§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. W. E. FORSTER
Mr. Speaker; Sir, in moving the second reading of this Bill, I hope to detain the House but a short time, as the House gave me its attention when I first brought in the Bill. I shall only take the opportunity now of explaining some misconceptions which have arisen with regard to the Bill in the minds of some hon Members which I thought I had anticipated, and of noticing one or two objections that have been made against it. In the first place, I endeavoured, when I brought in the Bill, to make it clear what was its purport. I said that it was a very short enactment, all, in fact, contained in one clause, and that not a long clause; and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as well as my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland, have also explained what the Bill was. At the same time, I cannot help thinking that the House, or, at least, some hon. Members of the House, have not clearly remembered, or clearly observed, that with regard to the offences other than treason, treason-felony, or treasonable practices, for which the Lord lieutenant may arrest a person in a prescribed district on reasonable suspicion, that those offences are confined to crimes which are already punishable by law—namely, the committing of an act of violence or intimidation, or an endeavour to incite to an act of violence or intimidation, tending to interfere with or disturb the maintenance of law and 171 order in the prescribed district. That confines the operation of the Bill to what I endeavoured to point out to the House seemed to us, in this emergency, to be necessary—that is, that the Government should be able to arrest, and detain for a limited period, persons who may be reasonably suspected of being either the planners or the perpetrators of outrages—persons either committing outrages themselves, or abetting others in the committal of outrages. But the Bill does not go further than that. I find that one or two hon. Members have supposed that the Bill would apply to public meetings in general. That is a great mistake. I have also found that there was considerable misapprehension of the remarks which I used in my speech. I admit that my language was strong; but I do not think it was stronger than was deserved with regard to the men who commit or incite to the committal of actual outrages. I described them as what I think they generally are, the mauvais sujets of a particular district—village tyrants, and, generally speaking, dissolute ruffians. It is extraordinary to find how these words, which were pretty clearly reported, were misunderstood. In some places I have seen it stated that I made that charge against the people of Ireland in general. Well, to my mind, the fact that such a supposition has been made is the greatest possible slander upon the people of Ireland. The people of Ireland are certainly not, as a people, the planners and perpetrators of outrages. Another hon. Member seemed to think that I was attacking the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. I need not say that I did nothing of the kind. With regard to those who have been acting with the Land League meetings, although I have said, and I think I was right in saying, that I consider in many cases they have been reckless and careless as to the effect of their words, and have not taken that care which I should have expected men in their position would have taken to prevent outrages following upon their speeches, yet I never said, and I never supposed, that as a rule any speaker of eminence, or any Member of this House, has incited to the perpetration of any outrage. All I wish to be understood is this, that the Bill is meant to deal with those who are reasonably suspected of committing positive outrages 172 and crimes, or of inciting to or abetting in their commission. Then again, in the course of the debate, there has been a good deal of comment upon the retrospective character of the Bill. Perhaps the Committee would be the more appropriate place for remarks upon that part of the clause; but still I do not wish to pass it over altogether. We have done exactly the same thing in this Bill as was done in the Westmeath Act. We have made it retrospective, as the Westmeath Act was made retrospective, and our reason is this. We bring in this Bill not for any purpose of vengeance—not with any purpose of even righteous vengeance—but our object is prevention, and the preventive character of the Bill would be very much injured if we did not obtain the power to reach, and to prevent from committing more outrages, those whom we reasonably suspect of having committed outrages. I do not know that I need dwell more upon this part of the matter now, but that is our reason for making the Bill retrospective. Remarks have also been made, and surprise has been expressed, that we should have proposed such general powers for dealing with those whom we suspect to be guilty of high treason, treason-felony or treasonable practices. I am not surprised at hon. Members opposite asking for more particulars upon that matter than I feel myself able to give, and I must again appeal to the House to trust the Executive Government upon this question. We should not have put in this clause unless we had reason to believe that it is required; and, from the nature of things, it is impossible for us to explain our reasons to the House. One fact that has happened will enable me to give some idea of those reasons to hon. Members. A Question has been asked of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) with regard to a placard or proclamation that has been very extensively circulated. Hon. Members, I dare say, are aware of the terms of that proclamation. It is one certainly of a very treasonable character. It advises quiet for the present, but present quiet only to be able more effectually to disturb the peace, and, in fact, to undertake rebellion at a near future. The words of the proclamation are—"Our present duty is to prepare, and watch, and wait until the hour for action comes." 173 I do not think that it would be easy to find any short written notice that could contain more, within a few words, of a rebellious nature than that document. The fact that I wish to bring before the House is not simply that such a proclamation has been posted up at one place in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but that it has been posted up all over Ireland, in very many places in England, including the Metropolis, and in some places in Scotland, thereby proving the existence of a very considerable and active organization, and an organization that has this faculty about it, which makes it the more dangerous, that it has the means of being able to do what is in fact a treasonable thing—namely, the posting of such a placard without the police either in England, Ireland, or Scotland being able to discover the persons who posted it.
§ MR. FINIGAN
I merely rise—["Order!"]—to ask the right hon. Gentleman to state where this placard has been posted in Ireland?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I have not got the names of the places; but I have heard of them, day after day, in letters from Ireland and elsewhere, and I have received copies of the proclamation which have been posted up in different places. There is no question whatever that it has been extensively posted in Ireland. The only other remark I wish to make with regard to the Bill has reference to the supposition apparently prevalent in some quarters that the provision requiring lists of arrests to be laid upon the Table of the House is a novelty. As regards these lists, we have again done precisely what was done in the Westmeath Act. In that Act it was required that a list should be put upon the Table of the House, and the ground given of the arrest of any particular person, which ground I take to be either treason, treason-felony, treasonable practices, or crimes punishable by law, under the second head. I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding in the matter; and, therefore, it should be clearly understood that it is not the object of the Government that the sanction of Parliament should be required for any particular arrest, nor will there be any provision in the Bill attempting to make such sanction necessary. In noticing some of the comments that have been made upon 174 the Bill, perhaps the House will expect me to allude more particularly to the objections that have been made to the Returns which have been produced. Now, as regards those Returns, and especially as regards those contained in the two Blue Books, the last of which was presented this morning, I must first state that I have had nothing whatever to do with their preparation. In fact, I did not see them until they were past any possibility of correction by me. I thought that my duty was to allow them to be made out in precisely the same way—in fact, to direct that they should be made out in precisely the same way that they have been hitherto made out. I believe the first time such Returns as those contained in these Blue Books were made was by my Predecessor, who issued a volume last year; and exactly the same course has been taken in regard to them now as was taken at that time. Some hon. Members seem to suppose that it was from those Returns that I myself became convinced of the necessity of this Bill, and that I convinced my Colleagues; but, as I have stated, I never saw them. What did happen was this. Day after day I had to spend hours-such I trust as I shall never have to spend again—in reading the full particulars of the cases of outrage that came before me, and I must most honestly say that this abstract which has been given to the House, instead of being an exaggeration, does in fact very much underrate the extent and meaning of the reported offences. One objection made to those Returns is that they are so framed and drawn up as to give a much larger number of outrages than they ought to give, and that, in some cases, the outrages have been duplicated and triplicated and even more. Well, allow me to read the statement which the Inspector General, Colonel Hillier, has made with regard to the manner in which those Returns were prepared. He says—With regard to the cases in which 'one proceeding is numbered as several offences, this method of recording outrages has been in practice in this department since 1844 whenever several offences of a different character were perpetrated on the same occasion and by the same party. On the other hand, it has been usual, where there was reason to believe that two or more outrages of a similar nature were perpetrated by the same party on the 175 same occasion, to record the case as only one of its kind. It is evident that as this practice has been the basis on which all the former Returns have boon prepared, it would have invalidated comparison and caused confusion if, in preparing the present Returns, any change had been made.I think hon. Members will agree with me that I should not have been justified in making any change; but, of course, it is quite open to hon. Members to say that, although there is no change, yet the result is to make an unfair representation of outrages. That, however, is not the case. There are two ways in which we may reckon outrages. On the one hand, we may reckon by the number of offences. For instance, if a man breaks into a house, that may be counted as one offence; if he assaults someone in the house, that may be considered another; and if he obliges that person to take an oath, that may be counted as a third. Some hon. Members say that as all these offences are committed at the same time the better plan would be to take them all as one offence, and make out the number of people outraged. Well, if I had originally framed the Returns merely for Parliamentary purposes and not as public statistics, I think I should have proceeded upon that principle, because what we have to consider is the number of persons outraged and injured. If you reckon by the number of people charged, then the underrating of the number of offences consequent on the adoption of that mode of counting makes up for any exaggeration in the number through the adoption of the mode of reckoning which I described first. I occupied some hours last Sunday in going through the Returns relating to the Province of Leinster for the end of October, and I find that if I were to reckon the outrages and offences as they are reckoned in the Blue Book they amount to 160; but if I consider only as one offence those cases in which the same persons wore engaged at the same time in outraging the same individual, and if, on the other hand, I take as two or three outrages those that were offences against two or three individuals, I find that the result is precisely the same. According to the one calculation it is 160, and according to the other it is 160. I then took the county of Galway. I am sorry to say that even up to the end of October the county of Galway 176 stands prominently forward in regard to the number of outrages committed there, and that it exceeds the whole Province of Leinster. The offences in Galway are 189 under the one mode of calculation, and 189 under the other. I took also the county of Kerry, and there the one method gives three less than the other, or 112 against 115; and in another county—Limerick—which I took, the figures were in the same proportion, but reversed in relation to each other, there being 51 in the one calculation and 49 in the other. Let me illustrate this statement by reference to a few cases. At page 97 of the Blue Book, Nos.54to 58 are reckoned as five offences. It appears that at about 1 o'clock, a.m., a party of men broke into the house of Walter Burke, and swore him to do no work, except herding, for his master. They also "carded" him and kicked him in a most brutal manner. All this is set down as two cases—administering an unlawful oath, and committing an aggravated assault. Then, in the case of the three offences which come immediately after, a party of men with blackened faces are stated to have sworn a man to give up possession of some land of which he had obtained possession some time before, and also to have kicked and "carded" him in a brutal manner, killed his dog, broken the windows of his house, and, on leaving, to have fired two shots. Now, according to the calculation that some hon. Members would prefer, these cases which are recorded as five offences should only be two. It is worth noting, because I think it will serve to show that there is no exaggeration in these Returns, that in the original description given by the constabulary, though the wife of one of those men was taken out of bed and ill-treated, yet that is not considered as a separate offence. Now, take a case given on page 94. It is called one case, No. 22. A woman who owned a small farm was twice fired at in front of her cottage. She swears that she saw two men fire a shot each and then run away. Now that, I think, may fairly be regarded as two offences, because either of those shots might have killed the woman. Again, take the case No. 24 on the same page, and the cases which follow up to No. 30; you find these cases represented as seven cases, and that the same offence is committed twice over by the same 177 parties. But in case 25, you find this description—At about half-past I in the afternoon, a party of about 12 men visited the house of the persons named, and swore them to give up about six acres of land.Now that is treated as one offence, although six different houses were visited, and six different persons had an offence committed against them. I do not know that I need go into any more cases. I think I have done enough to show conclusively that there has been no attempt on the part of the constabulary to exaggerate these Returns; but I want hon. Members to bear in mind that there is yet another and it may be not a very unfair way of reckoning outrages and offences, and that is not merely by the number of offences or of persons against whom they are committed but by the number of persons who commit them. But of these no account has been taken. On page 94 you will find, in ease No. 18, that a party of 20 men were engaged in the commission of one offence. In No. 25, an offence committed by 12 men is recorded as only one case; and if you will refer to the Blue Book which has just been issued, and which gives Returns for the county of Leitrim, you will find on page 65, in case 22, that 17 men visiting a house is recorded as only one case; the next entry, case 23, refers to a party of five or six men, and it is put down as two cases; and a little further on where there was a party of 30 men it is only recorded as one case; and so on. If any hon. Members have really any doubt as to the condition of parts of Ireland, in consequence of which we have felt it to be our duty to bring in this Bill, let them read the Returns which have been circulated this morning in regard to the county of Leitrim. I do not know that the House wishes for any further confirmation as to what is the real state of things prevailing in Ireland. I could give it to them if they desire that I should do so. I know that the details are distressing, and they would be very dull if they were not distressing; still it is almost necessary that I should submit them to the consideration of the House. I have heard a great deal of doubt expressed as to whether the effect of this lawlessness, or rather the effect of this obedience to an unwritten law instead of the law of the land, goes beyond matters connected with the pay- 178 ment of rents or disputes between landlord and tenant. Now that is an entire mistake, and I think we should be surprised if it were not a mistake. It is not, as I ventured to say before, a hopeful experiment to put in the place of the law of the land an unwritten law and an irresponsible law upon any particular matter; and you may be quite sure that if this is done in one matter, the law will be defied, condemned, and ignored in other matters, and there is nothing in the character of the people of Ireland, with all their good qualities, but in fact there is much in that character which makes it especially dangerous, that they should be allowed to set the law at defiance. A day or two ago I had the following statement sent to me. At the Galway Quarter Sessions recently, the Recorder of Galway took his seat, and, addressing the Grand Jury, said—There usually are about 300 civil bills to be tried at this Sessions, while at present there are only about 30, principally for recovery of shop goods. It is unnecessary to refer to the cause, as people are afraid to go to law to recover their just debts, and the result of such a state of things must be general bankruptcy.Does any hon. Member suppose that it was owing to the good state of Galway that there were so few civil bills to be tried? It was owing to the fact that there is no use in sending out processes, because they could not be served; and that observation applies quite as much to actions for debt as to those for rent. Only this morning I received a very strong and curious illustration of this from the county of Longford. