§ (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.)
§ COMMITTEE. ADJOURNED DEBATE.
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [22nd April], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words
"in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient to proceed with the consideration of a Bill re-enacting and modifying detached portions of several statutes, until it is put into such a form as to show clearly and distinctly the provisions which are to form part of the continued and revised code,"—(Mr. Biggar,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had informed the House that he was not at liberty to state the information which he had received from the magistrates and the police in Ireland; but he (Major O'Gorman) would like to know if the right hon. Baronet had consulted the parish priests and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church there with respect to the state of the country, for, if he had, he would then be able to give the House some valuable information on the subject. If he had consulted the Rev. Dr. Nulty, Bishop of Meath, he would have received all the information he could give him on the subject. At present the right hon. Baronet prided himself on the secrecy of his information; but he should like to ask him whether he was perfectly certain that the information he had received came from a perfectly reliable source? If it did, it would, of course, to some extent guide the House. Was he, in the slightest degree, quizzed by any of his correspondents? Had he heard of the celebrated Westmeath Rib-bon story? He would relate it briefly. A gentleman living in the county of Westmeath, possessed of considerable property and very fond of field sports, had a daughter, who disliked living in the country; she found the country very stupid and dull, and repeatedly asked her father to remove to Dublin, where he had a house. He refused to do so, as he was so fond of his field sports, and was much beloved by his neighbours. Soon afterwards he received a threatening letter. A few days later he received another, but he thought little of either. Some days afterwards there came another threatening letter, and not only that, but one in which his coffin was delineated. He then became alarmed, and sent for the stipendiary magistrate, the county dry nurse. He attended at the gentleman's house, saw the letters, and placed himself in 1642 communication with that sink of iniquity, Dublin Castle. Scores of detectives were sent down to the district, and domiciliary visits were paid to the houses of all the poor people, who were most roughly treated by the stipendiary and his myrmidons. But nothing could be detected as to the authorship of these threatening letters, though they still came pouring in. Nobody knew who wrote them, nobody knew anything about them, and the gentleman became seriously alarmed. He gave up his establishment in the country and removed into Dublin. His daughter was a very beautiful girl, just such a girl as could only be produced in his own Green Isle—blood, bone, and beauty, and plenty of it. She was universally admired, and had not been long in Dublin before proposals of marriage were made to her by a man who was fit for her. The wedding came off, and after the usual breakfast, when the young lady came down to take her departure, she threw her arms round her father's neck, and said to him—"Go down to the country, father; nobody will touch a hair of your head. You are beloved by everybody around you. Nobody wrote those letters but one person, and that person was myself. I wrote you every one of those threatening letters, and it was I who delineated that coffin. I found the country very dull; I asked you to leave it 20 times and come to Dublin. You refused, and, as it was very fashionable, I adopted the Ribbon scheme, and it completely succeeded." Did the right hon. Baronet ever hear that story? Most probably not; and why not? Because it was a story in favour of the people, and the right hon. Baronet did not go into the class of society that was favourable to the people, but only into that class that was hostile to them in every respect. He did not see him in his place; but he ventured to say that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the county of Dublin and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—save the mark!—could have made the right hon. Baronet perfectly acquainted with that story, and several others. He (Major O'Gorman) would tell them another. The Protestant Archbishop of Dublin rushed one afternoon into the bedroom of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at 4 o'clock. The Lord Lieutenant was a man of great talent, 1643 and of great sloth. The Archbishop called to him—"Oh! my Lord, we shall have our throats cut. The country's up! the country's up! the country's up!" "Oh!" said his Lordship, "what time of day is it?" "My Lord," said the Archbishop, "it is 4 o'clock P.M." "Well," said the Lord Lieutenant, "t' is time for everybody to be up now." His Lordship got up, and found that the country was not up; but that it was as quiet as it was now, and as it had been proved to be by the Irish Judges, many of whom had declared that it was so at the last Assizes and at the Assizes before. He thought there was no reason whatever why that Bill should pass. It was his firm belief that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had no heart in it. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would rather that the Bill should not pass, or at all events that he had satisfied himself that the people of Ireland were perfectly quiet, perfectly well conducted, and perfectly obedient to the law. Surely the right hon. Gentleman, the foremost man of all the world, could well afford not to take over a legacy of this description from those blockheaded Whigs. He was strong enough not to do so. There were dozens of hon. Gentlemen behind him who would gladly see that miserable scrap blotted out. He entreated the right hon. Gentleman to cut it short at once. They would soon be in the season of sacrificing innocent Bills. But this was a guilty Bill, and not an innocent one. He besought him to despatch it, and to believe that he would never be sorry for it. Let him destroy that guilty Bill. He entreated him once more to do so. The altar was before him, and he entreated him to commence the immolation at once.
§ MR. PARNELL
, in supporting the Motion of the hon. Member for Cavan, observed, that no arguments had been advanced against the Amendment of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Derry (Mr. R. Smyth), although he agreed with the principle of the Bill, said he should vote in favour of the Amendment as being a just and proper one. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, as an open foe, had, of course, opposed it, and so also had the noble Marquess who was supposed to lead the Opposition in that House. What reason had the hon. Member for Derry given for approving 1644 the principle of the Bill? It was this, that some coercion was necessary in his district to prevent Catholics and Protestants flying at each other's throats. But was that any reason why 30 other Irish counties should be placed under Coercion Laws? It had been said that some half dozen Irish landlords had given it as their opinion that without coercion they could not exercise the rights of property. What did they mean by the rights of property? He always noticed that when a Coercion Bill was to be passed through the House, they heard a great deal about the rights of property, but very little about its duties. Their views as to the rights of property were sometimes a little curious. He had seen Irish landlords sitting in polling-booths as agents for the Conservative candidate, hearing illiterate voters record their votes, and their tenants trembling when they came to vote against that candidate. That was an exercise of the rights of property of which he did not think Englishmen would approve. There had not been threatening letter writing of late, or shooting, or agrarian crime, and was that, he asked, a time to bring in a Coercion Bill? Was that a proper time to stop all discussion on the measure, when Irish Members were telling the House what the wishes of their constituents with regard to it were? The hon. Member for Derry had told the House that the Irish tenant-farmers of the North were convinced that some remedial measures were necessary for the restoration of tranquillity in that part of their country, and had said that if a promise of a Land Bill was held out, whereby small holders would be secured in their holdings, Ireland, instead of being a source of weakness, would be a source of strength to England. He (Mr. Parnell) did not profess to speak on behalf of the Irish tenant-farmers, but he did not believe that Irish tenant-farmers, even those living in the Black North, were so locked up in self-interest as to be inclined to give up the interest of their country to serve that of their class. When the proper time came, perhaps it would be found that he was as true a friend to the tenant-farmer as even the hon. Member for Derry, and he said this, knowing well the importance of securing the tenant in his holding, but knowing also that in the neglect 1645 of the principles of self-government lay the root of all Irish trouble. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had found fault with the language which had been used by the hon. Member for Derry; but he (Mr. Parnell) did not know who had appointed the right hon. Gentleman the censor of the language used in that House by hon. Members. He thought that the facts of the hon. Gentleman were well put, and he only wished he was with them on their (the Home Rule) benches of the House. Perhaps the Chief Secretary for Ireland detected a sort of terror arising in the hon. Member's mind, that the time-honoured and ancient Whig hack would no longer be able to carry matters with a high hand in Derry County, and was holding out to him a helping hand in the event of his thinking of changing his side of the House. For his own part, however, he did not think that the hon. Member was likely to turn his coat, and he was convinced that he would always be found where he believed that the interest of his country required him. He trusted that the time would arrive when the history of the past would be forgotten, so far as it reminded England that she was not entitled to Ireland's confidence, and when she would give to Irishmen the rights which they claimed—the right of self-government. Why should Ireland be treated as a geographical fragment of England, as he had heard an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer call it some time ago. Ireland was not a geographical fragment, but a nation. He asked the House to regard Ireland as anxious to defend England when her hour of trial came; and he trusted the day might come when England might see that her strength lay in a truly independent, a truly free, and a truly self-supporting Irish nation.
