HC Deb 04 May 1875 vol 224 cc24-42

Clause 5 (Continuance of certain parts of Protection of Life and Property in certain Parts of Ireland Act. 1871.)


moved, in page 4, at end, to add— Provided always, That, from and after the passing of this Act, so much of the said Act as applies to any portion of the King's County shall he and the same is hereby repealed, and called attention to the fact that whilst the King's County comprised 12 baronies six of them were included in the Schedule of the Act, some of them being the largest baronies in the county, When the Act was originally introduced. he felt that his duty to his constituents obliged him to oppose it; but whatever cause there might then have existed for this most stringent Act, he felt assured that there was not now even the shadow of a reason for continuing it for his county. The Committee would be surprised to learn that during the many years of its existence not one imprisonment had occurred in the King's County under the Act. When the measure was first introduced, he had ventured to draw an illustration from surgery relating to the propriety of its imposition. He stated that the famous surgeon, Hunter, had denominated an operation as the opprobium medici, and had designated having recourse to such penal and stringent legislation without first exhausting existing law, the opprobium of legislation. Baron Dowse, who then was the Law Officer of the Government conducting the Bill, replied that Hunter's observation, though generally true, did not apply to the case then under consideration, as there was no remedy for a gangrene but excision, and that that was unfortunately the condition of Westmeath and the other counties included in the Bill. Would the Government venture to state that such was the then condition of the King's County? Was there a single Member in that House who would rise in his place and make such an assertion? He was certain there was not. It had been stated that in certain other counties there were some few ill-disposed persons who dominated over the whole neighbourhood, and cowed the well-disposed of the community. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) could only say if that were so, it would say little for their manhood. With reference to the King's County, no such band of marauders existed in its midst, nor could the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland point out within it any individual enjoying the bad eminence attributed to Captain Duffy. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) unfortunately, during his political connection with the King's County, had not enjoyed a political quiet life, and for the purpose of his argument he would ask the permission of the House to very shortly summarize its social and political status during that connection. On the occasion of his first contesting the county there existed, he was sorry to say, much political animosity and sectarian antagonism; but as time were on, all that was happily changed, and he might state that on the occasion of his contesting the county with an able and distinguished gentleman, now by the favour of Her Majesty's Government presiding over a most important portion of our Colonial Empire, nearly every Protestant in the county voted for the Catholic, Mr. Hennessy, whilst on the same occasion a large number of the Catholic constituency voted for Mr. King, a Protestant gentleman, enjoying a deserved popularity with all classes in that county. He mentioned the subject to them to show that mutual toleration and kindly feeling had a rapid growth in the people of that county, and that their present state was, that whilst preserving with firmness their political and religious opinions, all recognized in the fullest sense "the right to differ." He might tell the Committee that the King's County was of considerable length, and he would therefore pick out portions of it at each end and parts of the middle of the county, in order to illustrate the position he assumed, as to the kindly feeling existing amongst the upper, middle, and lower classes. On the coming of age, some short time ago, of the generous and popular young nobleman, whose untimely death the people of King's County had during this year to deplore, the people of Tullamore and the surrounding districts took occasion to give to the Earl of Charleville a perfect ovation. In Birr, the high character and great scientific reputation of the late Earl of Rosse were regarded as an honour to the entire county, and a memorial recently erected testified to the veneration entertained for his memory by all classes of his fellow-countrymen. At the other end of the county, in the neighbourhood of Edenderry, the family of Downshire were justly regarded as amongst the best landlords in Ireland, and a lady (Miss Nesbitt) had shown her appreciation of the good feeling and good conduct of her poorer neighbours by subscribing the munificent sum of £10,000 to a local railway. So much as regards the relation between classes. Would the Committee allow him to refer very shortly to some of the towns in the county? Birr was a town selected by many families, unconnected with its neighbourhood by any ties of property, as their residence, testifying to their appreciation of the genial and kindly qualities of its people. Tullamore, the county town, had been rapidly progressing for years past, and was now at least amongst the best of Irish inland towns. Its Town Commissioners had petitioned that House against the Bill, and he would read a very few passages of their Petition, as they expressed the case for excluding the King's County, better than any words of his could do— They justly refer with pleasure to the peace, order, and morality existing throughout the county, and assert the entire freedom of the county from crime of any description. They further asserted— That from the passing of the Coercion Act to the present time not a single prisoner has been in gaol under the Act. They also said— That the extraordinary legislation now so long imposed is having direct, tangible, and growing evil influence on the trade and property of the county, and that the discredit cast by so high an authority as the Legislature seriously affects all trading and manufacturing operations, and determines the value of landed and all other properties. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) would, therefore, call on all fair men in that House not to join in casting undeserved stigma on a county which he had feebly attempted to describe. No doubt, in that debate, the awful and outrageous murder which had been perpetrated near Ferbane might be referred to. He did not wish, whilst the trial of persons were still pending, to review all the circumstances of that frightful deed; but he might observe that this murder took place within one of the baronies included in the Schedule of the Act, and notwithstanding its operation, isolated cases—in his county he should more correctly use the singular number, and say case—might occur in the most peaceable neighbourhoods. Yet, surely, if some awful incident happened in England, in Scotland, or in Wales, they would not, from a solitary case, make the rash generalization that all the neighbourhood were impregnated with a spirit of outrage. It was not an Irishman who had written— There never yet was human power, That could evade if unforgiven, The patient search and vigil long, Of him who treasures up a wrong. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) could assure the Committee that he offered that Amendment to their acceptance from no desire to catch a fleeting popularity. In the year 1866, when the country was threatened with a revolution, he had had the courage of his opinions, and had voted for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; but on this occasion there was no case. They were continuing an Act which could be productive of no good, and could only tend to irritate and embitter classes in Ireland.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That, from and after the passing of this Act, so much of the said Act as applies to any portion of the King's County shall be and the same is hereby repealed."—(Sir Patrick OBrien.)