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) brought before the House, some days ago, the failure of an attempt to serve processes with regard to rent, which seemed to me at the time to be one of the strongest cases that could be brought against the condition of a county, although the hon. Member seemed to think that it was in a very good condition. The hon. Member acknowledged that the landlord was a good landlord, and there was no attempt to show that the rents were unreasonable, and yet it required almost an army to take the first steps towards enforcing the payment of rent. Well, I find the County Court Judge of Longford making this statement only a few days ago. He said— 179That he could let the jury go back to their room if it were not for what had occurred since he took his seat in that Court—he meant the civil side of the Court. He found that a large number of civil bill processes had been unserved by reason of an organized system of terrorism exercised against the officers of that Court. He now spoke to them with the hope that they, as well as he, would give some words of advice—and he hoped their advice would not be in vain—to persons who attempted to prevent the due administration of the law. He also hoped, and it was his earnest desire, that those persons would profit by and accept those words of advice, which he gave most sincerely for their good, in order to save their families and friends from trouble and disaster to themselves. It could not and would not happen that the law of the land would be set at naught by a system of terrorism which had, and he regretted to say still existed, in not only one portion, but several parts of that county. He found that, through this system of terrorism, more than one half of the civil bill processes for this Sessions had been unserved, a great number of which were neither ejectment processes nor processes for rent, but for ordinary debts—debts due, or disputed, between man and man.I have received a long statement from the Inspector of Constabulary, in which he confirms these remarks. He says—The solicitor to one of the banks told me the manager informed him bills are not taken up. Those who got the money on the bills demand a simple renewal of them, saying, 'If you don't like to renew you can do your best, and see what good that will do you.' I know shopkeepers in this town who intended taking out processes for money due for shop goods, but who, since terrorism became supreme, have, in their wisdom, not taken them out; and other shopkeepers say it is useless to take them out, for even if the preliminary difficulty of serving them were got over, and decrees were obtained, the decrees would be useless, for who would execute them, or who could be got to purchase goods seized under them?Unless this Bill is passed, I believe that the law is insufficient to protect the officers. We can protect them in the serving of processes, but we cannot protect them from revenge and secret outrage afterwards. That is the effect, and the natural effect—the almost certain effect—of allowing the law to be defied. That is the kind of argument which has brought conviction to my mind, and has led me to impress upon my Colleagues the necessity, in which they have agreed with me, for bringing forward a measure of this kind. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) made, the other evening, a very able speech—indeed it would not be easy for him to make a speech which was not able—which I must 180 be allowed to notice, because it appears to me to be a speech that requires an answer. My hon. and learned Friend seemed to suppose that it was not by facts such as those which I have stated to the House that I arrived at the conviction and persuaded my Colleagues to introduce this Bill, but because I was influenced by a number of landlords in Ireland. I need not say that there is no foundation for the statement, and my hon. and learned Friend himself removed it when he said that the landlords had such a bad opinion of me that they would not come near me, and that they were anxious to take vengeance on me for the trouble I took with respect to the Bill of last year. If my hon. and learned Friend, with his great ability and forensic skill, is driven to such an argument as that, his case must be bad indeed. The hon. and learned Gentleman made the extraordinary statement that these outrages were, in fact, the creation of the landlords; but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his speech, asked the question, why crime was greatest in the last quarter, when distress and evictions were least? Well, my hon. and learned Friend thought that he ought to answer the question. I do not wonder at him; it was a question which required an answer, and I do not think that it has been satisfactorily answered yet. The hon. and learned Gentleman accounted for it mainly by saying that the tenants had something to fight for, seeing that they had their harvests to hold. I am not going into the question whether they ought to hold their harvests or not, though it is rather a curious doctrine of morality to say that certainly men ought not to pay their debts if they are able to pay them. Of course, a man ought to pay his debts if he is at all able to do so, and I do not suppose anyone would for a moment doubt that there are cases without number in which men have held their harvests and have refused to pay, who were perfectly able to pay. I know of cases of men who held their harvests and refused to pay, who were on visiting terms with the agent of the gentleman who asked them to pay their debts, who met him at parties, and were as able to pay as he was able to let. But the word had gone forth, and the unwritten law had to be obeyed. It would not be good for them if they paid, and it would 181 be rather good for them if they did not pay. I need not, however, go into cases of that kind. Holding the harvest and not paying the rent is not one of the offences against which this Bill is directed. What I want to know is, how the statement that they felt they had something to fight for when they had the harvest to hold, in any way apologizes for, or satisfactorily explains away, the outrages? What we take power to do in this Bill is not to arrest men who do not pay their rent, or fulfil their contracts; but to arrest those who break the law, and yet contrive to escape the legal consequences of their acts. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), with all his remarkable ability—an ability of which we are all well aware—very often cannot help making a strong and an able statement of what strikes him, forgetful of the effect it may have upon his argument or upon his Friends. The hon. Member made a statement which hit his friends quite as hard as his foes. He said that outrages were now falling off in Ireland; and he added that, perhaps, the reason was that so many Members for Ireland were in the House of Commons, and not in Ireland, at the present moment, I suppose that, on the other hand, the reverse of that during the months of November and December was due, in his estimation, to the fact that almost all the Irish Members were then in Ireland. Well, I do not believe that at all. I believe the reason of the increase of the outrages in the last two months of the year was a growing feeling in the minds of many persons in Ireland that they could defy the law successfully by outrage. That was a sort of notion and belief that spread very much, and just in proportion as it succeeded it had a still greater chance of success. On the other hand, I am glad to say that we have now a diminution of outrages. Although the Return which I shall put before the House tonight shows that the month of January has the largest number of outrages since 1845, with the exception of the months of November and December, yet the Return for that month shows a considerable decrease. And why? Because this Bill has been brought in. Because the men who have been planning and perpetrating these outrages see that the country is in earnest, and that Parliament is in earnest. They know that 182 the men who break the law will no longer enjoy the immunity they have had since they entered upon crime—an immunity secured by the very commission of crime. By the terror they have struck around them they have prevented evidence being brought against them, and they have brought us to the sad and sorrowful conclusion that, for a short time, in order to meet this emergency, we must take the power of detention without that legal evidence which these men make it impossible for us to obtain. At the same time, it must not be supposed that, even with this reduction of crime in Ireland during the past month, matters are not still left in a very serious state indeed. I could cite cases well calculated to arouse both indignation and sorrow, that we have been informed of only this morning. Do not let the House suppose that because the outrages have decreased, because, as I believe, they will still further decrease, that, therefore, this Bill is not necessary. If, after having used a threat—I will admit that it is a threat—to the men who do these things, that they cannot do them with safety, the House was to turn back, and for one moment to relax its determination to proceed with this Bill, then I am quite sure that the only law in Ireland would soon be the unwritten law of the Land League. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that in rising to move as an Amendment that this Bill be read this day six months, he did so with a full sense of the grave responsibility that devolved upon him. He did not intend, in what he should say, to imply any kind of attack upon the Government or upon the Members composing the Ministry. He believed that every Member of Her Majesty's Government produced this measure with reluctance and pain, and had only been brought to introduce it by a sense of what seemed to him to be the gravity of facts warranting its introduction. He hoped he should not be wrong in assuming that every Member of that House—at least, every Member on that side—regretted that any Government, much more a Liberal Government, should 183 have to make the humiliating avowal that the ordinary law was not enough; and that, in order to govern, they were obliged to propose a Resolution superseding the rights of the people and abolishing their Constitutional liberties. His first objection to the introduction of the Bill was that no crime was shown to exist which the ordinary law was not equal to meet, and, in many cases, had succeeded in punishing. It had been said that that was an argument he was not entitled to use, because a panic existed which, it was alleged, had been created by an organized system of terrorism. They could not quite deal with Ireland as they dealt with England, for it was true that in the former country evils had existed for many generations for which no remedy had been attempted. Habits existed which had no parellel here. Many Members of that House were old enough to remember the time when the landlords, encumbered with debt, encouraged resistance to civil law when it was set in motion against themselves. These landlords who to-day asked for extraordinary powers had themselves left a bad example to the unfortunate and miserable men who to-day threatened and repeated the bad acts of their superiors. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had said that the effect of this terrorism was to prevent injured persons from prosecuting, witnesses from giving evidence, and juries from convicting; but the measure now brought forward would not ensure that persons should prosecute, that witnesses should testify, or juries convict. All it would do would be to give to the Government, or to the unfortunate Gentleman—and unfortunate, indeed, would be his position, charged with this duty, who had the right of arresting—to give to him the duty of superseding the conscience of the prosecutor and the evidence of witnesses; to take the place of all juries, and, on suspicion, to have the power to imprison the person whom he arrested for 18 months. He did not believe that there would be any step taken except with the very best intentions; but he submitted to the House that, in threatening the liberties of its citizens, good intent was not enough, and unless a case was overwhelmingly made out they ought not to entrust to any Government the right to supersede the law. Because panic prevailed amongst hon. Gentle- 184 men opposite that was no reason why they should supersede the law to-day. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the terror was occasioned by two classes—men from old secret societies, and men belonging to the new ones. Would the House pardon him if he pointed out why the old secret societies existed? They existed because the landlords extorted unjust rents, and compelled their tenants to pay an enormous price for rooms—it was a shame to call them rooms, for he had soon hovels in which hon. Members would not kennel their dogs nor stable their horses—rent which it was impossible for them to pay. These unfortunate people had no law to appeal to, nor could they appeal to Parliament, for Parliament was deaf to their appeals. This was not an evil created to-day or by the Land League; it was an evil to which, years ago, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had directed his attention, and tried to grapple with; but which had baffled him, because his generous efforts had been crippled by the very landlord class now asking for protection by coercive law. What was the result? These men could not appeal to the law—for them the statute had no relief; so they made their own laws, and, the Courts being shut to them, established their own secret tribunals, secret because illegal. The Prime Minister had made several attempts to remedy this state of things; but the rights of land were valued in "another place" at a higher rate than the rights of life, and so those efforts had proved useless. Now, coming to so much of the Government case, so far as it was based on the increase of agrarian outrage, he would not wade through the story of outrages that had been committed—they had heard them criticized again and again—but he would just allude to a few pages of the Returns placed in their hands to-day, so far as they alluded to the Province of Leinster, with its 12 counties, during the month of November; and he contended that in that Province there were only three counties—namely, Longford, Wexford, and Meath—which afforded any semblance of justification for the proposed measure of coercion. And, even here, the justification failed, as out of three cases in one county one had been punished with 20 years' penal servitude, 185 and in another the accused were already in custody and were awaiting their trial. Perhaps he might be reminded of the threatening letters, and he agreed that these were most cowardly and infamous weapons against the timid; but it should be borne in mind that the percentage of actual crime which followed the letters was not enough to justify the present appeal to the House. He knew it was said that the terror of the letter and its menace was enough; but he urged that want of courage could not be remedied by coercive law. In regard to many of the outrages mentioned in the larger Return, this Bill was not required, because the offenders had either been actually convicted or were now awaiting their trial. Again, he might point out that a large proportion of the fires were of unoccupied dwellings, and they were not so serious as they would be in the Metropolitan district, for instance, where they would be accompanied with danger to life and limb. It was said that those outrages were committed by the few; and what the Government said was practically this—the few can be arrested if you give us this power for which we ask. His contention, however, was that if the magistracy had been firm the few could have been arrested. They were reduced to their present position because the habit of the country had been to allow demonstrations against the law to override the law; and also because of the frequent enactment of Peace Preservation Acts to suppress mischief, instead of remedial legislation to redress wrong. The hungry man could not reason, and did not reason—he struck. It was for the Government to step in with its Land Law Reform Bill, and say—"You shall not starve long; we will give you the opportunity of living by the fruits of your labour as free citizens should live." Further, it was said that there were Land League Courts; but could they not have been suppressed at once? Here there could be no difficulty as to evidence. The courts had been open to the Press, and it would have been an easy matter for the magistrates to have enforced the law. Habit in Ireland had, in truth, deprived magistrates and landlords alike of their self-reliance. One of his strongest objections to the Bill was its retrospective action. He submitted that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, that it was the same as in 186 the Westmeath Act, was no answer at all; a bad thing done once was shame enough, to do it twice was still more shame. It was said that the measure was only directed against the men who had committed these outrages; but then it was under cover of pretences like these that the liberties of the people had been stolen over and over again. If they were to make the Bill retrospective, make it so from the 1st of January, but not back over a period of no one knew how long. He appealed to the Government most earnestly on this point, and to those hon. Members of the House who were associated with Liberal traditions, to those Ministers of Her Majesty who had again and again made declarations in favour of liberty, especially as they were now aided by those hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were now ready to punish and, he feared, not so ready to redress. ["Oh, oh!" Yes, out of their own mouths he would convict them. ["Order!"] He regretted if, in speaking, he had in any way infringed the Order of the House; and he trusted that, having, as he had, a difficult cause to plead, a grave case to urge, they would listen to him patiently while he detained hon. Members as short a time as he well could. He most strongly objected to the retrospective character of the Bill; and, at least, if it must have a backward action, do not leave an infinite period of scope for private malice—let it, at least, extend no further than the beginning of the year. In the United States of America the Habeas Corpus Act could only be suspended on three occasions—namely, open rebellion, armed insurrection, and actual invasion. None of these existed here. Surely England was as strong as the American Republic? Surely she would not be less free than her children across the Atlantic? It was said that the Act was directed against treason. Was there treason now? From the words that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman there was ground to fear that he thought such to be the case. But, then, Parliament could not act upon what the right hon. Gentleman thought. If such was really the case, the evidence ought to be there. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman and the Government in every way that a Representative could do; but no Representative should entrust the Constitu- 187 tional liberties of his fellow-citizens to any Government, except the strongest evidence was placed before him. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had told them that there was matter which it was impossible he could explain—matter, possibly, of wanton malice, matter, it might be, of actual treason; but, for all that, matter certainly growing out of wrongs endured. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government felt this, for, in words which would always be remembered, he had again and again admitted this wrong to Ireland; but then no remedy was offered to them yet. It was true the Government said they intended to propose one. And he fully believed their declaration. He believed the Land Bill which the Government intended to introduce would be generous and wise, and, he hoped, ample; but while he was quite certain that the coercive measure now before the House would pass, he was equally sure that every step in the direction of making the Land Bill complete would secure the greatest opposition of the Conservative Party, He believed the Government intended to introduce a good Land Bo-form Bill; but he would ask the Government whether that Bill would become law? Would it pass oven that House without difficulty and without mutilation? Would hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches who, a short time previous, appeared to be hurt because he used words which seemed to them to be unfair, be as ready to support a wise, generous, and ample Land Law Reform Bill? And when the remedial meaure left this House and went up to "another place," what would be its probable reception there? The reason why he moved that this Bill be read this day six months was because he saw that the measure of punishment would surely pass; but he had not the same certainty that the measure of redress would be allowed to follow it. If the Government would only say, for their comfort and consolation, that in taking those exceptional powers they would pledge their existence as a Ministry to the passing, in its substantial integrity, of the measure of Land Reform which they intended to introduce, much of the misgiving that he now felt would be removed. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He trusted the House would not think he had taken advantage of his position 188 there to intrude upon them. It was the duty of every man who pretended to Radicalism outside at any rate to say his best within the walls of Parliament. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he did not rise for the purpose of replying to the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Bradlaugh), because there was no common ground between them. As to the Bill now before them, he had refrained from speaking upon its introduction because it was impossible to judge properly of the probable effects on Ireland of the measure until they had the full text of its provisions before them, and also because he had not wished to appear even for a moment as delaying its introduction. There had been many things said in the course of the debate on the Motion to introduce the Bill, however, which he strongly deprecated, and there were other things which any Conservative must resent. He confessed that it was with mixed and even contradictory emotions that as a Member of the Conservative Party he had received that Bill of the Government. He felt satisfaction, no doubt, that some steps had at last been taken to cause anarchy to cease and crime to be repressed in Ireland; but, at the same time, he entertained profound sorrow and indignation that that crime and anarchy should have been allowed to attain such formidable proportions. He had also an absolute conviction that but for the great change which was made at the last General Election the House of Commons would' not now have been considering the present measure. Much criticism had been bestowed on the Statistics of agrarian outrages which had been produced by the Government, and he freely admitted that those figures had been clumsily and stupidly put together, and had been subjected to no intelligent revision. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had said that he had never read them. With all respect to the right hon. Gen- 189 tleman, he thought, considering the nature of the Bill and the opposition it was likely to meet with, he ought to have paid great attention to them. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER disclaimed having said that he had not read the figures.] Trivial offences had been placed side by side with very serious offences—a course which tended to weaken the effect of the case which the right hon. Gentleman had put forward, and which might be held to give an air of unreality to it. He owned, however, that he had not expected that any very satisfactory Statistics would be produced by the Government, because he recollected that last year, when they brought in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, they presented three sucsessive sets of figures, all of which were equally unreliable. The Chief Secretary had been very remiss in not placing in the hands of hon. Members the Returns of crime in Ireland for the months of November and December, on which he said the Government more particularly-relied, and the non-appearance of which gave considerable excuse to hon. Gentlemen who wished to impede the progress of the Bill. On the other hand, the criticisms which had been passed upon the Blue Book of Crimes could not be said to be destructive of its authority. A great deal had been made by Irish Members of the fact that in many instances the motive assigned for the outrages was based on mere supposition. He was prepared to maintain, however, that in nine cases out of ten the supposition of the constabulary almost amounted to certainty. The constabulary were always receiving more accurate information as to the causes of outrage; but the parties injured could not, under any circumstances, be induced to come forward and take part in any judicial investigation. As to the alleged trivial character of some of those offences, it should be remembered that the destruction of a turf or mud-bank or of a ditch on a small holding of five or six acres represented the loss of several days' labour to the occupier, besides the loss of several more days' labour in repairing the damage. Again, the breaking of panes of glass appeared a small matter; but in parts of Ireland there were hundreds and thousands of cabins where a pane of glass was not only an ornament but a luxury, and the inmates of those cabins, when panes were 190 broken and their dwellings exposed to the wind and rain in time of distress, had not the means of repairing the damage. The worst feature of those outrages was their malicious object—premeditated intimidation—and were nearly all perpretated at night, when no means of protection were at hand. Moreover, those minor outrages would undoubtedly have the effect of inducing the peasant to join the local Land League, and to think himself lucky that he got off so cheap. He had been rather surprised to hear threatening letters so much derided. It was all very well for hon. Members to get up in the House, every passage of which was guarded by police, and who lived in perfect security, to treat a threatening letter as an absurdity. But if one of those hon. Gentlemen lived in the wilds of a remote Irish county and received one of those threatening letters there, with the knowledge that some remarkable atrocious outrage had been committed in the neighbourhood a few days before, it would certainly have a very disturbing effect on his mind, especially if his wife and children were living there with him. This, also, was to be remembered, that though every threatening letter might not be followed by an outrage, very few outrages were committed in Ireland without being preceded by a threatening letter; and he understood that it was a rule of the Riband Societies not to proceed to extremes before sending two or three of those missives. They were not all received by men of such rubust mind and iron nerves as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). They were received very often by small farmers and country gentlemen, not very well educated or mixing much with the outside world, whose natures were prone to emotion, and whose happiness and fortune depended upon a peaceful and an unmenaced existence. Therefore, although these threatening letters were not to be made too much of by themselves; still, having regard to the present state of affairs in Ireland, it would be unfortunate if the House undervalued or ridiculed them. He should like to say a word on behalf of the magistrates and the constabulary, who had been subjected to what he must call most odious charges during the debate. English Members, he thought, were apt to imagine that magistrates in Ireland cor- 191 responded to magistrates in England, that they were country gentlemen, most of them landlords, and, therefore, precluded from being impartial; but the fact was, that the magistrates from whom the Government got information were stipendiary magistrates, appointed by the Crown, and perfectly independent of the country gentlemen, and with superior powers. Taking them altogether—and there were 70 of them—he did not believe they held 500 acres of land in Ireland. He believed, further, that it was the rule not to appoint stipendiary magistrates to parts of the country with which they were connected by birth, relationship, or property. As to the constabulary, after all, they were of Irish birth. Many of them were sons of small farmers; and there was absolutely nothing in their past history or general character which would justify the suspicion, much less the accusation, that they were actuated by a wanton and wicked desire to throw innocent persons into prison. Only the other day, Irish Members were getting up to inform the Government that they must not on any account rely on the Irish Constabulary to carry out their coercive policy, because they were drawn from the people and sympathized with the people. He did not see how these two theories could be consistent, both to his mind being equally fallacious. Again, hon. Members had said that magistrates were greatly to blame for not putting the law in force. Magistrates could not do so. There was a Public Prosecutor in Ireland, and magistrates could not stir until the Public Prosecutor moved. All Irish prosecutions were Crown prosecutions, and magistrates could not institute prosecutions on their own account. The putting in force of the ordinary law lay, not with the magistrates, but with Dublin Castle; and it was on the authorities, then, that the blame must lay if the ordinary law had been feely put in force. It was put forward as an argument against this Bill that it would be used by savage Irish landlords to exterminate their tenants. He thought it was a rather hard thing to attribute beforehand to individuals crimes which, as a body, they had shown no disposition to commit. If the Irish landlords had been anxious to clear their estates and exterminate the tenants, they could have done so with impunity in the winter of 192 1879 and in the spring of 1880, when the Land League organization was in its infancy, when there was no reign of terror, and when the tenants were on their last legs. But they did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, they made great remissions of rent; and, in the majority of cases, they supported and assisted their tenantry through a time of immense trial. There was absolutely nothing to justify the belief that Irish landlords would take advantage of this Bill in a spirit of revenge. There were, no doubt, harsh landlords; but it was to be remembered there were also harsh tenants, so much so that the hon. Member for Cork City and the Land League had thought it necessary to take special precautions against harshness of tenants towards their labourers. There might be occasional acts of injustice; but the Irish landlords, as a body, would do in the future what they had done in the past—maintain their equitable rights. Out of 600,000 or 700,000 occupiers in Ireland, there were less than 3,000 evictions in 1880; and he maintained that these figures bore out his argument. Irish Members had laid stress on the fact that there were so few murders in Ireland compared with former times. They were perfectly right to make the most of that fact; but, to his mind, it was accounted for by two reasons. In the first place, by the heroic efforts made by the Chief 8ecretary for Ireland to protect persons. He gave the right hon. Gentleman every credit for that. He did not believe that any Irish Government before had made such efforts to protect life, and so successfully. He might be told by the hon. Member for Northampton, or some other hon. Member, that the protection was very often unnecessary. He did not admit that; but, even if so, he thought that was a good fault, and no one could blame the Irish Secretary for being nervously anxious to protect human life. In the second place, the paucity of murders was accounted for by the paucity of evictions. If eviction had been resorted to by Irish landlords in the innumerable cases of refusal to pay rent which had been contracted for after an abundant harvest, the Blue Book would have contained many more terrible crimes than it did, in spite of all the efforts of the Government. He durst say he should be told by Irish Mem- 193 bers that landlords did not dare to evict. But that would prove the establishment of a power which set itself above the law, and which prevented the exercise of rights under the law and guaranteed by the law. And that brought him in agreement with the Government, when they stated that they did not rest their case on the Returns of crime alone contained in the Blue Book, but on the establishment of a reign of terror which influenced all the operations of society, which rendered life precarious, and existence miserable. He would give two very remarkable illustrations of the reign of terror. The House would remember the shocking murder of Mr. Feerick, in Mayo. Six persons were tried for that crime at the Winter Assizes. One of the witnesses for the Crown was a respectable man, a land agent in Ballinrobe, and he gave evidence that while driving out from Ballinrobe he saw a person who had been shot tying on the road; that he got out of his car and would have put the body into his car if it had not been too heavy; that he drove back to the town to fetch the police; but, in giving this evidence, this respectable man turned round and apologized to the jury in Court, before all his neighbours, for having got down to assist a dying man, and said he would not have done so only that his horse was skittish and refused to pass the body, so afraid was he of the possible consequences to himself of his humanity. In another case a person, a large farmer and strong Protestant, determined to protect himself by going to Galway to serve on a jury at the Assizes. He endeavoured to get summoned on a jury; but counsel for the prisoners challenged him as being unfavourable to their clients. At last, however, he got on a jury, and, by ostentatiously putting questions in favour of the prisoner, he became perfectly safe. That was the way men protected themselves in Ireland. The state of Ireland was one which he supposed that everybody would agree could not continue; and if the Government did not take steps to put an end to the existing state of things there, other parties would take it upon themselves to settle matters according to their own fashion. He did not think it necessary to bring accusations against the principal members of the Land League, though, no doubt, some of the 194 more obscure members of that body had spoken wildly, and even wickedly; but there was no doubt that the Land League, by its operations, had got the mind of the Irish people into such a state of commotion and excitement, that the darker and wilder spirits, under cover of that excitement, perpetrated crimes and established a reign of terror. Lord Wellesley, in 1823, called the attention of the Government, in the strongest language, to the intimate connection between political agitation and crime. He described them as being inseparably cause and effect. He believed the language of Lord Wellesley would apply to the present state of things; and so far as that held good, so far must the Land League bear the responsibility of the outrages which now disgraced Ireland, and he did not suppose that the Representatives of the Land League in the House would maintain that the outrages had prevented people from joining their organization. While, however, he blamed the Land League for the course they had adopted, there were other parties who must be held equally guilty; for just as the Land League had prepared the way for the secret societies and for crime, so had the two right hon. Gentlemen, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, facilitated the progress of the Land League, and roused and sustained popular excitement in Ireland. They saw in Ireland an excellent field of battle; they fastened upon that unfortunate country; they intensified the grievances of the people, and they exaggerated the injustice of the landlords; and the weight and the vigour and the violence of their words, falling