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he could see no reason whatever for the passing of the Bill. The county of Waterford, with which he was intimately connected, was free from agrarian outrage, the best relations obtained between land lord and tenant, and he defied the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say that a portion of the Ribbon Association had ever extended to that county. At the last Assizes the Judge on circuit offered his congratulations on the marked freedom of the county from crime of all kinds, and beside that it was not three weeks since a learned 1646 Judge had congratulated the Grand Jury of the City of Waterford upon the lightness of their work, and under such circumstances he protested against such a city and such a county being placed under these Coercion Laws. The Bill itself, in fact, was unjust and uncalled for, and was the result of the Government having been guided by private sources of information, instead of having obtained it openly and freely. Many remarks had been made on the length to which the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had extended his speech; but he (Mr. Power) was bound to say, in justice to him, that he had begged him not to make a short speech; and his reason was the policy of silence by which they had been met on the Government side of the House. He knew there was in the House a majority that was beyond all argument; but he would for all that add his public voice to the representations made by those around him in reference to Irish sentiment and Irish liberty. Ireland was governed as a conquered country which was repugnant to the people of the country. It was a system that was unjust, uncalled for, and impolitic, because it was fraught with danger to the best interests of the Empire. Beyond that, no just cause had been given for suspending the Constitution of the Empire.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he had been unable to discover from the speeches of the Chief Secretary and the Solicitor General for Ireland what were the real reasons for the introduction of this measure. Various grounds had been alleged by the hon. and learned Gentleman, such as the existence of Fenianism, agrarian and sectarian differences and jealousies. But it was admitted almost in the same breath by the right hon. Baronet that Fenianism had almost disappeared; that the country, as a whole, was never more free from crime; and as to Sectarian differences and jealousies, would a Bill of this kind have any effect whatever in allaying either? Would the Government or the House propose such a Bill for that purpose to apply to England, where there were also sectarian differences and jealousies? No. In England they must tolerate: in Ireland they coerced. It was said by the Chief Secretary that the Bill was necessary because the ordinary Courts of Law could not deal with crime and secure the attendance of witnesses and 1647 convictions. That ground, however, could not be maintained against the fact that in Ireland 75 per cent of the crimes committed the offenders were brought to justice, while in England the percentage was 50. But in what respects would the Bill facilitate the getting of evidence? There was power given by a clause of the Act of 1870, now submitted for re-enactment, to hold a general inquiry in regard to a crime, in cases where no one was accused, and to summon witnesses as in an ordinary judicial investigation. The exercise of that power would either lead to men being forced to incriminate themselves, a thing which was quite opposed to the law of England—or to the crime of falsehood being added to the other crime. It had been proposed as one mode of securing the administration of justice that any locality in which more than the ordinary average of crime was found should pay the extra costs of prevention and repression; but the right hon. Baronet had himself admitted that it was not likely to have the effect of inducing persons to come forward to give evidence. None of the clauses seemed to him likely to effect their professed objects, or remove the discontent of the Irish people which was alleged to exist. So long as there was a just and a righteous cause for that discontent it would continue. The only justification of the Bill he had really heard was the suspicion of the existence of Ribbonism in Westmeath. He said suspicion, because although the Government said they had information which justified them in proposing the Bill they had not given any tangible grounds to go upon. Indeed, he might say that the speech of the Chief Secretary was an admission that Ribbonism in Westmeath was dormant, if not extinct. Yet in regard to that county it was to be remarked that the severity of the legislation of 1870 was not mitigated in one iota by the present Bill. If it was not extinct, why did the Government liberate Captain Duffy and take him into their employ as a spy? A fear had been expressed lest the Government should become despotic. For his part he had no such fear. He knew from the writings of the Prime Minister that the right hon. Gentleman disliked that Bill in his heart as much as he did, but the right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, outvoted in his Cabinet. Therefore, when he blamed the Government 1648 he excluded the Prime Minister altogether, for he had too much regard and reverence for him to believe that he would willingly assent to that measure; but the Government were making themselves odious by those violations of the Constitution. They had promised Ireland conciliation, and had given her coercion; they had promised them bread and had given them a stone. They were wearing out the patience of the country by the effete measures they had introduced, and by the flippant and flabby replies they had offered to the arguments brought against them.
§ MR. D. TAYLOR
said, he could not agree with the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath in many of the views he had expressed. He (Mr. D. Taylor) shared the great dislike which existed on the part of Irish Members to a Bill of that kind; but he could not vote with the hon. Member for Cavan, if he pressed his Motion to a division, for he did not believe there was any disposition on the part of the House to deal otherwise than fairly and liberally with Ireland, and sufficient evidence of that fact was afforded by the legislation of the last Parliament in regard to that country. He had not the honour of a seat in that Parliament; but he highly approved of the Church and the Land Bills as measures which were proposed and carried in a sincere spirit of conciliation, and with a strong desire to remove discontent. But they must take into consideration the past history of Ireland, and the feeling of different sections of the population towards each other. With regard to that legislation there was still a strong feeling that it had not freed Ireland from agrarian crime to the extent which he believed it was calculated to do. But the fact was that Ireland had been too long neglected, especially with reference to its commerce and trade of every description, and too long represented by men who were of a different race from their constituents, and did not sympathize with the general body of the people. It would, therefore, take some time before such measures as those he had mentioned could produce their desired effect; still, he believed their good influence would, before a distant day, entirely remove agrarian crime from the country. It was only for agrarian crime, the perpetrators of which were seldom brought to justice—not from the sympathy of the people with such offences, 1649 but because they looked upon the part of an informer as odious—that he thought a measure like the present was needed. He was sure the Government brought that Bill forward with reluctance; but the question was, could the peace and safety of the country be maintained without its provisions? Looking at the decreasing crime and the growing prosperity of Ireland, he would suggest to the Chief Secretary, who dealt with Irish questions with a care and a zeal which did him the greatest credit, that he might limit the duration of the Bill to two years, at the end of which time he hoped and believed it would not be necessary to renew it. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland took that course he believed that many Irish Members would waive their objections to it.
§ MR. DUNBAR
said, he differed from the hon. Member for Coleraine (Mr. D. Taylor), and would suggest that these Acts should continue only for a month longer, instead of two or five years. The Bill was one of the most complete specimens of everything that was objectionable, and its object seemed to be to conceal from the people the law under which they lived. They had heard a good deal about the faulty framing of Acts of Parliament, and at that moment a Committee was sitting up-stairs to consider the mode of drawing statutes and the improvements that might be effected in their language and style. Well, he thought the Bill now under discussion should be submitted to it, for it was about as complete a specimen of everything that was objectionable in form as any Act that had been brought before them for many years. He gave the Government credit for what they had done in relation to legislation in Ireland; but he would admit that if any measure of coercion was necessary, there were some very objectionable provisions in the Bill. If enforced, it would affect every man in Ireland, and the law would be so plain that every magistrate and every policeman who had to carry it out should clearly understand their duty in regard to it. The subject should be placed before the House fairly and in a complete form that they might know what they were doing, and if that course were pursued, he thought they would have no hesitation in rejecting it. He particularly objected to the 3rd section, which instead of stating directly what was proposed to be enacted, recited the Acts of 1650 1870 and 1871, which were to be continued; and it was impossible in Committee to make any Amendment on those Acts. This was not carrying out the engagement made by the Government last Session, and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cavan ought to receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. CLIVE
said, he knew nothing of the county of Westmeath; but as the owner of property in the counties of Mayo and Tipperary, of which he knew a great deal, he begged to thank the right hon. Baronet opposite for bringing in that Bill. His speech clearly proved that he had a practical knowledge of the subject. It was true that the drafting of the Bill might have been more successful; but, on the whole, that was not a matter of much material importance. He gave the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath every credit for his ingenuity and ability, but he was deficient in practical knowledge of the subject. It was said that no reason had been given for the introduction of the Bill. He would commend to the attention of hon. Members below the Gangway an extract from an Irish newspaper which belonged to a former Member of that House whom they all respected—the late Mr. Maguire. The Cork Examiner of August, 1874, said—It is an unfortunate fact that among us for some time back it has been safer to commit murder than any other offence. We see constantly walking out of the dock free men and free women, persons whom no human being doubts had committed atrocious and cold-blooded murder. Crown prosecutors have now almost abandoned the idea of obtaining a conviction for murder. The clearest and most convincing evidence can at the best secure only a disagreement of the jury. Juries seem to have been inspired by a namby-pamby compassion which is reserved entirely for the person in the dock, for they seem to have none for the individual whoso throat was cut, or whose drink was poisoned, or whose brains were battered. There seems to be far more commiseration for the murderer than for his victim. Jurors forget that in setting a murderer free they in all probability help to cut the throat of some new victim; for if the escaped criminal himself does not commit murder, the ease and safety with which he has got off lends temptation to some one else.Baron Dowse mentioned that there had been nine or ten cases of murder in Tipperary. All knew how difficult it was in Ireland to detect the perpetrators of agrarian crimes, and there was, therefore, the greater necessity for exceptional legislation, which there could be no 1651 doubt had prevented many crimes and outrages. He admitted that such legislation caused discontent in some parts of Ireland; but that was stirred up by speeches of hon. Members in Ireland and in the House of Commons, and speeches which, if not delivered in the House, were sent to Ireland and published as if they had been delivered. There was no doubt that there was a considerable credulity and ignorance in some portions of the Irish people; but if the prosperity of Ireland went on increasing, and if the people became more intelligent and less credulous and savage in their nature, the necessity for these measures might gradually disappear.
