§ (Mr. Assheton Cross, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 26th March.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (Treatment of prisoners convicted of treason felony, &c.)
§ "The Prison Commissioners shall see that any prisoner under sentence inflicted on conviction for treason felony, sedition, or seditious libel, shall be treated as a misdemeanant of the first division within the meaning of section sixty-seven of The Prisons Act 1865,' notwithstanding any statute, proviso, or rule to the contrary."
§ The hon. Gentleman described the object of the clause as being to insure that in future the treatment of prisoners confined for political offences should not continue, as it had been in this country, to be the same as the treatment of convicts convicted of gross crimes, such as manslaughter, &c. On former occasions the Home Secretary had stated that he had no power to alter the treatment of convicts of one or the other character, and the discipline of the prison would not permit of such a distinction; therefore, it appeared that it was a suitable time to bring forward the subject of the treatment of this class of prisoners now that the Committee were discussing the provisions of the Bill governing those prisons over which the Home Secretary would have control. The clause sought to secure in the treatment of political prisoners that they should not be subjected to personal search, being stripped, and in the presence of other prisoners; that they should not suffer the harsh treatment and the degrading punishments inflicted on ordinary convicts; that their food should not be coarse and insufficient, or their work hard; that they should not be restricted from writing letters to their friends, or be compelled to associate with degraded criminals, or subjected to the various punishments which, however necessary they might be to reform the minds of ordinary criminals, were unjustly inflicted on men convicted only of a political offence. Up to the passing of 11 & 12 Vict. c. 12, political prisoners were 617 punished in an exceptional way. For instance, O'Connell, in 1844, was convicted of a political offence, and while a prisoner was treated in an exceptional manner from ordinary criminals, and to a great extent with forbearance. He was allowed to sit with his family, who were allowed to visit him during the day; but the Act just referred to re-pealed certain portions of these Acts which governed the crime known as high treason. Many of these crimes were by that Act denominated treason felony. It was, doubtless, thought desirable to get rid of the extreme penalty attached to high treason; and also, perhaps, that the offence might appear a degraded one — it was denominated a felony. But, still, the political prisoners convicted after the passing of that Act continued for a time to be treated with leniency. Such was the case with his Predecessor in the representation of Meath, Mr. John Martin; of Mr. John Mitchel, who was returned a Member of that House, but who did not live to take his seat; and of Thomas Francis Meagher, who had subsequently distinguished himself fighting for liberty in the American Civil War. The present Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who had since been Premier of the Government in the Colony of Victoria, was also tried for his life three times. If he had been convicted and the capital sentence corn-muted he would have been subjected to the same treatment as Martin and Mitchel. These men, whose names were known in Irish history, were convicted in 1848 of treason felony, but in their treatment there were none of the degrading associations such as were met with in convictions of a more recent date. John Mitchel had given a description of his treatment, and he mentioned that he had a separate cabin or cell, and was not compelled to associate with other criminals. When he arrived in Australia he was allowed a sort of liberty on parole. He and his friends were allowed to live together and to labour for their own advantage. The abolition of transportation, however, had brought about a different state of things, and under the existing prison regulations in this country there was no power to treat political prisoners differently from other convicts. In 1869 a Question was asked in the House of Commons by the late Sir John Gray as to the treatment of Mr. 618 O'Donovan Rossa, confined in Portland Prison for treason felony. The Question asked was if it was true that this convict had been handcuffed for 33 days. The then Home Secretary (Mr. Bruce), speaking upon information furnished him by the prison authorities, promptly denied that the prisoner had been so treated. The matter, however, was pressed by the hon. Gentleman who asked the Question, and further investigation compelled the Home Secretary to admit that there were some grounds for the allegation. A Royal Commission inquired into and reported upon the treatment of prisoners in Chatham, Portland, and other prisons. In their Report the Commissioners remarked upon the case of O'Donovan Rossa that he had been handcuffed for 34 days, and for at least five of those days he had been handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and he had been obliged to eat his food on his hands and knees like a dog. The Commissioners made some very sensible observations with reference to the labour imposed on prisoners confined for treason felony, and they said it was probable that many persons, though not weakly enough to be exempted from labour, did actually suffer from the labour imposed on them, and to such an extent as to reduce their weight. With reference to the power of ordinary handcuffs to be used, the Commissioners reported that, in their opinion, there was not that uniformity of practice, nor that unanimity which they deemed to be desirable in so important a subject. The Commissioners also referred to the use of dark cells, and pointed out the different periods for which prisoners were confined in different prisons, and they recommended that such a punishment should not be resorted to without a written order from the governor or deputy-governor, and that it ought not to be inflicted for longer than 12 hours, and that while so confined the prisoner should be allowed to retain his bed and his blanket. All these observations had as much bearing on the treatment of treason felony prisoners as on that of ordinary convicts. Then complaints were made in the matter of searches, and in the case of treason felony prisoners to whom he had referred, they were compelled at night to place their clothes outside their cells so as to prevent the slightest possibility of their escape. When those men were 619 taken to prison the cold was very severe, yet they were deprived of their flannels, and some of them contracted consumption. Such a rule as this he desired to get rid of. Another complaint of the treason felony prisoners was that they were associated with other prisoners who were guilty of the most horrible and heinous crimes. If it was not now possible to separate the prisoners it would be possible for the Home Secretary in future to set apart a prison or prisons for the special treatment of State or political prisoners, where such rules might be practised as would keep the men out of harm's way and nothing more. The reason why O'Donovan Rossa was handcuffed was because he had committed an assault of rather an aggravated nature upon the governor. Rossa, it appeared, was a man of a high and excitable temperament, and he considered that he had been especially ill-used by the governor and warders, because he was a leading man in the conspiracy. He (Mr. Parnell) did not wish to excuse the assault, but it was one which inflicted no injury on the governor. The Commissioners paid a very high tribute to O'Donovan Rossa, and expressed their sense of the candour and straightforward manner in which he gave his testimony.
observed that the extracts which the hon. Member had been reading referred entirely to the treatment of prisoners in convict prisons, and the present Bill had no reference to the treatment of prisoners in convict prisons, and, therefore, any matter affecting such treatment was outside the present Bill.