on those inflammable Irish minds, had done far more than all the Land League had ever done to sow the seed of which we were now reaping the harvest. The Laud League had been in existence for more than two years. Violent speeches had been its characteristic from the day of its birth; but until the other day not one word had ever been uttered by either of those right hon. Gentlemen which could be even twisted into a disapproval of that language, or into a warning of what must be the inevitable results of such language. The policy of the Liberal Party was well described by Sir Edward Lytton, in 1833, when he said that to-day it was concession, tomorrow coercion—a quick alternation of 195 kicks and kindness, a coaxing with the hand and a spurring with the heel; a holding out of hopes and fears, of terrors and of conciliation all in one breath; a system which was sufficient to make the most credulous people distrustful, and the mildest people ferecious. The Tory Party had been very violently attacked by the Irish Representatives and by the English Radicals, because they had acquiesced in the proposals of the Government; and it was said that they did so because those proposals embodied their own traditional policy of coercion. A more unfounded charge had never been brought against the Tory Party, and it was absolutely contradicted by history. The Liberal Party were far more intimately connected with coercion than the Tory Party were. The Prime Minister, in the course of his long political life, had never had a term of Office during which a tremendous Coercion Bill was not in force or imposed. It was the Tory Party which, under the guidance of its present Leader, defeated the Coercion Bill of 1846. In 1874, when the Conservative Party came into Office, they had found a most stringent Coercive Act in existence. They mitigated the severity of that Act by striking out the Curfew clauses and the Press clauses, and they allowed the Westmeath Act to expire in 1878. When they came into Office in 1874, they found 23 counties under the operation of the Act; but when they left Office in 1880, there were only eight counties subject to it. Let no one suppose for a moment that it was any pleasure to a Conservative Member to join in an attempt to interfere with the liberty of the subject, either in England or in Ireland. But when a responsible Minister of the Crown came down to that House and declared that it was absolutely necessary, for the preservation of society in Ireland, that certain unconstitutional practices should be put a stop to, even by unconstitutional means, he did not see how any loyal subject of Her Majesty could refuse to give the Government his support. It was a characteristic of the Tory Party, and one that had often been exemplified, that when the Empire or the State or society was in peril, its Members were able to divest themselves of even a shadow of a shade of all Party considerations. That characteristic, which was a stumbling-block to the Radicals and foolishness to the Whigs, was a 196 characteristic of which the Tory Party was proud. When a crisis like the present occurred, the Tory Party did not stop to consider whether the Government was Radical or Whig—it was sufficient for them that the Government was that of the Queen, charged with the high duty of executing the law of the land. He supported this Bill with reluctance and distrust. He was confident that a proper and a vigorous administration of the ordinary law last summer and last autumn would have saved them from this Bill. He could not with satisfaction entrust extraordinary powers to a Minister who had proved unequal to the administration of the ordinary law of the land. He knew that those powers required to be administered with firmness and decision. The more these qualities abounded the sooner the necessity for extraordinary powers would cease; but he feared that we should have indecision and timidity, and, consequently, injustice and protracted coercion. With regard to the measure itself, he thought that the severity of its provisions might be safely mitigated in one or two very important respects. He objected to its retrospective character, and challenged the Chief Secretary to point to a precedent in which a similar Bill had been made retrospective. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: The Westmeath Act.] That was a small local Act, and bore no analogy to the present measure. At all events, its retrospective operation might well be limited to the 1st of January, trusting to its effect to induce suspected persons to desist from their evil courses and to leave the country. In the second place, he thought that a Special Commission should be appointed some six or seven months after the Act came into operation for the purpose of trying the persons who might be detained in prison under it. If a prisoner so tried were convicted he would be punished; if the jury disagreed he would be sent back to prison; and if he were acquitted he would be discharged with the knowledge that he would be liable to re-arrest if he again came under suspicion. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) was very strongly in favour of the Act being allowed to expire in April, 1882, by which time the coercive measures of the Government, coupled with their remedial measures, should have pacified the country. If, however, Ireland were still disturbed 197 at that time, it would then be the duty of the Government to come forward, not with any rough-and-ready mode of dealing with the evil, but with an elaborate and carefully-prepared code of protection. In conclusion, he asked the House not to give way to gloomy feelings in assenting to this measure, or to despair of the future of the Union. The advance in prosperity in Ireland in late years had been most marked. Her trade had increased; her ports were crowded; her agricultural resources and productions had been improved and developed. The social habits and manners of the people, and their dwellings and their education, had progressed to an almost incredible degree, and the stored-up wealth of the country had reached considerable proportions. If Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give real remedial measures, based upon principles of absolute justice, he believed in his heart that even the hon. Members from Ireland who sat behind him, feeling that they had effected some substantial good for their country, might be induced to allow those two great agencies—time and tranquillity—to assert their marvellous sway, and might be induced to turn their high abilities to the cementing together of all classes, and to uniting instead of separating the Irish and the English peoples. In spite of this terrible measure, which he hoped to God would be the last for which he should ever have to vote—in spite of the lamentable necessity for it which he was sorry to say existed—he looked forward, and would ask the House to look forward, in confidence to the dawn of a brighter day for Ireland; and, at no distant period, perhaps, in the lifetime of many of them, when all ideas of separation would have for ever vanished, and when the memories of these great troubles would have passed away.
§ MR. DAWSON,
in supporting the Motion for the rejection of the Bill, said, he would not follow the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) through his lengthened speech; but he should refer to the grounds which the Government put forward to justify them in proposing this extraordinary measure. He could not admit that the case of the Government had been strengthened by the statistical evidence produced, such evidence having been shown to be inaccurate in many respects and very carelessly prepared as 198 a whole. Most of the offences which were relied upon were the writing of threatening letters, which, as every hon. Member knew perfectly well, could be and had been produced to order. The frivolous character of most of these documents was clear from the manner in which they were written, a manner which showed that they were not written by persons who could in any sense be said to have the least ground to say that they were aggrieved in any way by the operation of the existing law. So much importance had been attached to some of these letters, which ought to have been disregarded, that they had produced a large crop of other similar documents equally unimportant, and which would not otherwise have been written. The fact was that the really grave crimes and tangible outrages had been few and far between, and that the ordinary law was not only amply sufficient to meet every difficulty that had arisen, but that in almost every case of importance the law had been amply vindicated. He could not for a moment admit that any case had been made out for the enacting of a law which would practically suspend the liberties of the Irish people, and put into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant and his Chief Secretary a power greater and not less illegal than that with which the Council of Ten in Venice, or the Inquisition in Spain, were clothed. He would remind the English Members that their ancestors rose against the Star Chamber, that British justice, reason, and patriotism put down secret inquiries by which the lives and liberties of the English people were bartered away, and the result was to sweep away from the annals of the country so blighting an influence and so irresponsible a power. That power was put in motion by the secret spy and paid informer. Knowing his countrymen, he confidently stated that it was not the rank and file of the police who came out in the silence of the night to commit those outrages which they ascribed to others. It was the spy, the renegade, who came in secrecy and darkness to fill his net with ill-gotten gain. Did the House forget the case of Parker, who, in 1844, when it was sought to sustain an indictment against the Irish people, was a sub-constable in the Constabulary? That remarkable man was so vigilant and successful in 199 the discharge of his duty that the Government rewarded him, and the Grand Jury of his county presented him with an ornamental sword. But it soon transpired that he had himself planned the outrages for which he had innocent people indicted, convicted, and punished. It was he who put arms into dwellings, sent threatening letters, and applied the torch to the stackyard. The case was brought before the House of Commons, an inquiry was demanded and granted, and the result of the investigation was that the Government of the day discharged him and his myrmidons from the Force. Then, again, they knew, no doubt, the history of the detective Talbot, who, while in the pay of the Government, entered Catholic churches, knelt before their altars, partook there of the Sacrament, and so wormed himself into the friendship of young men, and then sold them to the Government, and made a profit out of his vile proceedings. For his own part, he would fearlessly place his life in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary; but he refused to place the lives of 5,000,000 of people at the mercy of the Parkers and the Talbots who would appear under the system which would be established by the Bill. The Chief Secretary had said that there was no intention to interfere with public meetings; but suppose some indiscreet man, or it might be some spy, were to give utterance to treasonable language, was he (Mr. Dawson), if he occupied a place on the platform, to be held responsible? The right hon. Gentleman had warned them of a danger which he admitted to exist—namely, the evil results to trade and business caused by agitation. He could not deny that unscrupulous and dishonest men were taking advantage of the present state of things; but this he said—that if the Government, instead of this Bill, had brought in the yet unwritten law of justice, they would have withdrawn all sympathy from the wrongdoer and have armed the law threefold against those who were taking an unjust advantage of the disorganized state of the country. The present condition of affairs reminded him of the adage of Erasmus. As described there—"at the screech of the eagle all other voices were hushed"—this great Senate was cringing before the prevailing panic. The Judges concurred in the panic; the Nobility were 200 shrinking from their responsibility; and now law and Constitutional authority were giving way, and neither justice nor humanity prevailed. Whether justice and humanity prevailed in Ireland might not be of vast importance in the opinion of this Assembly; but there was the Constitutional connection between England and Ireland at stake. That connection must rest not upon bayonets, but upon justice and goodwill. In conclusion, he would remind the Chief Secretary for Ireland that, like Samson of old, he might be strong, he might spread his arms around the pillars; but it behoved him to be careful lest by his grasp he pulled down the pillars of the State and buried the connection between the two countries in the ruins.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he much regretted that he had had not an opportunity of taking part in the earlier opposition to the Bill, but he was unavoidably absent. He had listened with admiration to the speech of the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh); but he feared that no amount of argument would stay the progress of the Bill, the passing of which was a foregone conclusion. He regretted, for the sake of the Government, that they had been betrayed into resorting to coercion, because if they had faults they had virtues also, and among those virtues was, he believed, a strong inclination to do justice to the people of Ireland. The Bill would give rise to very bitter feelings among the Irish race all over the world, not from the nature of the Bill itself, but from the mode in which it was likely to be administered, unless great precautions were taken to prevent those things occurring in the future which, in similar circumstances, had occurred in the past. It should be remembered that the greater portion of the Irish race was now to be found in other countries. He was, a fortnight ago, at the Census Office at Washington, and an officer there told him that there 16,000,000 of people of Irish blood in America, which was two and a-half times as many as in the whole of Ireland. There were also large numbers in Australia and other Colonies, and those of the Celtic race all over the world cultivated sympathy with their brethren in Ireland. It was a mistaken policy to arouse in the minds of the Irish people abroad a feeling that their race was unjustly and tyrannically 201 treated at home. He was the oldest Member from Ireland on that side of the House except the hon. Member for Tralee (The O'Donoghue), and had a vivid recollection of what had occurred in Ireland on the occasion when the Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended, and he would narrate some instances of the absurdities and barbarities that were committed in his own locality, leaving other Irish Members to speak to facts which might have come within their own cognizance. One man arrested was an attendant at a Turkish bath; he was remarkable for his good conduct. All his interest lay in standing well with the local gentry. He was one of the last men likely to be connected with any illegal practices, and yet he was arrested because shortly before the passing of the Act he had bought an old pistol without a lock. This man was incarcerated for some months. Another man, an hotel keeper at Dunmore, had been valet to a Conservative gentleman, and the Queen had no more loyal subject; but because two Fenians happened to go to his house for refreshment, he was torn from his business and lodged in the county gaol for several months. Another man was taken up because he was said to be in possession of munitions of war that consisted of shot, which, as the servant of a wine merchant, he was in the habit of using in the washing out of bottles. He attributed the arrests of these men to the vicious system by which members of the Constabulary were led to look for reward, commendation, and preferment as the result of the number of convictions they had procured. When they sought employment in other spheres, the strongest claims they put forward were the number of persons they had succeeded in convicting; and he never heard of a man being rewarded or expecting to receive any consideration for the fact that he had succeeded in establishing the innocence of anyone who was unjustly accused. All these men were subjected to great barbarities. They were not allowed to communicate with their friends, they suffered because they were not allowed to give directions as to the carrying on of their business, and they were not allowed to leave their cells without being followed by a soldier with a fixed bayonet. These instances of oppresssion were due to the over-zeal 202 of two officers—one, a county Inspector of Constabulary, and the other a local Inspector of Prisons. When he brought the cases of these prisoners before the House, the then Chief Secretary (Lord Mayo) said that if the statements made were true the officers ought to be brought to trial. The prisoners were liberated, but the offending officers were not prosecuted. In an adjoining county a man was arrested because he had succeeded in teaching a monkey to fire a toy gun. What had occurred before was likely to occur again. Unless very considerable precautions were taken, there would be an amount of irritation produced, by the indiscreet zeal of magistrates and policemen anxious for promotion, which would outweigh any possible good that would result from the operation of the Act. One of the most infamous cases was that of the man Talbot, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson) had referred, who obtained the warrant of a water-bailiff and got into conversation with people while they were fishing, and seduced them into illegal conduct. He even took the Sacrament for the purpose of giving the people of Clonmel greater confidence in him, and all he did was done with the full knowledge of the Government of the day. Having the utmost confidence in the good intentions of the Government, and in their anxiety to go as far as they could to set matters right in Ireland, he earnestly appealed to them to take precautions that the Act should be carried out in such a manner that there should be no such grounds of complaint as there were in the cases he had mentioned, and that there should be no needless irritation of the Irish race in every part of the world by stories of tyranny and unjustifiable arrests.