§ MR. RONAYNE
said, he took exception to the extract referred to by the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, and maintained that it did not apply to the county with which he (Mr. Ronayne) was connected—the county of Cork; for on recent occasions the Cork juries had been thanked by the Judges for their verdicts, and that persons who had escaped elsewhere had been sent to Cork to be tried, and had been convicted. He wanted to know to what part of the country the extract read by the hon. Member applied. [Mr. CLIVE said, he read an extract from The Cork Examiner.] It probably applied to England, and perhaps to the county of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary, where a grand jury recently found a man guilty, and insisted on his being sentenced without his going before a common jury. That was in the county of Devon. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: That is not my county.] At all events, he complained that, for the purpose of supporting this Bill, the charge alleged against that county was cast like a shadow over all other parts of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland taunted the Irish Members with not bringing forward new arguments; but the answer must be that the Government adduced no new facts, and did not repeat the old ones. He (Mr. Ronayne) had been three Sessions in this House, and in that time three Coercion Bills had been brought in for Ireland. On each occasion the Government of the day considered it necessary to make a parade of certain facts—number of agrarian outrages, charges of juries, resolutions of grand juries, reports of magistrates; but on this occasion they did nothing of the 1652 kind. The right hon. Gentleman rested his case in support of this Bill upon secret letters addressed to Dublin Castle bearing upon the prevalence of agrarian crime, and which he refused to produce; but it was a fact that when this Bill was brought in in a former year, there was not any agrarian crime then in Ireland to justify the Government in introducing it. He would, in support of that assertion, refer to and quote the charges of the Judges of Assize in Ireland, showing that there was then no agrarian crime in the country. Mr. Justice O'Brien, in his Charge in the county of Cork in 1870 said, to the Grand Jury—No cases of agrarian crime will be brought before you, and no crimes but those of an ordinary character.He was glad to say, looking through the calendar, that since the last Assizes no crime of an extraordinary character had been committed in their county. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, in like manner, bore testimony in his Charge to the Grand Jury of the city of Cork to the light state of the calendar, and to the freedom of the city from Fenianism, and of the surrounding country from agrarian crimes. In the West Riding there was, he said, only one crime that called for notice; and in the midland district or East Riding, which was as large as some counties, the Act need not be applied. Yet, notwithstanding that, the Coercion Bill was applied in that district. [The hon. Member then read statements of the chairmen of quarter sessions in the city and county of Cork, indicating the peaceful state of the places and surrounding districts where the sessions were held. Mr. Ferguson, chairman of the quarter sessions at Bandon, received a pair of "white gloves," marking the freedom of the place from even a solitary case of crime on that occasion. "Last year, he said, "we had only one crime, and this year we have none." Mr. Keane, chairman of quarter sessions, also spoke of the great freedom of the city from crime. Tralee was also remarkably free from crime. Then, with regard to the cases of murder recently committed in the South of Ireland, they were committed for "money," and they were called by the people—he did not mean to speak offensively—"English murders." One man who murdered a woman for money was hanged, and another 1653 was banished for life, and condemned to penal servitude.] From those statements, it appeared dishonest to credit the Coercion Acts with having stopped or prevented crime where it never existed, and in continuing these enactments the Irish people felt naturally indignant that they should be treated as a nation of savages unfit to participate in the privileges of the British Constitution. The noble Lord the Member for the County of Waterford (Lord Charles Beresford) told the House last Session, on the second reading of the Bill for the Repeal of the 10s. Licence on guns, that if that licence was done away with, he and others would not long be Members of that House. Yet there had not been an instance of agrarian murder in Waterford for 30 years, and the noble Lord's brother, the Marquess of Waterford, was so deservedly popular that if every man in the county had a gun he might walk through the county at midnight unharmed. Again, the Member for Kerry was a supporter of the Bill, but he would ask him if there had been a single instance of such crime there during the last 20 years? He blamed the Irish Executive for putting the Act upon the South and other parts of Ireland where there was no necessity for it. The noble Marquess who sat on the front Opposition Bench, on introducing the Motion for the Secret Committee on Westmeath, expressed the greatest horror at having to propose such a measure. He pleaded ignorance of Irish affairs, and he (Mr. Ronayne) was surprised that he could advocate the present Bill without a blush on his countenance. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fortescue) who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland stated that if the Irish Executive put the law in force where there was no necessity for doing so, they should be arraigned before this House for so doing. Now, with respect to Waterford, Cork, and Kerry, he defied the right hon. Gentleman to bring forward any cases to justify the enforcement of that Act. It was, in truth, kept up by the magistrates as a game law, and nothing else. He had been asked why, as a sportsman himself, he could possibly oppose an Act that so admirably succeeded in putting down poaching. It should be called, in fact, a Game, and not a Peace Preservation Act. The Irish Executive had put the Westmeath 1654 Act into the middle of it, and thus the whole of Ireland obtained credit for the crimes alleged to be committed in Westmeath.
said, he was not sure that the Irish people had not accomplished a great deal when they saw the manner in which this Bill was received by the House. Hitherto Coercion Bills for Ireland had been brought in by eager speakers and carried by bristling majorities; but Irishmen had now won half the battle, for they had struck the conscience of their foes. The Prime Minister and even the Chief Secretary were ill at ease in carrying this Bill through the House, and dumbness and languor prevailed on the Treasury Bench. There were a dozen or more eloquent followers of the Prime Minister entertaining the doctrines which prevailed amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite, who refrained from speaking out in consequence of knowing the universal will of their countrymen. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Clive), who spoke in such de haut en has style, advised Irishmen from his lofty eminence to free themselves from Coercion Bills by ceasing to be savages. Now, Irish Members were told that Coercion Bills were called upon to repress exceptional crimes, meaning thereby crimes which were not common, because exceptional crimes existed in Ireland and not in England, and because in Ireland, criminals were objects of popular sympathy, so that they could not be brought to justice. Coercion laws were said therefore to he necessary for Ireland. Dr. Lankester, at a recent inquest, had called the attention of the jury to the frequency of cases of child-murder, but, as these were not exceptional crimes, no Coercion Bill was thought to be necessary for England. Referring to the frequency of child-murder in the metropolis, The Pall Mall Gazette said, it was a disgrace to the metropolis that not one per cent of the murderers were brought to justice. An hon. Member on one occasion, speaking on the same subject in that House, had stated that no fewer than 276 children were found dead in the streets and areas of London in one year, and that not one of the murderers had been discovered. Was that or was it not exceptional crime? But who had ever heard of a Coercion Bill for England? It had been asserted that time was wasted in the 1655 debate by the Irish Members. He denied that such was the case. He and those who were with him were determined, weak as they were as a minority, that while one word could be said by a man to give utterance to the feelings of the people, it should be said to protest against a bill like this passing through the House, because it was only by rendering it unpalatable to the Conservatives and distasteful to the Government that they, a small minority, could hope to do any good. Why was it that after centuries of connection with Ireland this country had to resort to the tactics of Bismarck in Alsace-Lorraine, and to the carpetbag legislation of the Southern States of America, in the present Bill, the name of which ought to be altered, for it would enact "That in the opinion of Parliament it is better that twenty innocent men should suffer than that one guilty should escape." Was there an Englishman here who did not know that it was one of the proudest boasts a countryman of his could make of his country's Constitution that it maintained it was better that ten guilty should escape rather than one innocent should suffer. It was one of an Englishman's boasts, also, that his house was his castle; but, in Ireland, a man's house was the policeman's, and a man was guilty until he was proved innocent, which was also opposed to the English rule. Another great fault he had to find with the Bill was that it would teach a lesson which was most fatal when taught to a half-educated people—namely, that the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, or the Solicitor General for Ireland might break the law with impunity. While Pat Mooney must be sent to prison for belonging to a secret society, the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) might in perfect security remain a member of an Orange Lodge, and the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland continue to be a Freemason. To show how harshly the Bill would operate he would refer to a letter he had received from Mr. Kyle Knox, a Protestant Conservative gentleman of the North of Ireland, who considered the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government the greatest statesman of the age. His correspondent pointed out that a sum of £500 was presented by the Grand Jury, owing to the murder of Stephen Church, to be levied in 10 instalments 1656 from the tenants of the townland on which the deceased had been shot, the total rental of which was £270. The writer added that he could not see Conservatism, common sense, or common justice in fining men ruinously for having bad neighbours. Even the laws of Cromwell with reference to Ireland were milder in many respects than the coercive measures of our English Parliament of the present day. In Cromwell's time a district in which an Englishman was murdered was not fined if the criminal were given up to justice; but now, if all the men, women, and children joined in hue and cry after a criminal, and handed him over to justice, that would not save the district. This Bill was about to be forced through Parliament, not at the dictation of a spirit of law, but at the dictation of a spirit of vengeance, the same spirit which had induced the Danes to trample on the Saxons and which had induced the Normans to trample on both. Its continuance was a declaration of hostility to the country, and it was not with any great hope that his feeble words would much affect their decision to-night that he appealed to the House to pause before they forced this Coercion Bill on the Irish people. But, whatever determination the House might now arrive at, he was satisfied from what he had seen and heard in the course of this discussion, that if Irishmen stated their case fairly and fought the battle of their country openly and manfully, a feeling was at work in the minds of hon. Members which must eventually bear fruit in favour of Irish liberty. Let it not be supposed that those who opposed the passing of this measure did not yearn for the day when all their Representatives and the mass of the people of Ireland could put themselves at the beck of the law of the land, because every right-minded man must suffer when he found himself placed in opposition to that law. He protested, however, against the people of his country being taught political lessons out of this bloody and brutal code. He admitted he felt indignant when the miscreants in the Westmeath crime stained their country. But there was no country in which there were not epidemics of crime—moral epidemics, perhaps, which lasted for a season, and then disappeared. Take England, for example; at one time there was an epidemic 1657 amongst people to commit suicide by throwing themselves from the Monument; at another time for drowning themselves in the Thames; at another time some other form of suicidal mania ran for a few years, and then disappeared. A few years since the crime of garotting was rampant in the country, but it had now disappeared. In Westmeath they had such a moral epidemic. He felt, and many of his friends felt, a great desire to go down to Westmeath and constitute a volunteer force in Ireland to stamp out the brutal enmities in Westmeath. And why did they not go? Because the Legislature had put them in a false position, and the Government trusted the police, who whispered away reputations and disregarded the protests of the men who had condemned, and still condemned, the passage of Coercion Bills. In conclusion, he felt confident that, although the Prime Minister would have to go through his bitter task that evening, and force the Bill through the House, yet, if Irish Members did their duty to their country, at no distant date the right hon. Gentleman would rise in his place, and put an end to that detestable régime of coercion.