said, he hoped that the Committee would dissociate the general condition of King's County from the condition of that small part of it which was included within the provisions of the Act. As to the general condition of the county, however, he did not think it was quite such a model to the rest of Ireland as the hon. Baronet's remarks might lead the Committee to suppose; for the Chairman at the last Quarter Sessions in one of the districts of King's County had, in addressing the grand jury, described the condition of the county as not showing improvement, but signs of increasing disquiet. The special provisions of this Westmeath Act applied only to six baronies of King's County, and the hon. Baronet, on looking at the map and seeing the relation in which those baronies stood with Westmeath, would find how impossible it was to define the limit within which the Ribbon conspiracy existed merely by a county boundary. Of course, it would be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to exclude the county from the operation of the Act if he found he could do so with propriety. Under these circumstances, he could not consent to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 258: Majority 178.


then moved an Amendment the object of which was to repeal the provision of the Act which enabled the Lord Lieutenant to prohibit any prisoner from holding any communication, either by word of mouth or in writing, with any other person not in the service of Her Majesty or duly authorized by the Lord Lieutenant. The marginal note to this section, which he wished to have repealed, stated that the persons committed under the Act should be treated as untried prisoners, and he held that it was never intended that a man who had never been tried, but merely placed in custody for the purpose of preventing him from doing mischief outside the prison, should be deprived of any opportunity of meeting his family and friends, and communicating with them. The seclusion prescribed by the Act amounted almost to solitary confinement. He therefore moved his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That so much of said Act as provides that it shall be lawful for the Lord Lieutenant, if he think fit, to prohibit any prisoner committed under it from holding any communication, either by word of mouth or in writing, with any other person not being in the service or employment of Her Majesty, or duly authorised by the Lord Lieutenant as he shall direct to hold such communication,' shall be and the same is hereby repealed."—(Sir Patrick O'Brien.)


