HC Deb 12 July 1878 vol 241 cc1390-424

, in rising, according to Notice, to call attention to the Report of Sir James Ingham on the treatment of Charles M'Carthy in Chatham Convict Prison, to the unsatisfactory nature of that inquiry, and to the verdict of the jury that "his death was hastened by the treatment which he received in prison;" and to move for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the treatment of prisoners of his class and also into the best means of securing a proper classification of prisoners according to the nature of their offences, said, he was very glad that it seldom fell to the lot of any hon. Member to call attention to such painful and disagreeable facts as those which it was his duty to lay before the House, and he could assure hon. Members that he had never risen to address them with feelings of deeper responsibility. He feared that the important statements he was about to make would excite much feeling in the House itself; and that, if they were faithfully reported, as he doubted not they would be to the outer world, a feeling of alarm would be caused to every subject of the Crown, Some portions of the narrative he was about to relate were of such a nature, that, at his request, Mr. Speaker had ordered a notification to be made in the Gallery reserved for ladies, that topics to which they would hardly like to listen were about to be brought under consideration. The circumstances were these. In the spring of the present year the Government released from penal servitude another batch of Fenian convicts, some of whom were soldiers. One of these, named M'Carthy, was discharged on the 3rd of January last from Chatham Prison in a very imperfect state of health, and died on the 15th of the same month— 12 days after his liberation—in Dublin. This poor man, who was in a state of great emaciation, and evidently broken own, died very suddenly as he was going upstairs, at an hotel in Dublin. The Coroner's jury held an inquiry, and returned a verdict to the effect— That Charles M'Carthy died at Number 1, Dawson Street, Dublin, on the 15th January, 1878, and that the cause of his death was heart disease. They further found— That the treatment which he received in prison had hastened his death. Now, upon these facts becoming known, a great impression was produced on the mind of the public in Ireland; and it was not surprising that the Home Secretary should have felt it his immediate duty to direct an investigation into the truth of the statements made at the inquest, and, subsequently, he informed the House that he had appointed one of the Police Magistrates in London to conduct that investigation. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) also remembered that the right hon. Gentleman stated, in answer to further inquiries, that— The investigation would not be held upon the sworn testimony of persons to be examined, inasmuch as there existed no power to compel them to give evidence upon oath. He felt, then, with many others, that an inquiry of that kind could not be satisfactory, and he felt now that its result had not been, and ought not to be satisfactory, either to the House or to the country. The inquiry conducted by Sir James Ingham, the Chief Magistrate of the Metropolis, was altogether exculpatory of the prison authorities. His Report, which was very brief, extending only to two leaves of the document which he held in his hand, ended with these words— My conclusion is, first, that the death of the deceased was not hastened by his treatment in prison; secondly, that the deceased was treated with as much leniency as was consistent with penal discipline, and the precautions which became necessary to prevent his escape. He wished to analyze this Report; but was obliged, at that point, to state a little more fully the particular facts of the case. Charles M'Carthy was a soldier of the 53rd Regiment, who had served Her Majesty for many years with distinction; he had received medals for his services, and had been more than once wounded in action; but in June, 1866, he was convicted by court martial held in Dublin of the offence of having come to the knowledge of an intended mutiny, and not giving notice of the same to his commanding officer, and was sentenced to penal servitude for life. It was not necessary to review the proceedings of the court martial; but in order to clear the ground, he would state that a soldier who had so failed in. his duty was liable to, and might expect, the severest penalty known to the law. In most countries a soldier so offending would, undoubtedly, be executed; and he believed, in the case of M'Carthy, that when hon. Members looked upon the sufferings the man had undergone, and judged of them by the result, it would be concluded that the punishment of death in his case also would have been more merciful. He was one of the strongest men in the British Army, and entered on his prison life in a state of sound health; he bore his imprisonment for the period of four years, during which he was transferred from one prison to another; but in 1870 his health began to break down, and it was alleged, as he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) believed with truth, that this decline resulted from the inhuman treatment to which he was subjected in prison. There was no doubt that Charles M'Carthy was greatly debilitated by the confinement and worry, as well as by the kind of food that he met with in. prison; but he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) especially believed that the hard labour to which he was subjected brought on the disease of the heart which, eventually, cost him his life. The House would bear in mind that every statement he made would be taken from documents published in the course of the inquiry; and from these it appeared that when this man was not ill enough to be removed to hospital, his medical history, when his health broke up after four years' incarceration, was as follows: — Feb., 1871, bronchitis—7 entries; 1872, 3 entries; 1873, boil, ague, bronchitis, cough— 15 entries; 1874, cough—7 entries; 1877, 2 entries."—[Extracted from The Medical Case Book.] In 1874, however, he became exceedingly ill, and was sent to hospital by the medical officer, Mr. Mayhew, who found that there was disease of the heart. In his evidence given before Sir James Ingham, Mr. Mayhew stated— On the 14th January, 1875, M'Carthy came under my care and that of Dr. Barker (who then had Dr. Burns' a post). He complained of pain in the chest, in the left side, cough, and spitting, and Ms pulse was found to he irregular. This irregularity was discovered three days after his admission. I examined him about the fifth day, when ho told me he had had a pain in the heart lasting 10 minutes, and then said he was subject to them. He said—'The heart beats irregularly and seems to stop, and gives me great agony, and doubles me up.' I examined him then very carefully, and considered that his heart was wrong. I thought then it might be a fatty disease of the heart; there were also symptoms pointing to angina pectoris. That was a most terrible disease, which signified "suffocation of the chest;" the heart in that disease came to a stop, and the patient, if he did not die, underwent the dreadful agonies of suffocation. No one who had ever suffered from angina pectoris was free during the rest of his uncertain life from the nervous apprehension of a return of this horrible suffocation, with all the terrors of a most painful death. "The disease of the heart," said Dr. Mayhew, "being once established, can never be cured." He called the attention of the House to this question—How was that disease brought on? In his opinion, it was induced by the prisoner being required, when in a debilitated condition, to carry immense loads. He had said to his fellow-prisoner, O'Brien, just before he applied to the doctor, that the work was too much for him. And O'Brien stated in his evidence, that M'Carthy said to the officer in charge on that occasion— I wish you would get someone else to carry these bags, Sir, I feel very unwell. And O'Brien further stated— He put my hand to his side, and his heart was beating violently. He saw the doctor, I think, the next day, and got a dose of medicine. These facts would be, to any person acquainted with medical detail, clear proof that the disease of the heart dated from that particular period. But the statement he had made did not rest entirely on the opinion of Dr. Mayhew. Dr. Barker also said that M'Carthy was examined by him on the 18th January, 1875, when— There was very irregular action of the heart, and that on the 7th of June in the same year he was again admitted to the hospital suffering from palpitation and pain in the region of the heart. He had irregular action of the heart, slight bruit, intermittent pulse, sweating at night, no sleep, white tongue, and bowels costive. He remained in the hospital till the 10th of July, when, he was discharged relieved. This was the last time he came into hospital. I saw him every month. I have no note of any aggravation of his disease. He was liberated on the 3rd of January, 1878, and he then made no complaint. The pointhe (Mr. Mitchell Henry) wanted to establish was, that in January, 1875, that man had confirmed heart disease. It was necessary to enforce this, because the document from which, he was quoting, and which he called a "whitewashing Report," threw some doubt on that fact. What did Sir James Ingham say? His Report stated that— The disease of the heart of which M'Carthy died was first discovered in January, 1875, although its origin may be traced to a rheumatic fever which he admitted having had. Everybody knew that rheumatic fever in early life was frequently followed by disease of the heart, and it was therefore a great point to establish that this disease was caused, not by the prison treatment, but by rheumatic fever in early life. He was about to say there was no foundation whatever for this statement; but he would now show that it was absolutely contradictory of the record of M'Carthy's medical history. The medical history, from the Prison Books taken on his entrance, said that "The prisoner had not suffered from typhus, scarlet fever, small-pox, rheumatism, or epilepsy." Again, Drs. Mayhew and Barker, when they examined him, both inquired, probably with the view of discovering the cause of the disease of the heart for which he came under their treatment, "whether he had ever had rheumatic fever?" and he replied, as they expressly say, in the negative. The statement, that the disease of the heart might be traced to rheumatic fever, was obtained by Sir James Ingham from a medical man whom M'Carthy consulted on his discharge from prison in 1878; for being at that time very ill, he stood in need of advice and medicine to assist him to bear the journey to Dublin. Mr. Owen, the medical man to whom he went, said in his statement— I was astonished to hear of his death, but not surprised when I heard of the demonstration that was reported in the newspapers. He did not complain to me of his treatment in prison. He told me ho had had rheumatic fever some time ago. That was the only foundation for the statement incorporated in the Report of Sir James Ingham; he could not say there was no foundation for it, but it was in direct contradiction to the medical history furnished by the officers of the prison; and, therefore, it was not fair to place in the front of the Report, as if there was no doubt about the statement, that the origin of the heart disease might be traced to a rheumatic fever which he admitted having had. Could it be that someone had said to Sir James Ingham—"Disease of the heart often follows rheumatic fever, and if you can trace it to that source, it would tend to exculpate the authorities?" After that period of 1874 the man's health became very much debilitated; but it was to the last 18 months of his life that he particularly desired to call the attention of the House. It would be remembered that about the month of June, 1876, some Fenian convicts made their escape in Australia, and the Governors of prisons in this country were alarmed lest their prisoners should also escape—one consequence of which was that a card was affixed to M'Carthy's cell, stating that he was to be specially watched. The cell to which he was removed with that object was 7 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 7 feet high. Those figures scarcely gave a clear idea of its dimensions; but, if any hon. Member would measure the space with his stick or umbrella, he would find it to be such as one would be ashamed to give to an animal in the Zoological Gardens. A cell of that size contained only 196 cubic feet of air, while the minimum quantity to be supplied to persons in hospitals, as laid down by the Government regulations, was 1,500 feet; and in a cell such as he had described, which contained not quite an eighth part of that quantity of air, M'Carthy passed the last 18 months of his life, except when he was removed to the shop for work. Now, what did this special watching mean? It appeared that warders were told off continually to patrol the passage outside the cell in relays—to open the door every half-hour during the night, and to see that he was alive and in his cell. He was, besides, constantly searched and stripped naked, and in one of his letters he said— During the winter of 1875–6, ever to be remembered for its severity, I was stripped quite naked at least twice a-week, and on each occasion I had to stand on the cold flags for about five minutes in a state of perfect nudity, while the officers were feeling the seams of my shirt and flannel. From the date of the placard being placed over my door, I have had no peace either day or night, an officer was appointed to visit our cells every afternoon, and throw everything within them about in the greatest possible confusion. This is a most vexatious annoyance. It is only about 18 months ago that one man hanged himself. Another stole in a rope from off the works to do the same, and two others cut their veins, through being subjected to this ordeal for only one week, and we have endured it now for one year. Since the 22nd May, 1876, I have been stripped 73 times, and the contents of my cell have been dealt with as stated above 438 times. P. O'Brien, another prisoner, also discharged at the same time, said— My cell was searched, and the contents put in a state of complete confusion upwards of 550 times. All this was in addition to a full share of cell-searching to which every prisoner is periodically subjected. I have been searched and stripped perfectly naked as often as four times a-day, and my cell searched three times in the one day. At this point it would be useful to refer to the evidence given by the chief warder at Chatham Prison before Sir James Ingham. Edward Turner states, with regard to the system of special watching, that— An assistant warder, in turn, would go the nightly rounds of the cells, from about 7 to 8, to about half-past 5 in the morning. There are about 84 assistant warders. It is part of the duty of an assistant warder to walk round and see that each cell is secure. He places his hand gently against the door to see if it is secure, and he occasionally looks through an inspection-hole in the door. No noise would be made by pressing against the door of M'Carthy's cell, in the ordinary way, to see if it were secure. The cell doors open inwards. M'Carthy's door would possibly be pressed six or seven times in the night, according to the officer's discretion. The inspection through the hole would not cause the slightest noise or disturbance to the prisoner. In my opinion, the pressure against the door would not be calculated to disturb the prisoner's sleep. The prisoner, O'Brien, however, gave a very different account. He said— M'Carthy's rest was very much disturbed at night by the patrols coming to his cell and trying the door to see if it were secure. Some of the officers would simply pull or gently push the door, while others would strike the door with considerable violence. Others, again, would take the door-handle in their hands and shake it noisily. If the night watchmen implicitly obeyed their instructions, they would visit our cells every half-hour during the night. The House ought to get at the truth of this matter, and he thought that testimony which was unimpeachable could be had. The system of special watching was not a new thing in our prisons, and evidence on the point was extracted by the Commission appointed in 1870 to inquire into the system of penal discipline. The Director of Prisons (Mr. Fagan) stated before that Commission— That a man would not be more than half-an-hour during the night without being visited; and that if he covered himself up in his blanket he would be awakened. Again, the prisoner Dillon said before the same Commission— I was awakened, or rather kept awake by the unbarring of the trap-door every 20 minutes; and when the door was opened, the officer flashed a light from a powerful reflector lamp upon my face, and, afterwards, closing the trap-door with a bang, left me to enjoy the darkness for 20 minutes which the thieves and other criminals enjoyed without disturbance or interruption the entire night. He begged the House to consider that this system was exercised upon a literally dying man! Let them pause for a moment and think what that meant. There were probably hon. Members present whose friends and relatives had died of disease of the heart, who would remember how, whilst watching by the bed-side of the patient, they welcomed sleep when it came, preceded generally by agony and profuse sweating; how every noise was shut out; but how, notwithstanding all precautions, the heart speedily became oppressed in its feeble condition, and how the patient awoke in fright after, perhaps five or six minutes' precious rest. Nothing could be more distressing to the jaded watchers, nothing more terrible to the dying sufferer. As a medical man, he had watched in this way, and the idea of disturbing or awakening the sufferer by banging the doors appeared to him so inhuman— so dreadful—that he could hardly express the feelings which he entertained respecting it. If the Government, or their officials, were afraid that a man would escape, was there no other means of insuring his safety than by looking at him and almost touching him every hour during the night? That system, intended really for the purpose of punishment, was a disgrace even to the mechanical arts of prison discipline, and nobody could persuade him that it was practised only for the sake of inspection. In 1877, a year before his death, M'Carthy, for the offence of having in his possession a piece of writing paper, was reduced, and placed on gruel diet; he had during the previous few months lost nearly all his teeth, and was for that reason quite unable to eat the hard bread given to him; he took the opportunity of asking for something to soak it, and the doctor ordered him a pint of cold water, as the poor man said he thought by way of a joke.