§ MR. PARNELL
remarked that there was power in a clause of the Bill to set apart any prison for the confinement of treason felony prisoners; and therefore he considered he was in Order in referring to the extracts from the Report of the Commissioners. He had no desire to detain the Committee.
§ MR. PARNELL
replied that he referred to Clause 21, by which the Secretary of State had power to remove any convicted person from one prison to any other prison.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
§ MR. PARNELL
was sorry that the clause had been altered, and was proceeding to repeat his statements of the ill-treatment of the treason felony prisoners, when —
again called the hon. Member to Order, and pointed out that his arguments and extracts had reference to the treatment of prisoners in convict prisons.
§ MR. PARNELL
submitted that if prisoners in convict prisons had been treated in the way he had mentioned he was not precluded from showing how they had been treated, and that they ought not to be treated in that manner in other prisons. After bearing testimony to the candour of O'Donovan Rossa, the Commissioners proceeded
was unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member; but he had already indicated that the clause as proposed would not produce any effect on the treatment of the prisoners in convict prisons. The references of the hon. Member were not germane to the question under consideration.
§ MR. PARNELL
wished it to be understood that the principle for which he was contending was simply this—that political prisoners, when confined in prisons under the operation of the present Bill, should not be treated as ordinary criminal prisoners, and in order to show that these men ought not to be treated in that way he was reading extracts from a Report of a Royal Commission to show that these prisoners were guilty of no moral crime, and that their offence was not of a degrading kind. The prisoners to whom he had referred were men of excellent moral character.
§ MR. PARNELL
replied that the ruling of the Chairman had not been the same up to the present moment. [Cries of "Order."] Instances of persons confined in prisons had been brought forward as instances in support of clauses in Committee on this Bill, and no objection had been taken hitherto. He thought he was entitled to call attention to the cases of all prisoners under confinement in either England or Ire- 621 land in order to prove the necessity for the clause he was proposing.
stated that previous discussions had reference to previous clauses, and his desire was to point out to the hon. Member what was or was not in Order with regard to particular clauses.
§ MR. PARNELL
next proceeded to call attention to the cases of Rossa, O'Connell, and others, who died of consumption in gaol; of Murphy, who complained of the indignity to which he was subjected; and of Burke, who, although he was of unsound mind, was accused of malingering. Some of these prisoners complained of weakness in the chest, but no proper attention was shown them, and the consequence was they had since died of consumption.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS: I
rise to Order. I ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Member is not persevering in that course which you have ruled to be out of Order?
THE CHAIRMAN: I
have on several occasions endeavoured to intimate to the hon. Member the course of Order in regard to matters before the Committee. I have been reluctant, as on previous occasions, to stop him from adducing illustrations of his argument; but I am bound to say he is repeating those protracted referrences to matters not pertaining to the particular clause before the Committee, to which I have already called his attention as being out of Order.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the prisoners who had been hitherto convicted of the offences alluded to had been confined in convict prisons, and, therefore, he was bound to draw his illustrations from convict prisons. Although he thought the Chairman's ruling thoroughly wrong[" Order, order !"]—he would not persevere.
If the hon. Member thinks my ruling entirely wrong, he should challenge it before the House. I do not think the observation he has made is one which will commend itself to the Committee.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he would withdraw the expression, and if he thought it necessary to do so, he would take another opportunity of noticing the matter. He would, however, remind the Committee that the Act of 1848, which constituted the offence of treason felony, was passed to meet the case of the Chart- 622 ists, who flourished from about 1833 to 1848. Their creed included universal suffrage, and we had now reached the point next to that—vote by ballot, which was now the law—and the abolition of property qualification, which was now abolished; and yet Chartists, for advocating those doctrines, with others of a like character, were liable to imprisonment—and some were imprisoned—as felons. He trusted the Committee would now decide that the rules under which such persons were imprisoned should be at once produced by the Home Secretary; or otherwise to enact that all such prisoners should be treated as first-class misdemeanants, under the Prisons Act of 1865. It was high time an attempt was made to remove from England the reproach that she treated her political prisoners worse than any other country in the world. In France even the Communists who half burnt Paris, and to whom were attributed the most atrocious designs, were treated exceptionally. They were not sent to the hulks or the galleys, but simply expatriated. When history came to be written there was nothing for which the children of Englishmen now living would blush so much as for the treatment of the men convicted in 1865. Had it not been for the ruling of the Chairman he could have made a much more powerful case than he had done by adducing details of the manner in which these men were treated. He had actually a letter from one of his constituents in which he stated that he had been sent to break stones, and had been kept at breaking stones for several hours in the course of the day. If men were treated so badly in English prisons, what would have been the treatment these men would have received in Irish prisons —the treatment of men to the like of whom England now owed a great part of its present liberties. He hoped that this Bill, when it went from that Committee, would be so framed that political prisoners would not be treated as murderers, demons, and culprits, of the worst order. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the adoption of the clause of which he had given Notice.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had not wished to interrupt the hon. Member, but he was bound to state that a great deal of what he had said was irrelevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. He even doubted whether the 623 question raised by the hon. Member could be raised on the present Bill at all. The Committee were discussing a measure regulating the treatment of prisoners sent to a certain class of prisons for a certain class of offences, and it had nothing to do with the general criminal law of the land; but the proposal of the hon. Member was, in fact, as much a change in that law as if he had proposed that, in future, no culprit should be executed within the walls of a prison. He agreed with the hon. Member that the old laws as to treason were in these days unnecessarily severe, and the Act of 12 Vict. made a distinction between what he might call treason proper and treason felony. The first was confined to acts against the person of the Sovereign, and all the rest to the smaller offence of treason felony. The Act distinctly laid down that all persons guilty of such acts should be regarded as guilty of felony, and being so found guilty, might be transported or imprisoned