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, that Irish Members were determined to oppose the measure at every stage, because they felt that there was no necessity for it; and that its only object was to preserve game and wild fowl in Ireland at the expense of the country. The grievance in regard to arms was in some degree sentimental; but the reality of it could not in any way be denied. For his own part, he was fond of carrying a gun for the purpose of sport; but he would rather debar himself from that pleasure for the rest of his life, than ask a magistrate to compliment him by granting him a licence. He held that every man was entitled to have a gun if he chose, for the protection of his person—it was a Divine right for a man to be able to protect himself, of which the Government had no just power to deprive him. He would tell the House a case which would show that the Bill was used for the protection of game more than for the protection of the peace of the country. A constituent of his had a gun since he was a boy, and got a licence for it when the country was proclaimed, but some great man in the neighbourhood found 1658 out that this Murnane was a good shot, and occasionally killed some rabbits and hares, so he determined that the gun should be taken from Murnane. Well, no charge could be brought against him; but it happened that a very distant relation of Murnane's was charged for firing at another party—though the charge was never proven—so the authorities concluded that it must have been out of Murnane's gun that the shot was fired, and for that imaginary offence he was deprived of his gun. That would show them that the Act was used more for the protection of game than any other case. He would therefore feel it his duty to oppose it in every stage through which it had to pass.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he would wish to re-call the attention of the House to the real question under discussion, and that was whether the Bill in its present shape was such as any Government could ask Parliament to pass. Admitting, for the purpose of the discussion of this question only, that coercion was necessary, such coercion should be rendered as little oppressive as possible; but in this case the Bill was so unintelligibly drawn that it would seem really intended not only to leave the people in ignorance of what the law was, but even to render its interpretation by the magistrates and persons who would be called on to administer its provisions next to impossible. He was a lawyer himself; but he was bound to confess that owing to the extraordinary confusion of the Coercion Code, as proposed to be enacted by this Bill, he had altogether failed in his attempts to frame Amendments on its provisions. Government had been guilty of a breach of faith in not fulfilling a promise given last Session—that on any future occasion the measure would be brought forward in a plain and intelligible form. If, indeed, there had been the same clearness in the Bill as in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it, there would have been little ground for complaint in this respect. One of two causes must be looked to for an explanation of the introduction of the measure in its present shape—either an inefficient draftsman had been employed, or Government had desired to preclude, if possible, the discussion of the details of the measures which it was proposed to re-enact. The first could not be the case, for it would 1659 have been much easier for any draftsman with a pair of scissors to have cut out of the existing Acts the provisions intended to be re-enacted and pasted them together, than to have drafted the present crude and unintelligible Bill. The other explanation must therefore be accepted; but he was glad to think the object would not be attained, as a glance at the proposed Amendments would show. It was exceptional legislation, it enacted a criminal code, and its terms should be simple and easily understood by the people, for it must be remembered that it was a measure which would have to be administered for the most part by magistrates who were not lawyers, and that it would be necessary for these magistrates to have 12 or 13 different Acts before them, in order to arrive at a decision under it. As matters stood, however, it was impossible to make out what the Government intended or what the people were expected to do. The Preamble itself presented a muddle such as was not to be found in any existing Act of Parliament, mixing up as it did a number of Acts together in such a way as to render it quite impossible for any one clearly to ascertain what was meant. The object of the Government—namely, to exclude discussion—having failed, he earnestly implored them, in the interest of the entire country, if there must be coercion, at least to put the law in such a state that its administration would be easy and its enactments intelligible. Let the existing Acts be repealed, and re-enact such portions as it was considered desirable to retain as law. That would have been a plain and simple course, and every one then would have been able to understand its provisions; but now it was impossible to ascertain, except with extreme difficulty, what was to be the law. There might be some reason why the House had heard no discussion on the other side; but he thought the real secret of it was, that hon. Members had no argument to offer against the proposition that the Act ought to be introduced in an intelligible form. Having said so much on the question immediately before the House, he could not sit down without protesting in the strongest manner against the proposed legislation. Ireland for many years had not been in so peaceful a condition or so free from crime. He most indignantly denied that 1660 such a condition was due to the tyrannical laws at present in existence, and ascribed the existing state of affairs to the exertions and advice of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), who had succeeded in convincing the people that a constitutional agitation for "Home Rule" was to be preferred to the violent agitations of former times. He considered that bringing forward the Bill at such a time was a grave political mistake on the part of the Ministers, who now had an opportunity of proving their goodwill to Ireland and of convincing the people of their wish to govern constitutionally never before offered to any Government. To this House the Irish people had returned a large majority of its Representatives pledged not to the disintegration of the Empire, but for the purpose of cementing the Union between the two countries upon a basis equally advantageous to England and to Ireland. The Constitution of Ireland was filched away from her by fraud and vices of the grossest kind. He believed that if the magistrates all over the country had been consulted on this subject, they would have told the Chief Secretary that the continuance of such legislation was totally uncalled-for, while at the same time it was demoralizing in its effect on the people. A large number of Members had been returned to assist the present or any other Government to secure peace in Ireland; they came to Parliament and assured the Government that Ireland was peaceful and desired to abandon all violent agitation, that her people wished for the goodwill and friendship of England, and asked for nothing that was not strictly constitutional and just, and what was the result? The Government would not have confidence in the Irish people. They would not say to hon. Members—"Use your influence to keep the country in the state of tranquillity which now prevails." If they would do so, these Acts would never be required. If a little more consideration was given to the views and the expressions of opinion on the part of the Irish Members in the House, they would not be called upon to enact measures which interfered with the rights of the Irish people. Never had there been a time in the history of the country when there had been such an absence of crime, and as there was 1661 not a tittle of evidence to show that that would not be a lasting condition of affairs, he contended that there was no valid ground for reinforcing these coercive measures. It was not too late to adopt a different policy towards Ireland. Let the Prime Minister say to us, "Gentlemen, you say Ireland is peaceful and free from crime and coercive measure are not necessary. I am willing to accept your assurance; but, remember, if my forbearance is abused, coercion must be again resorted to." If that was done the House would find that such confidence in the Irish people would not be abused, and there would not be any excuse again for renewing these unconstitutional measures. The Chief Secretary alluded to meetings of magistrates at which a renewal of the most stringent of these coercive enactments were advocated; but no person who was aware of the constitution of those meetings could attach any weight to their recommendations. If the opinion of magistrates was considered of importance, why did not the Government consult the magistrates throughout Ireland? The Chief Secretary dared not do so, for they would have told him that the continuance of such legislation was quite uncalled-for, while at the same time it was most demoralizing to the people. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had alluded to a case in which several men witnessed a murder, but would not pursue the murderer. He believed the explanation of their conduct was that, as the law did not allow them to possess arms, they were afraid to face an armed man. By depriving the people of arms they were cowing and demoralizing them to such an extent that it was no wonder crime was undiscovered. In conclusion, he would contend that the peaceful state of Ireland was due, not to the operation of the Peace Preservation Acts, but to the advice which the Irish people had received, and the example of moderation which had been set before them by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick and others who acted with him; and to the prospect that the country was about to enjoy again its liberty in the same way as the other parts of the Kingdom, and unless they did so, it could not be expected they would rest satisfied.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
said, that he had no sympathy with crime; but that 1662 nevertheless he intended to vote for the abstract proposition before him. It had been his lot to have lived in Ireland at a time when there was considerable disturbance and danger, and nobody who knew his antecedents would suspect that he had any sympathy with crime, agrarian or otherwise; but for the abstract proposition put before the House by the hon. Member for Cavan County, he could have no hesitation in recording his vote, as a protest against the shape in which the Bill had been introduced by the Government. At the same time he would suggest to the Government that it would have been far better that the Act should have been continued for two years instead of five years. This might remove objections which many Members might otherwise feel.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 155; Noes 69: Majority 86.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title), agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Repeal of certain parts of Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act, 1870.)