He now came to that part of his narrative of prison discipline which was especially painful, and he assured the House that the reference he was about to make applied not to M'Carthy's case alone, but to the general management of prisons. It was the habit in our convict prisons to subject human beings to the most degrading kind of searching that could possibly be imagined. Occasions had been met with in which some degraded members of society were known to have concealed articles in the rectum. He had been told of a man, a noted burglar, who had once concealed up his rectum a piece of iron wire, with which he intended to open the locks of his prison. He (Mr. Mitchell Henry) did not know whether the custom dated from the time of that case, but prisoners were at this moment constantly and systematically searched in the way indicated; and it was to be borne in mind that they were not degraded criminals, but men who like M'Carthy, Davitt, and other Fenian prisoners, came from the respectable classes of society. Davitt was a commercial traveller, and what- ever might have been his offence, if he were sitting on those benches, hon. Members would say that he was as intellectual, and as respectable a person in his behaviour, as any hon. Gentleman present. He was educated well according to his position in life, he had maintained his intellectual and moral faculties, and yet that man was subjected to this horrible searching. There was nothing of which the Fenian prisoners complained so much as that practice, which ought to be perfectly well known to the Home Secretary; and yet, although the attention of the Government had been drawn to it over and over again, the horrible practice was continued. The evidence of one of the prisoners, Thomas Chambers, also discharged at the same time with M'Carthy, was that— Whilst in prison we were frequently stripped naked, and our bodies examined by officers. This was done in front of common ruffians. M'Carthy seemed to suffer more from these insults than any of us. From my own personal experience," he added, "I believe that the unnatural restraint that a man has to bring to bear on his temper is more injurious to a man's system than hunger, cold, and all the other bodily hardships that he has to suffer in prison. I mean the unnatural restraint that a man with any pretensions to decency has to put on his temper when stripped naked and searched, in the indescribable, unmentionable way that we were searched. Davitt said as follows:— When we are made to strip naked a warder stands in front, and we are made to open our mouths wide, then turn round, stoop down, and separate the legs wide; then to lift up the right leg; then to have armpits examined. In ordinary searching, our bodies are rubbed down four times a day by a warder. When a warder wishes to insult and aggravate a prisoner he takes care to touch the parts and person. He was now about to read some of the evidence on the same subject taken by a Commission to inquire into the treatment of Fenian prisoners, which reported in 1870. During this inquiry one man, Peter Mohan, said— I was stripped naked so often as three times a-week by three officers of the prison; they compelled me to stoop down so that they put my hands on my toes, while they actually examined my passages, as if I had stones or something contained in that peculiar part of my body. In reply to Dr. Lyons, he said— I was compelled to put my hands on the floor, while the officers stood behind me and examined my passage. I was examined three times a-week, standing naked, perfectly naked as I was born, in a ward full of robbers. Another convict, Patrick Ryan, said— I had my arms extended from my body. While naked, they looked into my mouth, nostrils, and ears; they looked under my thighs, and up my fundament, and handled my testicles. John Murphy, another prisoner, said— and hon. Members would remember that all this testimony was given by the witnesses independently of each other, that— Sometimes two or three warders would come and laugh and sneer at me. I begged them not to do so, and asked them for pity's sake to let me keep my shirt on. I had to stand naked. It is too disgusting to tell you how we were used. I don't like to speak of it, I don't indeed. They hurt my feelings as far as ever they could. Such was the evidence given before the Commission. With regard to the condition of mind of a Governor or warder of a prison, tempted by their wages, and required so to degrade himself, it was impossible to form any idea. Then came the evidence of the Governor of a prison, who said in substance that— Having cause to suspect a particular individual of concealing something in a part of his body, I had him examined by one warder, who found nothing; a second tried, with the same result. I was sure he had got the thing. Then I got a third warder, and I found the articles— a piece of tobacco. From this narrative, it was quite clear that perseverance was rewarded with success. But was it not revolting that a respectable man should be required to institute examinations of this description —a thing which, when indiscriminately applied as they had hitherto been, the people of England would not bear; and which, having been stated in the House of Commons, he ventured to say would cease at once and for ever?