with or without hard labour, at the discretion of the Judge. But the Amendment said that although a man might be convicted of felony he was, by this Prisons Bill, to be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. But it would not only change the treatment of the prisoner, it would change the character of the offence and alter the punishment to be inflicted. If a prisoner were convicted and sentenced to penal servitude, the Bill would not affect him, as his punishment would be inflicted in a convict prison. The hon. Member, however, said that these who were technically guilty of treason felony and might be sentenced to imprisonment with or without hard labour should be treated as first-class misdemeanants. To adopt such a proposition would be to interfere with the function of the Judge who tried the particular case, and who was best able to form an opinion whether the prisoner should or should not be condemned to hard labour. The question before the Committee was a serious one. If this Amendment were accepted it would not simply change the treatment of certain prisoners in the gaols, but it would change the criminal law. If that was what the hon. Memintended he ought to bring in a Bill to amend or repeal the Act of Victoria, and then the whole question would be thoroughly discussed. The Committee should remember who the persons were 624 on whose behalf the clause was submitted by the hon. Member. They were described in the Act of Parliament as persons who combined and conspired to levy war against the Crown, to depose the Sovereign, and to stir up foreigners to invade the United Kingdom or other possessions of the Crown. Such persons should surely be called, not first-class misdemeanants, but first-class criminals.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, the objections of the right hon. Gentleman to the clause of his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) were merely technical. In point of law, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman was right; but the substance of the question was—how were those persons to be treated who were convicted of political offences. No one, of course, wished to extenuate these offences; but it should be remembered that these who were guilty of them might have been misled by strong political feelings, and ought not, therefore, to be placed on a footing with ordinary felons. There was once a discussion in that House whether or not Oliver Cromwell should have a statue in Westminster Hall, and yet he thought he remembered that Oliver Cromwell cut off King Charles's head, which was something more than treason felony. But if Charles I. had been successful Oliver Cromwell would have been hung, drawn, and quartered. Opinions differed greatly on these matters—there were people who greatly admired Oliver Cromwell, and thought him the greatest Sovereign this country ever had, while he (Sir George Bowyer) thought him a murderer of the worst description. Then, again, Washington was a rebel, and was guilty of treason felony, and he remembered a statesman in office once saying to him that if Washington had been caught he would have been hanged. Everybody now honoured Washington. Many Members of the House remembered the case of Pœrio, the Neapolitan Prefect of Police, who was convicted of attempting the life of King Ferdinand II., and sentenced to imprisonment. Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) wrote a pamphlet on the subject, which stated that Pœrio was treated as if he were a murderer. The country rang with execration of the King of Naples, and the feeling that was aroused led finally to the overthrow of the Bourbon 625 dynasty in Naples. But the fact was that the King of Naples was an extremely humane man, and he bought a palace at Palermo in which to confine as first-class misdemeanants persons convicted of treasonable offences. Thus Pœrio, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's indignation, never was in prison at all, and an Italian Prince, a friend of his (Sir George Bowyer) told him that he had been to see Pœrio, and found him in a very nice and comfortable position. Ought they not, then, to look at home and to act in the case of political prisoners on the principle laid down in the pamphlet of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich? A person who had been convicted of a political offence ought to be treated in a manner very different from that which fell to the lot of a man who had been guilty of an offence against the person, or a crime such as burglary or larceny. Allowance ought certainly to be made for the circumstances under which offences were committed; and in this view political prisoners were certainly entitled to more consideration than they received at present, the fact being that their treatment was not consistent either with justice or with the common laws of humanity. He therefore hoped the proposed new clause would be adopted. If it were pressed to a division he would vote in its favour.
§ MR. BUTT
said, he was anxious to state the reason why he should endeavour to support the clause, and more especially so, because the clause had not been taken in exactly the same way as it struck him. The clause embraced two things, which were perfectly distinct—namely, the prisoner under sentence convicted of treason felony, and committed for sedition or seditious libel. These two things were distinct, and admitted of different considerations. As to the persons convicted of treason felony, it had been pointed out by the Chairman that this clause could only apply to persons who had been sentenced to two years or under, and whatever improper treatment political prisoners were subjected to this clause would not remedy it. He understood that they still had power over the manner in which political prisoners sentenced to two years' imprisonment were to be treated; but this would only touch the treatment of a small portion of the political offenders, and would not be 626 equal in its results to a declaration of the House of Commons as to their proper treatment. He thought that he might say that the whole common sense and conscience of mankind revolted against treating political prisoners for a political offence exactly in the same manner as common thieves. He could speak of his own knowledge of men who had been tried for political offences, and yet afterwards attained distinctions under the Crown. There was the case of Thomas D'Arcy M'Gee, who became Prime Minister of Canada, and no man had done more service to the Crown in that Colony. Then there was the case of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who was tried for treason felony, and though the prosecution failed no one denied that he was implicated; yet the Crown made him Prime Minister of one of our great Colonies with the distinction of knighthood. Those two instances were sufficient to show the broad difference that must be made, and that they could never obliterate the distinction between the men who revolted against the Government under, it might be, an imaginary sense of wrong, and the person who committed a crime. The man who committed the political offence would refuse to associate with criminals, and he need only mention the case of the late Member for Meath (Mr. John Martin) to illustrate the difference between political prisoners and other offenders. Mr. Martin was convicted and imprisoned, but still no Member of that House would have been ashamed to have met him at an evening party. He was not prepared to say that political offenders should be treated as first -class misdemeanants. They were only reading the clause a second time, and whether that would be the proper way of dealing with political offenders was a question for the Committee; but he did think that they ought to say there should be a distinction made between a man who had only committed a political offence and a man who had committed an offence disgraceful to