§ [Mr. W. F. Forster, Mr. Gladstone, Sir William Harcourt.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 10th February.]
§ [SECOND NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Power of Lord Lieutenant to arrest and detain).
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
moved, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 6, to leave out "suspected of having," for the purpose of inserting "believed to have." He did not suppose that the adoption of the Amendment would make any difference in regard to the arrests from that place now spoken of as the most horrible place in the world—Dublin Castle—but which was formerly regarded as one of the most delightful of places. What he wanted the house to consider was that they were now laying down a precedent for the future conduct of Parliament. 636 Bearing in mind the immense influence this country possessed as the home of freedom for refugees from all other nations, it was only natural that we should be looked up to as an example. It was, therefore, undesirable that it should go forth to the world that our Acts of Parliament were built up upon suspicion. The word "suspected" had a very nasty foreign ring about it. He did not know what other hon. Members might think about it; but the use of the word always brought to his mind that great upheaval in France, when the Liberal Party, goaded into terror, wore making use of force against their foes. That was a time which might teach us some lessons here, for at that period there was scarcely a single spy, or common informer, or cunning rogue whatever, who, if he wanted to put somebody out of the way, was not able to accomplish his object by whispering the terrible word "suspect." That word, carried along by the winds, soon got into the popular mind, and, goaded into terror, the first cry of the people was"a la lanterne." The state of France at that time ought to teach us a lesson hero. He did not wish it to be supposed, however, that we were living in such times as those. God forbid that we should ever have such a period in England; but he could not help thinking that, at the present moment, there was an uneasy feeling of alarm prevailing in the country, and, if possible, it would be well that some assurance should be given to the people of England that there was no such cause for alarm or uneasiness as they imagined. Even in carrying on the ordinary business of life it was found necessary, in the Sister Country, to surround a man with police or soldiers, and to give him an amount of armed protection, which, in this supposed land of freedom, was almost intolerable to bear. He was prepared to argue that at such a time it was necessary to take special care how we built up our Acts of Parliament. As he had already said, the word "suspect" was a very unpleasant word. Not only did it recall to the mind most terrible scenes which had occurred in the history of another country, but it carried back the mind to a time when suspicion was even a terrible element in England itself. From the time of Queen Mary to the accession of James I., the history of the country was stained by persecution and sanguinary deeds, and 637 many of the events which occurred during that period gave us a vivid picture of the dangerous element which "suspicion" became when acted upon under the sanction of an Act of Parliament. Well-known men of the greatest eminence, of the highest respectability, and political character, were carried from their homes to the dungeon, from the dungeon to the rack, and from the rack to the block of the executioner, upon no higher ground than the mere whispered suspicion of probably the worst and most infamous persons in the country. Therefore, he thought, if it were possible, that they should get rid of the word "suspected." At any rate, let them pause before they introduced it into the present Bill. He could understand how it had crept into the Bill, because, in looking over other Acts of Parliament introducing coercive measures, he found the same word used in the Westmeath Act; and, probably from the mere force of habit, persons who were employed in drawing up the clauses of an Act of Parliament were accustomed to copy the phraseology of one measure from that of another, so that a word that was put into an Act by the Government of an earlier day crept into subsequent measures dealing with similar subjects. He was certainly sorry to see such a word employed by the first really Radical Government he had ever known in this country. It would, however, be a disgrace to a Liberal Administration to allow their legislation to go down to posterity tainted with the use of this very unpleasant word "suspicion;" and he therefore proposed to substitute for it a word to which he believed nobody could take objection. In that House they were all of them apt to think well of themselves. They were all agreed that a nobler, more manly, and more outspoken nation than England did not exist on the face of the earth. ["Oh, oh!"] He included his hon. Friends on the opposite side of the House in that remark, because he believed they belonged to the great English nation. He certainly had no intention of excluding them; and he was about to say that in framing their Acts of Parliament they should use words that went home to every Englishman. They wanted to have complete daylight let in upon their proceedings. A witness should be required to stand in the box 638 in order to say what he thought, and not what he suspected. When they placed a man in the witness-box they asked him at once—"Do you believe such a thing to be true?" "What is your belief?" In his mind there was a very wide difference between a mere suspicion and a positive belief. No man would be induced to state solemnly his belief in anything whatever, without putting himself for the time being in the presence of his Creator. He threw around himself a species of solemnity which did not attach to an ordinary proceeding; and, therefore, he (Mr. Thompson) contended that the substitution of the word "belief" in the Bill would give to the clause a solemnity and a binding character which it did not at present possess. But, besides being binding between man and God, it would be something more—when a man spoke to his belief he seemed, as it were, to put his hand on his heart and to say that upon his honour, as a gentleman, he believed what he said to be true. Therefore, having regard to the evil character of the word "suspected," together with its novel nature as compared with the force and effect of the word "belief," he was of opinion that it would be advantageous to substitute the one word for the other, and he begged to move the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper.
In page 1, line 6, to leave out the words "suspected of having," and insert the words "believed to have."—(Mr. Thomas Thompson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'suspected of having' stand part of the Clause."