§ MR. MACDONALD
thought it his duty to say a word in explanation of the reason why he would not support the Bill of the Government. He thought the Government ought to have introduced a remedial measure, one that would have brought relief and not irritation. It made him sad to think that the Government had not taken such a course. He had not much to add as to the necessity for taking up this position, because he felt confident that no Government had ever been placed in power so willing to do right and justice to Ireland as the present Go- 203 vernment. His confidence was so great in the head of the present Government, that were it not for the surroundings by which he was encircled, he (Mr. Macdonald) almost felt it would be his duty to refrain from saying anything, in order that that justice, which, he believed, it was the Premier's intention to give, should be meted out to Ireland. But was this the right way, he asked the right hon. Gentleman, to meet Ireland's wrongs by inflicting another? There had been no hon. Members on the side of the House upon which he sat who had yet dared to say that Ireland was not greatly suffering, not from wrongs of yesterday, but from the wrongs founded upon a state of things—unless, indeed; it be in some degree our rule in India—to which no country, civilized or uncivilized, could present a similar example. The right hon, Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had told the House that, to a considerable extent, he had based his case on the history of crimes and outrages contained in the official documents that had been laid before them. He (Mr. Macdonald) knew something of the Irish people, and he knew something of Ireland's internal history and he ventured to say that he would not give credence to these Reports, or believe one-half of hem. What was the condition of the Irish Constabulary, and the state of mind of the men who framed these Reports? They had passed the greater portion of their time hatching and hunting out plots, and had lived in immediate connection with the landowners, whose tenure of laud was so well known to themselves as one of violence and outrage. It had been a career of rapine and crime, and the landlords' power over the Constabulary was productive of little else than the continuance of the hatching of plots, and diverting the attention of the British people and Government from the condition of Ireland and her wrongs. The Chief Secretary had more than once declared he based his case on those outrages, and to the multiplicity of the outrages. He (Mr. Macdonald) ventured to say that the repetition of those outrages, and the manner in which they were subdivided, would be left out of account in a Court of Justice in England even by the great unpaid magistrates. Many of the offences contained in these Returns were of such a frivolous character as to make 204 them quite unworthy of trust and credit. Take the case of running a couple of carts into a bog ! What would be said if a poacher had fired two shots and was charged with two distinct acts of poaching for firing these two shots! The right hon. Gentleman also said he would not deal with the question of exclusive dealing as practised in Ireland, although he looked upon exclusive dealing as an immoral act, and he (Mr. Macdonald) thought he said a crime. He was astonished to hear such words fall from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman. One of the greatest movements that existed to-day in England, and which he (Mr. Macdonald) hoped would ere long renovate society to a very great extent, was the co-operative movement, which existed exclusively upon this so-called exclusive dealing. He did not claim the spirit of prophecy; he would venture to predict, however, that any Government which would dare to pass any enactment in respect to exclusive dealing would be hurled from Office in a month. There was no mercy or friendship in not dealing with the question. This, however, was one of the crimes imputed to the Irish people. He would make an appeal to the Premier. Did he think he could stifle the liberties and aspirations of a whole people by a Coercion Bill, or blot out the recollection of wrongs which he himself admitted? He might put down the Land League; but it would re-appear in another and more dangerous form, and not in Ireland only, but elsewhere. They might drive the Irish race by coercion from the banks of the Liffey and the Shannon to the banks of the Mississippi, the Ohio, or to the States of Nevada and Colorado; but Irishmen would still have warm feelings and aspirations for their native country, either with the hope of returning to it themselves or to help to revolutionize it. He implored the Prime Minister, as he wished to keep the two countries united, to give up coercion and bring in a Land Bill of a comprehensive character that would satisfy the Irish people, and reestablish that condition of affairs which they all regretted had been come to in Ireland. At the present time Republicanism was the dominant party in America; let the Democratic wave come, as come it would—to everyone who knew anything of America, this was certain, that means would be taken to create a breach 205 between the two countries if the wrongs of Ireland were continued.
§ MR. E. COLLINS
said, he wished to make a few observations in justification of his dissent from the Government with respect to this Bill, and he felt it the more incumbent upon him to do so as he was an independent supporter of their policy on all questions in which he conceived the interests of Ireland were not compromised. The only speech he had heard in support of the Bill, except that of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), which was as contradictory and illogical as any he had ever heard from the noble Lord. The noble Lord said that no Government had ever made such efforts for the protection of life and property as the present Government, and, almost in the same breath, that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster were more accountable for the evils and difficulties at present existing in Ireland than any organization whatever. He was greatly impressed by the language of the Chief Secretary when he said that he had never expected to see the day when he would have to introduce a coercive measure for Ireland, but that he felt compelled by a sense of duty to introduce it. He (Mr. Collins) deplored that it should have devolved upon a Liberal Government to bring in a Bill of that kind; but he felt as strongly as any other Irishman that such a measure might be legitimately resisted to the fullest extent consistent with good feeling and the facilities of debate by those who were opposed to it. However strained he might consider the interpretation which Irish Members might put upon the motives and policy of the Government, he felt that millions of the people of Ireland would look upon the measure as one menacing to their liberties, and, no matter from what hands it emanated, it would be received with a feeling approaching to horror. It was a Coercive Bill in every sense of the word, however it might be qualified. At the same time, he felt justified in expressing his opinion that in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, though the Bill might be carried into law, it would scarcely be carried into operation. 206 The Government, however, had made a grave mistake with respect to Ireland. If they had directed their attention solely to land legislation and left measures of coercion in the background until they had tried the effect of a good Land Bill, the anxieties and irritation of the last few months would never have arisen, or, if they had, they would speedily have subsided.
§ MR. W. J. CORBET
concurred with the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. E. Collins), that the Government had made a great mistake in not dealing with the Land Question before bringing in a Coercion Bill. It had been argued by some right hon. Members on the Government side of the House that the measure now before them was not based on the statistics which had been made public; but, in that case, on what foundation did the Bill rest? As to the Returns which had been presented to the House, and as to the cogency of which so much had been said, analysis showed the inconclusive character of the arguments constantly drawn from them. It was to be borne in mind that the population of Ireland was at least 5,500,000, and that the statistics covered a period of nine months from February to October inclusive. During those nine months there had been 6 agrarian murders—and the temptation to commit this crime was much greater than in the case of ordinary murders—no cases of manslaughter; 13 instances of firing at persons; 5 assaults on the police, and 42 aggravated assaults; assaults endangering life, 7; assaults on bailiffs, 17; and cutting and maiming cases, 4. The total number of offences against the person was only 94, or 1 for every 56,000 of the population; while the total number of crimes mentioned in the Returns was 1,047; but of these 544 were cases of threatening letters, which the Chief Secretary said were of little consequence unless they were followed up by acts. Those facts, so far from exhibiting the prevalence of crime in Ireland, showed, on the other hand, an exceptionally satisfactory state of things. The Blue Book was a deceptive document, and required very careful examination before the truth could be discovered, though the information it contained was stated to be of an official character. He knew, however, something of the way in which information was furnished to the Chief Secretary, 207 and warned them that the most painstaking Englishman could not fail to be more or less misinformed. Were it possible to send over an angel to govern Ireland, if you left him to be operated on by the permanent Government officials—English, Scotch, and Anglo-Irish—who were the bane of that country, and the successors of those who preyed upon its vitals in former times, he would soon be perverted and lose his angelic attributes in the attempt, though probably not quite so soon as the Chief Secretary had done. The advisers of the Chief Secretary—from the Judge on the Bench at Dublin to the sub-constable of a country village—were all of them paid officers of the Crown, who naturally looked to the Crown for advancement, patronage, and pay. Their object was not to serve the interests of the people, but rather their own. An Englishman living in such an atmosphere, and deriving information from such channels in his search for accurate knowledge, would easily be misled by doubtful statistics. They had been accused of obstructing the Business of the House, but he denied it. For 700 years Ireland had been connected with England, and during the whole of that period it could not be denied Ireland had suffered the greatest injustice that one people could inflict on another. There had been confiscation again and again repeated, massacres the most bloody recorded in history, and penal laws so horrible that they appeared to be framed with diabolical ingenuity. The Irish Members were there, not of their own will, for their own Parliament was sold, and their Nationality attempted to be swept away by the Union—a union which was effected by the most iniquitous means—namely, by giving titles to the vain, gold to the venal, and promises to the weak and vacillating. It could not be pretended that there was any present cause for this Bill. He might quote from The Times of the 24th of January to show that crime had decreased and that universal peace prevailed, and yet the Government pressed on their Bill. It appeared, also, from the Returns given in the Blue Book of agrarian crimes in the county of Wick-low, that there was an absolute freedom from all serious offences—only one of which was charged, and that charge dismissed—and only 20 threatening letters. He contended, therefore, that it was ab- 208 solutely absurd, in the face of this want of evidence, to call upon Parliament to pass a Coercion Bill.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BIGGAR
remarked upon the striking mildness of the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in moving the second reading of the Bill as compared with the exaggerated warmth with which he introduced it, and said, that it seemed to him that the tone and language of the right hon. Gentleman that night were quite apologetic. His (Mr. Biggar's) opinion was, that if the Bill depended in any degree for its justification on the right hon. Gentleman's speech of that night, there would have been absolutely no case at all; but he supposed the right hon. Gentleman thought that he might now be moderate in his tone, believing that he had sufficiently prejudiced English opinion by the violence of his first speech. He (Mr. Biggar) protested against any Government, Whig or Tory, coming to that House and asking for extraordinary powers without stating the evidence on which the claim for those powers was founded. If the Chief Secretary had any evidence of a conspiracy, the proper course was to bring the parties to trial, when there would be an opportunity of sifting the evidence in open Court. The right hon. Gentleman said he only wanted to deal with those who planned and perpetrated outrages; but surely the ordinary law was sufficient to deal with such cases. If the Government could not get evidence, they had no right to keep a man in prison many months on more suspicion. That seemed to him to be a position really untenable, and there were really no grounds on which to come before the House for the powers that they sought. The right hon. Gentleman was very particular as to incitements to crime, and the Bill was at present drawn to catch anyone who had already made the very smallest breach of the law. Anyone who spoke in public was liable, more or less, to make a breach of the law; but was he to have his case decided by officials on the evidence of parties who had a personal or private grudge against him? As to the retrospective clause, it seemed to him that 209 the right hon. Gentleman was exceedingly illogical. Now, one of the propositions of this Bill was that a Return giving the reasons for the arrests of any persons who might be taken into custody under its provisions should be laid upon the Table. That was very proper and reasonable; but the advantage was more apparent than real, because, although the Returns were to be laid on the Table, there was no provision in the measure, or intended by the Government, to give an opportunity for this House to express its opinion with regard to the propriety or impropriety of these arrests and the detention of these prisoners. If justice was to be done, some provision should be made to give facilities for an expression of opinion, so that no man should be unreasonably placed under arrest. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had never read the Returns of crime which had been laid on the Table until he saw them in print, the same as the Members of the House of Commons did. If that were so, on what evidence did he make up his mind that a Coercion Bill was required? The right hon. Gentleman had told them he had received a large number of communications in his official capacity as to alleged outrages; but he thought he should be able to prove that the Chief Secretary had been misled and imposed upon by a conspiracy of the Irish landlords, who wished to get a Coercion Bill passed for Ireland. These landlords had really made a thorough fool of the right hon. Gentleman, if he might use the expression. As regarded the county of Cavan, the Memorial of the magistrates which alleged that house-burning and cattle-maiming prevailed, and that shopkeepers, farmers, labourers, and others were coerced into joining the Land League, was entirely misleading. It bore the signatures of only half the magistrates, and it had been repudiated by two of the gentlemen whose names were appended to it—one denying that he had signed it at all, and the other taking exception to its terms as greatly exaggerated, and those gentlemen declared that the county was entirely peaceable. The Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese also bore testimony to the absence of outrages in the county, and he asked that the Government should further investigate the alleged cases. But, after all, most of the outrages re- 210 ported from the county by the police were of a trifling nature. The Constabulary had not sent in any serious case to head-quarters. The great bulk of the outrages were sending threatening letters; but those were given up by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary as a part of his case. He believed that many of those Irish landlords who got police protection required it no more than he did. He had frequently received threatening letters; but he did not ask for protection. He did not think he required it. Those gentlemen who asked for protection must either have very bad consciences or be cowards. In discussing this Bill, reference had been made to the feelings of the Roman Catholic clergy as being opposed to the operations of the Land League, and as being in favour of the Bill; but he could show that in many parts of the County Cavan the priests had supported the Land League, and had joined the people in denying that the alleged outrages had taken place. He might add that the authorities—Guardians and Town Commissioners—in various parts of the country had also declared that outrages had not existed, and that there was no foundation for the statements which had been put forth by the Government. The charge made by the Chief Secretary now resolved itself into two branches—first, the existence of secret societies of which the Government had offered no pretence of evidence; and secondly, that there were certain—but comparatively few—persons of vicious conduct, and who lived in more or less remote districts. The case against the Land League had broken down. The Government acknowledged they were going to introduce a Land Bill, thus showing that the land agitation was thoroughly justified by the facts of the case and by the position of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. The position of the Government was thoroughly illogical. Their expression of regret at the pain they felt in introducing a Coercion Bill seemed rather hypocritical to him. He thoroughly agreed, with the noble Lord that if the ordinary law were put into operation, it would be quite sufficient for all purposes. If the Government, instead of pressing forward a Coercion Bill, would introduce a new system of fair play, he thought that it was quite possible there would be a better feeling 211 on the part of the Irish race towards the English Government.