He now came to the second portion of his case. Sir James Ingham wished to make out that M'Carthy's cell of 7 feet by 4 feet by 7 feet high, was admirably adapted to his condition; and he stated in his Report— I find that during the time the prisoner complained of palpitation of the heart and restlessness at night, and for many months before and after that time, he occupied a cell containing, in addition, to other ventilation, a window which communicated with the open air by means of a valve, which he could open and shut at pleasure. Would the House believe that this paragraph, like the other he had quoted about rheumatism, put in the front of the Report so as to catch the attention of the reader at once, did not refer at all to the 18 months during which M'Carthy was specially watched, but to a time previous to that period? He must ask the Home Secretary for an explanation of that most disingenuous statement, which was put into the Be-port to strike the eye of the public, who would naturally suppose everything had been found to be right. Again, to a letter from Sir James Ingham, dated 25th February, 1878, Doctor Pitman, whom Sir James Ingham called in as assessor, replied— With reference to the points raised in your letter of February 25—namely, First, whether, after the discovery of the heart disease, the deceased (Charles M'Carthy) ought to have been confined in a cell which had not a window opening into the external air? Secondly, whether the duty of orderly, requiring the carrying of weights (say, 52 lbs.) up a flight of 25 steps, three times in one day (once a week), and the carrying of slops, &c., once a month, was injurious to health, I would observe, first, considering the strong tendency of persons with heart disease to congestion of the lungs and air passages upon exposure to currents of cold air, I should have selected, on medical grounds, the cell in which the deceased was confined in preference to one with an open window. As a medical man, he (Mr. Mitchell Henry) could not read that paragraph without indignation. As if, because a cell had a window opening to the external air, it followed that the prisoner was to be recklessly exposed to draughts. M'Carthy was placed in a cell that contained only 196 cubic feet, or a little more than an eighth of the minimum allowance of air considered necessary for any hospital patient. Why, there was not a hospital physician in London who would not have replied to the question put to Dr. Pitman by Sir James Ingham, that—"It would have been better for a man in the condition of M'Carthy to have been exposed to the risk of an open window, than be placed in that living tomb." Doctor Pitman further said, continuing his reply to Sir James Ingham— Judging from the symptoms during life as detailed by the medical attendants of Charles M'Carthy when in prison, and the condition of the heart and other organs found on post-mortem examination, I am of opinion that Charles M'Carthy, when in prison, was quite equal to the duties of orderly without injury to his health. He would contrast with that reply, the statement of the physicians who made the post-mortem examination— I am of opinion," said Dr. O'Leary, "that disease of the heart was so marked and intensified, that perfectly satisfactory evidence must have been manifested to demonstrate to any medical man two years since that the patient was utterly unfit to undergo the prison discipline. Another physician, Dr. Kenny, on the same occasion, said— I can scarcely conceive that anything could be more injurious to this man than bad ventilation; the disease must have existed for at least two years; he ought to have been placed under medical treatment, and supplied with better food and a better ventilated cell; he ought not to have been employed in any kind of hard labour. Having contrasted the evidence of the physicians who examined M'Carthy's body, with the hearsay statements of the gentleman who gave it as his opinion that it was perfectly satisfactory to confine him in such a cell during the last 18 months of his life, he found that another medical man employed in the prison, went even further than that, and testified in substance that the man's life was saved by being in prison—that it was good for him to undergo the discipline; to be confined in a cell 7 feet by 4 feet; to have his rest broken every half hour; and to be supplied with food which he could not eat. The Commission appointed this year by the Home Secretary to inquire into the system of penal servitude, as practised in this country, numbered amongst its Members Gentlemen with whose respectability, ability, and integrity everybody was satisfied; but the Home Secretary had included, with the other Commissioners, a particular medical man, once a colleague of his (Mr. Mitchell Henry's), but he objected to his appointment, not from personal disrespect, but on the ground that he had been employed by Government on a former Commission of a similar kind. That gentleman, Dr. Greenhow, had disagreed with all the other Commissioners making what must be called exceedingly harsh recommendations in the separate and distinct Report drawn up by him. Why should the Government have appointed Dr. Greenhow, whose Report was opposed to that of the other Commissioners, and especially to that of his colleague in the Commission of 1870, Dr. Lyons, a gentleman whose fame was, he might say, European, and whose reputation was established throughout the scientific world? It was a most injudicious selection, and he thought the Home Secretary could not have been aware of all the facts of the case. It appeared, moreover, that during the course of the inquiry, Dr. Greenhow was prevented by domestic circumstances from attending the Commission for some little time, and the Government then appointed Dr. Guy. The appointment of Dr. Greenhow was wrong, because his opinion was already known, and Dr. Guy appeared to have only begun his attendance yesterday, whereas the Commission had been sitting for many weeks. But it might be said—"When the Government has appointed this Commission, why are you not content? We have tried to get at the truth in M'Carthy's case by appointing a most respectable magistrate to inquire into the facts relating to his treatment in prison, and yet you are not satisfied." The answer was, that some hon. Members knew, from their own experience, that the Reports of such Commissions were unreliable; that the Home Secretary— he was not speaking of the right hon. Gentleman who now filled that Office— had had statements put into his mouth which had been proved to be absolutely baseless. These reasons sufficiently explained their want of confidence. The Report of Sir James Ingham should not have been coloured in a way to strike the eye of a person reading it; and, if it were examined, it would be seen that the facts upon which reliance was placed had not been at all correctly stated. Again, in the year 1869, O'Donovan Rossa committed a gross outrage, for which he deserved the severest punishment; but the punishment selected was atrocious. He was handcuffed, sometimes before and sometimes behind, for 35 consecutive days, during which time he fed as a dog, having to stoop down like a wild beast. The attention of the House was called to these circumstances, and Mr. Bruce, (now Lord Aberdare), who was at that time Home Secretary, replied that— The statement referred to in the Question of Sir John Gray had no foundation, and that O'Donovan Rossa was only handcuffed with his hands behind him for a part of one day. Upon that, Sir John Gray, being totally deceived and thrown off his guard, rose and said that he felt the statement made by Mr. Bruce to be highly satisfactory; but, in August of the same year, the late Mr. George Henry Moore again brought the case under the notice of the House of Commons on a Motion to the effect that political prisoners should be treated differently to other convicts; and Mr. Bruce, in the course of an elaborate reply, said that he had consulted with the Governor of the prison, who positively contradicted the statement that O'Donovan Rossa had been handcuffed as alleged, his denial being supported by the doctor, and partly supported by the chief warder of the prison. By the subsequent Report of the Commission appointed in consequence of Mr. George Henry Moore's Motion it was found, in spite of the denial of the Home Secretary and the Governor and officers of the prison, that every word of the original statement with reference to O'Donovan Rossa was true, and that what had been said in contradiction to it was absolutely false. The Commissioners who made that Report were Lord Devon, the Hon. George Brodrick, Mr. De Vere, Dr. Lyons, and Dr. Greenhow—the last of whom made the separate Report upon which comment had been made. The Report, in its entirety, was too long to read; but the fact was absolutely proved that O'Donovan Rossa had been manacled in the manner described for 35 days. There was one man, indeed, an old soldier, named Douglas, who had been many years a warder, but who had left his employment, who knew the real truth, and who had always said that the official statement concerning O'Donovan Rossa was absolutely untrue. Would it be believed that the Commissioners did not examine this man, who was in Edinburgh; because, as they said, they had no funds at their disposal for paying his expenses, which he was too poor to bear himself? Was that the proper way to conduct an inquiry? He knew perfectly well what would be the answer of the English people. Again, another horror, beyond the utensils found in the cells, there was in the prisons no convenience for discharging at night the natural functions of the body; whilst, owing to the circumstance that the diet of the prisoners was very poor, they were frequently afflicted with diarrhœa, and, as a consequence of this, the men sometimes had to make use of their utensils. Upon this point it would be found, from the evidence of the doctor, that a man would be punished if he made use of one of those utensils for the evacuation of the bowels unless the doctor considered he had occasion to do so. One of the Commissioners very properly asked the Question— Suppose a prisoner has an inclination to have his bowels evacuated at 12 o'clock at night; how could you tell whether he did so wilfully or not? And this led to a dissertation which only a prison official could appreciate. But he would not disgust or weary the House by pursuing that part of the subject. Again, it was proved by the repeated testimony of discharged prisoners that men had actually been seen to fish out undigested morsels of food from the ordure tubs, to appease their wolf-like hunger. Chambers, a lately discharged military prisoner, declared that he had known prisoners to eat rats, frogs, grass, candles, boot-grease, and many other such things; and, if he were inclined, he could read to the House a terrible narrative of the sensations of a prisoner reduced for a week to bread and water diet. The fierce craving for food, the subsequent dullness of appetite, the drowsiness, the troubled sleep, dreaming of food, and the thorough sickness of stomach and inability to eat when the ordinary food was restored, made up a picture of frightful human suffering. Amongst other things, too, complained of, it was shown that political prisoners had to bathe in the water used by the other prisoners; they complained that many of the latter had syphilitic eruptions upon their bodies. Was it not most degrading and disgusting to compel an unfortunate man to go into water from which one of these diseased persons had just emerged? Then it would be found that one of the prisoners lately discharged—Mr. Davitt—complained bitterly, and most properly, of the manner in which he was treated when he was taken from one prison to another. He was handcuffed to a man of the most degraded character, afflicted with exhalations of the most noxious kind. During the journey, the man was seized with diarrhœa, and the officer in charge refused to allow his hand to be released. He would leave that case to speak for itself, and pass on to the various contrivances used by gaolers, with the object of aggravating the sufferings of the persons under their charge, one of the commonest being the refusal of leave to go to the water-closet. On one occasion, in Dublin, Dr. Robert M'Donnel told him that another means of aggravating prisoners was as follows:—It was found that most of the Roman Catholic prisoners, when stripped, wore round their necks scapularies, or sacred emblems—the gift, it might be, of a mother or dear relation—which had never been removed, and, perhaps, contained a sacred text; and which, under no circumstances, could a man retaining any religious feeling or affection part with. It was the practice of the warders in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, when asked by the prisoners to be allowed to retain these emblems, to tear them off and fling them on the floor; and the Governor of one of the English prisons, in giving his evidence, showed his temper and his bias by speaking of them as "charms." The man Dillon said, further, that during the time he worked in the prison, the Scripture readers were in the habit of reading twice a-day books containing stories of a character so offensive to Roman Catholics that there could be no doubt they were read for the purpose of annoyance; and, again, that whilst another class of books was being read which contained stories that reflected upon and ridiculed the Irish, the English prisoners would laugh, and ask them how they liked them? Upon another occasion, when a man was reading from Chambers' Encyclopœdia a story of a priest who first seduced a woman at confession and then murdered her, some of the Irish prisoners rose and said—"Shut up that book," and there was a row. These were acts of torture and shame, which ought not to be tolerated in any country, and it was the duty of the Government to see that they were not permitted here.

