§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he regretted that the hon. Member who held the post of Financial Secretary of the Treasury had not informed them what was the object of the Bill. If, as was the case last night, they had before them a Bill for the continuation of a tramway a mile and a-half in length, they would have an elaborate introductory statement, and they would devote to it more time than they gave to the consideration of an Irish Bill needing the most important consideration. Here was a most important measure, what he might term an Omnibus Bill, comprising as it did with various others, measures affecting the constitutional rights of the Irish people, and yet the Secretary 722 of the Treasury had not thought it worth an introductory speech of ten minutes' duration. To compare it with the legislation of the Session, so far as it had advanced, he should say that it was of ten times more importance than the whole of it. It was only right that they should know what was intended by this Bill. Of the whole list of the 34 Bills, there were only two of them which expired in the course of the present year. The others would not expire until August, 1875, a fact, he contended, of itself sufficient to show that those who had voted in favour of the adjournment of the House were not animated by a desire to give to it a factious opposition. There would, therefore, not be any difficulty in removing those two Bills from the category, and dealing with them separately, so as to allow the consideration of the other measures to stand over until next Session. The present system of continuing expiring laws was, so far as he could see, quite a new practice. The abuse seemed to have sprung up in 1863, when for the first time, a batch of expiring Acts was included in one Bill, and in following years the number so dealt with was increased. In the course of time, the Committee which used to consider the expediency of renewing the Acts was discontinued. What he would suggest was, that in future the Acts which were not likely to give rise to any debate should be included in one Bill, and the others brought before the House in a different Bill or dealt with separately. He objected to the principle of voting in a lump the continuance of 34 Acts of Parliament, which, when they were passed, were intended to be only temporary, and which were, by a Bill like this, rendered permanent. Gradually the number of these Bills increased yearly up to the year 1870, when they amounted to over 30. Since then these expiring Bills had oscillated each year from 33 in number to 35. Many of the Bills in the present measure were of no great importance, no doubt; but there were certain of them of sufficient moment to need a much larger amount of consideration than the Government seemed to attach to them, when they classed them in an Order of the Day which was looked upon as a matter of course. When a Bill was passed for a limited time, there was primâ facie reason for supposing-that it might need revision. It had been expected for example, in passing the 723 Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices Act—one of those included in the present Bill—that the experience of a General Election would afford reasons for altering it, and in point of fact, it was the opinion of many people at present that it stood in need of a certain amount of revision. With regard to the Master and Servant Act, he thought it most important that the House should have an opportunity of considering the propriety of repealing the 14th clause, under which a workman was liable to be sent to prison for breaking a civil contract. He desired to move in Committee that the clause in question should be struck out, but he was doubtful whether that course would be in accordance with the Rules. Those who voted against his Amendment would vote to perpetuate it to August, 1876, and that, in his opinion, would inflict great hardships on the Irish working classes, especially those coming to this country. Turning to the specifically Irish part of his subject, he would refer especially to the Unlawful Societies Act. The Freemasons and certain friendly societies were specially exempt from the operation of that Act; but it discouraged the formation in Ireland of trades unions, and that fact had a great influence on the question of wages. Then, again, he objected to the Bill continuing the Peace Preservation Act in Ireland, although it was then totally unnecessary. That Act prevented the use of firearms. With respect to arms, he thought if a man were disposed to commit the horrible crime of murder, either in England or Ireland, that he would be much more likely to use an ordinary pistol or a revolver than a rifle. He denied that they could show that any extraordinary state of things now existed in Ireland to warrant the Government to forbid men in Ireland from having arms. Men accustomed to carry arms were invariably careful not to abuse them; it had been objected to that statement that there was such a thing as "free-shooting"—[Laughter]—in the United States, but he had heard from many Americans that that meant only firing in the air. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh; but what he stated was correct, and he saw no reason why, in the present peace-able state of Ireland, the people of Ireland should not be trusted like the people of that country with firearms. He had put an Amendment on the Paper which 724 he intended to propose in Committee, to "allow any man who paid £12 a-year in rates, and who had the right to vote, to have arms" He had been in communication with farmers in Ireland who were not allowed, under the provisions of the Peace Preservation Act, to have arms, and who, in answer to questions put to them by him said—"We suffer much damage to our crops by birds, which, if we were allowed to have, and use, a gun, would not trouble us much, and of which only a few might come after we fired even to frighten them; but which, in the absence of such means to frighten them, come in large flocks and inflict considerable damage." Now, that was the case of the farmers; and if the Government would only grant "fowling pieces" in Ireland they would make things much more comfortable. That House, he believed, had been asked to keep arms out of the hands of the people of Ireland on the plea of danger of insurrection. The people of England and Scotland having been entrusted with firearms almost since these were invented, he could not see any reason why the people of Ireland should not be allowed possession of arms; but the reason which practically actuated some persons in Ireland to endeavour to keep arms from their poorer neighbours was the fear that they would be after the "game." He remembered one gentleman saying, in answer to a question put to him, why the people were not allowed to have arms? "Why, do you want them to destroy all the game?" Now, he (Captain Nolan) would tell the Government and the House, that if that was to be advanced as a cause of withholding arms from the people of Ireland the effect would be that the Irish would join the English and Scotch in demanding the abolition of the Game Laws. Any man who voted for the Bill would vote for the continuance of the 14th clause of the Masters and Servants Act, which would impose most unconstitutional disabilities on the Irish people. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Captain Nolan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."725