his family. It existed and was carried fully into effect in the case of Mr. O'Connell, who was allowed while in prison to see his friends, to provide his own table, and in every other respect was allowed to do what he pleased, and only deprived of his personal liberty. That was in strict accordance with the common law of the realm. The same course was followed 627 in the case of Mr. Cobbett, who, though convicted and sent to prison for a seditious libel, was allowed to edit his newspaper while in prison. And so it was in the case of Sir John Cam Hobhouse for a similar offence; but the rules and regulations now in existence prohibited all such liberty, although drawn up and acted on without the sanction of that House or the authority of an Act of Parliament. Political prisoners were now subject to have their hair cut, to wear the prison dress, to partake of prison fare, and wash and clean out their own rooms, or, more properly speaking, the cells which they occupied. In England, he would remind the Committee, there was a distinction made between first-class misdemeanants and other prisoners, but no such rule existed in Ireland. If a man in Ireland were convicted of a seditious libel, he only escaped the common punishment by the indulgence of the prison authorities actually departing from the law. Therefore, to a certain extent the criminal law' had been changed, not by an Act of Parliament—for if it had been attempted the whole country would have been in revolution —but without the sanction of Parliament by rules made by officials. Now, they were taking away the control of the prison justices, and they were vesting it in the Secretary of State, and he did not see any reason why they should not revert to the old Common Law right of prisoners convicted for seditious libels being leniently treated. With these views he supported the clause. He was not prepared to say that all political prisoners under the Treason Felony Act should be treated as first-class misdemeanants; but he was prepared to say that the honour of the country required that they should make a distinction between political offenders and other offenders, and it was quite time to strike against the vigorous discipline imposed upon them by officials of the gaol.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he was about to say that a party convicted of treason felony might be sentenced to imprisonment for two years in any of the prisons under this Bill, and 628 therefore he thought he was in order in referring to the case of O'Donovan Rossa, who was treated in a certain manner in a convict prison.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he would bew to the decision of the Chairman, but he contended that the treatment of prisoners in some of the county gaols in Ireland was more severe than in any convict prison. He had inspected the prisoners in the county which he had the honour to represent (Cork), and if hon. Members knew what was suffered by the prisoners in those gaols —which he believed were model gaols—they would be glad to alter the system. In the punishment cell he found there was no light, no air, and that prisoners confined in that cell were not allowed to leave it for 72 hours at a time, even to attend to the calls of nature.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
remarked that the rules relating to Irish gaols were entirely different from these in force with respect to gaols in England.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
was glad to hear it, and hoped that when the Irish Prisons Bill came on for discussion he would have the support of the right hon. Gentleman in endeavouring to get rid of the system to which he had called attention in Ireland. He would. in the meantime, give his cordial support to the clause of his hon. Friend.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he offered no opinion on the technical point that had been raised by the Home Secretary. That was a matter for the lawyers, and not for a plain Member of Parliament like himself. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), however, was an acknowledged legal authority, and he gave it as his opinion that the Amendment could be accepted without any of the confusion arising that was feared by the Government. The point to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee was not the mere phraseology of the clause, but the great principle that underlay it. It proposed to make a distinction between the treatment of ordinary criminals and men convicted of political offences. They all 629 acknowledged the difference in actual life. If a man stole another's purse he inflicted upon the individual robbed a distinct injury; but if an enthusiastic, though, possibly, not very discreet, politician strove to alter the Constitution of his country by means that were scarcely legal, he only offended against the laws of the State. In the first instance, the advantage was a selfish and a personal one. A man strove to benefit himself at the expense of his neighbours. In the second case, men were usually moved by the most generous and self-sacrificing sentiments. They staked their property, their liberty, and sometimes their lives on achieving a change in which they would only participate as a member of the community, but for which they sacrificed more than the mass of their countrymen. There was, to his mind, a clear difference between one class of offence and the other. And, indeed, society recognized that distinction. In the House there were 10, if not 12, hon. Gentlemen who had at one or other period of their lives been called political prisoners, or incarcerated for Press offences. They recognized all these Gentlemen without distinction as their Colleagues and their equals. Some of them were men of marked ability, of great attainments, and much popularity in that Assembly. Let them realize the difference of feeling that would be manifested towards them if, instead of being imprisoned for political reasons, they had been detained for embezzlement, or any description of dishonest conduct. If persons of the latter character had been returned to the House of Commons, he ventured to say that, whatever might be their other qualifications, they would have been shunned and not courted by the Members. In this difference of treatment he contended that they unconsciously, but very emphatically, marked the measure of censure they passed upon a man guilty of a political offence and a person guilty of a moral crime. What his lion. Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) wished to do was to recognize, in prison life, the same difference that they recognized, and acted upon in Parliament and public life. The request was a reasonable one, and he could not understand what objection there could be to the course proposed. It was a remarkable fact—and no more remarkable than true—that while the treatment of ordinary crimi- 630 nals in this country had been softened and mitigated, the treatment of political prisoners had been hardened and rendered more irksome and degrading. His hon. Friend the Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer) had referred to the manner in which Pœrio and his compatriots were treated in Italy. It was quite true, as had been said, that Englishmen in this manner acted very inconsistently. They had all manner of sympathy for political prisoners in other countries. Distance to them lent enchantment to the view; but their insular egotism would not permit them to perceive that in England harder measures were dealt to politicians who made themselves amenable to the law than were meted to these whose cases had excited interest in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister had earned a world-wide and deserved renown for the chivalrous manner in which he had pleaded the cause of the men who were confined in Italian dungeons. He (Mr. Cowen) was not there to detract, even in appearance, from the