The latter part of his Motion was that prisoners should be classified according to the nature of their offences—that was to say, that political offenders should not be placed amongst prisoners of a degraded kind. He could not do better on this head than quote the observations made on this point by the prisoner Dillon, a man of education, who expressed himself as follows to the Commissioners:— In pointing to the treatment received at the hands of prison officials, it would be wrong to overlook the fundamental truth which underlies the whole, and which goes far to account for our exceptional treatment in convict prisons. It is found in the difference, morally and politically, existing between thieves and political prisoners. When the thief is tried, and his sentence passed, he comes into the prisons built for thieves, and is lost amongst the number of other criminals whom he finds there before him. Inside the prison walls he is not persecuted because he was a professional thief outside; he is not punished if he keeps within the prison rules. The Irish political prisoner, on the contrary, enters the prisons built for thieves accompanied by the most rancorous and bitterest feelings of hostility. Under the influence of political, national, and religious antipathies, the worst passions of the human heart are perpetually quickening into acts of oppression and persecution against him; while the moral feelings of his gaolers are too blunt, too sluggish, or too depraved to persecute a thief as such, their political hatreds and antipathies are being continually aroused against the political prisoner by the actions of his party outside the prison walls. He is punished for his own offence in the past, and for theirs in the present. The late Mr. George Henry Moore, who made a similar Motion, in advocating the establishment of a separate prison for political offenders, said that— Human nature rebelled against the idea of their being classed with thieves and other degraded characters. His (Mr. Moore's) Motion was not carried, but it was supported by Mr. Henley, and the Commissioners—with the exception of Dr. Greenhow, who dissented from the Report—recommended that they should be treated separately. In thanking the House for its attention to his narrative, the hon. Member said, in conclusion, that he fully admitted that in the matter of rules which were laid down by the Government for prison discipline, they were exposed to the circumstance that such discipline was administered by human beings at all times liable to faults of passion and temper. But there was one safeguard—the only one that he knew of—and which, in the case of lunatic asylums, had been proved to be a safeguard. Attached to every prison in the country there ought to be a Visiting Committee of gentlemen from the outside associated with a medical man wholly independent of the Governor of the prison, and who had not been cooped up within the cells of these "Bastiles," and whose mind had not been contaminated by constant associations with the most degraded of human beings. Only a few days ago, two warders of a lunatic asylum broke a man's ribs and killed him, for which act they were to be tried. But this case of cruelty would never have been found out had it not been for the vigilance of the Visiting Committee. He looked with apprehension on the fact that the Home Secretary had taken charge of all county prisons, because he knew how anxiously hitherto the magistrates had looked after the welfare of the inmates; but when their functions in respect of government were removed, it was to be feared that their interest would be relaxed, and that the county prisons would become assimilated to the abominable places which had been so long tolerated in the country under the name of convict prisons. He again insisted, that in connection with every one of these prisons there should be a good, active, and periodically-changed Visiting Committee, who should, from the outside, ascertain what was going on within the prison walls. If that course were followed, however, the policy of the Government, as pursued towards Dr. M'Donnel, whose duty it was to visit Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, would have to be reversed. That gentleman, in the course of his duties, made constant representations to the Government of the wrongs committed in that prison. He said one of the punishments which the Director of Convict Prisons required to be inflicted upon prisoners was that of depriving them of their bedding at night. What was the use of saying that the cell was warmed by hot air, as they said in reply? Dr. Robert M'Donnel, going his round one day, saw a miserable-looking object crouched up in the corner of a cell. In response to his inquiries, the man told Dr. M'Donnel—who afterwards found that the punishment was likely to prove fatal—that he had been deprived of his bedding and bed for several successive nights. Dr. M'Donnel ordered him to be removed, meeting with the greatest opposition on the part of the Governor and officials. What was the result? Dr. M'Donnel was removed, and his office abolished, for no other reason than that he was an honest man, who made to the Government a truthful Report, which was disagreeable to the authorities. It followed, therefore, if the Home Secretary even- tually determined to appoint external Committees to visit prisons, and if such Committees should find it their duty to report any abuse of prison discipline, that they should not be exposed to such treatment as was extended to Dr. M'Donnel. In commending his Motion to the House, he desired to point out that he had ascertained that the Instructions to the Prison Commission now sitting did not imply any inquiry of the kind which he intended. The Commissioners would not inquire into individual cases, nor would they inquire into the question raised by the second part of his Motion; and, as he considered that a Commission ought to be appointed for those purposes, he begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the death of Charles M'Carthy, lately a political prisoner in Chatham Prison, and also into the treatment of political prisoners and of military political prisoners, and of securing a proper classification of convicts according to the nature of their offences, whether political or otherwise,"—(Mr. Mitchell Henry,) —instead thereof.