THE CHANCELLOK OF THE EXCHE-QUEK
said, he thought the discussion which had been raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was divisible into two parts—the first, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, a Motion which involved the question, whether they were to continue all the Acts which were now about to expire. That was a question which, he was bound to say, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had argued with great ability. The second part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument was his objection to the "Continuance" part of this Bill; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he was bound to say, had argued very logically on that question. He had raised questions which it was not necessary for him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to enter into now; but it was obvious that there might be other Bills in the Schedule which other hon. Members might wish to discuss, and he must remind the House that to all the objections, one general answer would have to be given. That course was formerly pursued when discussions on very diverse topics were raised on the Motion that the House adjourn from Friday to Monday, the Minister replying late in the evening to all these matters together. But if they were to consider such very different measures as were comprised in the Bill upon the second reading, when hon. Members were limited to one speech each, great inconvenience must be felt, and such an inconvenience might result on questions of the kind now before the House. He, however, quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Member that care ought to be taken that measures should not be introduced unnecessarily by a Bill of the kind, which must lead to a discussion of various subjects. On the other hand, there was no doubt that it was a very convenient practice—one which saved the time of Parliament—to include in a single Bill, instead of in separate Bills, several Acts which it was desirable to continue, and which had been passed as temporary Acts. For example, the Bill now before the House, which the hon. and gallant Member had called an Omnibus Bill, embraced several subjects for legislation. It was possible, however they might I find that that system was carried rather too far, and that point he undertook to say should receive careful consideration. 726 Having said so much, he would ask the attention of hon. Members in the House to the actual position of affairs. In the first place, he hoped there would be no reasonable objection on the part of hon. Members, and of Irish Members in particular, to his assurance, that the Government would give them some time to argue the questions involved in this measure, and that there was no desire on the part of the Government to push those measures on unduly against the will of Irish Members; but it must be remembered that there were also English measures which were of importance. There were several Bills which deserved full consideration, and what he had really to suggest to hon. Members was, that they should adopt the suggestion he had made, and allow the Bill to be now read a second time. An hon. Member said just now—"If we allow you to pass this Bill, you will allow it to be in force for another year." But there were many things that might happen—they might have a very short Session, and a Dissolution or something of that kind might happen, which would cause a change, in which case, these Acts whose continuance was so desirable, would expire. Therefore, he thought it would be a decided inconvenience absolutely to throw out this Bill. He believed he was entitled to say that there would be no difficulty whatever in passing the whole of the Bill, with the exception of one particular clause which had been alluded to, and he would suggest that hon. Members in Committee might very properly move Amendments for the purpose of striking out certain portions of the Acts to which they objected. He could really appeal to the House, and especially to hon. Members opposite, whether under the circumstances, it was not desirable to allow the Bill to be now read a second time; and he promised if the House assented to his proposition, that the Government would give them a day, it might be in the next week; but his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was now absent, would be able to say what day could be given for the purpose. He might, in conclusion, say that the matter would be taken into consideration by the Government; and that if they wished to challenge, which they had a right to do upon any important question, he undertook to say, on the part of the Government, 727 that an opportunity would be given to them to do so.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he must confess after the conciliatory speech made by the right hon. Baronet, that he felt exceedingly anxious to comply with the proposal. But just consider what the objects of that Continuance Bill and of Coercion and other Acts were, and that Irish Members had a high duty to discharge in opposing them, believing that they were not now necessary. He felt great difficulty in the matter in reference to these Continuance Bills. He might state to the House that it had taken him several hours to traverse through the Acts passed, and amongst them he found an Act for restraining the Orangemen of Ireland, and also Acts dealing with friendly and other societies in that country. That Act was renewed in 1844, again in 1845 for two years, and again in 1848, with coercive Amendments—one, enabling the police to go into a house in search of the signs and passwords of secret societies, and another, making the finding of such documents conclusive evidence of the guilt of the man in whoso possession they were found. He would tell the House another matter of importance. When the Friendly Societies Act was passed for Ireland, there was a clause in it placing the Foresters, the Odd Fellows, and similar associations on the same footing as the Freemasons, and allowing them the use of signs and passwords without the risk of incurring a penalty; but when that Coercion Act came to be renewed, the Friendly Societies Act was entirely forgotten, and it was renewed in its old form; so that the use of secret signs and passwords by those societies, again became a penal offence, and their members were liable to be transported or kept in penal servitude, for a period of seven years. Again, the case of the Peace Preservation Act was much stronger, but he did not wish to weary the House by going into detail upon the subject. He, therefore, hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the House a pledge that the Acts in reference to Ireland included in the Bill would be postponed until next Session, and that they would be then introduced separately, so that an opportunity might be then given of considering them on their merits. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, 728 they could not do that, inasmuch as if they did, a Dissolution might take place early next Session, before anything could be done in the matter, and then these laws would expire. Well, as regarded the probability of a Dissolution next Session, he (Mr. Butt) did not see much probability of that; but the right hon. Baronet, as he knew the inner counsels of the Government, was a better authority on that point than he (Mr. Butt) was. The difficulty, however, might be got over by providing now that these Acts should expire at a fixed date—the 1st of August or the 1st of September, 1875. That would guard against the possibility of such an accident as that which the right hon. Baronet dreaded. If that course were pursued, he should withdraw his opposition to the present measure; but if not, he must renew his protests against the system of passing Continuance Bills which would impose coercive laws on Ireland for a period of two years. To so treat them was to make perpetual Acts which Parliament intended should be only temporary, a course which had been censured by Lord Brougham, the Marquess of Salisbury, and the Earl of Carnarvon.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Dr. BALL)
said, the usual mode of dealing with such Bills as those to which the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks applied, was to provide that they should continue for a certain time, and from thence until the end of the then next Session of Parliament. That was done in order to avoid the danger of a sudden and premature Dissolution of Parliament. But the meaning and practical result was a renewal for one year. There never was, he might add, a Government who were better entitled to ask the House to assent to a Continuance Bill than the present, seeing how recently and how unexpectedly they had acceded to office. In consequence of that shortness of time, they had not been able to consider these Acts, in order to see how many of them they might abandon, and how many they should renew in distinct Bills. He might also observe on the general question, that the coercive measures for Ireland which had been passed in 1870 and 1871 were far more stringent than those it was now proposed to renew, and which had been 729 maintained by every Parliament since 1839. There was no doubt a great improvement in the condition of Ireland at the present moment as regarded crime—an improvement which had coincided with the accession of the present Government to power, and which had gone on since increasing. [Laughter.] He ought to be able to speak with authority on the subject; for every crime that occurred was brought under his notice as Attorney General, and he repeated that there was a progressive improvement. A recent murder and attempt at murder, however, arising out of disputes connected with land, showed that it would be impossible to abandon the protection given by particular statutes against such offences, and that it would be unwise to act precipitately; but the House might rest assured that the powers which they conferred would not be resorted to, except in cases of necessity. It was inevitable that the entire subject must ere long be brought under discussion, and he asked the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether it was worth while being at so much trouble to attack the more limited powers, while the more stringent must necessarily be continued.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he wished to echo all that had been said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, for Ireland with respect to the absence of crime in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, either did not understand or did not answer the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick, which was to postpone the further consideration of these expiring laws until next Session, by fixing a day on which they would expire; and then that a positive measure should be brought in for the renewal of such of them as might be considered necessary, so that Acts of such importance might not be smuggled through in a renewal Bill, where the great were mixed up with the small. Since the Government came into office, what measures had they taken to produce peace, order, and tranquillity in Ireland to justify the credit claimed for them by the right hon. and learned Gentleman? Yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman had admitted that the condition of Ireland now furnished a model of order; and the language of the Judges who were at 730 present on circuit in that country supported that view. At one place, the Judge said that in a single county in England, there was more crime than in the whole of Ireland; and in two other places, there was not a single bill to be sent before the petty jury. The fact was, that there never was a time when the tranquillity of Ireland was so marked as it was at the present moment; though he could not accord to the Attorney General for Ireland, that that arose from the existence of the statutes which it was now sought to continue, or from the advent to office of the present Government. His was a kind of post hoc, propter hoc logic, which could not be admitted. Notwithstanding the tranquillity which prevailed, the fact was that 31 out of the 32 counties in Ireland were now proclaimed under the Peace Preservation Act; so that the persons who dwelt in those counties were not permitted to live under the law which was the privilege of the rest of Her Majesty's subjects. What reason was there for asking power to continue these proclamations for two years longer? The right hon. and learned Gentleman had no doubt said that there had been an attempt to murder in Queen's County, and an actual murder in Tipperary; but surely that was no sufficient reason for asking power to continue these proclamations in 31 counties for two years longer? He hoped that the Government would reconsider the matter and accept the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and not continue the Acts for more than one year.