§ DR. COMMINS
cordially supported the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson); not that he believed it would do any practical good, because when people were allowed to obtain private evidence, and to get information from persons they would not otherwise trust, and with whom they dare not show themselves to be associated, he was afraid a mere difference in the words which authorized them to act in that way, or any other form of words, would be very little. But, as the hon. Member for Durham said, there was a ring about the word "suspect" that made him not only "suspect," but "believe," the very 639 worst object to be aimed at in introducing it into the clause. There was no doubt, as the hon. Member had pointed out, that "suspected" meant a smaller amount of credence than the word "belief;" that "suspected" might be applied to the smallest possible motive by which a man could be actuated; but he suspected that the word was purposely left wide, so that any amount of belief whatever might be made sufficient. "Belief" would impose a certain amount of investigation, a certain amount of inquiry, and it would impose a certain amount of fair play, and of examination of the evidence tendered; but when it came to mere suspicion, everything in the nature of investigation or inquiry might go to the winds. As the hon. Member for Durham had observed, the word "suspect" once existed in another country. It was employed by the most democratic Government that France ever had; and he was afraid that the so-called democratic Government of this country was now seeking to take a leaf out of the book of France. They were endeavouring to adopt here the principle of"á la lanterne," and it was the duty of the House of Commons to restrain them, and not permit them to act upon so bad a precedent. It was said that the myrmidons of Dublin Castle had followed the precedent of a former law, passed some years ago. Was it necessary that they should go back to that terrible time, and let loose upon Irish society the lineal successors of the Jemmy O'Briens, the Birds, and the Newells, men who were brought up and trained by Dublin Castle as informers? These men had only to point a finger at any man in Dublin, and he was at once consigned to a dungeon, with a similar amount of informality to that which was suggested in the present instance. He should be glad, if only for the sake of the credit of Her Majesty's Government, that the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the Bill would point to any Act of Parliament by which any person whatever had been authorized to be imprisoned on mere suspicion. Warm eulogiums were constantly passed upon the liberty, freedom, and love of order enjoyed in this country. In the ordinary procedure at the English Courts, the first or initiatory step in all criminal matters was to apply for a summons or warrant; and no summons or warrant 640 would be granted by any magistrate who knew anything about his business, unless something in the way of evidence was laid before him by some responsible person. The law did not always require that the information should be made on oath in open Court; but it did require evidence of some kind as a guarantee against slander and malevolence. It was necessary that there should be something straightforward and manly about the transaction; but here a premium was offered upon surreptitious malevolence, and upon that vindictive malignity which dare not show itself in the light of day. All honest, open, and fair dealing was to be thrust aside, and the door was to be opened to all the wicked arts of the Irish informer, who was to be, told—"You may now gratify all your evil instincts under the sanction of the law of the land." He hoped the Committee would consent to amend the clause by the Amendment which was suggested by the hon. Member.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
was sorry that he could not accept the Amendment. The hon. Member seemed to think that no previous Act of Parliament contained the idea of justifying an arrest upon suspicion. He (Mr. Law), on the contrary, believed there had been no Act of Parliament passed for a similar purpose to the present Bill in which the language was not of the character now objected to. It was simply because there might be reasonable grounds of suspicion, and, at the same time, a difficulty in obtaining sufficient evidence that they required a measure of this kind at all. The series of Acts of this character which had been passed in regard to England or Ireland went back for a period of nearly 200 years, and the word had always been "suspected." If they inserted the words suggested by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Thompson) it might be considered necessary that the warrant for arrest should be based upon evidence that would be sufficient to justify the authorities in sending a man for trial, and it was to provide against that necessity that the present Bill was introduced. In reference to the remarks which had been made by the hon. Member who had just spoken, the hon. Member told them the ordinary course in all criminal proceedings was to require some proof to be given before a warrant was granted. 641 That was quite true; but the whole foundation of the present Bill was that the Government found it impossible to proceed under the ordinary law. It was fully conceded that the ordinary law was not sufficient; and, therefore, the most satisfactory course would be to follow the precedent established by the Acts of Parliament which had hitherto been passed, and which had always authorized arrest and detention upon "suspicion." In the first Act, passed as long ago as 1688, this word would be found.
§ MR. GRAY
had quite anticipated that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would express his regret that he could not agree to the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Durham. But the discussion, though brief, had not been without its use, because, in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, was afforded a specimen of the Government policy, which was not without its instructive point. He should be very curious to see how the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would express his views on the matter, in order to ascertain how far he would coincide with those which had been delivered by the Attorney General for Ireland. The House would remember the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in moving the second reading of the Bill, in which he stated that he knew all the mauvais sujets and dissolute ruffians—that he could lay his hands on them—not that the police believed they knew them, but that they actually did know them. Now the matter was brought to the test, not of speeches in that House, but of the words of an Act of Parliament, Her Majesty's Government would not commit themselves to a belief that they did know these men. "Suspicion" was all that they meant. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary ashed the House to believe in his assertion that he and his officials knew the perpetrators of these outrages, and that in every village in Ireland they could be in the hands of the police to-morrow; all that stood in the way being the difficulty of bringing them into a Court of Justice, owing to the want of evidence and the impossibility of getting a jury to convict. He had only risen to remind the House of the discrepancy between the statement of the Chief Secretary and of the Chief Law Officer of the Crown.
§ MR. FINIGAN
thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland ought, at all events, to say something to "compromise" what bad been said by the Attorney General for Ireland. Her Majesty's Government had latterly been in the habit of playing see-saw with every question that affected Ireland. One day they told the House that it was the Land League that was to be judged by the Bill; another day it was the people who were guilty of inciting to agrarian outrages; and now they found that it was really aimed at treasonable practices, or at the people who were suspected of them. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) had pointed out the wide distinction between what had been said by the Chief Secretary and what had been said from his first entrance into the House since the Bill was introduced by the Attorney General for Ireland, who appeared to be much opposed to everything that was just and generous towards the Irish people. He (Mr. Finigan) did not think the substitution of the word "belief" for "suspicion" would be of any great value; but, after all, he thought there ought to be some modification of the unfortunate word "suspected." It did not follow that because people had used wrong words in the past, they should continue to use wrong words now. Occasionally a custom was "much more honoured in the breach than in the observance," and he thought the Chief Secretary would be acting wisely if he attempted to put the matter in a better, straighter, and different form. For his own part, he should have preferred that the whole question should be left in the hands of the Chief Secretary, rather than contaminated by the interference of the people in Dublin Castle.
MR. W. E. PORSTER
The hon. Member for Ennis (Mr. Finigan), in asking mo to "compromise" my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, is asking me to do that which I do not feel inclined to undertake. I do not think it would be difficult to reconcile the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend with that which I felt it my duty to make. I must express my gratitude to the hon. Members who have spoken in support of the Motion of the hon. Member for Durham; at their willingness to place my belief, or that of the Lord 643 Lieutenant, in the place of reasonable suspicion. I should have thought that on the whole some of them might have considered suspicion, coupled with the adjective "reasonable," would have been a better guarantee than the belief of any individual. All I have to say is simply this, that if we were to substitute the word "belief" for "reasonable suspicion," we should go a long way towards destroying the object and intent with which the Bill has been introduced. Undoubtedly, the clause would be interpreted to mean such a belief as would be considered justifiable in a Court of Law.
§ SIR. JOSEPH M'KENNA
really thought that the right hon. Gentleman might concede this Amendment. All that was ashed was that the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant should be based on his belief that the person accused had been guilty of treasonable practices—that those who issued the warrant should have some belief that the suspicion was well-founded. No one would know anything of the persons who came forward to prefer the charges, and all that was required, in substituting the words of the hon. Member for Durham for those in the Bill, was that before a warrant was issued the persons issuing it should believe that the story told by the police, or by any other informer, was true. After the explanation which had been given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, he thought it was most important that these words should be substituted. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went so far as to imply that a warrant might be issued against a person who was not really believed to be guilty of the crime charged, but who was reasonably suspected by some person or other to be guilty. A man might go to him (Sir Joseph M'Kenna), and tell him that the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) or any other hon. Member was reasonably suspected of designing to do something that was very treasonable, and might give him his reasons for his suspicion. The suspicion might be, according to the view of the man who made the charge, reasonable; but if he (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) were to issue a warrant upon such information, he conceived that he would then be declaring his belief that the suspicion was well-founded.