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


thought it would be desirable, before the debate proceeded further, that some Member of the Government should state what course they were prepared to take with respect to the Amendment which had just been moved. He was glad, he might add, to find that the Treasury Bench presented a very favourable contrast to the front Opposition Bench, from which he missed those right hon. Gentlemen who from time to time seemed to manifest some interest in a subject on which they were not, however, there that evening to say a word. He merely wished to observe, further, to prevent confusion, that the dimensions of the cell in which M'Carthy was confined were 196 cubic feet and no more.


said, he hoped to hear, before the debate closed, some better reasons than had already been advanced for the institution of the proposed inquiry. He had read with great care the statements which had been laid before the House with regard to the case in question, and he was of opinion that the investigation which had been made into it by the Government, at the instance of some hon. Members opposite, was in every respect satisfactory. The magistrate by whom that investigation had been conducted was a gentleman whose long course of public service had earned for him the confidence of all those who had occasion to observe the manner in which he discharged his duties. He was attended by a medical officer of great experience and high character in his Profession, and a lengthened and careful inquiry was held. From the Report of that inquiry it appeared that no excessive punishment of any kind was inflicted on the convict M'Carthy; that he was subjected to no cruelty; and that he was regularly attended throughout his confinement by the proper medical authority. There were, of course, he at once admitted, circumstances connected with the case which were calculated to cause a good deal of excitement, inasmuch as M'Carthy had been convicted of an offence which was looked upon as partaking more or less of a political character, and there was no doubt in it an element of that kind which distinguished it from ordinary offences. Still, the man had been fairly convicted, and the sentence which had been passed upon him could not be said to have been unjust, and when in prison, he was from time to time attended by a properly qualified medical officer. In these circumstances it was, he thought, quite unnecessary to issue a Commission or to institute any further inquiry into the details of the case; for it was clear from the Papers which had been laid before the House that there was no undue harshness or severity in the treatment which the prisoner had received.


said, he thought somebody ought to undertake to represent those right hon. Gentlemen who were absent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had some years ago taken an exceedingly active interest in the question of the political prisoners; and from the general interest which the right hon. Gentleman and those who acted with him took in matters affecting the liberty of the subject and Liberal principles, it was rather surprising that they had not come forward to support this Motion. They were absent, however, and he (Sir George Bowyer) had taken their place for the occasion. Seriously, a very grave charge had been brought forward, which he should hardly have credited if he did not know that the hon. Gentleman would not have made his Motion, except on some foundation. But, whatever might have once been the condition of political prisoners, their treatment had lately been much improved; and he trusted that the Government would be prepared to explain the circumstances of the case which had been brought under their notice.