§ MR. EWART
said, he might speak not only for the town of Belfast, which he represented, but for 1,500,000 of the law-abiding people of Ireland, who repudiated the claims of the Land League agitators. As an Irish Member, he gave his cordial support to the Government on this measure, believing that they had made out an irresistible case. The country generally was in a state of terror. There was, throughout the greater part of Ireland, no sense of security whatever. Black-mail was levied on behalf of the Land League. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might cry "No!" but he could mention a town in which every trader had been compelled to contribute to the Land League, the greater portion of them very much against their wishes. ["Name!"] He would not give the name. There was no fulfilment of obligations in Ireland; the law was set aside; crimes were perpetrated with impunity; and in a great part of the country civil and religious liberty were unknown. Unless the powers asked for were granted, the state of things would gradually grow worse, and the country would go to rain. He had listened with surprise during' the last few weeks to hon. Members trying to minimize the state of lawlessness. He asked the House not to be led away by the wearisome iterations of the Irish Members below the Gangway. He did not say that those who went about asking for subscriptions to the League carried swords or whips; still, the people subscribed under the terror of being injured in person or property if they did not. He was very sorry to be obliged to support any repressive measure, which he regarded as a slur on his country; but it was only the evil-disposed who would suffer, while every well-disposed person in Ireland would rejoice. During the last 40 years Ireland had made great progress, if an exception were made for the last two years, in which things had been put back by the bad harvests. Making this allowance, it was a fact that the country had gone on improving. Labourers' wages had risen to double what they had been, and the amount of money in the banks, chiefly the savings of farmers, had risen from £6,000,000 to £20,000,000 or 212 £30,000,000. At the same time the population had been very considerably reduced, which showed that the condition of those who remained had been largely improved. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen might sneer at the fact that the population of Ireland had been reduced; but he looked upon emigration as one of the greatest boons that Ireland could have, because it benefited those who remained, and it had proved that those who emigrated had improved their own condition by doing so. That progress which he referred to had been arrested; but he was not even now without hope, if they could be relieved from the tyranny winch now prevailed. The tyranny of the Land League and of the agitators in Ireland had destroyed the peace, the comfort, and the prosperity of the country, and until it was removed they could not expect better times. He was hopeful that the promised Land Bill would bring good to Ireland, although he had not a word to say against landlords, who, as a rule, had been generous. It would be found that, with few exceptions, the land was let at low rates; and this was shown by the willingness of landlords to submit their rents to arbitration. If the people could be allowed to settle down to plodding industry, Ireland in a short time would become almost a garden, and, instead of being a thorn in the side of the United Kingdom, would become a source of strength and happiness.
MR. JESSE COLLLNGS
asked every Member of the House, now that they had to consider the Bill of the Government on its merits, not to be led away by the exasperation that had been raised by the scenes of obstruction they had witnessed in that House. The question was, whether the coercive measures brought forward by the Government, of the severe character that they were now known to be, should be applied to Ireland? A prominent Member of the Government had frankly stated that unless overwhelming evidence could be given of the necessity for the measure, the House ought not to grant the powers asked for. It was a painful position to be compelled to differ from the Government which be wished to support; but he was bound to say he could not find in any utterances of the Ministry any proof of the necessity for the measure. No doubt, each outrage was one too 213 many; but all taken together failed to justify the powers demanded to put them down. No speech had been made which was an answer, or anything approaching to an answer, to the speeches of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). He had looked through the Return of outrages for November, just put into their hands, and they did not represent an amount of outrage that would warrant a stringent measure such as this. In the six counties of Munster there had been 54 outrages; but of these 47 were letters of intimidation, leading only seven outrages. Again, many of the crimes in the Returns ought not to be classed under the head of agrarian outrages. Some months ago satisfaction was given in this country, and particularly to the Liberal Party, by the announcement that it was not intended to ask for any special powers; and it was hoped that the Government was going to remove agitation against unjust laws by the removal of those unjust laws. That was the true Liberal policy, and not the procedure that was now proposed. The Government had gone to the armoury of their opponents, and had taken one of the most rusty and ineffective weapons they could find, one which they were not used to, and which came awkward to their handling. The speech of the Chief Secretary furnished the most unanswerable argument that remedial measures should be proceeded with without delay. By remedial measures the Government could take away every reason for the existence of the Land League movement. But, as it was, they were playing into the hands of the agitators. The action of the Government was making right hon. Gentlemen, who were among the best friends of Ireland, to appear as its enemies, and to make Irish Members opposite, who had not been acting in the interests of their country, pose as the saviours of those interests. If the Government had brought in a remedial measure on the 6th of January—coupled with a Coercion Bill, if they liked—Ireland would have been perfectly settled at this moment. They might have sent home their 30,000 troops, and would have had 600,000 Irish tenants banded together in support of that measure, because they knew it would secure for them that for which they were striving. The Government, in introducing the 214 Compensation for Disturbance Bill which was introduced last Session, commenced a policy of justice to Ireland which, had it been passed, would probably have prevented the necessity for the much more sweeping and important measure which was now proposed to the House. In "another place," however, it was thought proper to reject that Bill with a good deal of contempt; and now it had become necessary to bring in a measure of coercion in order to deal with a state of things which would not have arisen if the Compensation for Disturbance Bill had been passed, and a Parliamentary remedy had been found for a state of things which no one could defend. In his speech a few days ago, the hon. and learned Gentlemen the Solicitor General for Ireland drew a distinction between agrarian crimes and those which were connected with social rather than agrarian offences; but he did not seem to remember that agrarian crimes were due in no small extent to the fact that unjust agrarian laws had been passed. Let such laws be amended or repealed, and agrarian crime would cease. It might be true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had said, that the Land League was the dominant power in Ireland; but it must be remembered that resistance, illegal in some cases, to unjust laws had been the precursor of all the great reforms that had been achieved during many years past. He did not think there was any alarming amount of sedition in Ireland, nor could he find any traces of rebellion against Her Majesty. Ruffianism hung like a fringe on the skirt of this movement, as it ever had in movements of this kind. Why should the Constitutional rights of the great majority of the people be suspended in order to inflict the punishment they so well deserved on a few ruffians? They should rather get the people on their side and convert them into a kind of police for watching and checking the movements of these villains. The peculiar circumstances in which Ireland was placed should not be overlooked or forgotten. There was the normal condition of the people, near beggary; there were the bad harvests, and there was the starvation that inevitably followed; next came remedial legislation, and then coercion, which had always failed. Now, 215 instead of resorting to a remedy which might be effectual, they were administering', as it were, a nostrum which had ever been attended with non-success; and were, instead of eradicating, rather driving in the disease. But it was also true that remedial measures were promised, and, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he firmly believed that the remedial measure would be a good one. Conservatives would gladly support a Coercion Bill; but they talked of Land Reform in general language, and his fear was for the state of the country during the time which would elapse from the passing of this measure to the operation of the coming Land Act. The present Bill was one of great severity, because, under it, a man against whom a policeman gave information might, without question asked or proof given, be locked up in prison for a term of 18 months. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland could be judge of these cases, he would be perfectly satisfied; but how could the right hon. Gentleman overlook and come to a conclusion upon the decisions of the entire magistracy in Ireland in such cases? The question, after all, resolved itself into the sufficiency of the evidence of policemen and local informers. Again, he asked, would not evictions under this terror as he would call it, re-commence? Would not the bad landlords take what they would know to be their last chance of getting into their hands the property of their tenants? They were informed by the right hon. Gentleman in June last, and the circumstances had not altered since, that the Bill the Government had introduced to prevent evictions was very urgent, because the tenants had a sentimental attachment to their homes—a sentiment, he added, nigh akin to patriotism. The Government brought in the Bill as a protection to the tenant against eviction, because, as was stated from the Treasury Bench, a sentence of eviction was equivalent to a sentence of starvation. In what respect were the circumstances altered? And, he asked, would not the occasion for protection be intensified if they destroyed what he admitted to be the illegal protection the tenants had had for the last few months? No doubt, the majority of the landlords were good landlords; but it was the bad 216 landlords who set the pace and would control the good landlords. It was not so much what might be done, but the power and possibility that were dreaded. He hoped the Government would give some assurance—something in the form of a clause connected with the Bill, to make it a Bill to really protect persons and property, and not an assurance that forbearance would be exercised by the Irish landlords, for that was a very uncertain thing to rely on. He had studied the Irish question for many years, and he believed the outrages committed by landlords exceeded in number those committed by the Land League. He might instance the case of the poor woman who had her rent raised three times in consequence of improvements made by her husband, and her eviction when at church, because she had owed only three years' rent. There were hundreds of cases of this description, as given by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), in the book which he had recently published. Then there was the case of the late Lord Leitrim, who ordered the roof to be taken off the cabin of a poor man because he had built it without getting permission. What would have been said if the roof had been removed off Lord Leitrim's castle? Would that not have been considered an outrage? If the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government were in one hour's speech to tell the story of the misery caused by the Irish evictions and of the brutal and wretched treatment which the unhappy tenants received at the hands of their landlords, no Coercion Bill would be passed by that House. The poor tenants were at the mercy of their landlords, and stood in terror of them or their agents. Under these circumstances, it was not surprising that the poor people, having no protection for their property in the soil from the law under which they lived, should turn to an illegal power which gave them the protection of which they stood in need. In that moment of supreme trial of their allegiance to their Party, the Radicals sitting below the Gangway asked the Government to give them some assurance that the Bill which protected the life and property of one class should protect the life and property of all; otherwise the measure would become a huge rent-collecting machine, and it would be em- 217 ployed for the purposes of injustice. Before they talked about protecting the property of the landlords they must first ascertain to whom the property belonged, and unless they stayed capricious evictions they would enable bad landlords to take that which belonged, not to themselves, but to their tenants. In England men put their savings into banks or different industries; but in Ireland everything was put into the land, and when the landlord seized the land he seized the property of his tenant. It was absurd to talk of freedom of contract in the case of the starving man in the desert, to whom bread was offered, or in that of the shipwrecked sailor, to whom safety was offered; and it was equally absurd to speak of it in connection with the Irish tenant who hungered for the land and who would starve without it. He entreated some Member of the Government to rise and echo the wish of all hon. Members below the Gangway that this Bill should not be made the means of oppressing a poor and numerous class.