fame that the right hon. Gentleman had won. He might, however, say that he knew some of these Italian prisoners, and had heard from their own lips a recital of their sufferings and their struggles. He knew two honest, but perhaps mistaken Irishmen, who had been confined for their adhesion to Fenianism, and he had listened to their prison tales also. He felt bound to say that the treatment of the Italian captives was in no sense worse than that meted out to the Fenians by the Government of which the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) was the head. It was easy to see the defects in other people's characters and modes of procedure; but it was not quite so easy at all times to discover the shortcomings of their own. It was remarkable that, while we had rendered the gaol life of ordinary criminals smoother and easier, we had heaped hardships upon erring politicians. They had no end of philanthropic pity for pick-pockets; there was no want of sentimental commiseration for common thieves; but the enthusiastic patriot, who staked his all upon an issue which he believed to be for the welfare of his fellows, had only a small measure of kindly feeling shown him. It was a disgrace to England, but it was nevertheless true, that it was the only country in Western or civilized Europe whose 631 political prisoners were not separated from, and treated differently to, regular convicts. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick had referred to the case of Mr. Cobbett. With the permission of the Committee, he would refer to other instances—for facts illustrated a point better than all arguments. Not many years ago the late Mr. Leigh Hunt was sent to prison. He had commented on certain influential personages in terms that were more correct than courtly. During his detention he edited his newspaper, carried on his literary work, and directed his business without restraint. The only loss he sustained was through the fine inflicted and the imprisonment imposed. Contrast such treatment with that to which his (Mr. Cowen's) late friend, Mr. Ernest Jones, was subjected. Mr. Jones, like Mr. Hunt, was a poet, a man of letters, and an editor. The offence of which he was proved guilty was declared by the Judge at the trial to be one of the mildest of the kind he had ever had to adjudicate upon. Yet notwithstanding this, Mr. Jones was compelled to consort with thieves, burglars, and highwaymen. The severity of the punishment inflicted upon a delicate man amounted in his case to little less than torture. Through the intervention of the late Mr. Joseph Hume and other Members of that House the severity of the punishment was relaxed. If it had not been so, Mr. Jones would have been killed in prison. As it was, it laid the seeds of a disease that led to premature death. The British Bar thus lost, in the prime of life, a distinguished advocate, and English literature one of its most brilliant votaries. Take another case. The late Mr. Richard Carlisle was imprisoned for 10 years for political offences. Six of these he spent in Dorchester Gaol. The offence he was charged with was one that ran counter to the prejudices of Englishmen. It was none other than insisting upon the publication of the political and theological works of Thomas Paine. So vigorously did Mr. Carlisle pursue his agitation, that at one time not only himself, but his wife, some members of his family, and 20 of his shopmen were all in custody. Yet, during his prolonged incarceration, Mr. Carlisle carried on his business, edited his publication, and fulminated his denunciations against the Government. The very name of his paper 632 was almost an incentive to a prosecution, as it was called The Republican. Contrast his treatment with that of Mr. Charles Kickham. That gentleman was a poet, a pleasing novelist, and a literary man of ability. He threw himself with all the ardour of his nature into the Fenian cause. Being arrested and condemned, he was sent to London with the vilest criminals, and to undergo the most oppressive labour. Although a weakly man, and in delicate health, no sympathy was shown him. Mr. Kickham was a gentleman by birth, by education, and, what was better, by nature also; but none of the consideration that was extended to Mr. Hunt or Mr. Carlisle fell to his lot. Take another case, which brought the question home even more closely to the present day. A fortnight ago the London workmen buried their leader. They did it reverently and kindly. Round the open grave of the Brompton Cemetery there were gathered the flower of the metropolitan artizans, some Members of the House of Commons, and not a few of the most distinguished literary men of the time. Mr. Odger was what was known as an "extreme politician." A few years ago he was threatened with a prosecution for sedition. Accident alone prevented his arrest. Had he been taken, he would assuredly have been condemned; because, although murderers and thieves sometimes eluded the meshes of the law, it was rare that a politician was allowed to escape. If Mr. Odger had been tried and found guilty he would have been treated in the same way as Mr. Kickham and Mr. Ernest Jones. Compare the treatment that would have been meted out to him to that given to another gentleman. He had no wish to refer to a painful and unfortunate case, but it was in the recollection of the House that a brave, able, and distinguished man had by a half hour's folly blasted a brilliant reputation as a soldier. When that gentleman was being sentenced by the Judge, he was told that his offence warranted the Court in sending him to penal servitude, and that, under ordinary circumstances, such would have been the sentence; but owing to his having been brought up as a gentleman, and educated with delicacy and refinement, he was during his detention to be treated only as a first-class misdemeanant. He wished to know from the Government 633 and the House what justice or sense of fairplay there could be in thus treating such a man as he had referred to, and at the same time punishing political prisoners, as they had done the Fenians? What was there in the character of Mr. Jones, Mr. Kickham, and Mr. Odger to deprive them of the consideration that had been extended to the Cavalry officer he had just referred to. It was against this injustice, as well as against the folly of punishing so greatly political offenders, that he protested. He knew Englishmen did not like to be reminded of the fact that they had amongst them men suffering for political offences. It was quite true that there were not many, and that the liberty enjoyed in this land was as large as that enjoyed by the people of any other country; and that, in addition to the freedom they possessed, they had the power in their hands to achieve further liberty if they required it. Remembering that, he was willing to admit that nothing but the most serious considerations could warrant any illegal pressure upon the Government. But still, although political prisoners were not common in England, they were to be found. It was not probable that they would have many in the future; but still it was possible. England, however, was not the only part of the United Kingdom, and in Ireland he feared the existence of political prisoners for years to come would be both possible and probable. They should remember that the greatest part of Ireland was under martial law; that a state of siege existed in that country as completely as it did in France two years ago; and that every man's liberty was at the mercy of an ignorant police constable, or the caprice of an officious Jack-in-office. The coercive laws in existence in Ireland were—so far as they appeared upon the statute book —as repressive and arbitrary as the laws of any country in the world. The only reason why they were tolerated was because the Government for the time being administered them with moderation. As long, however, as these repressive