said, he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket), that the case was one in which one's sympathies were very much in favour of the unhappy man who had come by his death in circumstances so well calculated to excite compassion. Nothing could be more likely to arouse feelings of pity than the circumstances attending the liberation of M'Carthy and his expected meeting with his wife and family; but he would suggest that that was just the condition of feeling in which an injustice might be done, and the blame of a catastrophe fixed on the wrong person. As for the inquiry in Dublin, the only persons who were able to give information were, as prisoners, whether or not indignities had been inflicted on them likely to attach blame to the authorities. And, after the verdict, what had been done? The chief magistrate of the Metropolis had been invited to inquire into the matter, and he had done so, not alone, but with able assistants. No hon. Member, he need hardly say, would accuse Sir James Ingham of a bias; for, of course, it was nothing to him whether or not several warders had misconducted themselves, and the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) had had a full opportunity of visiting the place himself and forming his own conclusions. Now, what were the allegations? It would be found that many abuses had been alleged which were, at all events, not practised on M'Carthy, and that many of the indignities mentioned in the papers, read by the hon. Member for Galway, had never been suffered by him, and probably were not inflicted on anyone at present. What he wanted to point out to the House was that the indignities which M'Carthy had suffered, according to his fellow-prisoners, were not to be mixed up with those alleged by the witnesses before the Devon Commission to have been produced before 1870. As a result of the inquiry, Sir James Ingham found, on the authority and evidence of persons mentioned on the 18th page of the papers—namely, Messrs. Byrne, Mayhew, and Barker—that the statements received as to the treatment of M'Carthy were positively and absolutely denied, and that the denial was supported by the chief warder, three principal warders, and the clerk of the works. In what other way could the truth be ascertained, and what more could a Royal Commission do, as it must enter upon the same question with the same information and the same witnesses? In substance, the allegations were reduced to two. In the first place, it had been said that M'Carthy was made to perform heavy labour, for which he was physically unfit—that he had to carry heavy weights, and that heart disease resulted therefrom. Now, as for the first point, it was absolutely certain that after October, 1871, the deceased never carried those weights. Sir James Ingham had decided it as a fact that after that date, before there were any symptoms of heart disease, he had carried no heavy weights whatever. That was the evidence collected by Sir James Ingham, and the allegations of the fellow-prisoners were not borne out by the facts. Even if they had the proposed Commission, it must take the same evidence and arrive at the same conclusion. Next, it was asserted that the ventilation of the cell in which M'Carthy was confined was defective. What was Dr. Pittman's evidence on that point? Dr. Pittman saw the cell in which M'Carthy was confined, and he stated that, on medical grounds, he would have selected that cell for the deceased in preference to one with an open window. Dr. Pittman was not judging from hearsay evidence; and, without going into an exact calculation of how many cubic feet the cell contained, he saw the cell, and observed the access of fresh air to the prison. Having given credit, also, he supposed, to the appearances of the body at the post-mortem examination in Dublin, he came to the conclusion above stated. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) might disagree with that; but what more was to be done? They had had impartial and skilled evidence. His own experience was that whenever they had questions of opinion raised, they might have opinions almost diametrically opposed to each other from skilled persons; but still he did not know how they were to arrive much nearer the truth by a Commission. The hon. Member had passed over the conflict between the statements of the different persons examined. It was a question to be considered whether the fellow-convicts, in giving their evidence against the prison officials, were to be trusted or not, and whether they had not exaggerated and entertained a desire to cast blame on those officials. The hon. Member had suggested, as one of the proofs of the cruelty and harshness shown to M'Carthy, that, on his requiring something to moisten his food on account of his defective teeth, when he applied to the medical officer, the latter ordered him a pint of cold water. But that was not quite the whole of the evidence. The statements of the deceased's fellow-convicts were not anything so mild as that; but they were to the effect that, on being applied to, the medical officer told M'Carthy that he might get some cold water, and "that that was too good for him." They stated that that was said by the medical officer, in the presence of the assistant medical officer and another official; but all those three officers denied the statement. That being so, how were they sure that the fellow-convicts could be trusted as to what M'Carthy had told them on other points where it was not possible to contradict them? Again, what was to be said about the conflict of evidence about the visit to the tailor's shop? Was it to be supposed that all the officials, those who were concerned in the alleged acts of cruelty, and those who were not, were engaged in a conspiracy to shield the prison authorities from blame? Why was the evidence of the fellow-convicts to be received, and to be allowed to overbear that of everybody else? What was the admitted state of facts? Up to a considerable time, M'Carthy was a person enjoying good health, and after a time his health failed. The hon. Member assumed that that had necessarily arisen from the hardships he suffered in prison. But people in different circumstances sometimes contracted heart complaint as they went on in life. Moreover, M'Carthy admitted that he had suffered from rheumatic fever; and Dr. Pittman, he thought, spoke of the tendency of rheumatic fever to induce heart disease afterwards.


It appears, from the evidence of the doctors who examined M'Carthy when he first went into the prison, that he stated persistently he had never had rheumatism, and it was so recorded in the prison books.


It was certainly stated in those Papers that M'Carthy had admitted that he had suffered from rheumatic fever, and this was assigned as a reason why he had contracted heart disease. Another striking fact was this—that the weight of M'Carthy, who was stated to have been so much ill-used in prison, was exactly 2 lbs. heavier on the day of his discharge than it was on the day of his entering the prison. He did not say that that circumstance alone was conclusive; but it certainly was not consistent with the allegation that the cruelties practised upon him had so changed his appearance that his friends could not know him when he was released. He (the Solicitor General) was surprised to find that the two gentlemen on whose statements the hon. Member relied disbelieved what had been said by Mr. W. Owen, of the College of Surgeons, to whom Charles M'Carthy, by the advice of his own friends, went for medical treatment on coming out of prison. Mr. Owen said that M'Carthy never complained to him that his cell was ill-ventilated, nor of his food and clothing. No doubt, there was a certain amount of weight in the argument that M'Carthy would not like to complain of his treatment to the prison officials. But Mr. Owen was not a prison official, and he went on to say— My impression was that he was satisfied with his treatment in prison.….. He spoke particularly of the kindness of the medical officer. Was that statement of Mr. Owen true, or was it wilfully false? Some witnesses on whom the hon. Member for Galway seemed to rely, actually suggested that it was invented. One used the euphemism that it was "imaginary," and another more plainly said that Mr. Owen had not told the truth. But if Charles M'Carthy did say what Mr. Owen stated about the medical officer of the prison, what was the House to think of the evidence reported partly from hearsay? There was hardly a phrase bad enough for Dr. Burns, the medical officer under whose treatment Charles M'Carthy was, and yet there was the independent evidence of Mr. Owen that M'Carthy, immediately after coming out of prison, spoke of the kindness of the medical officer while he was there. The hon. Member, in his statement, had not adverted to that fact at all. It might be taken for granted, from the medical evidence, that the man had heart disease; but he found the medical men on one important point in absolute conflict. One medical man states—"I adhere to my statement that the disease could not have been of long duration." The medical men who gave their evidence in Dublin, as it was stated, "amid cheers," spoke very positively, from the appearance of the organs after death, of what must have been observed by any medical man of competent skill during the period M'Carthy was in prison. Well, he had often in Courts of Justice to observe on evidence of that speculative character, and he did not think that either juries or Judges were satisfied with it. It was to be remarked that the testimony he had quoted from Mr. Owen had an important bearing on that part of the evidence. Was it to be conceived that medical men, whose duty was not of a penal character, but rather to alleviate the ailments of those who came before them, if they had seen symptoms of heart disease, would not have procured for him some milder treatment? And once it was admitted that the medical men were, as M'Carthy acknowledged, kind to him, it was utterly inconceivable that he could have exhibited those signs of extreme suffering which had been alleged. It appeared to him, therefore, not only was the evidence brought before Sir James Ingham sufficient to justify him in arriving at the conclusion he came to; but it was such a conclusion as any impartial man would have arrived at. Admitting that Charles M'Carthy died of heart disease, was there no other cause than what had been alleged? Mr. Owen warned him not to excite himself, and not to attend any political meeting, or the excitement might prove fatal at any moment. Mr. Owen said— I was astonished to hear of his death, but not surprised at it when I saw the demonstration described in the newspapers. The Nation newspaper spoke of the rushing, shouting, frantic crowds who stormed about Westland Row that evening. His reception by such a crowd was every way calculated to excite a man who had just come from a 12 years' confinement in a convict prison, and who hoped and expected to see his wife and family. Why did the hon. Gentleman assume that all the evidence on one side was inaccurate? The evidence of warders, and of all the different classes of witnesses, had been ably contrasted by an experienced magistrate. His right hon. Friend had sent him the depositions before the coroner's jury, asking him to go and make inquiries himself, and Sir James Ingham, after a perfectly impartial investigation, came to the conclusion that the death of M'Carthy had not been occasioned or accelerated by treatment he received in prison. He submitted there was ample evidence to justify that conclusion. No doubt, the hon. Member might be dissatisfied with the conclusion arrived at; but so he might be if the Commission he now asked for were appointed. He might still find fault with the evidence or with the conduct of the Commissioners, just as he now found fault with Dr. Pittman and Sir James Ingham, who had inquired into every allegation, and found that there was no foundation for either complaint. He hoped the House would come to the same conclusion.