§ MR. BUTT
, in moving as an Amendment, in page 1, line 26, to leave out "the parts of" said, the evil had already been pointed out of introducing a number of Bills in one measure of this kind. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary himself said that the objection would be a good one if that were a consolidating and amending Bill. He failed to see what it was if it did not come under that head, for it proposed to deal with provisions that were scattered through three or four separate Acts of Parliament. There was first the Act of 1848; that was slightly modified by the Act of 1856; that was materially altered by the Act of 1870; that was again altered by the Act of 1871; and now it was proposed to alter that again by this Bill. For the first time it was now proposed that that Coercion Code should be administered by petty session Courts, the magistrates of which would not have exactly the same facilities for deciphering its hieroglyphics as the Judges of a Superior Court. Four clauses of the Act of 1870 were repealed and only three retained. But the simple way 1663 would be to repeal the Act of 1870, and then the three clauses which it was proposed to retain could be put separately before the Committee, so that important Amendments could be made upon them. Indeed, it would be well to make the much more moderate Act of 1856 the basis of the present legislation. With regard to the licence for arms, in the first Act there were only two kinds of licences, one for having arms in the house, the other for carrying them abroad. But, subsequently, a special licence was required for revolvers, and there was another clause which related to the carrying of arms on one's own land. Persons would be compelled to go to two or three different Acts of Parliament in order to know the law on this subject, and that was a most objectionable mode of legislation. The effect of his Amendment would be to simplify the construction of the Bill when it came into operation.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 26, to leave out the words "the parts of."—(Mr. Butt.)
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, the effect of the Amendment would be to place them as nearly as possible in the state in which they were in 1856. There would be this disadvantage from it, that very useful provisions would be repealed, such as those relating to search-warrants, the power to arrest absconding witnesses, and the power to grant compensation to injured persons. If the Amendments which the hon. and learned Member had placed on the Paper in reference to the clause were carried, nothing whatever would be left of the Bill, except the interpretation clause. He thought the best course of proceeding would be to wait until the clauses were respectively brought up for consideration. He could not accept the Amendment.
§ MR. BUTT
said, it was a matter of principle, and he must divide the Committee upon it. Here was a measure which would re-enact by implication, and in a way only to be understood by the careful examination of a lawyer, some of the most oppressive parts of the Act of 1870. His hon. and learned Friend was not capable of a trick; but, in previous legislation, there had been a trick. By the Act of 1856 the warrant 1664 for search for arms could be executed only in daylight; but in 1870, stealthly, and by surprise, it was enacted that it might be executed at any time of the night. The right hon. Baronet proposed to retain that power. If it were to be retained, let it be done openly and not by implication. If they chose to keep this Bill involved and confused he could not be a party to its passing. It was a disgrace to modern legislation. He did not want certain stringent and highly objectionable laws passed by a side wind, but wished to have each definitely and openly re-enacted. Let each clause be put plainly before the House, and be open to Amendment. He did not propose to repeal the clauses, but simply to make them new legislation. Why should they shrink from discussion on these questions?
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
thought the Government could not do better than agree to the Amendments of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick, and also to those of the other Irish Members. He (Mr. M'Carthy Downing) submitted that the Act of 1870 ought to be repealed in toto, because it was only brought in for a short time, to meet agrarian crime, which was entirely suppressed.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he thought it was most unfair in the Government to press Irish Members to accept this measure upon grounds which were entirely untenable. He considered the Bill unnecessary, and that the Amendments of the Irish Members ought to be agreed to. The right hon. Baronet opposite must see that many English and Scotch Members did not take part in these discussions, and only attended to support the Government. Those Members when, on the division bell ringing, they came in to vote, would find an utterly unintelligible issue before them, and should it be allowed to go forth to Ireland that these English and Scotch Members—in all upwards of 200, he should think—simply voted upon the ipse dixit of the right hon. Baronet? If the Amendment were accepted, the subjects on which the votes would be taken would be known to these hon. Members. He urged the Government to give the proposal further consideration.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that whatever might be the case with regard to English and Scotch Members, 1665 Irish Members had shown themselves perfectly capable of understanding the Bill. He would say this shortly with regard to the whole question—he did not see how they could possibly do anything more plain than state in the Bill, as they did state, the sections of the existing Acts which it was proposed to repeal, the sections which it was proposed to re-enact, and the modifications to be made in those sections. Hon. Members asked them to repeal all the existing law, and to begin ab initio. That was no new Bill; it was a Continuance Act, and it was dealt with in the same way as every other Act of the same kind that had ever gone before. He believed that if the course the Government had taken had not been pursued, night after night would have been taken up with speeches charging them with the intention of making the Peace Preservation Acts permanent, because they had departed from the ordinary custom. What was the point raised by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick? The hon. and learned Member proposed to adopt the Act of 1856 as the basis of legislation, and merely to re-enact the special clauses of 1870, which it was proposed still to retain. That might have been all very well if the existing law had been mainly contained in the Act of 1856; but the law had been so altered by repeal of sections and other modifications between 1856 and 1870, that the Act of 1870 had become the principal embodiment of the law. The Government were willing to meet some of the proposals of hon. Members opposite; but they could not accept this one, which was practically aimed at the very root of the Bill. Indeed, if the Amendment were passed, he did not see how they could continue the discussion, and therefore he should resist it. He hoped that they might shortly pass from the principle of the Bill, and the mode in which it had been presented to the House, and enter upon the discussion of its details: and then the hon. and learned Member would find that the Government were ready to treat the Amendments which he and the other Irish Members had placed on the Paper, in a spirit of fairness and with due consideration.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he was prepared to support the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick. The Act of 1856 1666 was a temporary Act, but the Act of 1870 was far more stringent, and had been passed for only two years, and many of its provisions were now to be abandoned. Of those that remained some would require amendment, and in order to have the opportunity of amending them the clauses should be set forth in full. He objected, for instance, to Section 39, of the Act of 1870, in its entirety; but if the Committee were against him, he should be anxious to propose Amendments to it. But now no convenient facility was given to hon. Members to propose Amendments and that arose from the form in which the Bill was proposed. At the present time he defied any hon. Member, no matter what his knowledge might be, to understand a single Amendment on the Paper without having all the Acts of Parliament before him. A person would require to have several statutes, and a whole lot of books spread out before him in order to understand the Amendments that were proposed. He could not understand what objection there was to accept the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, although he supported the second reading, he must confess that in the whole course of his professional experience, which had been greatly devoted to the study of Acts of Parliament, he had never come across a more complicated and embarrassed piece of legislation, and it would be almost impossible so to alter it in Committee as to render it intelligible to the particular class of people for whom it was intended. At the same time he could not support the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick, which would make matters worse than they were at present.