said, the object of the Act was to authorize the imprisonment of men who might be dangerous outside and to prevent them from doing mischief; and the persons so arrested were to be treated as untried prisoners. But if the present Amend-** ment were adopted it might entirely nullify the intention of the Act, as it might be possible for the most notorious criminal arrested under the Act, by holding communication with visitors from his part of the country, to direct all the operations of the plot, and be just as mischievous from his prison as if he were outside. So far as members of a prisoner's family were concerned, under certain restrictions they were allowed to hold communication with him by the late Government; and no doubt if it were necessary for the present Government to arrest persons under the Act, subject to all the necessary precautions, they would also allow such communication.


supported the Amendment. He held it to be absurd to say that if they allowed a prisoner to talk with his wife or daughter he could direct the Ribbon conspiracy from his prison and convulse the whole country. That was impossible under the existing prison regulations, and the Committee ought not to be influenced by such imaginary terrors. If the Bill passed in its present form then every old form of persecution would be set at liberty. The Westmeath men would be sent mayhap to Cork, where they would be kept apart from their families, and in many cases the family of the prisoner were not allowed to know his whereabouts. If there was any justification for these measures four years ago there was none now.


said, he was able to deny in his own experience the statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that prisoners were allowed to see their families; for he was himself in prison for 121 days before he was allowed to see one single member of his family, and he was imprisoned for 30 days before he was allowed to write a single letter to anyone outside of his prison with reference to his business affairs, and that although no charge had been brought against him. The prisoners were, he might add, subjected to daily insult and persecution, the gaolers in many instances boasting that they would make bankrupts of them before they were discharged from custody; and when set at liberty they were able to obtain but very little redress against these men. He would support the Amendment.


pointed out that when the Westmeath Act was originally introduced the grounds of its enactment were grossly exaggerated, and that now that county would bear comparison for peace and order with any in England or Scotland. There was no justification, therefore, he contended, for casting such a stigma upon it as the present Bill would inflict. He had visited the reported leader of the Ribbon conspiracy when he was in prison. On going to the county of Westmeath three months after, he was surprised to find this man at liberty, and on making inquiries he found that he had been liberated upon a memorial addressed to the Lord Lieutenant by the magistrates at whose instigation they were passing this Act.


wished to know whether all that was required to be done could not be effected by means of the prison regulations, which it appeared the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to make? If so, the words to which the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) objected might be unnecessary.


said, it was believed by the late Government that it was necessary these powers should be possessed by the Lord Lieutenant, and after a careful consideration it was thought necessary to insert the words now complained of, in order to prevent an abuse of the prison regulations.


said, it was not right for the present Government to shelter itself, as it so frequently did in this matter, under the wing of the late Government; and it was no argument for them to say that they did this thing and that thing because the late Government thought this or that necessary. He remembered what happened last year when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government proposed to continue these Acts. The right hon. Gentleman took a favourable view of the case, and he promised that the Acts should be solemnly considered, and that a new Bill should be brought in altogether. Well, a new Bill had been brought in, but it was so incomprehensible that, in fact, he did not believe the Law Officers of the Crown had studied the previous Acts at all. When such questions as those of the previous night, affecting the Habeas Corpus Act, were asked the Government, they were unable to answer them satisfactorily. He did not believe that English gentlemen were prepared to keep persons in prison for two years before they were tried, or to allow that they might be locked up alone for 22 out of every 24 hours without communication with any human being, though the imprisonment might last for three or four years. He could quite understand their believing the necessity for very stringent regulations when Fenianism was in action in Ireland, and when the state of Westmeath was alarming; but Ireland was now in a totally different condition. All necessity for such stringent and severe enactments had passed away. If the Government had proposed this Bill in a spirit of conciliation, they ought to have known every point that would be raised. That they had not done so had been shown by the concessions which they had made upon some important points. The question raised by the Amendment now before the Committee was an important one, affecting as it did the liberty of the subject.


said, that while it was true the provisions of the Westmeath Act had been considered by the late Government, it was impossible he could recollect the reasons which led them to adopt every single provision. He thought, therefore, it was to be regretted that the Chief Secretary for Ireland should be able to give no better answer to the objections which had been raised against these provisions than that they had been deemed to be necessary by the late Government. He wished to point out that regulations issued by the Lord Lieutenant would be applicable to all the prisoners, and therefore he considered the power given by this clause to be necessary.


