he should have been unable to take any part whatever in the discussion, but he did not think that was the subject brought before them. Although he agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate) that it was the duty of the Government to afford protection to all British subjects, yet it was, in his (Dr. Brewer's) opinion, equally the duty of all members of society so to exercise their judgment as to avoid calling down upon themselves the wrath and indignation of their fellowmen. In the present instance, the Home Secretary had followed the ordinary course. If, indeed, it could be shown that the right hon. Gentleman had travelled out of the ordinary course, or had been influenced by passion or by favour, he would undoubtedly have committed a very serious offence. It appeared to him, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had been influenced neither by passion nor favour, but that he had acted in the same way as he always did when the punishment of criminals was brought under his notice.


said, that while unable to agree with all the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), he could not but feel that this was a matter which called for serious consideration, because it involved the right of free discussion. He presumed his hon. Friend would be the last man to defend the noisy and obstreperous endeavours of Mr. Murphy to abuse the Roman Catholic religion and to annoy the believers in it; and he certainly must say that for himself (Mr. Muntz), while he was desirous of offering freedom of religion, he was not inclined to allow supremacy on one side or the other. Murphy travelled over the country delivering speeches which he neither appreciated nor was inclined to tolerate; but it should be borne in mind that other persons made speeches at the same time which were never interfered with. What he complained of, in fact, and what the House could hardly have failed to notice was that, by a singular accident, no doubt, there had been a leniency and tolerance on the one side which had not been displayed on the other. Mr. Murphy, he admitted, was a great nuisance to the town he had the honour to represent, and to the neighbouring constituencies; but, still, he was a subject of the Crown, and had a right to protection during a free discussion. Some of Mr. Murphy's statements had reference to a work entitled The Confessional Unmasked. Now, he had had the misfortune to read that work, which was once published in The Times. It appeared there in Latin, or otherwise that paper would have been liable to an indictment for a disgusting exhibition. Since then it had been translated by Murphy into English, and he had read extracts from it, in indecorous language, all over the country. For his own part, he did not justify this for a moment; but the book, translated into plain English, was sold at the same time in the streets of London, and no attempt was made to punish the persons who sold it daily.


remarked that persons had been prosecuted and punished for selling the work. In fact, there was a man now undergoing imprisonment for this very offence.


said, he was very glad to hear that such was the case. On many occasions persons had been interfered with for distributing lottery tickets; but there was a lottery in Dublin which sent round tickets every year, which many Members of that House received, but he never heard of any prosecution being instituted. He wanted to secure fair and equal play for all parties. Those men who attacked Mr. Murphy in such a brutal manner were certainly not deserving of clemency, and such persons should not only be punished, but their punishment should be carried out.


said, he thought it was a great blessing that the exercise of mercy was entrusted to a responsible Minister of the Crown, and not to the House of Commons. In his judgment, therefore, it was a very grave matter for the House to interfere in the way of censure with any act done by that officer of the Crown; and, unless there was reason to believe there had been some corrupt motive, or great carelessness, or an amount of ignorance in the matter that would be clearly blameable, he, for one, would be very shy in taking part in so grave a matter as passing a Vote of Censure on the right hon. Gentleman's conduct. He could not see, for instance, that any blame attached to the right hon. Gentleman for taking the opinion of the Judge, for he did not believe the right hon. Gentleman took it with a view of shielding himself from any responsibility, but solely with an honest intention to ascertain in the best manner the facts on which the sentence was passed; indeed, he should be almost inclined to say that the right hon. Gentleman would have been blameable if he had not availed himself of every means in his power to obtain the real facts of the case. The right hon. Gentleman had, he might say, a dreadful office to execute in dispensing the mercy of the Crown, and in the present case he certainly could not concur in the proposed censure of his conduct.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.