enactments existed they must look for conspiracies, and plots, and insurrections. Ireland in this respect re-acted upon England. There were not hundreds, but thousands of Irishmen living in this country. In some of the larger manufacturing centres, one-fourth, almost one-third of the population was Irish. They 634 brought here all the feelings of bitterness that had been generated by long years of misrule in the sister Isle. Indeed these feelings were intensified in England, because Irish workmen felt that here they had greater liberty and larger privileges than they had in their own land, and that embittered them against English rule. They saw that in the state of the national party. In Ireland the prevalent feeling was in favour of a system of Home Rule. In England the feeling among the Irish people was in favour of Fenian principles. Like it or not, as they chose, such were the facts, and it was for them to deal with them. The very severity of the punishment the Government inflicted produced the result they complained of. It was a maxim as old as Christianity that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church, and the Irish nationalists sympathised with the sorrows and emulated the example of the prisoners who were treated with such barbarity. There was no wisdom in attempting to disparage the character of ardent but sometimes unwise politicians. The history of that House and of this country was a record of what had been achieved by so-called seditious writings and treasonable proceedings. The proudest chapter in the history of distinguished members of the British aristocracy was that which recorded their efforts after successful sedition. He hoped the Committee would abandon their prejudices on the subject, and assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, that the sufferings of prisoners, however much people might sympathise with them, did not touch the question before the Committee. He objected to this attempt to alter the criminal law by a side wind. It should be remembered that the Treason Felony Act mitigated the punishment for treason, except in certain cases of the deepest atrocity, altering it from death to penal servitude. The offence, however, still remained a felony, and he considered that persons convicted of treason felony should continue to be treated as felons, and not as misdemeanants. He therefore opposed the proposition of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell).
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, that after hearing the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. 635 Cowen) he was of opinion that the preceding speakers had done well not to enter into the merits of the question. It was said they were using a side wind to raise a false issue by stating that the question of the treatment of political prisoners ought not to be introduced into a discussion on a Prisons Bill. They were, in fact, treading in the footsteps of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. If they looked at Clause 34 they would find it empowered the Home Secretary to make rules to reduce the punishment of prisoners in for three months with hard labour, from the first to the second class of hard labour for a portion of their time. True, this was a small question, and it might merely depend upon the behaviour of the prisoner; but the Home Secretary took a power precisely similar to that asked for by the hon. Member for Meath. Then in another clause—namely, Clause 35—it was stated that—The Secretary of State may from time to make, and when made repeal, alter, or add to rules with respect to the classification and treatment of criminal prisoners before conviction, and of prisoners imprisoned for non-compliance with the order of a justice or justices to pay a sum of money, or imprisoned in respect of the default of a distress to satisfy a sum of money adjudged to be paid by order of a justice or justices, so that such rules are in mitigation and not in increase of the effect of such imprisonment, as regulated by the Prison Act, 1865.In other words, he could mitigate the rules of the prison so as to treat them as first-class misdemeanants. Thus the Home Secretary had enacted for one class of prisoners what the hon. Member for Meath proposed for another class, and therefore how he could make alterations in prison discipline and object to similar alterations for another class of prisoners he could not explain; and he wished the Government or some one on the other side of the House would explain at some future time. He certainly allowed that the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Meath was somewhat larger, and extended to more important cases than those already dealt with in the Bill; but in Clauses 34 and 35 it would be seen that the Home Secretary had put before the House substantially the same principle.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he had by chance, in 1848, in a visit which was made to the Metropolitan Prisons in company with Sir Peter 636 Laurie, Mr. Williams, and his near relative the late Mr. Hume, seen in a cell of Millbank the late Mr. Ernest Jones, who had just completed his daily task of tearing oakum, to which he had been sentenced, with two years' confinement to prison, and was shocked at the manner in which that gentleman was treated. No doubt Mr. Jones was tried and condemned by the Judges, but it was for expressing political opinions which, though then condemned, had since been applied in practice by the Conservative Party. It was then decided that Mr. Hume should appeal to the Home Secretary of State for better treatment of a gentleman of education, and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle had stated, Mr. Hume's appeal was successful in freeing Mr. Jones from his sentence of hard labour. He heard him make the speech at Kennington Common on 10th April, 1848, for which he was punished, and judging at the present time by the lights which we had lighted by the Conservatives, who had given effect in part to the demands of the Chartists of 1848, did not believe he was guilty of any political offence. The law was obeyed in a remarkable manner by the people assembled at Kennington Common on that occasion, and he thought their conduct ought to have induced the Government to abstain from political prosecutions. It was worthy of observation that the reforms advocated by Mr. Ernest Jones and his friends had since been carried out by a Conservative Government. He appealed, therefore, to the Home Secretary to take measures that political prisoners should not be punished in future with that severity which had heretofore been observed towards them.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
observed, that there were many misdemeanours infinitely graver than any felony short of murder, and because an offence might be technically a felony that was no reason why the prisoner should be treated with greater severity than if he were convicted only of misdemeanour. The late Mr. Ernest Jones was a member of his circuit, and a more high-minded man or one of more refined character he had never met. He was a gentleman by birth and station, his father having been aide-de-camp to the late King of Hanover, who was his godfather; yet because that gentleman, led away by 637 strong views as to popular rights, made what was called a seditious speech, he was subjected to punishment of a severe and degrading character. Turning to the Amendment before the Committee, although it might not be perfect in form, he must vote for its principle. After the many cases of gross and infamous ill-treatment which had been detailed of political prisoners both in England and in Ireland, it was time that the Legislature should interfere. He was amazed that such things could have gone on with a Liberal Government in office. He thought that they ought by the present Bill to prevent the possibility of their recurrence in future.