said, that neither the right hon. Baronet nor the noble Marquess seemed to be acquainted with the facts. The Lord Lieutenant had the power of making the general regulations for prisons under the Act, which were, before being confirmed, laid before Parliament. He had made the regulations, and they had been laid before Parliament. Anything more severe could not be imagined. It was impossible to give any excuse for this abominable legislation, against which the heart of every Gentleman in that House was revolting. [A laugh.] He was sorry to hear that laugh; but he warned the House that by such inhuman legislation it was fostering the resentment of the Irish people. With respect to the remarks of the noble Marquess and the Chief Secretary, he would say that he did not make this a Party question. He hoped it would not be so treated in that House, and he would appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House, as English Gentlemen, to treat it as a question of humanity and justice.


, as the Member to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman had just referred, wished to say that they were dealing with illegal societies, and if they imprisoned men without taking the precaution of preventing them communicating with persons outside, they would be acting the part of fools, and not of practical men.


wanted to know how a prisoner could direct a confederacy from his cell, where he could see no one, and whence he could not write a letter that would not be subject to inspection. The legislation now proposed was intended to agonize the hearts of captives, and to inflict the direst cruelty, the deepest wounds that had been inflicted upon prisoners for 500 years. [A laugh.] The laughter of hon. Members was as if they jested over their mothers' graves. Were such legislation to pass in Italy, with the name, say, of Murphy Italianized into Morfini, what exclamations of horror and indignation would ring throughout England! He himself had been subjected to imprisonment for a political offence, and was kept in the prison in which he had been a member of the Board of Superintendents. The warders treated him kindly, but there was one thing that they could not allow him. He had one child, two and a half years old, and no prison regulation would allow him to see his child. He was denied a sight of his little one until the physician of the gaol, a person differing in politics and religion from himself, by the exercise of what he might term a pious fraud, obtained for him a sight of his child by passing it in as one of his own. He protested before Heaven that he would rather have suffered the loss of one of his ears than have been denied the sight of that little child; yet a peasant confined under this Act, and who had never been heard in his own defence, might be denied under this clause an interview with his wife or child, even in the presence of the prison warders. He denounced such legislation as an atrocity, and called upon the House, in the name of common humanity, to reject it summarily and decisively.


said, he thought some argument in favour of the retention of the Proviso of the Act of 1871 ought to have come from the Solicitor General for Ireland. It was scarcely a sufficient answer to say that it had been agreed to by a previous Parliament, to which some of the present Members belonged. It was no Party question, and he wished to explain his own particular reasons for voting against the Amendment. By the section under discussion two powers were given. The first power was given to the Lord Lieutenant to make general regulations affecting prisoners. These regulations had to be submitted to Parliament, and it was desirable that they should be as lightly drawn as possible. If they were made to suit exceptional cases they would be too severe. At the same time, however, exceptional cases might require exceptional rules. There might be private signals and communications between the members of an illegal confederacy, notwithstanding the presence of a warder, and it would therefore be desirable to trust the Executive with the powers demanded.


said, the Lord Lieutenant had the power to make general regulations under the statute for these special prisoners, and he could not therefore see what he wanted with these special powers.


observed, in reference to some remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), that he had not risen before, because the reasons why the Amendments could not be accepted by the Government had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had, however, charged him with having neglected to answer important questions. He was in the recollection of the Committee, and stated that he had not declined to answer one single question. He was sure the Committee would excuse him for not replying to such an attack.


explained that what he had said was "satisfactory answer."


said, it was impossible for him always to answer a legal question in a manner which would fall in with the hon. Member's views. With respect to the Amendment, he had only to say that the provision of the Bill to which it referred was an exceptional one, and was meant to meet an exceptional state of things. It was absolutely necessary in special cases to provide that it should not be possible for a prisoner so to communicate with other persons as, perhaps, to counteract the whole policy of the Act. But as in other respects the persons in custody under the Act were to be dealt with as "untried prisoners," in giving this special and exceptional power to the Lord Lieutenant it was necessary to explain the manner in which it was to be exercised in this particular.