§ MR. CALLAN
thought that some assurance was required by the House, in the shape of a declaration by some Minister of the Crown—the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—as to the course that would be taken before a warrant was granted. The Irish Members did not place the slightest reliance upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary or the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland; but, notwithstanding what had passed, they had some confidence still—["No, no!"]—at least, he had, in the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He, therefore, thought it only fair that the House should have some assurance from them as to the mode in which these warrants would be issued. Were they to be issued on a mere verbal information? If a man went to the office of the Chief Secretary, and told him that such a person was a frightful person, and was guilty of treasonable practices, would that be deemed sufficient? The House ought to have some assurance on the subject, by being told how the warrants would be issued. Would they be granted on the faith of a story conveyed in an an underhand manner in regard to which there was no time to obtain confirmatory evidence, or would no man be arrested except upon sworn information or a statutable declaration? ["No!"] He was not asking his hon. Friends behind him, but was putting the Question to the Government—to the Irish Executive. Would, he asked, the warrants be issued on informations on oath, or a statutory declaration—upon any written information, or with any record as to the grounds of suspicion? If they were not to be issued on sworn information, or a statutable declaration, would they be issued upon the stories told by private constables, or by one of the "Boycotted" landlords, without confirmation? Would they be issued at the mere behest and will of some understrapper behind the scenes in Dublin Castle, or only upon the information of the sub-inspector, or resident magistrate, or county inspector, or some other responsible individual? That would be more re-assuring than even the substitutution of the words "believed to have been guilty" for the words "suspected of having been guilty."
MR. J. COWEN
said, he supported the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson) with great pleasure. He did not expect the Government would accept it, as he never supposed they would accept any Amendment of a liberalizing character. But the fact of its being submitted would enable some few on that side of the House—who had not entirely abandoned all sense of fidelity to Liberal principles—to record their vote once more against the odious measure of the Ministry. The Amendment would probably not largely affect the operation of the Act when it passed. Whatever its phraseology, the fact was that the Government were obtaining by the Bill despotic powers. How they would use those powers remained to be seen. But, for his part, he distrusted them as absolutely as he would do any Government that got such tyrannical authority. It was not, however, so much in the sense of serving Ireland that his hon. Friend had moved the Amendment as for the sake of the British House of Commons. The word "suspect" convoyed a most unpleasant meaning. It involved the use of spies and all the infamous agencies of despotism. If the word was altered, at least the record of the House of Commons, and, to some extent, the reputation of the Liberal Party would be saved. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) said the same word had been used in previous Acts. But that was no recommendation. If past Parliaments had made use of the obnoxious phrase, that was no reason why the present one should do so. They had altered a great many useful provisions of former Parliaments recently. They had restricted some of the most treasured privileges of that House, and they might with greater propriety deviate from a custom that had even the authority of the time of the Stuarts to support it.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
thought the substitution of the words proposed by the hon. Member for Durham would he a decided improvement, because they had never yet been informed who was to do the "suspecting" in the case. What class of people were to be the "suspectors," and who was to be the judge of the reasonableness of the suspicion? Now, he believed that the people who would do the "suspecting" 646 in Ireland would be the persons who had been hitherto engaged in writing threatening letters and cutting off cows' tails. Heretofore they had been engaged in carrying on their dirty work in the dark, and hereafter they might also be engaged in the dark in cutting off the liberties of honest Irishmen. He was of opinion that the effect of the measure would decidedly be to demoralize the Irish people. They wanted in Ireland, as was wanted in every other country, a manly courage and open candour; but these qualities were not encouraged by this miserable and detestable measure. It encouraged qualities which were the very reverse. It taught people to suspect one another; one man would go and carry his tale of suspicion to the policeman, and men who knew not what they were accused of would be cut off from their homes, taken away from their families, and immured in a gaol for 18 months. And then what would happen? The people would begin to suspect one another. Everyone who felt himself in danger would begin to suspect his neighbours, perhaps, very unjustly, of being the persons who had denounced others to the authorities, and would believe that they would probably denounce them in their turn. Now, that would be a highly objectionable state of things, and he urged that it would tend to demoralize the Irish people, to bring them down in the scale of morality instead of doing anything to elevate them. Moreover, he believed the existence of such a state of things would eventuate in crime and outrage; for he believed that persons who were suspected of having "suspected" others and of having denounced them would reap the vengeance of people who believed that they themselves would be subjected to outrage at some time or other. He was of opinion that a whisper conveyed to the ears of a policeman or a magistrate was too light a thing on which to sacrifice the liberty of any man for 18 months. Let their object be to strengthen the hands of the authorities as much as possible; and if they were not to have sworn informations, let them go in a straightforward manner and declare that there must be very little ground for suspicion. There ought to be some substantial ground for belief before they consented to deprive a man of his liberty. It would be most unjust to con- 647 demn thousands of Irishmen to the chance of imprisonment on the mere hazard of an unfounded suspicion. He wished, therefore, to be informed who was to be the judge of the reasonableness of the suspicion. Upon these grounds, he thought the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Durham would be an improvement, although it was not a very largo one. It would, however, be an improvement, and, therefore, he would give it his support.
§ MR. BIGGAR
wished to say a word or two in confirmation of what had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) in regard to the position in which the Irish people would be placed by the Bill in its present shape. The question now raised by the Amendment was one which required the Government to give to the House more information than they had yet given. They claimed the right of imprisoning any person whom they might reasonably suspect to be guilty of treasonable practices; but as yet they had given no information at all with regard to the nature of the offence which was to constitute a reasonable suspicion. He thought Her Majesty's Government ought to agree to the Amendment. There ought to be some kind of belief in the truth of the charge. A mere suspicion amounted to nothing. A person might go to the Chief Secretary or to the authorities in Dublin Castle and say, "Oh, I suspect So-and-so;" and on the faith of that suspicion a third party, who could know nothing whatever about the case, was to issue a warrant which would deprive a man of his liberty. A better course would be to declare that no man should be sent to prison unless there was satisfactory evidence of his guilt. It would not be sufficient to act upon a mere ex parte statement. They should bring the accuser directly before the accused, instead of sending a man to prison upon the barest suspicion. The hon. Member for Louth said he still had confidence in the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He (Mr. Biggar) had no such confidence in those right hon. Gentlemen. He had not the slightest confidence either in one or the other.
was of opinion that when suck very stringent powers were 648 going to be given, the Government might fairly make some concession in so important a matter. In his opinion, neither of the words proposed was satisfactory; and he would suggest that the word "shown" should be introduced. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that the Lord Lieutenant and the authorities would carefully consider the reasonableness of any charge, and that there must be incidents connected with it that would make the reasonableness of the suspicion apparent. But anyone who was acquainted with the working of these Coercion Acts in past years must know that the decision did not rest with the Chief Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant. Therefore, when the words were that the person charged must be reasonably suspected by somebody who was not named, he thought it was not unreasonable to ask the Government to alter the clause in such a way as not to interfere with the working power of the Act, but, at the same time, to make a graceful concession to the demand made by the House. It was consistent with his own knowledge of facts that persons had been taken up on suspicion against whom no grounds had ever been shown. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General spoke of the words "reasonable suspicion" having been introduced into other Acts. That was all very well where a man would be immediately brought to trial and have an opportunity of proving his innocence; but the present measure conferred an indisputable power of arresting any man on mere suspicion, and keeping him in prison for a lengthened period without bringing him to trial, in a case where the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary could not possibly have any personal knowledge. When it was proposed to confer such sweeping powers upon individuals, it was not at all unreasonable that it should be shown, to their satisfaction, that there was a reasonable ground for issuing a warrant, and that they should not act upon a mere suspicion, which might be unfounded. As he had just said, from his own knowledge of the working of these Coercion Acts, he believed there had been numerous instances in which individuals had been arrested against whom no charge whatever could be sustained, but who were not discharged until after a long period of detention.