§ MR. BUTT
said, all the machinery was contained in the Act of 1856. The Act of 1870 was repealed, except as to three clauses which had nothing to do with the Amendment. He wished to point out that the 8th clause of the Act of 1870, already repealed by the Act of 1873, would be again repealed by the present Bill.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLUNKET)
said, the clause was repealed by the Act of 1873. [Mr. BUTT said, it was repealed again in the present Bill.] That was 1667 so; the 8th clause of the Act of 1870 was repealed by the temporary Act of 1873. But lest it might be argued that the Act of 1873 was not so continued by this Bill as to prevent the revival of this clause, he had thought it better to put it into the Schedule of repealed clauses in order to make the matter perfectly clear.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he had heard of Irish Coercion Bills, and he knew a little about them; but still he could not say that he had ever read one of them until now. Having done so, he could only say that it was almost impossible to understand what the Bill meant. He was not sure if he made an honest endeavour to understand it, that he should be able to succeed. About a dozen Acts were re-enacted in the Bill in whole or in part, and he was expected to give an honest vote, saying "Aye" or "No" whether those Acts, which he knew nothing about, ought to be re-enacted. He thought that was very unjust; and he was of opinion that English and Scotch Members could not possibly understand the Bill now under discussion, unless they made a special study of all the previous Irish Coercion Acts. He further thought that if they voted for the provisions of the Bill it would be more from faith than knowledge of what they meant. A Parliamentary Paper was delivered to him last Saturday which showed that recently the Lord Chancellor had asked the officials of the two Houses of Parliament to communicate to him their opinion with reference to the consolidation of the statutes. Mr. Rickards having been asked by the other officials to express their views on that subject, made a statement to the effect that it was not convenient, nor was it creditable to our statute law that there should exist on a given subject several Acts of different dates which successively interpreted or partly repealed one or two of their predecessors. The opinion of these officials was that the remedy lay in a consolidation of statutes. That was exactly what they should be asked to do in the present instance. The Committee pointed out the remedy. They said that, in all such cases, the Acts should be consolidated. He (Mr. M'Laren) wished therefore to know why the Chief Secretary for Ireland could not take a pair of scissors and cut out all the clauses of Acts which he desired to be 1668 re-enacted, paste them together, make such alterations as he thought necessary for their harmonious working, and then produce a Bill containing this Code of Coercion. In that way every Member of the House could read intelligibly what the law was proposed to be made; but, in the present case, it seemed to him to be impossible, except for those who were intimately acquainted with the matter, for any Member to give an intelligent opinion on the subject. If some alterations were intended to be made by the Government in the clauses of former Acts proposed to be partially re-enacted, why should not such alterations be inserted in distinctive type, as was done in similar cases in the House of Lords, in Bills returned with alterations by this House? There would, in that way, be no difficulty whatever in framing a proper Bill which should include everything which it was intended to include in the present Bill, and which every Member of the House should have an opportunity of intelligently assenting to or dissenting from. For those reasons he should give his most cordial support to the Amendment.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
believed that they were drifting into a very bad style of legislation, for in all his experience of the House of Commons—and it was not a short one—the system of drafting Government Bills was never so bad as it was now. He had no hesitation in saying that a worse specimen than the Bill under notice could not be found. The more we legislated, the more our laws became entangled and more difficult to comprehend, through the system of references in Acts to other Acts of Parliament. What was the use of having a Commission for the consolidation of the statute law, when almost every Act the House passed was framed in a manner inconsistent with consolidation? If one Bill more than another ought to be perfectly plain it was this, because it affected the people of Ireland in their daily life. But he wanted to know how it could be possible for people of the humbler classes to understand a Bill framed in such a manner. The Bill ought to be withdrawn for the purpose of bringing in another Bill containing the whole of the law on this subject.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he could not see why that Bill, of all others, should be selected for opposition on the special 1669 grounds alleged by the hon. Members for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) and Wexford (Sir George Bowyer), who had on hundreds of occasions voted in favour of measures similarly drawn. He could only account for the mode of criticism which had been adopted on the supposition that hon. Members opposite had made up their minds to oppose the Bill in any and every conceivable form that was open to them. He would admit that it had defects; but such defects were almost inseparable from a Consolidation Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he could only regard the Bill in its present form as a kind of legislative pudding-stone, and, so regarding it, he should adopt every means open to him in order to pick it to pieces and ascertain the composition of the mass, He thought the right hon. Gentleman should introduce clauses showing distinctly what was repealed and what continued, so that the decisions of the Committee might be come to on intelligible propositions.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he also was unable to understand the Bill, owing to the form in which it was drawn. He therefore hoped that the right hon. Baronet who had charge of the measure would withdraw it, and substitute for it a Bill in which the Acts and portions of Acts which it was proposed to re-enact and repeal should be fully and clearly set forth. It was impossible for the great majority of hon. Members to give an honest vote upon it.
§ MR. FORSYTH
agreed with the hon. Member who had just spoken in thinking that the provisions of a Bill like the present one ought to have been made more clear than was the case with the measure as it stood. Although he could not vote with the Home Rulers in the end, he thought that in a Bill of this kind such portions of previous Acts as were re-enacted by reference should be distinctly and fully incorporated in the Bill.
§ MR. WHITWELL
thought that as the Attorney General had appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the mode in which Bills were drawn, with a view to amendment, the Government ought to have been more careful in framing the present measure. He thought that time would be saved if the Government reframed it, for it was the worst model of a Bill he had ever 1670 seen laid before Parliament. It was a Bill which curtailed the liberties of the Irish people, perhaps, in the interests of order and public safety, and they were entitled to know what they were to be subject to.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that, although at the instance of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), he moved the appointment of a Select Committee on the question of drafting Bills, he expressly guarded himself against assenting to the objections which were urged against the present system by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It was always a question, when they were going to deal with an existing Act of Parliament with a view to continuing its enactments in a modified form, whether it was more expedient to repeal the whole of the existing Act and re-enact those portions of it they desired to retain, or simply to repeal and modify those portions which it was thought expedient to amend, and the solution of that question must depend on the circumstances of the case. In the present case the former course certainly appeared to him to be preferable. Suggestions had been made that certain paragraphs in the Bill were not readily intelligible; but it was to be assumed that the Acts referred to were well known to the Irish people, and if hon. Members who were unacquainted with those Acts only referred to them they would have no difficulty in understanding the present Bill. The 2nd clause of the Bill told them what sections were to be repealed, and the 3rd clause what sections it was proposed to modify.
urged that when they were legislating for the common people the simpler the Bill was made the better. In that view it would be more intelligible if the parts of previous Acts were shown, and not merely alluded to by figures. The question, he pointed out, had nothing to do with the policy pursued by the Government. Why should there be a long debate upon matters which any intelligent sub-editor with his scissors and paste-pot, could settle in half-an-hour. The Amendment did not alter in any way, but merely simplified the Bill.
§ MR. BULWER
said, that if the object of the Government in drafting the Bill in its present form was to prevent 1671 discussion on such parts of the Peace Preservation Acts as it was not intended to alter, although he did not agree with that mode of drafting Bills as a rule, yet he thought the Government were right in the present case. As to the objection that hon. Members opposite could not understand the Bill, he would only say that if the House refused to pass a Bill until every hon. Member understood it, legislation would be very slow indeed. Everybody interested in the present Bill understood it thoroughly; and he made bold to say that it was perfectly well understood by the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Sullivan), and, indeed, by every other Irish Representative in the House. The only object of hon. Members opposite was to make the Irish people believe that the Government were imposing upon them new coercive laws, instead of mitigating those which already existed.
could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that he was in a state of blissful ignorance as to the bearing of the Acts amending other Acts, which again amended Acts in their turn. In trying to follow the relations of one to the other, he was "in wandering mazes lost."