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, that they were not only asked to continue the Peace Preservation Act of 1873, but also the Act of 1847. The last-mentioned Act recited that "whereas in consequence of the prevalence of crime and outrage, it is necessary to make provision for the prevention thereof." At all events, there was no reason why the Act of 1847 should be continued, for he held that all the special powers which it was desired by a renewal of the Act in question to retain were given by the Peace Preservation Act of 1870, and that, therefore, the renewal would serve no practical purpose. To continue both Acts would be unduly to crowd the statute book with penal legislation. At the same time, he maintained that the 731 reasons for that legislation had entirely disappeared. In proof of the extraordinary diminution of crime in Ireland, he could quote the language of Baron Dowse, Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, and other Judges, addressed to grand juries on recent occasions. The hardships resulting from the provisions with regard to carrying arms were, in his opinion, peculiarly grievous. A gentleman going out to shoot who sent his gun by his servant a short distance before him, had the satisfaction to find that it was seized by the police. An old man of 70, whose crops were being destroyed by birds, applied for a licence to keep a gun, and met with a refusal, although two magistrates certified as to his good character. His (Mr. Downing's) own experience had not been very favourable. He had been out shooting one day with his son, whose gun had burst. He proposed to send the barrels to Cork to have them repaired, but was told that the police would not allow him to do so. He sent for the constable, and was informed that he could not forward the barrels as he proposed, but the inspector stated that he was about shortly to send an escort to Cork, and would forward the barrels with them. The consequence was that he—a justice of the peace and deputy-lieutenant of his county—had to wait till a brother magistrate came to his house who took the barrels with him to Cork. That showed what Irish gentlemen had to endure in consequence of this legislation, and that great hardships arose to individuals under these Acts; and he asked why should the Government insist upon the continuance of the statutes for two years, when they might avoid any contention by consenting that the continuance should be only until the 1st September 1875?
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
thought the opinions of Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon, which had been quoted, were sufficient to prove that the opposition on the present occasion was not at all factious. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had borne testimony to the peaceful state of Ireland. The jury had allowed £1,200 as damages in the case of the attempt to shoot Mr. Whitworth, and, in the event of his death, his widow would get that sum. The other case to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred, and in which 732 an attempt was made to shoot a woman, was purely a family quarrel. It was like a family quarrel that might have occurred in Finsbury or any other part of London. If he could see any necessity for that kind of legislation, he should not object to it; but he must say, that he certainly saw no necessity whatever for continuing those penal statutes for two years longer. Not merely the peasant class, but every class of society in Ireland had suffered under the present coercive system; and under these circumstances, he (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock) appealed to the Treasury Bench to agree to the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he traced the real difficulties under which Ireland laboured, and the real difficulties incident to legislation for Ireland, to the existence of personal government, the unfavourable influence of which was often recognized in that House in the discussion of questions relating to foreign affairs. For instance, the inhabitants of the county which he represented had been put under strict proclamation, not for any breach of law, but because their county happened to be coterminous with another county in which certain outrages had occurred. Was it not natural that the people in the county he represented should say—"What is the good of observing the law when we are treated in this way?" The reason why the Government had taken their present course with regard to these Acts was merely to save themselves from the little trouble of bringing forward a Bill next Session on the subject. In his opinion the Government should meet the real facts of the case, and he called upon them to give to the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick the attention which it demanded, and which, in his opinion, it would be the highest policy to give to it. If next year it could be shown that Ireland could only be ruled by repressive measures, the subject ought then to be fully considered.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he was sure the House was very tired of the debate, and heartily wished that they would go into Committee at once upon the Bill. But how could they be expected to do so, when they could only discuss the clauses, and could not deal with the merits of the Bill? In what way, he asked, could they bring the 733 matter fairly before the House, except by making themselves thus disagreeable? He could not help pointing out the paucity of attendance on the Treasury bench and the entire absence of the Members of the late Government, and he asked, whether that would have been the case if a coercion measure was required for England and Scotland? He hoped hon. Members would continue the discussion of the matter, not only now, but in every Session, when a renewal of these Acts was asked for. He confessed when he considered what took place last Session, and what they were asked to agree to now, he was almost boiling over with indignation at the contempt which was shown for the liberties of the people. Everyone must have come to the conclusion that the renewal of these Bills had been taken simply as a matter of course. It was not for him to read a constitutional lesson to the House; but if they considered how it was that these renewal Bills were brought in, they would see what loss resulted to the liberty of the people. His firm belief was that these questions had never been considered by the Cabinet or by the Government at all. The Bill was prepared across the Lobby by the permanent officials of the House as a matter of course. It was introduced a few days ago; and because it was thought to be a good thing that the discussion should be got through, and that these troublesome Irish' Members should be got rid of, the House had been called upon to sit on Saturday. They were asked at that time to pass Acts which would put a third of Great Britain under laws of coercion which did not exist in any other country in Europe. He hoped that the Expiring Acts Continuance Committee would be re-appointed an other Session, and would decide when Acts should be continued, instead of leaving it to the permanent officials, who had no constitutional responsibility. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick said there was no reason why these Acts should be renewed that year, as they did not expire till the end of next Session; and he asked why the subject should not be allowed to stand over until next Session, when a full discussion might be taken upon it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had admitted that the state of the country had very much improved, 734 and seemed to think the time would soon arrive when those Acts might be dispensed with. It would be impossible, however, to say when they might be dispensed with, if the whole country was to be kept under coercion, until not a single murder was committed in any part of it. They could hear of more harrowing crimes in England in a week than took place in Ireland in seven years. He admitted that agrarian outrages were horrible in their character, and if they existed, every hon. Member would support the Government in their efforts to suppress them; but for years the country had been nearly free from them. The English mind, however, believed that Ireland was bubbling over with these outrages; but the charges of the various Judges of Assize had plainly showed that that was not the case. It was, therefore, a great hardship that Ireland should be kept under coercion when crime had disappeared. He considered it would be very wise if the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary would take the trouble to mix a little among the landed gentry of Ireland, amongst commercial men and agriculturists, and hear what was the general feeling, rather than accept everything as a fact which he heard from the officials at the Castle, and in the office in Queen Street. They found that that was where the real Government of Ireland proceeded from. There were a number of permanent officials who were appointed by a former reactionary Government, whose whole sympathies were out of accord with the Irish people, and the system would never be satisfactory, while the affairs of the country were conducted under police government. Everyone in the police looked to promotion in proportion to the amount of crime reported, and so it was that they heard of threatening letters being sent, not one-half of which statements, in his belief, were correct. Again, a number of local stipendiary magistrates had been appointed, of police extraction, who, contrary to the spirit of the English law, presumed that every one brought before them was guilty before they were tried. They would find stipendiary magistrates, who were paid to administer the law, were in perpetual correspondence with the Castle at Dublin. They did not deal with prisoners according to the law, but dealt with them in a manner which they 735 thought would be pleasing to the Castle; and if the magistrates had any doubts as to how the Castle would like them to be dealt with, they wrote to the Castle. It was proposed to give those gentlemen the power of determining whether the inhabitants of a district should have the power to carry arms. He thought these Acts ought not to be renewed annually as matters of course. The Acts would not expire until the end of next Session, and he thought that the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) might very well be accepted—that the Acts should not expire until next October. If that suggestion was adopted, it would show the people of Ireland that, at any rate, their grievances were to be considered. It would afford the Irish people a proof that the liberty of the subject, whether in England, in Ireland, or in Scotland, was still dear to the hearts of the Legislature, and he therefore thought the Act ought only to be renewed for one year.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he rose for the purpose of urging that hon. Gentlemen who represented Ireland should not press for another division. He voted with the minority in the last division, to show his sympathy with the case they had raised, and with the arguments they had adduced in support of the case. But, believing that if they pressed for another division, they would be in a still smaller minority, and would in no way serve their case, he could not for himself, by voting with them again, do anything which might be viewed as an attempt at obstructing the remaining business of the Session. As an impartial witness of the debate which had just taken place, he thought all the force of the arguments adduced had been on the side of the Irish Members, and if any hon. Gentleman should propose in Committee that the Acts in question should be deleted from the Bill, he should most cordially vote for the Motion. He did not, however, think it would be well to go to any more divisions, which would have only the effect of obstructing the business that had to be completed.
§ MR. J. MARTIN
said, he must express his astonishment that the Government did not offer an apology to the House, and to the world, for the unconstitutional course which they were taking in proposing to inflict coercive legislation 736 for a longer time on his country-He should not oppose the second reading of the Bill, because it was the duty of the Government when they proposed unconstitutional measures of this kind to give good reasons for their course. They had not done so. On the contrary, it seemed to him that they were endeavouring to smuggle that legislation through the House by endeavouring to sandwich three Coercion Bills between 30 other measures; and be begged to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, why he was obstructing the business of the nation by taking a course so exceptional, on what he had been informed was regarded as a dies non in Parliamentary proceedings? He supposed for that reason, it was the better day for the business they were transacting, and with reference to which he hoped the Prime Minister, whom he now saw in his place, would deem it to be his duty to apologize for making a proposal which he must know was entirely opposed to the sentiments of the Irish people and their Representatives.
§ MR. BRYAN
also appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to assent to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick. Its adoption would allow ample time for consideration. He felt sure that if the Prime Minister had been present before, as he was now, he would have acceded to that very reasonable proposal.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he could assure hon. Members for Ireland that his absence from the debate up to that time was not due to any want of respect for them. They must be aware that he had a great deal to do besides sitting in that House. Although he had not been present, he had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the general tone and gist of the debate, and he was not entirely ignorant of what had been said on either side. Now, he wished particularly at that period of the Session, to say that he always liked hon. Members to part, if possible, in tolerably good humour with one another, and he would be happy to make a suggestion which he thought would meet the case. He remembered very well the remarks of his Colleagues (Lord Salisbury and Lord Carnarvon) in the House of Lords, and he could not say that he disagreed with them. He was perfectly ready to say that those two Acts should no longer be 737 contained in a Continuance Bill; and that if any continuance were wanted, which he should regret, they should be brought in separately at an early period of the Session, when there would? be an opportunity of discussing their merits. He hoped that that offer would be accepted, and that hon. Gentlemen opposite would now allow the proposal of the Government to pass.