could assure the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), who had asked whether he had not been afforded every facility of investigating the case of Sergeant M'Carthy, that he had anticipated the line of argument which might be adopted by those who took the Government view of this question by the letter which he had addressed to Sir James Ingham with reference to the inquiry. In the early part of his letter, he said, before receiving any communication from Sir James Ingham, he had put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Assheton Cross), in which he indicated his belief that the inquiry should be public and on oath, and when he learnt the magistrate had no power to administer an oath in such a case, he still urged that the inquiry should be made public, Whatever the result of the inquiry, he was convinced it would not be satisfactory unless it was a public inquiry. What he wrote was as follows:— To insure a successful inquiry into a case of this kind, it appears to me that three things are necessary: first, that the inquiry should be made public; secondly, that every statement received should be made on oath; and thirdly, that the relatives or next-of-kin of the deceased should be allowed to be present or represented by counsel. His action was not free, because he had no faith that the inquiry as ordered would elicit the whole truth. In reference to the statements put forward by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), the Solicitor General remarked that they were things of the past, whereupon the Home Secretary said "Hear, hear!" He maintained, however, that they were terrible realities of the present hour, as was proved by the recent revelations respecting the prisoners at Spike Island. [In illustration of his case, the hon. Member cited the experiences of James Dillon, who since his liberation, two months ago, had narrated the cruelties to which he said he had been subjected while in confinement. The hon. Member proceeded to describe the kind of work which M'Carthy was compelled to do, and stated that, among other things, he had to carry the meals of 60 prisoners up two flights of stairs, and to convey the slop-pails from their cells down an equal number of steps.] A good deal had been said inside and outside of the House as to the fact that M'Carthy weighed more when he came out of than when he went into prison; but he should like to have information as to the relative weights, and as to the prisons, which were referred to in the statement. What he wanted was to ascertain the difference between the weight of M'Carthy on the day of his release and on the day when he stepped into the dock on account of his patriotism. What they had to consider with reference to the case of M'Carthy was whether, when he was convicted, he was a man of strong and vigorous constitution. He was not about to endeavour to excite the sympathies of the House; but he was bound to say that M'Carthy was not only noted for his bravery on the battle field, but for his courage and activity in all athletics of his regiment. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General had said that it was not at all fair to deduce an argument from the fact of M'Carthy not having complained to the prison officials, and also from his not having complained to the medical gentleman he consulted in London after his release. There was a certain negative force in those arguments; but no one could say that because he did not tell everything he felt to those persons, there was nothing particularly wrong with him. The question naturally arose as to whether M'Carthy had complained to those persons who might most naturally have expected to have been taken into his confidence—namely, his own relations. Upon that point there were letters written by his own hand, in which he complained of the treatment to which he was subjected in the prison; and though those communications might have passed surreptitiously, yet he ventured to call the attention of the House of Commons to them as evidence that while Charles M'Carthy was still living, and while there was a chance of saving him, he had complained of the manner in which he was treated. In his letter to Sir James Ingham, he (Mr. O'Connor Power) had said that it was his duty to bring this matter under the notice of the House of Commons, and had called attention to the letter of M'Carthy, in which the unfortunate man said he had come to the melancholy conclusion that nothing less than their lives were aimed at in prison, and that in a cruel and assassin-like manner. In another letter M'Carthy said that in the winter of 1871 he was stripped and compelled to stand naked for five or 10 minutes while the officers were feeling the seams of his clothes. The whole case came to this—that, in the first instance, an inquiry was held by the coroner, and a Dublin jury found—and anyone who knew the composition of a Dublin jury knew that it was largely composed of Conservatives, and that Irish Conservatives had very little sympathy with Irish political prisoners—yet this Dublin jury, without any undue bias, had returned as their verdict that his death, which was caused by heart disease, had been hastened by the treatment which he had received in prison. Every impartial person who looked at the evidence then given by the doctors in Dublin must see that it was actuated by no fear of unpleasant dis- closures. Moreover, their evidence was given upon oath, whereas the evidence given not on oath before Sir James Ingham was that of men who were criminally responsible if the result of the inquiry was unfavourable to them. No one, in his opinion, could doubt that the Dublin jury were right, and that the prison officials were wrong, and that through their evidence Sir James Ingham had been drawn to a false conclusion. He could have wished that this discussion had been kept as far as possible within the limits of M'Carthy's case; but as the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry), by his Motion, had travelled beyond those limits into the general question of the treatment of political prisoners, they were justified in entering upon that question. He knew that they would be met by the statement that a Royal Commission was at present inquiring into the whole subject of the Penal Servitude Acts, and that before they could come to a resolution involving any decision on that matter, they should have the Report of that Commission before them. But they had as yet had no declaration either from the Secretary to the Treasury or from the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the part of the Government, whether, in its opinion, men who were put in prison for offences which carried no moral stigma ought to be separated from common prisoners. That statement had not been given, and until it was, the Home Secretary must expect to see a Motion of this character brought forward from time to time. However much the official mind of the right hon. Gentleman might be exasperated by the continual accusations brought forward against the prison officials, yet he would ask him to look at the whole question of the treatment of political prisoners to see whether, judging by the example of other civilized nations in the treatment of political prisoners, the cause of the Constitution, of liberty, or of order was in any way served by the vindictive treatment of political prisoners. On the contrary, he knew that the story of the cruelties practised upon political prisoners had excited in the breasts of Irishmen at home and abroad a strong feeling of disgust. If the object had been to foment disaffection, no more certain means could have been adopted than the treatment bestowed upon men whose patriotism had brought them into conflict with the law. The feeling created in Ireland by the story of M'Carthy's sufferings was that of admiration for his courage. The last 13 years had done more to sow the seeds of disaffection in Ireland than the speeches of all the Fenian orators both in Ireland and out of it. He would conclude with the beautiful words of the poet Moore— Far dearer the grave or the prison Illumined by one patriot's name, Than the trophies of all who have risen, On Liberty's ruins to fame.