§ MR. BULWER
said, he was certain the Government would only be too glad to draft the Bill in accordance with the views of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) and his Friends, if they, on their part, would pledge themselves to offer no opposition to those parts of it which the Government did not propose to alter. What hon. Members for Ireland really wanted was, that the Peace Preservation Act of 1870 should be re-opened to discussion, while the Government might possibly desire that Acts passed by a previous Parliament, and which they did not intend to disturb, should, as far as possible, remain undisturbed. If this was the view of the Government he entirely approved of it, and he would therefore vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. MOORE
was astounded at what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken. There was one of Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law who had told the House that the Bill was drawn in its present form with the object of stifling discussion. This was an important admission, and one which he earnestly 1672 hoped would be contradicted. As for the Bill itself, in its present shape it was quite unintelligible. It would be utterly impossible for magistrates and grand jurors to go through the whole statute book when called on for a summary decision; yet that was what the Attorney General seemed to expect.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
insisted that it would be most inconvenient for magistrates who had to construe the Act to refer to five different Acts. The right hon. Baronet said that if they were to bring forward this Bill, except in the usual way, it would be defeated night after night in Parliament and what did that mean, unless that this action was taken by the Government in order to hoodwink Parliament and to secure the passage of legislation which very few Members of the House could really understand.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
hoped what had been said by Scotch and English as well as Irish Members would induce the Government to re-consider the matter. They had fallen into a mistake. Let them place before the Committee the clauses of the Act referred to, let them undergo what modification they intended, and then let there be a fair fight with respect to them; but if the clause were continued in its present form it would be impossible to know what they were fighting about. What had taken place with regard to Section 8 of the Act of 1870 completely proved the clumsy and confused state of the Bill. Schedule A contained the sections of the Act of 1870 which were to be repealed by this Bill, and Section 8 was there set forth. Then it was said by the senior Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) that the 8th section of the Act of 1870 was repealed by the Act of 1873; but the Solicitor General for Ireland stated that the Bill of 1873 enacted only a temporary repeal of the 8th section, and it was therefore necessary that that section should be included in the Schedule. But the fact was, that the section was absolutely repealed by the Act of 1873, and if the Solicitor General for Ireland could make such a mistake on such a point, how could they expect the law to be understood by the common people, and even by the magistracy, in Ireland? He lamented the Bill, however, as one which would be certain to widen the gap which now divided the upper and lower classes in Ireland. By the almost 1673 unlimited power in which the Bill gave to the upper classes and to the majority, it was the very thing of all others that was calculated to check the growth of confidence and to make the general population believe that were siding with ascendancy and encouraging the very principles from which, in former times, the people so much suffered.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he would not now discuss the policy of the measure; but he denied that the section under consideration was in any way ambiguous. On the contrary he maintained it was perfectly intelligible, and there was no difficulty in grasping it. The section was plain and clear as crystal, and the references to previous Acts were quite usual and had not the ghost of a shadow of ambiguity. The logical contention of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick was that the Bill should recite the parts of the Acts repealed. [Several hon. MEMBERS: NO; what is enacted.] The Bill did not purport to be a codification of the law, nor a permanent piece of legislation; on the contrary, it was a partial continuation of what he hoped would soon be wholly repealed. Its legal force would have a life of five years at the longest, while its worst parts would die out after two years, and that being so, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were somewhat unreasonable in contesting it so persistently. If the legislation were to be permanent, the Bill ought to be complete in itself; but, as an early alleviation of the law was expected, it was unreasonable to single out this Bill as a measure exceptionally confused. The very last Act of Parliament on this subject, that of 1870, was oven more abstruse in its references than this Bill was, and yet it was perfectly understood by Irish Members, and was even supported by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). He admitted that the Bill was a specimen of the kind of drafting which he hoped would soon be reformed, and which was now being investigated by the Committee obtained by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth); but he denied that there was any reason for a special attack on the drafting of this Bill. It was justified in this case, at any rate, from the fact that Irish people had become familiar with these enactments.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that as his name had been referred to, he would mention that he was so little in love with Bills of the kind that in 1866, when a Bill was introduced for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and 300 or 400 Members voted for it, the first vote he ever gave in Parliament was one against it, and his vote appeared in the minority of some eight or ten who opposed the Bill.
§ MR. FORSYTH
objected to this particular Amendment because it and the one which followed would repeal the whole Act, of which it was intended by the Bill to repeal only a part. He was not prepared to support such a proposal as that.
MR. P. MARTIN
again urged that what the Irish Members desired to know was what laws were intended to remain in force, and the necessary incorporation of the provisions to be re-enacted could easily be made in Committee. As the hon. Member for Louth had said, it might easily be done with a pair of scissors and a paste-pot in half-an-hour. The refusal of the Government to insert them in the Bill looked like an attempt to stifle discussion. Why did not they accede to the demand made upon them and save the time of the Committee?
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PLTTNKET)
denied that he had, as had been represented, fallen into any mistake whatever in interpreting the clauses of the Bill. It was impossible for the Government to accede to the proposal to re-cast the framework of their measure, which was intended to renew certain Acts which would otherwise expire on the 1st of June of the present year. There was, perhaps, a probability that a Select Committee on legislation now sitting upstairs might report against the manner in which the Bill had been formed. But the able draftsman of the Irish Office had only followed the invariable practice since 1847, and although some slight inconvenience might be felt, no injustice could possibly be suffered by grouping the provisions intended to be repealed in the Schedule, or by the references to previous Acts. Why such great objection should now be raised for the first time he could not see, for there was no criticism that had been made on the Bill, that was not equally applicable to every 1675 Act of this code since 1847. There were Notices of 67 Amendments to this Bill of five clauses. Every possible point would thus he raised. The Government would not shrink from demanding the measures necessary for the preservation of the peace; but they would carefully consider every proposal whereby this object could be secured with the least possible inconvenience to the law-abiding people of the country.
§ MR. BUTT
did not ask the Government to recast the Bill, but he would undertake that the changes desired could be made in three minutes at the Table of the House. If that was not done it would go forth that a Member of the legal profession sitting on the Ministerial side of the House had declared that the object of the Government in framing the Bill in this manner was to prevent discussion; but he must say that he had a far better opinion of the Solicitor General and Chief Secretary for Ireland than to believe that the statement was well-founded.
§ MR. BULWER
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had misunderstood what he had said, or, at least, what he had intended to say. Not being a Member of the Government he had not stated and could not presume to state what their object had been. When the hon. Member for Louth asked why the Government did not use their scissors and paste-pot, and put in their Bill all the clauses of the Act of 1870, he merely asked the hon. Member whether if that were done he would pledge himself not to oppose those clauses.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had taken an unusual amount of trouble in informing his mind on the present Bill, but he had been obliged to give up the idea of reading the Acts dealt with in the measure. The Act which was here dealt with had reference to no less than four other Acts of the utmost importance and complexity.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 84: Majority 138.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Continuance of Peace Preservation (Ireland) Act of 1870, subject to amendments and modification).1676
THE O'CONOR DON
moved, as an Amendment, in page 2, line 4, to leave out the words "sections 12 and 13 of." His object was to omit all the clauses referred to by the Bill, which embodied the principle of charging the inhabitants of any locality with the payment of compensation to the relatives of persons murdered in connection with agrarian offences. He was obliged to raise the question in the form he had done, although he admitted it was an inconvenient form, and he wished to state clearly to the Committee his reasons for objecting to the principle. He thought it was unjust and unreasonable to tax the innocent inhabitants of a district for injuries to persons which they had no power to prevent. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Gibson) had said that this tax, which it was proposed to put upon localities, was quite consistent with the British Constitution, and that when a riot occurred in England, the inhabitants of the district where the riot took place had to pay for the damage committed, and that there was such a law in existence in Ireland. But that was a statute, the object of which was to compensate a person for a malicious injury to property, and there was no analogy between exacting compensation for injury to property, as was done under the Riot Acts in England, and exacting it for injury done to the person. The fact that compensation would be given in the former case would probably deter malicious persons from destroying property, as there would be no object to be gained by it; but they would not be so deterred in the other case, and, indeed, such a thing as compensation for the destruction of human life was impossible. Moreover, it was not merely to certain districts in Ireland that the provisions he objected to applied, for they were put in force in every part of the country. If the principle was a good one, and so consistent with the principles of the British Constitution and British law, why was it confined to agrarianism, and why was it not extended to England? They had heard of such things as trade-union outrages in England, and the law, if a good one, should be extended to England. He thought, again, if the law was such a good one, it ought to be made a permanent instead of a temporary measure. There was, he 1677 contended, no more ground for adopting that sort of legislation as a means of repressing outrages arising from land disputes in an agricultural country, than there was for adopting it with regard to outrages in a manufacturing district arising from trade disputes, and it was unreasonable to expect that the one class of offences any more than the other would over wholly disappear. He believed that if English Gentlemen could only be brought to look at the proposal fairly and with due consideration, they would be ashamed to support it. The Bill proposed that 23 gentlemen composing the Grand Jury should estimate in money the value of a human life, which was not to be measured by the loss sustained by the murdered man's family, but by having regard to the rank, the situation in life, and the circumstances of the person who was murdered or injured. By that means a man in high station would be awarded more, or his surviving relations receive more, than those of an honest, industrious hard-working man, who might have been the support of his family. That was a principle which they would not dare to apply to England; and Ireland was about the last country in the world to which such an invidious distinction ought to applied, for there it was most desirable, as far as possible, to blot out distinctions of class and of race—those distinctions which had been one of the greatest misfortunes to Ireland, the line of demarcation between those of the upper classes and those of the lower being so unusually broad. It was a degrading task to impose on the Grand Jury—an unsuitable tribunal, moreover, for the discharge of such a duty, inasmuch as it consisted of the upper class, and of men who would not have to pay anything towards the compensation they awarded. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University had, on the second reading of the Bill, said that there was one advantage in the provision, because it would tax the locality in which the perpetrators of the crime resided. But that was not necessarily the case, for the compensation had to be voted if the crime committed was ever proved to be agrarian, and how did that work? There was a well-known instance of a lady who lived at Rathgar, in the county of Dublin, on the very best terms with her neighbours. She had some landed property in quite a different 1678 part of Ireland, and, having had some disputes with her tenants, was murdered, as it was supposed, by some of them or by some persons on their behalf. Her husband applied for compensation to be levied on the county of Dublin, where the crime was committed, and the inhabitants of that county had to pay a very heavy fine for a murder committed by persons living in a totally different county. Again, he knew a case where a man who was fired at applied for compensation, and, although he knew the person who fired at him, and refused to give information, yet the Grand Jury gave him £200 compensation, so that in a case where a man declined to bring an offender to justice he was absolutely rewarded by this Act. He had heard that in the county of Clare at the last assizes an application was made to the Grand Jury for an award of compensation by a man who stated he was fired at, who had received no injury beyond a scratch which might not have arisen at all from a shot, and yet the Grand Jury awarded compensation, which was levied on the peaceable inhabitants. That principle seemed to him to be opposed to all the principles of modern legislation. At one time, indeed, men's lives were valued by British law according to their rank and position, the scale graduating from the humblest serf up to that of the man of the highest rank, but he thought these days had passed, and certainly they had passed so far as England was concerned. Looking at the system as it at present stood, and its operation, he should oppose the clause in its entirety, but if it were carried in spite of his opposition, he hoped the right hon. Baronet would so amend it, that its operation would be confined to cases in which Ribbon or agrarian conspiracies were clearly proved to exist. In that way it might be rendered more acceptable.