§ MR. BUTT
said, the proper time to bring in the Bills in question would be next Session, and he had met the objection that a Dissolution of Parliament might occur, by assenting to their continuance till October next year. He must still protest against the Bills being renewed for two years without discussion.
§ MR. BIGGAR
, joined in the request of other Irish Members, that the Government would not persist in including these Acts in the present Bill. With regard to the county he represented (Cavan), the evidence of Dr. Conaty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kilmore, in which diocese the greater part of Cavan was situated, went to show that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had been mistaken in supposing that the most rev. Prelate had assorted that secret societies existed in that county, or that its condition afforded any justification for its being proclaimed.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, the proposal of the Prime Minister showed that wisdom and conciliation for which he was remarkable; and, so far as it went, it was received by Irish Members with a very good spirit. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman might, without at all interfering with the interests of the country, further agree to the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and then everybody would be satisfied, and there would be no further opposition to the Bill. He suggested that the renewal of these Bills should not be for two years, but for one year up to a fixed time, so as to obviate any chance of their dropping through in the event of a Dissolution of Parliament.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, there was nothing practical in dispute between the Government and Irish Members. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick was willing to insert words that these Acts should not expire till September, 1875. The actual words in the Bill were, till the end of the Session following July 1st, 1875; but those words were inserted merely to meet the contingency of a Dissolution. He would suggest that the Prime Minister should accept the proposal to renew the Acts till September, 1875, and then, if necessary, a Bill could be brought in for their continuance. By doing so, the Government would lose nothing, and would gain all they wished.
§ MR. FAY
contended that no necessity now existed for the continuance of these Acts. They had been grossly abused in their application, for with regard to the county he represented, and to which they had been applied (Cavan), the Judges of Assize had, year after year, described it as one of the most peaceful in Ireland, and the Chief Secretary must have been grossly misinformed when he insinuated that there was a necessity for their continuance.
§ MR. O'CLERY
said: Sir, in rising to move the Adjournment of the Debate, I am impelled by an irresistible sense of duty to my country. To me, the spectacle this Assembly to-day presents is one, indeed, of deep humiliation. You are the guardians of popular rights under the Constitution, and yet, at the mere caprice of the Government, you tamely surrender your great privilege, and allow the civil rights of millions of my fellow-countrymen to be crushed without even a murmur of dissent. It cannot be disguised that the issue before this House to-day is none other than the virtual suspension of the liberties of the Irish people. It is impossible to conceal one's sense of surprise and indignation that a matter of such vital importance to the Irish nation should be so stealthily approached, and as stealthily hurried through, at an extraordinary and almost secret sitting of this Assembly. So grave an issue for our people should involve whole days of debate. Having heard the speeches from the Treasury benches—every sentence of which was directed against the Irish Representatives in tones of ill-concealed menace—I fail to perceive, from the arguments used, any 739 pretence of justification for the re-enactment of these measures of coercion. The whole history of the relations of England towards Ireland is a history of coercion. Successive Governments, whether Whig or Tory, are alike at least in this respect. It must not be forgotten that under the paternal sway of the late "truly Liberal" Government, Ireland received the boon of the greatest number of stringent and tyrannical Coercion Acts ever passed since the Union. I say this in the face of the advice just tendered to the Prime Minister by the Attorney General of England under the late Government, who, in the cold shade of opposition, manifests some semblance of friendliness, Were, however, the Whig-Liberals now in power, he would find, as many a Liberal Attorney General found before, sufficient reasons for the enactment of measures of quite as hateful and galling a character. Both parties in this House seem equally ready when in office to pass coercion laws for Ireland, which when out of office they are as equally ready to deplore. But the Prime Minister in his efforts to gloss over the exceptional rigour of this Draconian code, evidently set a true value on the advice thus tendered, and paid more attention to the determined resistance on the part of the Irish Representatives here present. I would remind the First Minister of the Crown that it is as necessary for him to acquire a knowledge of measures for Ireland as it was recently when he felt compelled to abandon in the face of a hostile minority, a measure not of coercion, but of education for England, through inability, on his own admission, to master its details. Were such oppressive laws in other countries, the Prime Minister would loudly declaim against their injustice, and he would be sustained by hon. Members around me. The Press, too, would indulge in long homilies against tyranny and despotism, while not failing to point with pride to the happy security of those who lived under the British Constitution about which we hear so much. It is, indeed, time to tear off the mask from such organized hypocrisy in dealing with Ireland. You should no longer, under the pretence of the existence of crime where no crime exists, seek thus to destroy the fair fame of Ireland before the nations in order to force upon her the fetters of this Peace Preservation Act. Either 740 you must unblushingly state before Europe that, after seven centuries of British rule, you are prepared, as heretofore, to disregard the most sacred constitutional rights, and hold Ireland by the sheer force of bayonets; or, as a logical sequence, you must abandon those measures, so utterly unwarrantable. Surely, it is not by this system of insult and outrage on the character of the Irish nation you can ever hope to win to your side the sympathies of a brave and high-spirited people. I cannot support the advances from some of the Irish Representatives to accept the operation of these Acts for a year as a compromise. I refuse even for an hour to admit the right of coercion for my country. In the resolve to give those measures of coercion my most strenuous and persistent opposition, and to wring from the Government some expression of regret to Parliament and to Ireland for this insidious attack on the rights and liberties of my fellow-countrymen, I move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. O'Clery.)