said, that he was not surprised that this case had been brought before the House of Commons, after a coroner's jury had found that the sudden death of M'Carthy called for very stringent inquiry. The question upon which that debate had arisen had proceeded on several separate and distinct grounds. The first question that had been raised was as to the treatment of political prisoners; and the second, the treatment of prisoners generally. With reference to M'Carthy's case, holding the Office he did, he could only say that his sole desire in a matter of that kind was that there should be a most fair and most impartial inquiry into all the circumstances. Therefore, the moment this occurrence took place, he thought it right that an inquiry should be held. He quite agreed that a difficulty arose on one point as to whether the evidence should be given upon oath. But he had no power to authorize the administration of an oath, as that could only be done by the sanction of an Act of Parliament. The next best thing seemed to him to be, in the first place, to find some impartial person, of the highest possible standing, to conduct an inquiry. He did not think that he could have made a more suitable choice, or that he could have found a lawyer more experienced, better known for his impartiality, or one who commanded greater public respect in this country than Sir James Ingham, Chief Magistrate of the Bow Street Police Court. Accordingly, he appointed Sir James Ingham, and he had never heard from the hon. Member who had just spoken, a suggestion discrediting that gentleman's high qualifications. The hon. Gentleman did suggest at the time that a medical gentleman should be appointed as an assessor, and, as he deemed that request a reasonable one, it was at once granted. He (Mr. Assheton Cross) was anxious that there should not be the smallest bias in Sir James Ingham's mind on the matter; and he, therefore, took care not to communicate with him in any way, except to lay the Papers before him. He would ask the House whether a case could be more impartially put in Sir James Ingham's decision, than it was in a letter addressed to him by the Secretary of State, and which would be found in the Papers laid before Parliament? In that letter the Under Secretary wrote that he had been directed by the Secretary of State to forward to Sir James Ingham the depositions taken at the coroner's inquest on the body of Charles M'Carthy, and that he had to request that Sir James Ingham would proceed to the Chatham Convict Prison, and there hold an inquiry into the circumstances of the case, and report thereon to the Secretary of State. The letter further added that the Secretary of State would be quite willing that Sir James should have the assistance of a medical assessor in the conduct of the inquiry, if he should think it necessary. He did not think he could possibly have put the matter more fairly. Perhaps he was wrong in saying that that was his only communication with Sir James Ingham, for he remembered having sent him another letter requesting him to place himself in communication with the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). After having apparently gone fully into the case, Sir James Ingham made a Report, and found, first of all, that the deceased was employed in carrying heavy weights up to a certain time, but that afterwards he was simply employed in carrying very small weights instead. A great deal had been said about M'Carthy's orderly duty. Sir James Ingham said that in addition to his employment in the tailor's shop, M'Carthy had to take his share of the orderly duty once a week, and that duty consisted in carrying, with the assistance of another man, a dinner tray of about 24 lbs. weight a distance of about 10 yards, and up two or three flights of steps. As to the slops, Sir James said that M'Carthy had to take part in their disposal only once a month, and that he then had to carry them to a sink a few yards off on the same landing. On the face of those facts, it could not be said that that was hard work. It had been urged that the weight of a man was generally a test as to whether his imprisonment had been injudicious or not. It had been rightly said that when M'Carthy went to Chatham in 1870, he weighed 152 lbs., and that when he left in 1878 he weighed 154 lbs. But, said the hon. Member for Mayo, what was his weight when he went into prison first of all? Fortunately, an answer could be given to that question. The House knew perfectly well that directly after a person was sentenced he was sent to a Penitentiary for a period of nine months. M'Carthy was convicted in 1866, and after spending the usual period in the Penitentiary, was sent to Portland on the 26th of October, 1867. The prison papers showed that in 1867 he weighed 154 lbs., which was exactly his weight when he left prison in 1878. So far as his weight went, therefore, there was nothing to show that M'Carthy's treatment in prison had been at all unjust or severe. He must, further, call attention to the fact that it was not until 1874 or 1875 that any appearance of heart disease manifested itself in M'Carthy. Nor did it seem to have affected his weight; for, in 1870, he weighed 154 lbs., in 1872, 152 lbs., and when he left in 1873, 164 lbs. It had been suggested that when he was removed from one prison to another, he was placed in a cell not so well suited for a person in his condition. As to that, they had the evidence of the doctor that one cell was as good as the other. The transference of the prisoner from one cell to another was effected in consequence of the necessity that was felt for greater precautions against his escape. But where this was done under orders from the Home Office, express instructions were given that nothing should be done to injure his health. Then it had been said that the cell was of ordinary dimensions, and it must be borne in mind that he only slept there, being employed in the daytime in the tailor's shop. The class of prisoners to whom M'Carthy belonged were not confined in their cells, but were employed in the shops, and put on night duty; and, therefore, it could not be said that he was confined in his cell. Then, it should not be forgotten that when this man left prison, not being well, he consulted a physician. When an inquiry was instituted, a letter was voluntarily addressed to the Home Office by the medical man consulted by M'Carthy, who stated that fact, and said that the prisoner came to him, and that the advice he gave him was to avoid all excitement, and not to attend political meetings. He could not help thinking that if M'Carthy had adopted the excellent advice given to him his melancholy death might not have followed. He would not go further into the circumstances of the case; but he must say one word for Sir James Ingham, because his fairness in reference to this business had been impugned. He did not think anyone could have conducted the inquiry more fairly or in a more impartial spirit than Sir James Ingham did. The general question of the treatment of prisoners was discussed at some length when the Prisons Bill was passing through the House, and it was found to be a very difficult question with which to deal. The history of penal servitude was in many respects different from, that of transportation, when persons had to be kept in close confinement for a long time; the greatest discipline, watchfulness, and care were necessary. However kind the governors might be, it would be always necessary to employ warders, whose patience might be tried in every way, and who could not be watched at every moment. No matter what governors might do, hardship might now and then be unintentionally inflicted. It had been found to be most difficult to obtain good warders. Much of what was going on at the time of the Devon Commission had been remedied; but it might be that there were other things to remedy, and if he had not thought that this was the case, he should not have asked Parliament to appoint another Royal Commission. The question of classification had been found a most difficult one to deal with; because if the worst characters were kept together reform seemed to be almost absolutely hopeless. It would be admitted that when a man became a convict no favouritism could be shown to him on account of his former social position. As to the separation of what were called political prisoners, it could not be effected either by the Secretary of State or by the gaoler. As far as he was personally concerned, he had never heard what a political prisoner was, and only an amendment of the existing law could bring about what was called a classification. As far as these Acts were concerned, a Royal Commission had been appointed to inquire whether an amendment could be made in them, and owing to the illness of one, and the death of the wife of another, the third Commissioner was alone able to be present. The first two, however, remained Members of the Commission, and would still serve. He admitted that great advantage resulted from the visits of Justices to local prisons, and he should not object to the making of similar visits to convict prisons; but before this could be done the matter must be inquired into and reported upon by the Members of the Commission. It had been suggested that the Visitors should have legal advisers; but the opinion of the Visiting Justices had tended rather in the direction of appointing legal advisers—a decision of the recommendation of which he scarcely saw the force, because he should have thought medical advisers more useful. In conclusion, he might say that although the Commission was not appointed to take up any particular case, he had no doubt that if any particular instance of grievous injury came before them they would feel bound to inquire as to it, and give their judgment on the facts.


said, he was sorry not to be able to accede to the request to abstain from taking a division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 35: Majority 66.—(Div. List, No. 210.)

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.