649 He appealed to the Government to make some concession in the matter.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 269; Noes 5b: Majority 211.—(Div. List, No. 32.)
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, in all cases of political excitement or commercial and agricultural distress many offences, including those of an agrarian nature, were committed, which gave rise in the public mind to great alarm. At those periods State prosecutions were instituted, and persons were sometimes convicted and imprisoned. Nevertheless, it was always to be seen, when these disturbances had passed away, when political excitement had been allayed and distress relieved, and when the public alarm had ceased, that there was an immediate re-action in favour of the prisoners, and a desire that their sentences should be either relaxed or altogether remitted. In short, there was a general disposition to grant an entire amnesty. For his part, he thought it right that under such circumstances pardons should be granted, and the amnesty extended as much as possible, because by that means peace was much more likely to be secured than by keeping alive the remembrance of grievances. But this could not be secured by keeping alive the power of sending persons to prison, and it was his hope that the country, when tranquillized by the measures of the Government, would forget and forgive. He objected to any retrospective action under the Bill with regard to agrarian offences; at all events, there should be some limit. But the Bill contained no limit whatever with regard to the past. It allowed the Government of the day to go back upon the career of a man for years past; their information might be upon acts done years before, which, in itself, would render it difficult to get direct evidence. It was, therefore, unwise to keep up the sense of injury and injustice which the exercise of this retrospective power would engender. Moreover, real injustice might be done by the Government being unable to get true evidence of what had been done in former times. Hon. Members well knew how difficult it was to get reliable evidence of what took place at public meetings, or of 650 what had been said by hon. Members a year ago. That being the case, he felt a strong objection to the retrospective action of the Bill, and thought it should be limited. The Amendment he was about to move was only a prelude to one which, if adopted, would limit the operation of the Bill to acts which took place after its introduction. He hoped the Government would see their way to meet the wishes of himself and his hon. Friends in this respect, who, he could say, had voted for the Bill up to the present stage with the greatest pain and reluctance. He would add that they would not have voted for the introduction of the measure at all had it not been for the great confidence they felt in the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government. He believed, also, that many hon. Members felt great objection to the introduction of retrospective action into a Bill of this kind. The support which, notwithstanding these objections, he and other hon. Members had given to Her Majesty's Government constituted, in his opinion, a claim and a right to make an appeal to them to make some concession in this respect. He, therefore, as an Amendment, proposed, in page 1, line 6, to leave out the words "either before or," in order to enable him, at a later period, to move some limit behind which Her Majesty's Government could not enforce the very arbitrary and even dangerous provisions of this Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 6, to leave out the words "either before or."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'either' stand part of the Clause."
Although, technically, the Question is that the words "either before or" be left out, this Amendment actually raises the discussion, and involves the decision, of the retrospective operation of the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, after the speech of his hon. Friend, he must explain the grounds on which this portion of the Bill rested a little more in detail. He believed he could say, without fear of contradiction, that the form of the Bill was precisely the same as that of previous Acts of this kind. He objected to the application of the word "retrospective," which, when applied to legislation, generally gave the impression 651 that a new offence had been created, or a new punishment enacted. That, however, was an entirely unfounded supposition. If they were creating now offences and new punishments by the Bill, there might be the strongest objection to applying it to offences committed before the passing of this Act; but Her Majesty's Government were simply taking power to arrest persons suspected of being actually guilty of certain offences. The general notion of retrospective legislation did not apply to such an enactment as that. But his hon. Friend seemed to think the Act might be used for the purpose of going back far into the past, when proof of acts committed would be very difficult to obtain; and he had, in the course of the debate, heard allusions to gentlemen engaged in political disturbances many years ago, who, it was said, might possibly be arrested under this Bill. He need not say that such was not for a moment in the contemplation of the Government; and he would assure his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea that the powers of the Bill would not be used in any such way. Nor could he suppose that hon. Members who had voted for the second reading of the Bill believed that it would be applied to such a purpose. For his own part, he should be sorry to be supposed to take such a power. Still, he could quite believe there might be some persons who felt on this point a reasonable although unfounded alarm. His hon. Friend had truly said that with regard to all political offences, when the excitement was over, there had always been a general feeling in this country in favour of an amnesty, The Government shared that feeling very strongly; though there was a wide distinction between political offences and most of the offences to be dealt with under this Bill. The chief object of Her Majesty's Government was to prevent outrages, and incitement to outrages; and, therefore, they did not want to take a power beyond their immediate and actual necessity. They desired no more than the power which they conceived to be necessary to enable them to arrest and prevent the commission of outrages, or the incitement to their commission, by men whom they believed, on reasonable suspicion, to have been concerned either in actual outrages, or incitement to them This power was not wanted for the pur- 652 pose of punishment, for, if that were the case, imprisonment for 18 months would not be sufficient, but to prevent persons continuing to commit outrages. If, therefore, this power were limited in its operation to offences committed after the passing of the Act, he did not think they would succeed in their endeavours at prevention, for, in that case, Her Majesty's Government would have to wait until an outrage was committed before they could bring in their preventive powers. But what the Government desired was at once to prevent the commission of outrages; and he believed that one of the chief causes of the diminution of crime which had, happily, taken place in Ireland was that the consciences of those who had committed it were alarmed, that they were afraid, and were acting very carefully in consequence. Not wishing to go further back than they could possibly help, Her Majesty's Government had to consider whether they should have any limitation at all, and, if so, what the limitation should be. The hon. Member for Swansea had not pledged himself to any date, but had referred to two dates, neither of which the Government could accept. He thought, however, they could adopt the 1st of October last year. The reason why he named that date was that the very great increase in the number of outrages came immediately after the 1st of October last. They sprang up from 84 in July to 103 in August; 108 in September; 2G9 in October; 561 in November; and 866 in December. Those who thought they ought to have a Bill of this kind, and who disliked the odium and discredit of being obliged to pass it—for it was, indeed, a discreditable thing that the state of the country should render necessary a measure which they so intensely disliked—those, he said, who thought such a Bill must be passed would, he was sure, also be of opinion that it was of no use doing that and not doing it effectually. Hon Members who had that feeling would see that a man who had been prominent in the outrages committed in October, November, and December, was probably the man whom they ought to lay hold of and prevent from committing them for the next 18 months. The number of outrages committed during the last three months of 1880 was 1,696 as compared with 894 in the previous 653 nine months. That was the ground for taking the date named, which, he thought, would be a reasonable limitation. If, as he believed, this would be acceptable to the majority of the Committee, without accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea, which Her Majesty's Government were unable to agree to, he pledged himself, either on Report or on the Third Reading, that such limitation should be proposed.