§ MR. BUTT
, in supporting the Motion, said he was disappointed at the reply of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He had promised that these Acts should not be renewed again in a Continuance Bill; but though he fully accepted that pledge, it was not absolutely certain that two years hence the right hon. Gentleman would be Prime Minister. Not one single reason had been given for continuing this Bill beyond the end of next Session, when it expired. He was perfectly willing to let the Bill be renewed for a term certain, if it was understood that it could not be continued one hour beyond that time, unless upon full discussion.
§ MR. RONAYNE
protested against the continuance of the Acts, for however limited a period it might be. It was not correct to say that the Acts were not carried out. He knew many cases in which the operation of their provisions had caused great annoyance. Referring to the subject of arms, he said that after a gentleman of his acquaintance had been refused a licence to keep a gun, the applicant's father-in-law, who was 741 was Crown Prosecutor in Cork, mentioned their relationship to the magistrate, whereupon the latter said, "Why didn't you tell me that before! I refused the licence on account of the hat he wore."
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that the Prime Minister had offered to drop the Coercion Acts out of the next expiring Bill; but if he would consent to go a step further, and strike them out of the Schedule of the present Bill, these Acts would expire at the end of next Session, and there could not be a doubt, even in the event of a Dissolution, but that there would be abundant time between the beginning and end of the Session to pass a special Act dealing with particular cases that might arise.
said, that after listening to the debate, he was unable to conceive what any well-disposed man in Ireland had to complain of. The only persons in Ireland who had any reason to be afraid of the law were those who were anxious to break it. There was in existence a law in Belfast, under which he, for walking into Belfast and saying he was a Protestant, might be fined forty shillings and costs, and an hon. Gentleman opposite, for saying anything about the Pope or King "William, might be mulcted in a similar fine. That was a local law passed for the purpose of preventing party riots, and he was not aware that any respectable inhabitant of Belfast had ever complained of the existence of that law, because experience had shown it to be a useful and salutary one. It was necessary sometimes to submit to harsh laws for the general good. If the condition of the country was such as to render the Bill unnecessary, it ought not to be carried; but the Government should be allowed to have the opportunity of ascertaining whether or not it was necessary.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he could not understand the reluctance of the Government to make the slight concession asked of them, especially when Irish Members were asked to make greater concessions. The Government had all the Recess to consider whether they should renew that Act again; but now the House was asked to renew the Bill for twelve months after next September. At a recent discussion he remembered they had been told that the continuance of these Bills was a mere matter of form, that it would be only 742 for two years; but that sort of thing seemed likely to continue. He had been asked in Wexford what these Acts were continued for, as the people there were at a loss to understand why they remained in force. To retain such powers caused great discontent in Ireland, and their renewal was no bulwark to the order and peace of Ireland; on the contrary, it was a most dangerous policy. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. REDMOND
continued: No case had been made out by the Government for granting them such powers as they asked, and they had the evidence of the Judges of the land that there was no need of coercive measures. If these Acts were continued in the absence of any reason for them, the people of Ireland would say they were governed by men who did not know the state of that country. The Government had better put a little more confidence in the people, and not so much in the Lord Lieutenant and magistrates.
§ MR. COLLINS
hoped the Motion for Adjournment would not be pressed, and that the Government would reconsider their decision.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
contended that, as those Acts would not expire till the end of next Session, there was no necessity for passing that Session a Bill for their continuance. He thought the Government ought to accept the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
, while regretting the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney) said, he thought, after what the Prime Minister had said with reference to the particular Act objected to, that the Motion for Adjournment ought not to be pressed; and in fairness to everybody, they should now divide without further delay on the second reading. In Committee, Motions could be made for the omission of certain Acts from the Schedule. For instance, he intended to move in Committee the omission of the Election Petitions Act. He believed it was essential to the protection of the character of honest men and to the credit of the House that that Act should be altered.
also appealed to the hon. Member (Mr. O'Clery) not to press his Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. He (Mr. Sullivan) confessed that he listened with deep regret and with some humiliation to the speech of the Member for Tyrone. It was one of the worst evils of subjection, that it dulled the moral susceptibilities, deadened that noble resistance against wrong, and produced amongst those who had been subjected to its deteriorating agencies, men who would protest that they loved their chains.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
thought the debate should be adjourned, because hon. Members evidently did not under-stand the situation. The House was entitled to know from the Government, and especially from the Attorney General for Ireland, on what grounds the renewal of these Acts for two years was asked.