observed, that the Government had failed to point out what danger would arise from a prisoner being able to communicate with his friends. The power which the Government wished to place in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant was, in his opinion, arbitrary in its character and quite unnecessary.


observed, that the whole subject now under the consideration of the Committee had been very fully and very ably discussed in the last number of the Revue des Deux Mondes—which reflected the public opinion of a great part of France and of Europe—in connection with the state of Sicily, which was just now much disturbed by brigandage, while acts of murder and rapine were rife throughout the island. That state of circumstances had induced the Italian Government to place Sicily under the operation of a special law, analogous in principle to the Bill under consideration, and in the article to which he referred that legislation was vindicated and approved.


remarked that the legislation with respect to the outrages in Westmeath had been most successful. He thought the Government had acted wisely in proposing the present measure, and he trusted that the House of Commons would assent to it. He believed the powers would be temperately exer- cised, and would not be retained a moment longer than they were needed.


thanked the hon. Member for Tyrone for his promised vote in favour of the Amendment. [Mr. MACARTNEY: No, no!] Well, the argument of the hon. Member was in its favour; for if the Westmeath Act was applicable to the state of things referred to as existing in Sicily, they were wholly inapplicable to Ireland, which was admitted to be in a peaceable condition. He thought the Government were now going too far in respect to the sister country.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 121; Noes 291: Majority 170.


having given Notice of the next Amendment, page 4, at end, to add— Provided always, That nothing herein contained shall he deemed to continue in force or operation the Preamble of the said Act,


pointed out that the Amendment of the hon. Baronet was irregular, inasmuch as it was not proposed by the present Bill to re-enact the Preamble of the Act.


explained that he had put the Motion on the Paper from a recollection of what happened when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Horsman) was Chief Secretary for Ireland, when some portions of the previous Act having been withdrawn, the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary that the corresponding portion of the Preamble should be omitted, and that was done with the approval of Lord Eversley and of Lord John Russell, who were both of them eminent authorities in matters of Parliamentary procedure. He bowed, however, to the decision of the Chairman.


repeated that a Preamble was not matter of enactment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved, in page 4, at end, to add— Provided always, That nothing in the said Act contained shall authorise the imprisonment or detention of anyone, without being brought to trial, for more than one year from the date of his arrest. The hon. and learned Gentleman briefly contended that nothing could be more arbitrary or more tyrannical than that a man should be allowed to remain in prison for upwards of 12 months with a charge hanging over him, and without being brought to trial.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That nothing in the said Act contained shall authorise the imprisonment or detention of any one without being brought to trial for more than one year from the date of his arrest."—(Mr. Butt.)

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 237: Majority 78.


moved the Amendment which had just been rejected, with the substitution of the words "13 months" for "12 months." He came down to the House that afternoon for the sole purpose of supporting the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt). He had expected that the Chief Secretary would explain why it was necessary to detain a man in prison for two years previous to being brought to trial—why it was necessary to vote away the liberties of three counties. Ignorant as he was of the technicalities of the law, he never dreamt that men could be arrested and kept in prison for an indefinite period before being brought to trial. It might be urged that this Act only applied to three counties; but if it referred to only three men he should expose such exceptional legislation. He moved therefore this Amendment to enable the Government to make some explanation on the subject.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That nothing in the said Act contained shall authorise the imprisonment or detention of any one without being brought to trial for more than thirteen months from the date of his arrest."—(Mr. Mundella.)


reminded the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that the more usual course would have been to have proposed it as an Amendment on the last Amendment.