§ MR. GRAY
reminded the Committee that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, notwithstanding his intense dislike to this Bill, had on every division voted for the most stringent of the provisions of the Westmeath Act and the Peace Preservation Act of 1870. The right hon. Gentleman showed a great facility for doing what he so intensely disliked. How many previous Acts of the kind he had not voted for he knew not; but since those referred to he had supported every measure of coercion for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that, in proposing this retrospective clause without limit, he was following precedents; but it would be found that in the Westmeath Act a limit of time was imposed. That Act provided—That where any person suspected of having committed any crime under the direction or influence of the said Ribbon Society, or who on the 1st of January, 1871, or any subsequent date," &c.It, therefore, only wont back to the 1st of January, 1871; and in subsequent phrases of the same Act reference would be found to persons suspected of committing crimes after the passing of the Act. Ho, therefore, trusted the right hon. Gentleman would, by a further concession, fix the date in the present Bill at the 1st of January, 1881. It would not be much to make this further concession, and to fix the time of punishment of these persons to a period somewhat conterminous with the date at which Her Majesty's Government had announced their intention of bringing in a measure of this kind.
§ MR. WARTON
said, one of the very few important points in the Bill was the time during which its action should take place. Her Majesty's Government should have made up their minds upon this point, if they meant to insert any date at all. The omission to do this showed, in his opinion, great weakness on the part 654 of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he trusted he would not rashly conclude that the limitation he proposed would meet with the approval of the majority of the Committee. He had thought the right hon. Gentleman had screwed up his mind to a little temporary firmness; but his resolution was fast disappearing, and he now showed great weakness. There was no Statute of Limitations with regard to crime. The Government had brought in a measure absolutely indispensable to the peace of Ireland; and, therefore, for his part, he protested against any limitation of its action whatever. If its action wore limited to the date named, a daring member of the Land League, an inciter to outrage, by the advice he gave before the 1st of October, might have urged some "cat's-paw" to commit an outrage on the day after the 1st of October, and in this way he would escape, while the "cat's-paw" would be punished. The conspiracy began in Ireland before the 1st of October, and it was necessary that persons, who long before that date had incited others to the commission of crime, should be detained as long as possible. He could not but regard the concession of limitation as great weakness on the part of the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he agreed with every word that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea; and while he could not but regret Her Majesty's Government had not limited the operation of the Act to the 1st of January, he was bound to admit that they had acted in a fair spirit. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would not hesitate to accept any reasonable proposals that might be made. He could quite understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite should look with some dislike on a limit of the kind which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He presumed, however, that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport had only spoken for himself, and had not expressed the opinion entertained by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
did not know whether the majority of the House would accept this alteration; but as for himself and those with whom he acted, it would be impossible for them to accept it or be contented with it. The 655 Chief Secretary had said that his motive in accepting the limitation was rather to prevent the commission of further outrage than to punish past outrage; but he declared that it was important that the Government should have power to punish those who had incited to crime. Well, hut if the right hon. Gentleman and his officials knew that people had been and were inciting to these outrages, why had they not exerted their powers and placed them under arrest? Surely the ordinary law was always powerful enough to enable the Government to arrest men known to he inciting to the commission of crime; hut if the right hon. Gentleman had not known these people hitherto, by what process of divination did he propose to get at them by his retrospective measure—by what process of divination was he going to make certain of arresting the men who were really guilty? He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) should like some explanation on this point before he, at least, could agree oven to the limitation proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had dwelt on the point that this enactment would create no new crimes, and perhaps, in a strictly lawyer-like phrase, it did not create any new crimes that were not to be found in the Statute Book; but, practically, he found that it distinctly created a new crime—the crime of being suspected of having done something wrong. For the crime of being suspected, of which he could become guilty before the passing of this Act, a man might be arrested and cast into prison for a year and a-half. The right hon. Gentleman said that this would not be an imprisonment, but only a detention. He fancied a man—especially an innocent man—who was cast into prison for the crime of being suspected, might be well excused if he failed to see any very material difference between detention and imprisonment. All this assumption that the right hon. Gentleman would only use this power to arrest men believed, or known, to be guilty of inciting to the commission of an offence, and none others, they had to take beforehand on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman himself. In all his speeches on this question the Chief Secretary seemed to ask them to go on the confidence principle—give him unlimited power, and they might trust to him not to abuse it. The right hon. Gentleman 656 reminded him of the gallant in one of Shakespeare's plays, who went into a tavern, unbuckled his sword, laid it by the side of him, and said, "God send I may have no use of thee," and, before he had drunk a second cup, had drawn the sword on his next-door neighbour He was inclined to think that the Chief Secretary—under the pressure of those around him who were ready to force his hand, or under the pressure of some excitement—having prayed that he might have no need to use his weapon, would the next moment be inclined to draw it upon hon. Members in that House. They had seen already how he could be forced on by some influence or other to make use of a power which he himself had previously declared it was not his intention to use. Not many days since, in answer to an hon. Member, the right hon. Gentleman had said it was not intended to arrest Michael Davitt, or recall his ticket-of-leave—
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman said that up to that time he had seen no reason to arrest Michael Davitt?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say that I concluded my answer by saying that he would be most carefully watched.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman had said that Michael Davitt would be "most carefully watched;" but nothing that they had since heard, or could discover, had in any degree broken the conditions upon which Davitt held his ticket-of-loave. All that he appeared to have done had been to make one or two speeches which might have met with the disapproval of the Chief Secretary. Then, under the Bill, if it were retrospective, even to the 1st October last, what reason was there to believe that the right hon. Gentleman might not arrest any or every man who had made a speech on a Land League platform since that time? They had no reason to believe it, and they could have none. The right hon. Gentleman had no security himself. He did not know to-day what—owing to pressure put upon him—he would have to do to-morrow. Look at what the Act created. It was not merely a person guilty in any prescribed 657 district of any act of violence or incitement to outrage who could be arrested, but anyone suspected of being guilty—As principal or accessory of high treason, treason-felony, or treasonable practices, wherever committed, or of any crime punishable by law committed in a prescribed district, being an act of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to an act of violence or intimidation, and tending to interfere with or disturb the maintenance of law and order.How did they know that any speech whatever made on a Land League platform since 1st October might not be construed by the right hon. Gentleman and his Advisers into something "inciting to an act of violence or intimidation," or "tending to interfere with or disturb the maintenance of law and order?" This left an extravagant power in the hands of the officials, and would give them power to arrest anyone who had made any kind of speech which, however guarded in its language, might seem to them to have supported the Land League agitation, and so, in the words of the Bill, to have interfered with or disturbed the maintenance of law and order. If such powers were to be given at all, they should be strictly limited to the time after the Act came into operation; because it was evident that, during the past three months, many men might have made speeches in which they