§ MR. GIBSON
observed that the Government, in introducing this Bill, asked the House for great powers for supreme objects, and the hon. Member who had just sat down had rightly quoted the statement of Ministers that they were bound to make out a clear case of absolute necessity for this Bill before they asked the House to pass it. But, after the statement which had been made by the responsible Ministers of the Crown, supported as it was by the overwhelming evidence which had been laid upon the Table of the House, anyone who took on himself the immense responsibility of refusing the Government the powers they asked would incur, before the country and his own conscience, a most grave responsibility. The speech of the hon. Member might have been appropriate in the case of the introduction of a Land Bill, and he had quoted three or four cases of hardship gleaned from a mass of correspondence. The hon. Member had dealt with grounds of complaints for which there might have been some foundation before the Act of 1S70, but which were unreasonable now. The question of freedom of contract had no connection whatever with the subject of the present Bill. The hon. Member had not attempted to grapple with a single statement which had 218 been made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, neither had he referred to any of the propositions which had been advanced and demonstrated by the Prime Minister. The hon. Member had not alluded to the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he had shrunk from dealing with that of the Prime Minister. There were before the House Returns so numerous that he could not count them, which showed the number of outrages that had occurred in Ireland, and yet the hon. Member had substantially avoided referring to those breaches of the law. In reference to this point it must be borne in mind that, although the Government had placed upon the Table ample information on the subject of these outrages, they must have within their own breasts more powerful, more significant, and more conclusive information than even that which they had given to the country; and this gave the statements of Ministers extreme weight. He, therefore, felt that no person in that House with a sense of his responsibility as a Representative could decline to give the Government the powers for which they asked. True it was that the figures contained in the Returns to which he had alluded had been nibbled at, and that here and there a case of alleged outrage had been struck out; but the broad significance of those figures had remained untouched. It might well be that tens or hundreds of the cases should be struck out of those Returns; but, making the hon. Member a present of the hundreds of doubtful cases, thousands of undoubted cases of outrage would still remain. The introduction of this Bill was further justified on the ground of the absence of convictions in Ireland in cases where offences had been clearly proved, and on that of complete paralysis of the jury system in that country in relation to the class of crimes referred to in the Returns. When the hon. Member said that no new law was necessary, he asked him whether it had not been demonstrated that the old law was absolutely insufficient? He was glad to see that in the last month there was a decrease of crime; but what remained still prevented his feeling of satisfaction from assuming large dimensions. True it was that in January the offences were less than in November and December; but in January, saving those two months, 219 they were greater than in any other month that could be named for a great number of years. To what was this diminution owing? Partly to an anticipation of this measure; partly to the strong statements of the Ministers, showing that they were now resolutely determined to exert the powers of this Bill for the protection of life and property in Ireland; partly, also, to the order issued by the Land League that no more outrages were to be committed. Could there be a more powerful circumstance to guide the House to a right conclusion than that fact? Did it not prove the close and terrible connection between the agitation that was going on and the outrages which marked its course? If the Land League were able to moderate, were they not also able to stimulate? The same power which now, in order to deceive Parliament, ordered outrages to cease, might, when Parliament was no longer sitting, again commence to stimulate to crime. The snake was not scotched or killed; it was merely simulating a state of coma. They were told by hon. Members from Ireland who had spoken to-night that it was hard to hold the Land League responsible for its irresponsible agents; but it was always convenient to have irresponsible agents to do rough work, for which it was not desirable anyone should be made responsible. Now, he had been in Ireland for the last week. He had made the closest possible inquiries among parties connected with every part of the country as to its present condition; and, as far as he could find, the present condition of affairs was this. Things were not much better now; there was no very marked improvement, but there was some; and he had heard that in parts of the country, which in the beginning of the Session were in an apparently hopeless state, there was some break in the cloud and some evidences of improvement. That change was satisfactory; but, although it was satisfactory, many circumstances still went to show that the Government could not relax its vigilance. He knew himself that one of the greatest Insurance Companies in the country refused on any terms whatever, about the middle of last January, to insure a house and offices in the county of Mayo. That was a very painful and a very serious state of things, And, last week, in the Court of Queen's Bench, Dublin, an application 220 was made with success to substitute the service of the Queen's process in County Clare, because it was sworn to the satisfaction of the Judges that no process-server with safety to his life could serve that process. [Colonel The O'GORMAN MAHON: Where?] If the hon. Gentleman looked at the public prints he would see the case reported. Another circumstance, reported in the public papers, and one of the most remarkable tributes to the audacity with which these movements were directed, had been mentioned in Court—the House would hardly believe it. In the county of Tipperary, within the last few weeks, the agitators proceeded to put into possession of a farm the daughter of a man who had voluntarily given up possession of it 31 years ago. Thirty-one years ago possession of a farm was given up by a man who owed £250 of rent. He had another large farm, to which he went to reside with his family, and yet at the end of that long period the Land League went to put his daughter forcibly into possession of it! And yet they were told to read Mr. Tuke's pamphlet before they discussed this Bill. The Land Leaguers, up to a few weeks ago, were literally revelling in the plenitude of their power. They had exhausted almost all the old forms of "Boycotting," and had invented new methods which outraged the commonest feelings of humanity. He would read a few lines from a speech delivered at a Land demonstration at Laurence Town on the 16th ultimo, with the Rov. W. Melvin, P.P., in the chair. It was taken from The Balhnasloe Western News—Mr. Kelly said he wished to introduce a new order of 'Boycotting,' as he saw the authorities prosecuted men who told the people to have no dealings with a man who would violate the rules of the Land League. The new system he, Mr. Kelly, wished to refer to was this—when any man took a farm from which another was evicted, or otherwise violated the rules of the Land League, and he should die, let the people not bury him. Should any member of his family die, let the people not bury him or her.And yet they wore asked, in the case of an agitation which could through any of its members, responsible or irresponsible, preach a doctrine like that, to say that the matter should be passed by quietly. Were the powers sought by this Bill too great? He said very reluctantly that he feared they were not. 221 The Bill was proposed on the responsibility of the Government. They proposed that the Bill should last till the end of September, 1882. He must assume that that date had been wisely and carefully considered. They proposed to make the Bill retrospective in its operation. He had no doubt that question also had received much and anxious consideration, and he could not accept the grave responsibility of dissenting from it. He believed the retrospective character of the Bill would be attended with beneficial effects; and with regard to those who might otherwise come under its provisions, if they conducted themselves well and properly, the Executive had a discretion—it was only a power that was taken. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), taking Leinster, which it so happened was the Province most favourable to his argument, asked whether it would not happen that several innocent counties might be brought within the operation of this Bill? But there was a discretion under the Bill by which counties which were innocent should not be included. He was sure the Government would never apply the Act to counties where crime did not prevail. It was said that this was a strong measure. No doubt, it was; but the stronger the measure the greater the security to the country and the House that it would be effectual, short in duration, and also that it would not be used afterwards as a precedent. If they passed a feeble Bill, a halting and imperfect Bill, it would not be effectual for its object; they must give it a longer duration, and the chances were that it was far more likely to be made into a precedent. The mere passing of the Act would operate at once as a preventive, exactly as the Westmeath Act, which was more stringent, had done. The whole time the Westmeath Act was in operation there were only 19 or 20 men arrested under it. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) had read the debates of 1838, and spoke of the courts martial sanctioned by the Coercion Act of that time; and yet not a single court martial had been held under the provisions of that Act. Now, if this Bill passed, the persons most likely to be benefited were the owners of the steamers plying between this country and the United States, for the week before it would come into opera- 222 tion there would not be a single cabin in those steamers which would not be engaged. It was not reasonable on the part of hon. Members representing Irish constituencies to cast about them for grounds of attack upon the Judges and magistrates simply because they had done their duty in very difficult and arduous times. He was sorry the hon. Member for Northampton had made certain reflections upon the magistrates of Ireland. The magistrates had done their duty as far as they could. It was no part of their duty to go into the highways and bye ways and seek for criminals; they only administered justice to the persons brought before them. And here he would remind the House that the magistrates and the class they came from were the objects and victims of this Land League agitation. The Land League were jealous of all authority except their own, and the sole offence of the Judges and magistrates was this—they would not break the law entrusted to their keeping, and would not suffer it to be violated with impunity. Would hon. Gentlemen select the Judges from the Land League, or would they make any hon. Member who represented extreme Home Rule views the dispenser of law on the Irish Bench? If they did not adopt either of these courses, he was at a loss to see the reason for those attacks. The hon. Member for Ipswich said a great deal about the harsh way the Irish landlords would use the power they would obtain from the passing of this Bill. He was not now going into that matter. But this he would say-that anyone who had a real acquaintance with the country, who had not picked up his knowledge from one or two pamphlets, and who said that the Irish landlords as a class had abused their position, did not understand the very elements of the question. He would say, as a proposition which could not be assailed by anyone who had a knowledge of the subject, that' the landlords as a class had done their duty. He would admit that in that class, as elsewhere, as among manufacturers and others, so among landlords there were some, there were several, there were more than he could wish, who were desirous to press their legal rights to too severe consequences. He did not approve of such conduct. He was 223 willing to see any fair legislation dealing with that class; hut they were the exception and not the rule. The hon. Member for Ipswich said that agitation gave protection to the tenants. It did nothing of the kind. He believed if the tenants of Ireland were free they would adopt some different means for dealing with their landlords than that which the Land League supplied. What did the hon. Member mean about the Government introducing a little temporary Bill because of some words which dropped last Session from the right hon. Gentleman? Did he mean that a case had not been overwhelmingly made out for restoring law and order? [Mr. BIGGAR: Yes.] He was not asking the hon. Member who had now spoken to answer that question. If the hon. Member could not seriously controvert the proposition that law and order were not observed in Ireland as in any civilized community, he would ask him if he was prepared to say he would not give the protection of that law and order but he would sell it? The hon. Member shook his head; he was frightened by the significance of the argument thus put before him. Then an objection was taken that this Bill interfered with liberty. But liberty rested upon order. In asking for powers to restore and insure order, Government were only seeking to establish the conditions under which alone liberty was possible. At present there was absolutely no scope for independent public opinion in Ireland. The liberty which existed was the liberty that would trammel all social relations—a liberty whose watchword was terror, and whose gaol looked like dishonesty. Was it not better to have a great power wielded by a responsible Ministry than to have it wielded by irresponsible agitators in Ireland? And here he would like to quote a few words spoken by a great Minister, (Lord John Russell), whose name would always be heard in that House with great respect. In the debate on the Address in 1833, Lord John Russell said—What was the worst construction which could be put on the grant of those measures of coercion? Why, that it would be placing power in the hands of those who would be responsible for the duo administration of it to Parliament; it would be placing in the hands of persons of responsibility and judgment the means of terror. There existed already the 224 means of terror, unhappily, in Ireland.…The poor farmer who wished to obey the law, who was guilty of obeying the law, or, in other words, of paying those dues which the law demanded of him, was compelled to live under a system of terror, the administration of which was not placed in the hands of men of education and responsibility, but of the midnight ruffian and lawless assassin, who wore at the same time the outcasts and scourges of society.The House might be quite sure that the powers which were sought for by this Bill would not be exercised in a Star Chamber fashion; but that they would be exercised by a Government which were subject to the control of Parliament, and with the fullest publicity. The hon. Member for Stafford said that the action of the Land League was only the same system of co-operation that existed in trades' unions. He was not aware that amongst the greatest slanders oil trades' unions there had ever been one equal to the analogy between the trades' unions and the Land League.
§ MR. MACDONALD
I rise to Order. I never mentioned the words trades' union. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will see that I never did mention the words.