§ Amendment proposed.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
pointed out that the clause as proposed to be amended converted a person convicted of treason felony into a misdemeanant. If the hon. Member for Meath would strike out the words "treason felony," and confine his clause to persons convicted of "sedition and seditious libel," he would support his clause.
§ DIR. NEWDEGATE,
remembering that the Treason Felony Act—on which he now expressed no opinion — was deliberately passed by the Legislature, could not vote for reversing that Act by a simple clause in the present Bill. He therefore hoped that the hon. Member for Meath would adopt the alteration in his clause recommended by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James). Persons convicted of sedition and seditious libel ought not to be herded with the common class of criminals in the gaols of this country.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) had not quite caught the grounds of his speech. They could not deal in that Bill with the general question of political prisoners, except only as far as they were confined in those gaols. He had ad- 638 dressed himself almost entirely to the Amendment as he had found it on the Paper, where it had stood during the Recess, and if it was persevered in he could not go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell). He had said nothing of any other Amendment of which no Notice had been given, and which he had not seen. Irish Members seemed to entertain the notion that the rules of English prisons were laid down at the will of the prison officials; but that was not so. The rules were laid down by statute, and that would virtually be the case in the present Bill, as he would have to submit the rules to Parliament.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he would withdraw from his Amendment the words "treason felony," because the number of persons liable to be confined for that offence would be so few and insignificant that it was not worth while to persevere in insisting on the insertion of the words in the clause.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, his objection was now at an end, but he should prefer to deal with the case of common law misdemeanants on the Report, as he wished all such misdemeanants to be treated in the same way.
§ MR. HENLEY
regretted that the discretion now vested in the Judges to say whether a prisoner should be treated as a first-class misdemeanant or not was to be taken away and made a prison rule. That discretion had hitherto been wisely exercised by our Judges, according to the circumstances of the case.
§ On the Motion of Mr. PARNELL, the words treason felony "were struck out.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ (Visits to prison by any justice.)
§ "Section fifty-five of The Prisons Act, 1865,' is hereby repealed, and instead thereof the following enactment shall take effect, viz.: 639 —"Any justice of the peace, having jurisdiction in the place in which a prison is situate, may, when he thinks fit, enter into and examine the condition of such prison, and of the prisoners therein, and he may enter any observations he may think fit to make in reference to the condition of the prison or abuses therein in the visitors book to be kept by the gaoler; and it shall be the duty of the gaoler to draw the attention of the visiting committee, at their next visit to the prison, to any entries made in the same book; but he shall not be entitled, in pursuance of this section, to visit any prisoner under sentence of death, or to communicate with any prisoner, except in reference to the treatment in prison of such prisoner, or to some complaint that such prisoner may make as to such treatment.'"
§ MR. RODWELL
moved to add to the clause that any justicehaving jurisdiction in the place where the offence in respect of which any prisoner may be confined in prison was committedshould have the same power of entering a prison and of examining the prisoners.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ (Special rules to be submitted to Parliament in case of suspension of Habeas Corpus Act.)
§ "The Secretary of State shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Bill, make and submit to Parliament special rules for the treatment of prisoners who may be arrested under any suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act."
It might be said to be in the recollection of the Committee, but when the question of the treatment of untried prisoners was first brought before them the Home Secretary agreed to bring up a clause which would govern that case; and in reply to a Question which was put by him (Mr. Parnell)—whether there would be any objection to extend to the case of prisoners not accused of any offence, but detained in prison under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—the right hon. Gentleman, after some consideration, was understood to promise that such prisoners should be included. When, however, the clause came under consideration, an hon. and learned Member (Mr. Serjeant Simon) gave it as his opinion, but it was not quite certain, that the case of these prisoners would be covered by the words proposed, and an Amendment was therefore moved ex-
pressly including them. The right hon. Gentleman then objected to the Amendment on the ground that it would be necessary, in the event of a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, to make special rules for the treatment of prisoners arrested under the provisions of the Suspension Act. It was objected to with great force by some Members on the Opposition side that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was generally carried in a great hurry, with very little consideration, and in fact when the country was in a sort of panic, and that the proper time to make rules for the treatment of prisoners was when the House was in a calm state of mind. He should be sorry to look forward to any probability of another suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which had been suspended in times of great commercial pressure, when large bodies of men were out of employment, and, as was natural in such circumstances, the attention of the people was directed to the grievance under which they suffered in a more forcible way than was likely to be the case in time of prosperity. England had enjoyed unexampled prosperity by reason of the proximity of her coal and iron to water carriage; but it was plain she was not to continue to supply the world with iron to the same extent as formerly, and the consequence might be to bring about, in a few years, a problem which statesmen might find it difficult to deal with without having recourse to coercive measures. He did not say that such a thing was probable, but it was possible; and it behoved them to make rules while their minds were calm for the treatment of persons who might be arrested under such measures. The case with regard to Ireland was even stronger. It was only so recently as 1867 that the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in Ireland, and it remained suspended for four years. The power of the Lord Lieutenant to make rules for the treatment of prisoners was not conferred till the suspension had been put an end to, and this had reference only to prisoners confined under the Peace Preservation Act, which referred only to Westmeath, Meath, and certain parts of the King's County, whereas the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act affected the whole of Ireland. The Committee had heard from the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) an account of the suf-
ferings he had undergone in his local prison. He stated that when he was transferred to Mountjoy he was treated with much more consideration; but there was reason to believe that this was due to an exceptional mode of treating him, as a person of some standing in his neighbourhood. Hon. Members would, no doubt, have read the letter of Dr. Robert M'Donnell, in which he spoke of the treatment of prisoners confined in Mount-joy Prison under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. In that letter it was stated that those prisoners were treated far worse than untried prisoners, and were subjected to the strict, close, cellular discipline and solitary confinement in the same way as convicted prisoners. There was once an interesting libel case tried at his (Mr. Parnell's) native town, the case of White v. Sullivan. The Sullivan of the action was the now hon. Member for Louth. The action was brought by Mr. White for libel, said to be contained in Mr. Sullivan's newspaper, in which certain statements were made having reference to a coroner's inquest on the death of a prisoner held by Mr. White. In the course of that action Dr. M'Donnell was called, and gave evidence as to certain suppressed Reports made by prison authorities to Government, which were kept not only from the public, but from Parliament. In these Reports Dr. M'Donnell said there were then 53 persons confined under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and that they were submitted to a course of treatment even more severe than that of convicts undergoing their probationary term. Dr. M'Donnell gave many particulars of the treatment, and it was, in fact, in consequence of his persistent reports upon this treatment that he was asked to resign. There was a letter that morning in The Times, written by Mr. Fisher, which was of peculiar value, because Mr. Fisher had been one of the members of the Board of Superintendence of County Prisons in Ireland, appointed by the Grand Jury of the county to visit and make inquiry as to the treatment of prisoners during the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. He was a gentleman of position and property. In his Report he recommended a different course of treatment, but the reply was that it could not be done; and the Report was set aside. He hoped the Home
Secretary would see his way to accept the clause or some modification of it, and he begged to move the clause standing in his name, with the slight alteration, namely—
The Secretary of State shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Bill, frame and. submit rules to a Resolution of both Houses.