had not the slightest intention of breaking the law, but which the right hon. Gentleman and his Advisers, by the pod facto application of the Act, might look upon as bringing the speakers within the provisions of the measure. If this power was to be given at all—and it was an extravagant power to give under any limitation—it ought, at least, to be made wholly concurrent and co-extensive with the Act itself, beginning when the Act began, and not going back and creating offences which were unknown before the Act came into operation. He had heard a great deal through the whole course of this debate about the acts which it was intended to put a stop to by this measure being acts of agrarian outrage; but the Bill took into consideration also acts which came in the order of treason-felony, and which included any manner of speeches that might seem to incite, even in the remotest degree, to a breach of the law. It was clear that, under the Bill, it would be in the power of the Chief 658 Secretary to arrest for merely political speeches—speeches intended to bring about by Constitutional means a change in the law, but, it might be, characterized by language somewhat vigorous and by a kind of strength and earnestness common to many, and especially to speakers not at all trained, or of great political culture. They gave, by this Bill, power to the Chief Secretary to arrest anyone whom he might consider a dangerous agitator, merely from the fact that he had made a speech in favour of the Land League which they might believe tended to bring about breaches of the law. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be free to arrest anyone who had taken any part in any previous movement in Ireland of an agitating and violent kind. He did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would go so far as to arrest such a man as Sir Charles Gavan Duffy; but they must remember that when that gentleman was to the fore the history of Ireland was one of attempts, more or less, at violent changes. Those attempts had been shared in by men, then young, who since might have changed their opinions, and were desirous of effecting alterations in the law, and they were as law-abiding citizens as any hon. Members in the House. Yet, anyone who had taken any part—in however remote or humble a manner, and however touching merely their outskirts or fringe—in these movements would come under the operation of the new law. Those who had taken part in the different Fenian movements, who years ago had left their country but had since returned to it, would come under its operation if they had come over from America since the 1st of October and had remained. This was a power which certainly, without strict limitation ought not to be placed in the hands of anyone. Someone in the course of the debate had said that there were a good many Irish Americans in Ireland who would be induced to leave the country when this Bill came into operation. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman wished to arrest these persons before they left the country, and whether, with all his difficulties and complications, he wished to incur fresh complications with the United States with regard to some of their naturalized subjects? During the Fenian agitation American subjects were arrested, and 659 one, at least, who was taken and charged with the gravest offences was, owing 1o the intervention of the American Government, released, although to ordinary lookers-on there was no reason why he, more than any others, should be set at liberty. The Naturalization Laws would still further increase the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties, for any American subject arrested would naturally appeal to the United States Government, and the Chief Secretary would find a variety of other complications to be met in addition to those already surrounding him. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) would counsel the right hon. Gentleman, if he wished to lessen these difficulties, to build a bridge between Ireland and America to facilitate the departure of American subjects from Ireland when the Act came into operation. For his own part, he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) did not think that the attempt at a compromise made by the right hon. Gentleman was in any degree satisfactory. He felt bound, and he trusted that his hon. Friends who sat near him would feel equally bound, to resist this extraordinary power, or any limitation of it. They wore bound in these discussions to assume that any power with which they entrusted any Government would be exercised in the most arbitrary and despotic manner. It was not for them to pass Acts of Parliament which, however indefinite and vague they might be in their powers, would only be harmless if they were not exercised; and it was not for them to go on the principle of compromise, and pass a bad Act of Parliament because they had a good Chief Secretary in whoso hands it was said to be safe to entrust these powers, because no harm would be done. They must examine every clause of the Bill as carefully as though they were certain that the moment it passed into law its provisions would be enforced by a most arbitrary and despotic official.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I thought it would be right, especially after the observations of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), to say in two words what my own feeling, and the feeling of those who sit about me, is on this matter. We have consented to support the proposal of Her Majesty's Government on the ground that we consider the responsible Government of the Crown bound to bring forward such measures as they believe to be neces- 660 sary. When the case is made out sufficiently for the satisfaction of Parliament, I think it is our duty to give to the Government such measures as they on their responsibility declare to be necessary, for a purpose which they have stated and which we have admitted to be necessary. I quite think that the loose phraseology of this Bill was such as to challenge attention, and I could not help agreeing with the hon. and learned Gentleman behind mo (Mr. Warton) that it was a pity that there was not more precision in the first statement; but inasmuch as the Chief Secretary now tells us that the date he proposes—the 1st October—will cover the period over which he thinks it is necessary that he should have power of action, I think we have nothing at all to do but to say that we entirely accept the proposal, and that, on the responsibility of the Government, we are perfectly prepared to agree to the Amendment.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, attention should be given to what was really an important concession made by the right hon. Gentleman. As the measure stood, the provisions would be absolutely limitless in their operation. He had no doubt Her Majesty's Government, in asking for that limitless operation, acted from a well-founded consciousness of their intention as to the exercise of these extraordinary powers. They know they would be masters of the operation of the Act, and were confident that they would use it with justice and moderation. No Member of the Government was more confident of that than he was; but in matters of this sort they had to think of precedent, and he must say, for himself, that if he were to be in any way responsible for this measure, he should be careful so to limit the scope of its operation, that no person could be affected by it who had not received due notice that he would come under its provisions. In consequence of this opinion he had put an Amendment on the Paper, proposing that the powers contained in the Bill should not extend back beyond the 1st of February, 1831. The Chief Secretary had introduced the Bill on the 25th of January, and he considered that due notice to all concerned would be given within the lapse of a week from that period. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had made a statement with regard to former Acts of Par- 661 liament, which had been challenged by the hon. Member for Carlow County (Mr. Gray); but his hon. Friend appeared to be incorrect in his exposition on the subject. It was a fact that the Westmeath Act of 1871 was, to a certain extent, retroactive, for the Act said that—Any person being a Ribbonman, who was, or had been, either the principal in or an accessory, before or after the Act, to any violence, or the principal in any misdemeanour, committed or deemed by the Lord Lieutenant to be reasonably suspected to have been committed under the direction, or committed under the influence of the said Ribbon Society," &c.This showed that the Act was retroactive. ["No, no!"] Well, he said "Yes, yes!" As to the Acts of 1848 and 1866, they were in a very slight degree retroactive. They were retroactive in regard to those persona who were in prison at the time of the passing of those Acts— that was to say, those persons could be detained without trial on the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant. He should, however, very much prefer that this measure should operate from the 1st of February, at which time notice would have been given to all concerned. But he could not forget the words used by a Friend of his, a most distinguished Member of this House, in 1866—he meant the late Mr. John Stuart Mill—who said, on an occasion of this sort, speaking of Ministers, at the head of whom in the House of Commons then, as now, was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone),"They are responsible, I am not." He disliked very much that there should be any retroactive character in a measure of this sort, and the concession made by the Chief Secretary did not meet the question of principle in any substantial degree. The House had heard the hope expressed by his right hon. Friend, the other night, that "this was probably the last Coercion Bill." He hoped it was the last; yet he could not but remember that—From the Lord Lieutenant down to the youngest policeman, the whole official body in Ireland had been taught to rely too much upon British power.Those words were the most memorable, the most important and significant words concerning Ireland that he had heard since he entered Parliament. Those words of courage and wisdom had been spoken by the Chief Secretary, and they did not, to his mind, encourage a strong hope that this was 662 the last Coercion Bill Parliament would have to consider; and it was because he could not confidently believe that this was the last Coercion Bill, that he was extremely anxious to see it characterized by a principle which, he was afraid, would not be found in the measure.