§ MR. GIBSON
But the hon Member had alluded to co-operation, and his remarks contained a slander on the principle of co-operation. He was not aware that in any honest system of co-operation exclusive dealing was considered essential; and he had rather rest the case of trades' unionism on the statement made in the House the other evening by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst). The strong powers under the Bill were sought for by the Government with pain and reluctance. ["Oh, oh!"] No man in the House regarded such a Bill without pain. It was objected that the Bill was an interference with that great bulwark of our liberty, trial by jury. No one more appreciated and respected the great principles involved in trial by jury than he did; but trial by jury was sometimes a bulwark of crime, and not of liberty, especially when it was swayed by sympathy for wrong-doing, or dominated by terror. It had been said that evening, and, indeed, on former occasions also, by the hon. Member for Ipswich, that remedial measures ought either to take precedence of coercion, or at least to be coupled with it; but how that could he done he (Mr. Gibson) could not tell. One must go 225 before the other; and if this measure was necessary it should be passed, and passed at once. When a house was on fire, it was useless to cast about for the cause of the conflagration, and all that had to be done was to extinguish it promptly. In the present case there could be no truce with crime, and it was idle to make ineffectual concessions and uncertain compromises. No merely just and remedial legislation would be able of itself to cope with the state of crime that now existed in Ireland. He might recall to the House the words of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, when moving, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, for the Westmeath Committee of Inquiry—I cannot see on what possible ground it could be imagined that the establishment of equal and just legislation should have any effect on the minds of men who have a system of laws of their own—not just laws, but the most unjust, the most arbitrary, the most tyrannical, and the most barbarous."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 1002.]It was said it would be better to bring in a Land Bill and to postpone this one; but he did not think so. He felt sure that when the other Bill was brought in, if it should be based, as they had heard it would be, upon principles of justice, it would receive full, fair, and candid consideration. They all knew that, as a matter of history, the Irish people respected uniform justice. In fact, no nation respected it more: but no nation more respected undeviating firmness in its Executive. This was not in the slightest degree a Party question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary did not, he was sure, regard him as an indiscriminating admirer. He (Mr. Gibson) had acted with the fullest possible sense of his own responsibility, answering only to his own conscience, for he represented a constituency independent alike of farmers and landlords, and so he was sent here on his own responsibility on these high and important questions. He deplored as much as any man the necessity for this legislation; but he felt compelled, by the statement of a responsible Minister, and the evidence with which it was supported, to support the second reading of the Bill. In his opinion, no courageous man had a right to evade his plain duty, or to court an ignominous popularity by paltering words or hesitating action. Their painful but necessary 226 duty was now to support the Ministers. In doing so they would, at all events, be consoled by the hope that the powers to be conceded by Parliament would be effectual, that they would be short in their duration, and that Ireland would soon be restored to the paths of law, order, and peace.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
observed, that the Irish Members stood there like accused persons in the dock with manacles of iron upon them. Nevertheless, he was not afraid to speak, even as he must speak now, a word in defence of his country. He wished to protest against the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, That was no Party question, said the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That was true. There had been a marvellous interchange of compliments and of affection between the right hon. Gentlemen on the two Front Benches. The Prime Minister was delighted to find that there was one question on which hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite to him could agree with the Government. Liberals and Conservatives, whether in or out of Office, had fought over Turkey, over Greece, over Russia, over France. They fought over Ireland when justice to her was involved; but they embraced one another when a proposal was made to coerce her. Upon one Irish subject, and upon one alone, were the two Front Benches ever in league in the House of Commons. Not always in league, indeed, for there was one Party which was ever ready to protest against coercion when out of Office. Sitting now on the Treasury Bench were the men who had made the most noble resistance against coercion for Ireland. They were not then holding Office under the Crown; but now it was an instructive fact that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had spoken last made a protest against the redress of admitted Irish grievances, his words were cheered to the echo not only by the Tory Gentlemen who sat behind him, but by the Gentlemen who sat behind the Ministry. That revealed to them the very remarkable reason why coercion was to precede redress and reform. Ministers must have known that amongst their followers there were scores of hon. Gentlemen who wished that a thorough and complete measure of Land Reform should precede coercion; and that, if a measure 227 of redress had preceded coercion, there was a public opinion in England that would have made the measure worthy of consideration. But by running the Coercion Bill before the Land Bill, the debates on the present measure would enable the hon. Gentlemen who sat there to destroy any desire there might be for an honest Land Bill by fabricating stories of crime and outrage, discountenancing beforehand the little morsel of reform that might be offered from the Treasury Bench. Coercion, they had been told, was not punishment. What was it, then? The right hon. and learned Gentleman knew that Trinity College, Dublin, which he represented, was not likely to be made a proclaimed district under the "Algerine" measure now before the House. Accordingly, he exhorted the Ministers to go on, and thought that harm had been done through Irishmen not having been coerced enough. The right hon. and learned Gentleman recalled to his mind the words of Hallam, who said—Such has over been the language of the supporters of tyranny: when the oppression docs not succeed they tell us it is because there has been too little of it.Had Ireland not had enough coercion? How many measures of redress could the right hon. and learned Gentleman show to set against the dreary catalogue of coercive statutes? How long had Ireland been allowed to breathe a Constitutional life? Ministry after Ministry had come to the House asking for Acts which were a disgrace to any Legislature; and yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman told them that no harm would ensue, that all the persons about to be arrested under the Bill and imprisoned without trial by jury would have a fair trial in the House of Commons. That, of course, was impossible, and those who made the assertion knew it to be so as well as he did. That over weighted Assembly, rendered impatient enough already of Irish debates, and which was hard set to find sufficient time for its legitimate Business, was to have thrust upon it the additional task of trying the cases of those unfortunate Irishmen who might be arrested without trial and denied all justice. It was the bitterest mockery for the Government and their Tory supporters to tell them that they would be protected by the kind of trial they would 228 have of their case on the floor of that House, instead of the trial by jury, which was the birthright of every Englishman, at all events. The language of tyranny was advancing rapidly in these days of despotism. They had heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland inveigh against trial by jury. It was a sign of the debauchery of the public mind that was proceeding every day on these Constitutional rights, when a man in his position was not afraid to stand up and inveigh against trial by jury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman evidently wanted the Star Chamber revived. They talked of "Boycotting," and a shudder went through the House when it was mentioned that some persons—two cases in all Ireland—had been branded by miscreants. What did the Star Chamber do? The outrages in Ireland were committed by ignorant peasants. What did the Star Chamber do to Mr. Prynne and the Rev. Mr. Layton? They branded this clergyman with red hot iron on each cheek, they slit his nose. ["Oh!"] "Oh!" cried an hon. Member who had not read Constitutional history; his nose was slit, his ears were cut off, and he sat in a pillory for a week at Westminster. This was not done by Kerry peasants in the night, but in London, because juries would not give verdicts that would sanction crime. If the Lord Lieutenant and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would give an undertaking that every case would be investigated on the spot, and that the witnesses on each side would be heard, he could understand that there would be some justice in the present demand. He believed the noble Lord who was Lord Lieutenant to be an amiable and upright man; but he was not more able nor a greater lover of justice than Lord Spencer or Lord Kimberley; and yet, under their régime, great acts of injustice had been inflicted. Had the House read the speech of Mr. Roebuck on the case of Patrick Casey, when the old man eloquent rose quivering in every never and asked whether it was possible that such a scandal could have happened? But it had happened. Patrick Casey was a miserable victim who was torn from his family, never allowed to know his accusers or the accusation brought against him, thrown into prison and 229 there forgotten. He was shifted about from prison to prison, so that his father, weak and in rags, was worn out in vain efforts to discover the dungeon in which his son was buried. But this was done under a Lord Lieutenant more able than the present, and at a time when the Chief Secretary for Ireland was fully as well disposed to Ireland, and perhaps better acquainted with it than the present holder of the Office. During the incarceration of Casey a change of Ministry took place, and there was reason to believe that a change of Ministry would take place during the operation of the present Bill. But in the change of Ministry Casey was forgotten, and he lay for three years in gaol without accusation or trial until a Member of that House called attention to the outrage. Then there was the case of John Brady, John Rice, and Henry Hughes, tried for Ribbonism, and sent to the hulk for seven years on the evidence of the infamous informer, Hogan, who avowed that with his own hand he concocted 66 Ribbon documents and distributed them, then brought into the dock the victims whom he had sworn in. But Ireland was full of the memories of police spies and informers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said the police were a respectable body. In Dublin Castle the detestable trade of the informer was well known. There were departments in the spy regions of Dublin Castle unknown to the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary. ["Oh, oh!"] He knew that that House regarded the speeches of Irish Members as efforts of imagination. But he repeated, there were departments which the Lord Lieutenant was never allowed to become acquainted with. He would refer to a book recently published by Mr. Porter, who for 44 years had been a police magistrate at Dublin. He was still alive, and had published a volume of reminiscences, relating his experience as a police magistrate until the close of the Fenian trials. He described in that book the way in which the Crown informers held mock trials, in which there was examination and cross-examination of candidates to see how far they could swear and how far not. The author was, happily for himself, beyond reach of the Government, as he had been superannuated. He was a gentleman incapable of falsehood. That showed 230 what was possible if Constitutional safeguards were suspended. Of course, the Lord Lieutenant would not hear of all that, nor would the Chief Secretary. The present Chief Secretary was an able man, but he was a weak man; and although he had gone to Ireland with the best intentions, he had been too long under the influence of Dublin Castle. Lord John Russell, who seemed almost to have exercised the gift of prescience, alluded to similar cases. He had said many years ago that English statesmen went to Ireland full of good feelings and dispositions, but were soon drawn into the charmed circle and became hostile to every project of reform. Thus for 70 years had Land Reform been postponed. He would refer to the period of 1844, that of Lord Wellesley's Administration. Lord Wellesley had tried to do his duty, as also had Lord Anglesea, who preceded him. But even they were influenced by the official element at Dublin. Could there be a greater contrast than that which was exhibited between the present Chief Secretary before he went to Dublin, and when he expressed such generous sentiments to Ireland, and when he had come in contact with the system then established? But he would recommend to the Chief Secretary the words of Lord Wellesley when a clamour for coercion was raised by the landlords of Ireland. "I will not," he said, "throw a whole people into the hands of an angry magistracy." What a contrast did those noble words present to the miserable capitulation of the Chief Secretary. What a sad collapse for the Liberal Government to return to the detestable system of the police spy and informer. As to terrorism, there was no terrorism, except in the guilty minds of unjust landlords. But for that injustice it would have been impossible for any League to have carried away the feelings of a whole population. The Land League, it was said, had called upon the people to repudiate their contracts. But it was absurd to talk of freedom of contract with regard to land in Ireland. From the Report of Lord Devon's Commission and other equally important records hon. Members would learn that public officials stated 50 years ago that there was no freedom of contract between occupiers of land in Ireland and landowners. Some people said—"Why do not tenants give up the land if they will 231 not pay rent?" Surely those who thus argued forgot that an Irish tenant built his house, made the drains, and made the fences? Let hon. Members read the statements of Mr. Nassau Senior, the Commissioner of Irish Poor Law, upon this question. What did that official say? Why, that with a few exceptions, the farms of Ireland were the creations of the Irish tenants. Had not Lord Clarendon also called the system of landlordism in Ireland a felonious system? The landlords in the reign of Charles II. undertook to pay 5s. in the pound on the valuation of their estates in lieu of the charge to which they had been subject for the maintenance of the Army and Navy. And they paid this still on a valuation made in the reign of William III. Could it, therefore, be justly said that tenants were paying too little rent, when they paid according to a valuation made in 1852? The tenantry of Ireland offered to pay an honest and more than honest rent. Bid not the landlords pay income tax on Griffith's valuation? He would draw the attention of the House to the words of Lord Chief Justice Pennyfather—Every Act on the Statute Book referring to landlord and tenant in Ireland has been in the interest of the landlord—not one in the interest of the tenant.There had been agrarian crime in Ireland ever since the hateful Land Law; but were not the English Parliament weary of this work of coercion? Coercion had a fascination for some hon. Gentlemen; but if they had had a taste of it they would not be so ready to apply it to others. There was not an Englishman in the House who would dare to face his constituency after proposing a suspension of the Habeas Corpus in his own country, stained as was her history with crime and outrage far beyond any in Ireland. And now they knew very well what was going to be the end of all that. With the most benevolent intentions they would plant their feet on the neck of the Irish people. Any chance they had of putting down agrarian crime in Ireland was by stripping it of popular sympathy. He said agrarian crime, for there was no other crime to speak of. There was none of that debasing and degrading crime that marked the decay of public morality. The social ties in Ireland were intact. No Divorce Court plied a busy trade 232 amongst the Irish people. The peasant home life was pure. It was agrarian crime alone which could be called excessive; and when they found crime springing from a matter of contestable law, the Records of that House afforded them noble examples how to deal with it. They knew how crime ceased in the factory districts of Lancashire when Lord Ashley passed the benefient Factory Law; and he (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) believed in his soul that had the Government introduced a beneficent Land Bill the day they brought in that Bill, crime would have disappeared from Ireland, and the scenes which had made that Parliament something which calm-minded Englishmen would yet deplore would have been spared to them all. What had occurred had not been more painful to English Members than to hon. Members from Ireland. But they, at any rate, could say that, attempting controversially to vindicate their character, they believed in their inmost soul that they were making a stand against a proposal which would increase crime in Ireland, and cause events to happen within the next six months that they would shudder at. If Her Majesty's Government had taken that other road, oh! what a chance was before that Treasury Bench. Never, during the last 70 years, had there been upon that Treasury Bench men to whom the Irish nation looked so confidently for redress and protection. There was joy in many thousands of Irish homes at the thought that Mr. James Lowther was exchanged for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford; for the latter had been known in times of suffering as one who came to succour and defend them. Coercion ! Had right hon. Gentlemen taken the road that lay to justice or redress, they would have found themselves in the path of conciliation and tranquillity. But now, how would they strip crime of sympathy with Ireland? How would they attach to that Coercion Bill any support from the moral qualities of the Irish people, when they had attempted, in that highhanded fashion, to rush it through the House, despite the protests of the Irish Members? No; they had arrayed against the Bill the public sentiment of Ireland. There was no man of intelligence or of influence in the country who would not deny to it the smallest particle of sanction; and for himself he said that if they 233 made it law, they could not make it binding on his conscience. They knew they pleaded in vain. They knew the story of coercion was too plainly written on the bloodstained pages of the English Statute Book. In their worst days they did nothing worse than when they passed the Westmeath Act; and now the most liberal of Liberal Governments that ever sat in that House had been deluded by fabricated outrages into a line of action the ultimate end of which, to him, at all events, was quite clear. There was only one Party in that House which would profit by the error of the Government in giving priority to coercion rather than to redress. That Party was quietly chuckling over that dangerous error. It was the Party which hoped once more to sit on those Benches, and to attain to power on the ruin of the Liberal Party through its disastrous Irish policy. They would see, before many years, that guilty policy accomplished, and the Liberal Party once more in Opposition, repenting of the error and the crime which they were about to commit that night.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir Rowland Blenner hassett.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.