pointed out that there was already in the Bill a clause relating to rules for the exceptional treatment of unconvicted prisoners held to be presumably innocent, and asked whether the hon. Member intended by his clause to go further, and have a separate treatment for prisoners under arrest in consequence of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act? If not, the clause now proposed would be unnecessary.
§ MR. PARNELL
explained that he had brought forward this new clause in order to remove some legal doubts which had been thrown on the application of the clause already in the Bill to the class of prisoners he now proposed to deal with.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
contended that these Habeas Corpus prisoners ought to be placed in precisely the same position as unconvicted prisoners; but he suggested that the hon. Member should withdraw his proposal for the present, and bring on the question again when the definition of the rules came under consideration.
§ MR. BUTT
said, they must be all agreed that the things mentioned in Dr. M'Donnell's account should not occur again. He had a strong objection to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act being discussed as coming within the ordinary jurisdiction of the country, That it had entered into the nominal government of Ireland was too true; but he hoped the time was coming when that would be the case no longer. He appealed to the hon. Member for Meath to rest satisfied with the clause now standing in the Bill. For his own part, he believed that persons arrested under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would come under the provisions of the Bill. If there was the shadow of a doubt, the introduction of some such Amendment as "prisoners not under the sentence of the jurisdiction of the country," or some such provision, whenever the question of the suspension of 643 the Habeas Corpus Act was again discussed, might be inserted.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the words already inserted in the Bill would meet the case in point; and if over it should be found necessary to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, that would be the proper time to consider the matter. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that he desired to say a word in reply to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. In the case of an ordinary prisoner a primâ facie case was made against him before he was committed. But this was not the case in regard to a further imprisonment under a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. No evidence was adduced against him, and his case, therefore, was entirely an exceptional one, and was not affected by the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that if it was understood that the rules as to untried prisoners should apply to the Habeas Corpus prisoners, and that the Home Secretary would consider the propriety of making some further rules with regard to the latter prisoners, he would assent to the course proposed.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (Detention prior to trial not to exceed three months.)
§ "No person shall be detained in custody in any prison longer than three months without being brought to trial, and if at the expiration of such time the trial of such person shall not have commenced, such person shall be discharged from custody unless upon an application to a judge of the High Court of Justice such judge shall be of opinion that it has been impossible to proceed with such trial for want of evidence expected from abroad which could not by any possibility be obtained within the three months before mentioned, or from the illness of the prosecutor or prisoner, or important witnesses, then and in that case the judge shall make such order as to further detention as he may think fit not exceeding a further term of two months, such person having the right to show cause against such application."
§ MR. RODWELL,
rising to Order, submitted that the proposed clause was not within the scope and spirit of the Bill, inasmuch as it interfered directly with the administration of the criminal 644 law with regard to warrants of committal, and as to the time at which an assize should be held or a gaol delivery ordered, neither of which was touched upon in the Bill; and, therefore, he maintained that it was not competent for the Committee to deal with the clause.
§ MR. H. B. SHERIDAN
held that it was competent for the Committee to consider the clause, and that the Bill did deal with the custody and treatment of prisoners, beth before and after commitment. The clause might not be workable; but he asked the Committee to approve of its principle, as it attempted to remedy a crying evil.
said that the Bill dealt with the ownership and management of prisons, and was not intended to alter the general criminal administration of this country, and therefore the clause could hardly be considered as coming within the scope of the Bill. He therefore, felt it to be his duty not to put the clause to the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
asked, whether the clause could be discussed if it was so shaped as to affect the prisoner only between his commitment and trial?
§ Clause withdrawn.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
rose to explain an apparent difference between a statement which he had made respecting the number of prisoners punished by whipping in gaol, and a statement made by the hon. Member for Stoke (Dr. Kenealy) on the same subject. The hon. Member had said that, between the 21st of July, 1864, and the 14th of April, 1871, the number of such prisoners was 1,398. He (Mr. Cross) had the judicial statistics before him, which showed that the number in each year was from 150 to 160. As it very often happened they were both right and they were both wrong. If the hon. Member would deduct from the number of 1,398 which he gave, these whippings which were given by order of the quarter sessions, and which formed part of the actual punishment awarded, he would arrive at the number which he (Mr. Cross) laid before the Committee as showing how many persons had been whipped by order of the visiting justices for offences committed in gaol.
§ DR. KENEALY
said, he had done all he possibly could to ascertain the accuracy of the figures, and might be wrong in his statement. He was now glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to see that the figures were set right, and he was extremely obliged to him.
§ Bill reported, as amended; to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 121.]