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, that, so far as he was concerned, he agreed with several other hon. Members, with whom he had the honour to think and act, that they could not accept any such compromise as that offered by the Government. He was surprised at the arguments which had been advanced in support of the present wording of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said the measure was not retrospective, and, seemingly, he wished hon. Members to give up their common sense to him, as the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) confessed he and others had given up their convictions to the Government, and had voted for that in which they did not believe. He had never heard since he had been in the House such an avowal as that of the hon. Member, that men were to vote in this House against their consciences; but, however hon. Members in that corner of the House occupied by the hon. Gentlemen to whom he referred might yield their convictions to the Chief Secretary, he (Dr. Commins) and his Friends did not intend to do so, neither did they mean to surrender their common sense, as the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) had done. The last-named Member had given up his common sense, for he had actually treated them to the argument, that because a man could be convicted of an actual offence 20 years after it occurred, the Bill which only proposed to convict and punish for that which was not an offence at all at the time it was committed, was, therefore, not retrospective. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten the difference between the past and the future, and he would recommend him to inform his mind as to the distinction. The Chief Secretary had said not only that the Bill was not retrospective, but that it created no new offence; and he should have been very much surprised to have heard such a statement as this come from anyone who had any knowledge of the law. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was not a technical lawyer; therefore, he did not see how—he would not say absurd, be- 663 cause that would be disrespectful, and he did not for a moment wish to be so— singularly devoid of that technical knowledge of the law which lawyers were supposed to possess was this assertion. The Bill did create new offences. He should like to know what were "treasonable practices?" Where did they occur in any Act of Parliament as an offence? Whoever was indicted for "treasonable practices?" They knew what treason was—
The hon. Member is discussing a new and subsequent part of the Bill, which he is not entitled to do.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, he was merely meeting the arguments of the Chief Secretary, who had urged that the Bill created no now offences. He (Dr. Commins) maintained that it did create new offences, and he was pointing out what he considered the creation of a now offence in this section of the Bill, and, if now ruled out of Order, he trusted that later on he should have an opportunity of dealing with the point. If still in Order, however, he would say that "treasonable practices" was no offence; that no man had ever been convicted on such a charge, and that it was not to be found as an offence in any legal textbook. There was another new offence created by the Bill. The law of the land did not recognize an offence committed outside its jurisdiction; but, most extraordinarily, this Bill recognized not only an offence committed outside the jurisdiction of the law, but the suspicion of such an offence. He could go through the whole of the section, and point out similar divergencies from the interpretation that the Chief Secretary put upon it. The right hon. Gentleman said the object of the measure was not political; and if that were so, he should like to ask what was meant by referring to "treasonable practices," when all that was sought was to put down agrarian outrages? Why was not the measure confined to these agrarian outrages? The right hon. Gentleman had said that these outrages had been committed since the measure was brought in; that they had increased from October to January, but had since diminished. Well, it was open for him (Dr. Commins) to say that these threaten-inglettors, which comprised three-fourths of the outrages, having accomplished their purpose—-having urged on the 664 Chief Secretary to bring in this Bill— there was no further need for them, and they had consequently diminished; that the diminution which had taken place was simply a diminution in the number of threatening letters written by those friends of law and order who would be informers by-and-bye. The Irish Members could not accept any compromise with a principle which violated not only natural justice, but the oldest and most valuable principles of English law.
§ MR. LODER
said, the object of all wa3 to bring about the peace of Ireland, and it should, therefore, be their wish to give that power for good government and speedy action necessary to bring about so desirable an end. Treason should be judged of not by one speech, in which a man might have been guilty of a slip of the tongue, but by concurrent action and repetitions of the offence. He did not wish to re-open old sores; but he thought that agitators should be made to reflect and look back upon their former action. He protested, therefore, against the dictum of the Chief Secretary, when he said that because agrarian offences were on the increase in the months of October, November, and December, therefore they should go back to the month of October for the limit. Under the Bill, those who committed these offences might be punished; but the fact must not be lost sight of that the cause of these offences was incitement at an earlier period. Incitement was the greater offence of the two, and it was to punish those guilty of it that the measure had been made retrospective.
§ MR. DALY
wished the Chief Secretary to look at the fatal and dangerous precedent he was establishing by these extraordinary powers of retrospective legislation. If there was any reason for the Bill, it was that a state of things existed in Ireland in which persons known to have committed crimes could not be brought to trial because of terrorism which prevented people from giving information. Even if the people who! committed those crimes were known,! there would be nothing in these extra-ordinary powers to prevent crime in the future; and he put it to the House whether it was worth while to pass ex post facto legislation for the miserable purpose of arresting people who had already committed outrages? He did not think it was worth while, for the sake of 665 punishing those men to take so fatal a step in legislation. The Chief Secretary had referred to another matter which had some importance, and that was the diminution of crime in Ireland. Now, he claimed to know the state of Ireland, and to know that if it was true that the police had knowledge of the men who had committed the outrages during October and the succeeding months, it was equally well known to those men that they were suspected and known; and the great probability was that before the Bill became law very many of them would have left the country altogether. So much did he deprecate outrage, that no one would give those men a more willing "God-speed" than he would, he deplored the outrages as much as any man; but he asked the House to take into consideration that the men who were described as mauvais sujets, "village tyrants" and "dissolute ruffians," were marked men. They were not only known to the police, but were known in the localities. The Government said they could not convict those men because of the terrorism that prevailed; but if they suspected them, there was no reason why they should not keep a close watch on them, and the moment they committed a crime to arrest them. But he appealed to them not, for the sake of revenge, to go back to the outrages committed in October—not to establish so dangerous a precedent in legislation. What was the object of legislation, and of legislation of the kind now proposed? It was not to revenge crime, but to deter from crime. Legislation would be active and powerful, and the fear of the Act would be a great deterring influence, and there was no reason to import into the Statute Books of that House any principle so dangerous as going back to offences already committed. Lot the past bury the past. The measure was stringent enough, and it would lose none of its power or effect on the social condition of Ireland if the words under consideration were omitted.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he had done what, in his conscience, he considered a serious duty, and he regretted that the Chief Secretary would not accept his proposal to make the retrospective action of the Bill go no further back than the 1st of January. The right hon. Gentleman had, however, given good reasons for naming the 1st of October. He had 666 looked into the measure, and, having full confidence in the Government, he was willing to accept the limitation of the right hon. Gentleman, and would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. CALLAN