In page 2, lines 2 and 3, to leave out the words "as amended by sections 12 and 13 of 'The Protection of the Life and Property in certain Parts of Ireland Act, 1871.'"—(The O'Conor Don.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he could not accept the Amendment; but he would undertake to consider 1679 on a future occasion whether the law could be further modified. He wished to point out that the clause as it stood necessitated that the crime for which compensation was to be awarded should be of an agrarian character, or arise out of illegal combination or conspiracy, and he therefore thought the Committee could scarcely fail to accept the principle of the clause. The decision whether compensation was to be given or not, rested entirely with the Grand Jury, who were, with the going Judge of Assize, the body administering the law in cases coming within the meaning of the clause. The hon. Gentleman admitted that compensation was given under another Act in cases of malicious injury to property or to person, and for loss of life. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) did not think that money compensation for personal injury or loss of life was unknown to the spirit of British law, for they continually heard of large payments being made on this account by railway companies after an accident had occurred. It was true that the law compelling these payments was not on all-fours with the proposal now before the House, either in its nature, or in the reasons for its existence; and this proposal was made temporary instead of permanent, because they did not believe that agrarian conspiracy and combination in Ireland would be of permanent duration. The provision might not secure evidence, but it would produce a wholesome dread of allowing crime to occur if it could be prevented, and unwillingness to harbour an intending criminal. The compensation awarded by the Grand Jury under the clause—which would be examined by the Judge of Assize and fiated or altered by him—would, in fact, be a tax upon the cowardice or indolence of those resident in the district in which agrarian crime was committed. In order to meet the objection that too great a compensation might be awarded, the Bill contained a clause to modify the provisions of the existing law so as to enable a Judge to check the action of the Grand Jury more than he could do now. This Amendment, he believed, would prevent abuse, if it were now possible; but he questioned if, even as it stood, the law had been in any way abused, for the total sum levied throughout Ireland last year was very small. The principle of the provision had been discussed upon many 1680 occasions in the House, and had been approved by large majorities and included in successive measures. He believed it exercised a very useful repressive influence upon crime and criminals, and as such the Government asked the House again to include it in this measure, in the hope that when the term of five years had elapsed, this, with the other portions of the measure, might be suffered to expire.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he considered the tax a very harsh and unnecessary one, and one which had utterly failed to produce the effects it had been intended for. He would refer to a case in which £800 had been awarded to a widow who probably never possessed a £5 note; and the fine was imposed, not upon the district in which the murder was committed, but upon a portion of the county 16 or 17 miles distant from the scene of the murder, whereas the cost of the police sent down in consequence of the murder was put on a small area, excluding properties near the scene of the murder, on representations, he supposed, of owners of those properties. The evidence given on the part of the Government before the Westmeath Committee showed that the law totally failed in its object, for according to the evidence of Captain Talbot, a resident magistrate, these fines did not to any extent touch the guilty, who were too poor to pay much, and the consequence was they were imposed almost wholly on the innocent. Mr. Reed, another resident magistrate, said these fines did a great deal of harm. They alienated the people and prevented the giving of information. Captain Barry, another resident magistrate, gave similar evidence. "Why did not the Government propose that these fines should be paid like the poor rate, one-half by the landlord and one-half by the tenant? The right hon. Gentleman would find it very difficult to govern Ireland if no alteration were made on this subject of fines.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
would suggest that no fine should be imposed on a district in which a murderer was given up.
asked, whether the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) wished the House to understand that a great number of the members of a Grand Jury who had property in a district in which a murder occurred declined to 1681 impose a fine on that district in order to order to save their own pockets?
said, his belief was that the Grand Jury had been influenced, and he did not believe that there was a Grand Jury in Ireland that had not been similarly influenced.
said, there was nothing more oppressive or more maddening ever attempted against a people, not even by the Saracens in Spain, than was attempted by that Bill against the people of Ireland. If they passed the clause in its present shape, they would proclaim the Irish people aliens, and not subjects of the Grown. No precedent could be found for the clause, and the rejection of the Amendment moved to it by the hon. Member for Roscommon must have a disastrous effect in Ireland, for nothing in his opinion could be more tyrannical than that a fine should be imposed upon a district, even though the criminal were given up—that fine to amount, perhaps, to the whole rental of the district, and to be imposed by those who would pay no portion of it themselves.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Biggar.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that before they reported Progress he thought it would be much better if the Committee could come to an understanding on the point. He was much disposed to accede to the proposition made on the other side—that where the criminal was given up, the fine should not be levied. That showed the advantage of discussion, and he must protest that at 12 o'clock, when the discussion was still proceeding, and with advantageous results on both sides, a Motion for reporting Progress should now be made.
§ MR. BUTT
said, that he could not support the Motion; and he understood that the hon. Member for Cavan did not rise to make it with any intention that the discussion should then cease, but because he had been interrupted in addressing the Committee. The imposing of this old blood money was a most important provision in itself, and ought to form the subject of a separate Bill.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he made the Motion because the question could hardly be said to be receiving discussion. No arguments had been adduced in favour of the clause, and there was not the slightest probability of arguing it out that night. It would be his duty when the Committee met again to speak at some length on the point. The House was in no mood to listen now, and he should therefore persevere with his Motion.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
observed that no doubt the proposition just made by the Prime Minister had been made in good faith; but it was a proposition which could have no useful effect. In most cases the people of a district would be unable to arrest and deliver up a criminal; and, if they could not, why should they be fined for not doing so?
§ MR. RONAYNE
protested against the clause as being most injurious in its effects on the social position of many districts in Ireland. He thought it hard that poor people should be taxed for the payment of compensation when they might be perfectly innocent, and know nothing whatever of the offence. [Cries of "Order!"]
hoped the hon. Member would confine himself to the Motion that the Committee report Progress.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he would withdraw his Motion for reporting Progress, in order to give the hon. Member for Cork an opportunity of addressing the Committee.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. RONAYNE
then continued: He opposed the clause as a piece of class legislation, which was not so apparent at first sight, because it was difficult for Englishmen to realize the relations of grand jurors to occupying tenants in Ireland. He knew many cases in which the proposed clause would inflict the greatest hardship, and should cordially support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Roscommon. That was the perpetuation of a system which had been the cause of keeping the two countries asunder, and which might eventually terminate in their severance.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
argued that the amount paid for compensation ought to be levied upon the poor rates rather than upon the county cess.
§ MR. BUTT
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would modify the clause, for as 1683 it now stood its provisions were most objectionable. Compensation could be claimed not only for agrarian murders but for every other class of illegal combination. That was opposed to the principles of the old law of England, and should not, under present circumstances, be applied to Ireland.
§ MR. BIGGAR
also asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would modify the clause, so as to take the charge proposed by the Bill in cases of agrarian outrages off the county cess, which fell on the occupiers, and place it on the landowners.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he was not prepared to adopt any such course. The charge had been placed on the county cess, and upon the occupiers who paid that cess, for good and sufficient reasons. The owner might not be resident and might not be acquainted with the facts, but the occupiers must have a guilty knowledge if anyone had. Beyond that, there was a precedent for the course proposed in certain sections of the Irish Land Act which had been unanimously agreed to.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, the theory of the House was that the compensation should be paid, half by the landlord and half by the occupier. In practice the whole fell upon the occupier.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 240; Noes 79: Majority 161.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, the next Amendment stood in his name; but at that late hour (10 minutes to 1) he hoped the Government would not proceed farther with the Bill. He would, therefore, move to report Progress.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.