said, that if he did not reply to the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, it was from no want of respect towards him, but simply because in the few words he addressed to the Committee he gave no reason why they should fix a period of 12 months, neither had the hon. Member for Sheffield given a reason why it should he 13 months. He had understood the hon. and learned Member to object to the Act in toto. When it was urged that 12 months or 13 months was a sufficient time to keep Ribbonmen in prison, if, unfortunately, it should be necessary to arrest them, he would appeal to the facts of the case. When the Act was originally passed and the Ribbon conspiracy was in a state at which he hoped it might not again arrive, kept down as it would be by the dread of that Act, it was found necessary by the late Government to arrest and imprison a certain number of the leaders of that conspiracy; and according to a Return presented this Session of those who were thus arrested it was requisite to detain in prison at least an average of four out of five for a period of more than one year. And why was that? Because it was felt that if they were released at an earlier time the effect of their detention would have been lost, and they would have returned to their localities again to carry on the conspiracy for which they had been arrested. Why, he asked, should the Committee not give the present Government the same powers as it gave twice to a former Government, and which were practically contained in the Act? For the question was not for how long a particular person should be kept in prison, but for how long those powers of imprisonment should be vested in the Irish Government? The Committee had already decided that that period should be two years. For what reason should it be less? It was said that 12 months was enough; but he had shown that in the vast majority of cases it was not enough. If those powers were vested in the Irish Government again for two years, it would be their duty to ascertain how long it was necessary by the continuance of the Orders under the Act to keep those exceptional powers in force. He could assure the Committee that the moment they obtained information that they were no longer needed in the districts affected those powers would not be continued. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but they were not aware of the great pains taken by the Government in administering those Acts. The moment they could obtain information which would warrant the revocation of the Order it would be at once revoked; but suppose they should be mistaken, and the result of the revocation should be that the conspiracy was to break out in force, and they should at once re-impose the Act, they would be placed in this dilemma—they would have to deal with circumstances similar to those which prevailed when the original Act was passed, and they would be deprived of the powers they had possessed for keeping persons in prison for a period sufficient to keep down the conspiracy. From the mode in which the Government had administered these exceptional and unconstitutional powers he hoped the Committee would repose confidence in future Administrations, and would rest assured that no man would be kept in prison after his arrest for a single day longer than was warranted by the exigencies of the case.


cordially supported the Amendment, holding as he did that Governments should be Governments of order and not of threat. A few years ago the country was startled with the information which was imparted to them, chiefly by the late Prime Minister of this country, the right hon. Member for Greenwich, that the dungeons of Naples were filled with persons who were rotting there. A cry of indignation arose from the English people, and the doors of these prisons had to be thrown open; yet they were now asked to close the doors of some of the prisons of a part of Her Majesty's dominions against men who were to be confined at the will of the Government. He set his face against such a proposal, and hoped a majority of the British House of Commons would do the same.


said, that in this case it was the exception that proved the rule; we were obliged to pass Acts like these to justify unconstitutional acts which in Naples were committed by an irresponsible ruler. No doubt, it would be far bettor, if they could, to bring these men to trial; but it was a peculiar feature of this conspiracy that they could not get the evidence. He saw no reason for adopting the Amendment.


said, the two cases were not so different as the hon. Member for Canterbury supposed. In Naples they saw the end of a system, but this was merely the beginning here, and tyrannies always commenced in this way. They were not sent to Parliament to trust the Government, but to protect the liberties of the subject, and the onus probandi was upon the Chief Secretary to prove the necessity for these powers. It was unconstitutional that men should languish in an Irish Bastile for two years without being brought to trial.


held that it was an outrage on the liberty of the subject to keep men in prison longer than was necessary to prepare evidence against them. If all suspected persons were promptly tried before they were condemned, then the world could judge whether or not there existed any Ribbon conspiracy.


said, he was exceedingly sorry to prolong this debate; but as a very new Member he felt much difficulty with regard to the vote he should give. It might be said, as a new Member, he would be justified in following older Members; but having been in an official position, and having had some experience of measures of this kind, he felt a certain responsibility upon himself in giving his vote. It was his desire to support the Government in a matter of this kind if he could consistently do so; but this was a very grave measure, which could only be justified by very exceptional circumstances. The question had not been put before the House in an intelligible shape, and he altogether objected to the manner in which the Bill had been drawn. It did not state on the face of it what was to be enacted, but referred to a number of provisions contained in other Acts of Parliament, none of which provisions were set forth. The result was that no new Member—or, in fact, any mortal man—could understand what the Bill proposed, and he gathered from what had passed that the Government themselves hardly understood their own Bill.