§ MR. BIGGAR
hoped the Motion for adjourning the debate would be persisted in. Not a single argument had been adduced to sanction the continued enactment of any of the 34 statutes set out in the Schedule to the Bill, and he maintained that, in the absence of knowing anything more than their names, it was not fair to be asked to consent to their continuance. One of the Bills proposed to be renewed was the Grand Juries Bill, to which he had every objection, because in most cases that body acted in the most atrocious and corrupt manner. ["Order, order!"] He contended that he was perfectly in Order. Then came the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill, which was a most imperfect measure and required alteration, especially after some recent decisions of the Irish Judges. Then came the most objectionable of all, and that was the Peace Preservation Act, which was most offensive to the people of Ireland and injurious to the country. He thought they should be allowed to consider all these Bills separately, and for that reason supported the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. J. MARTIN
appealed to the House to adjourn the debate, in order that a full opportunity might be afforded for the discussion of the various Acts contained in the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 110: Majority 75.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 33: Majority 79.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ In reply to Mr. M'CARTHY DOWNING,
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, it was not intended to go on that evening with the other Irish Business on the Paper.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House go into Committee on the said Bill on Thursday next."
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
appealed to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government whether, considering the manner in which the House had been kept all that day, and that the House did not adjourn that morning until between 2 and 3 o'clock, the House ought not now to adjourn. He would therefore move that the House do now adjourn.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Motion proposed by the hon. Member was not in Order. The question before the House was, that the Committee on the Bill be taken on Thursday.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
claimed the fulfilment of the promise given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—a promise in which Irish Members had the greatest confidence—that a day would be given specially for the discussion and consideration of the Bill, and they now hoped that promise would be kept by the Government.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I certainly consider that the offer on my part was not accepted. At the same time, so far as that offer was made from my own sense of propriety and justice, I should certainly be influenced by the same considerations
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
explained that the hon. Member (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had referred not to the offer of the right hon. Gentleman, but to a promise made by the Chancellor of the' Exchequer at a part of the debate when the Prime Minister was not present.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he would give his recollection of what had passed. Very early in the discussion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer undertook, 745 if hon. Gentlemen opposite would consent to the second reading, that the Committee should be fixed for some day next week, and that a fair opportunity should then be given of discussing the particular matters in the Bill to which hon. Members objected. How that offer had been received, he need not say; but certainly after what had passed, he held that it was not competent for hon. Gentlemen to ask for a fulfilment of the conditional promise.
§ SIR JOHN GRAY
said, the course now taken was perfectly unjust, and he hoped the Prime Minister would see the necessity of keeping the promise given in his absence by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If that promise was not kept, then he must say the course proposed to be taken by the Government was most unjust.
said, the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the most conciliatory manner, and not in any trafficking spirit; and let him remind the noble Lord the Postmaster General, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer added that he thought a Bill of that great importance should have a full opportunity to be considered. He (Mr. Sullivan) therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give to Irish Members an assurance that a day would be given for the discussion of those Acts, and that they be not taken at "the Irish hour."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he was not in the House when the question was raised, and he therefore did not know how it came before the House. But he would state what had occurred with regard to the second reading of this Bill. On the Motion for Adjournment of the House, he stated that it would be exceedingly in-convenient if the House were then to take into consideration all the questions comprised in this Bill, and also the cross issues that would be raised, and he therefore suggested that the proper time to take them into consideration would be when the Bill was in Committee; and he promised that if hon. Gentlemen would allow them to proceed with the second reading of the Bill—discussing, if they pleased, the general principle of including a large number of Acts in one Bill of this kind—he would take the opportunity of saying that a day would 746 be given for the consideration of this Bill. He further said that if the Bill were read a second time, they would in Committee then go into the consideration of the various Acts to which it referred, and of course it would be always in the power of hon. Gentlemen to raise discussion on the particular Motion; but as the discussion had now gone on for many hours, and had turned on the merits of the particular measures, he held that the conditional pledge he had given was not in any way binding on the Government.
§ MR. BUTT
said, that without in any way disputing the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's recollection, they were bound to take a division on the question of the second reading of the Bill, as a protest against the measure; and, as far as he was concerned, considering the danger that might arise from the discussion of such a Bill, he must say that Bills of such great importance ought not to be taken at a late hour of the morning. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would allow them that request; but if he should not, he (Mr. Butt) would now plainly tell the right hon. Gentleman that, although they were a small, they were a strong minority, and that they would most resolutely obstruct his measures.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
Bill committed for Thursday.
House adjourned at a quarter after Seven o'clock till Monday.