pointed out that the Question before the Committee was the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sheffield, and not a general discussion of the Bill.


said, his observations were designed to show that as regarded this particular Amendment, and any other Amendment, the Committee had not sufficient material before them upon which to found an opinion.


said, he thought that they were much indebted to the hon. Member (Mr. Mundella) for having given the Committee an opportunity of debating this question. The Chief Secretary for Ireland contended that it was incumbent on those who proposed to limit this power to show reason for the limitation, but he maintained that obligation lay upon those who proposed such exceptional legislation to show reason for it. He had failed to understand the grounds upon which the Government thought it necessary that the power asked for should be without limit. The power of imprisonment must be either for punishment or for precaution. If as a punishment, then, surely an imprisonment of 13 months was sufficiently long for a man who had not been, and who for want of evidence could not be, put upon his trial; if, as a precaution, the power of re-arresting a prisoner who returned to his former practices was a sufficient safeguard. He thought it but reasonable and humane that such a limit should be accepted; and, indeed, it was repugnant to all men to think that a fellow-creature might be left languishing in prison from year to year without having the opportunity of being brought to trial. The hon. Member (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) contrasted this case of Ireland with that of Naples, and happily there was a wide difference—but in both cases there was the same deep-seated objection to imprisonment without being brought before his accusers, and it was for this purpose that the hon. Member for Stafford had referred to Naples.


said, he hoped the Government would give way upon this point, for such a concession would lead to the expectation that legislation of this kind would some day cease altogether. He believed that everyone on his side of the House was in favour of the Amendment.


observed, that he had listened carefully to the arguments used during the discussions upon this Bill; and he was anxious to support the Government in the performance of their difficult task. He had, however, felt himself bound, upon more than one occasion, to vote against the Government, and in favour of some limitation of the powers conferred by the Bill. Upon the present occasion, also, he felt bound to vote in favour of limiting the period of imprisonment to 13 months, though he did so with the greatest diffidence.


contended that it lay upon the Government to show why they should vote for a longer period of imprisonment than that mentioned in the Amendment. They were asked to give these extraordinary powers at the same time that they were told that there was not a single Ribbonman in prison under them. It was their duty to watch carefully over the liberties of the subject; and not lightly to vote that a man might be kept for a long period in prison without power of appeal of any sort.


said, the reason why he should vote in favour of the powers contained in the Bill was because he thought he was voting on the side of mercy. He asked why it was there was not a single Ribbonman now in prison? He asserted that it was because of the powers contained and proposed to be continued in this Bill. It was because the severity of the punishment had acted as a deterrent, and it was the duty and interest of the Government to have punishments framed which were sufficiently severe to prevent misguided individuals from subjecting themselves to the penalties of the law.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 171; Noes 250: Majority 79.


moved, in page 4, at end to add— Provided always, That from and after the passing of this Act so much of the said Act as applies to the county of Meath shall he and is hereby repealed. He thought there was no reason why the county of Meath should come under the provisions of the Act, because for sometime there had been no crime and outrage there. At Assizes after Assizes the Judges congratulated the Grand Jury upon the state of the county.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That from and after the passing of this Act so much of the said Act as applies to the county Meath shall he and is hereby repealed."—(Mr. Ennis)


observed that the Government could not accept the Amendment for the reasons he had already given in reference to the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien).


supported the Amendment. He said, the Act was passed in 1871 with the object of meeting a Ribbon conspiracy which was supposed at that time to exist. The Chief Secretary had not shown that any such conspiracy now existed, and as no reasonable grounds had been shown, there was no reason why the Act should be continued.


vindicated the character of the county of Meath from the charge of lawlessness so frequently made against it by alarmists, whose fears, when examined, were found to be groundless. Perhaps, however, it was useless to expect much from a Government which had refused to allow a poor prisoner to see his wife and children.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 290: Majority 219.

And it being after ten minutes before Seven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair, to report Progress.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.

And it being now Seven of the clock the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.