regretted that the Chief Secretary had not accepted the 1st of January, and remarked that there was a chance, some time or other, of the Conservatives coming into power during the continuance of the Act. If so, the right hon. Gentleman himself might be arrested, for many hon. Members were of opinion—and in that opinion he concurred—that his speech on the rejection of the Disturbance Bill last Session by the House of Lords was one of the greatest incitements to outrage in Ireland. And in October and November, when Ireland was quiet and there were no outrages, he did not enforce the Common Law.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he was in favour of throwing overboard the retrospective clause altogether. He thought it did not befit the British Government to be taking retrospective views of Irish affairs for the purpose of punishing Irish people. If they could set an example of forgetting the past they would be doing very wisely; but if they were to have long memories, so would the Irish people have long memories and bitter memories—and they would not limit them to October last. If crimes and individuals were to be brought up and punished by ex post facto legislation from September or October last, the Irish people would remember the crimes of England for a very much longer period. A good deal had been said in the discussion about law and order. It was said that law and order were not respected in Ireland and were not loved by the Irish people. Was it any wonder that the laws of England were not loved in Ireland, and that what was called law and order were not loved? He would refer to a specimen of the laws from which the people of Ireland had been suffering for generations—
I do not perceive how the hon. Member's remarks bear on, the Question before the Committee.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, a proposition was before the House that a certain law should be passed, with a retrospective clause in it, enabling the Government to punish people for alleged or suspected crimes committed before the 667 Act was passed. His argument was, that laws of that kind could not be regarded and respected by the Irish people, and that, in that way, the very name of law and order was made hateful to the people of Ireland. They were told that the law of the land had been superseded by the law of the Land League to some extent. Was it any wonder? If the law of the Grand Turk could be introduced, it would supersede the law of the land according to their experience of it. It was not much to ask that the power to punish people for alleged acts and suspected acts before the passing of the Bill, should be abandoned. During the Land League meetings many of the speakers were unaware that they were violating the law—if they did violate it, which he did not concede—but, at all events, if there was a law against them it was not put in force. If a law existed at the time making the speeches at those meetings illegal, why was not some notice given to the speakers? A good deal was heard of British fair play, and Constitutionalism, and honour; but where were they in that proposal? There was very little use in arguing those points, for he had seen the Chief Secretary laugh at the arguments adduced; serious arguments only evoked the merriment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, the retrospective clause so enabled the Government to go back on what was past, that really no Government need take the trouble to govern the country at all, for it could always introduce Bills with retrospective clauses. He remembered the case of a man of low character, who on the 1st of June had said at a meeting, speaking to a questionable audience—"Shoot the vermin; you know what I mean." Would the Government have a right to bring that man to immediate justice? He was brought to justice on the 28th of September, although his offence was committed on the 1st of June. Political Parties in this country were not particularly scrupulous in their treatment of each other; hon. Gentlemen opposite had allowed an Act, of which he did not approve, to lapse, allowing the present Government only 10 days to renew that Act, whereas the House was now on a Bill which had been discussed for five weeks. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were unscrupulous enough 668 to allow that Act to expire without allowing the Government sufficient time to renew it, and then complained that the Government had not done so.
§ MR. A. MOORE
expressed an anticipation that hereafter the country would be governed wholly and solely by retrospective Acts.
§ MR. SYNAN
asked on what principle was the proposed Amendment to the Bill objectionable? The Bill was intended to prevent crime, and not for the purpose of punishing crime that was past. He did not see how it was necessary, in order to prevent the committal of agrarian offences in the future, to keep a man in prison for a year and a-half for an offence committed on the 1st October last; and he did not see any necessary connection between the one and the other. He did not see how it was necessary, to prevent future offences, to put in prison for a year and a-half, or any period whatever, a man who had committed offences before the passing of the Act or before the 1st of January. Such an argument could only be founded on this—that a man who committed an offence on the 1st October or the 1st November was such an inveterate offender, that they should morally and logically come to the conclusion that the only way of preventing him from committing further offences was by putting him into prison. Was that a logical or a moral conclusion from the offence of the 1st October or 1st November? There was no connection whatsoever between the two. The Act of Parliament was to be passed to save society for the future, and not to imprison people for what was past. A man might be guilty of an agrarian offence two months ago, and the knowledge that the Act had become law would be a sufficient notice to him, and if he were a rational being that knowledge would prevent him from committing an act just as much as if they retained the retrospective clause. He saw no connection between the two things, and he saw every- 669 thing objectionable on principle and upon grounds of humanity. The agrarian offences were, of course, crimes; they were moral offences, but what did they spring from? They sprang from a state of things in Ireland which modified, though it did not justify, the acts that were committed. They were not committed for a criminal purpose, and did not show a criminal purpose, or a criminal intent, or a demoralized character. The offences sprang from an excitable temperament provoked by a state of social disorder in Ireland, springing from what the people called bad laws with respect to the land in Ireland. When crimes had not sprung from moral disorder, why should a man be put in prison for an offence committed two months ago in order to prevent him committing another offence sometime hereafter? That argument was addressed to the Committee in the face of the declaration by the Government that they intended to amend the law, which would be as forcible a recommendation to a man not to commit a crime as the retrospective clause proposed. He, therefore, opposed the retrospective portion of the Bill upon political grounds, upon social grounds, and upon moral grounds, for he did not see that it was at all necessary for the purpose of keeping peace in the future. With respect to some more of the objections urged, he did not think the Bill was intended to punish men for what they said at public meetings; it was only intended for crimes of an agrarian character. [Mr. T. D. SULLIVAN: Alleged incitement.] It was all alleged and all suspected; but the Bill did not intend to deal with any speech on a public platform which was not criminal, and did not tend to the immediate committal of a criminal act. He thought his hon. Friends had given too wide a scope to the operation of the Bill in that respect; but he thought the retrospective operation of the Bill was not necessary to restore law and order in Ireland, and he opposed to any extent all retrospective operation before the bringing in of the Bill. He thought the moment the Bill was brought in there was notice given to the Irish people that crimes would be punished, and that it was to that extent retrospective. It might be limited to the day when the Bill was brought in; but to go beyond that was not necessary to restore law and order in Ire- 670 land, and he, therefore, felt it his duty to oppose the clause.
§ MR.D. GRANT
said, he could quite understand the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He had introduced the Bill, and said he intended it to work for the distinct purpose of restoring law and order; and that being the object of the Bill, any retrospective character would stamp on the Bill a sense of desire on the part of those who were in authority which would be prejudicial to the general character of the Bill itself. All that side of the House, and he had no doubt many on the other side of the House, were excessively regretful that the Bill should be necessary; but it was of the greatest and gravest importance that it should go forth to the world that the desire of the Government had been to uphold the majesty of the law, and not to pass a Bill with the idea of vengeance upon the people. He was sure that the most loyal supporters of the Government would be pleased if the proposed modification were introduced into the Bill, so that they might be able to defend the action of the Bill before their constituents on its own merits. He was sure that the power in the Bill was large enough for any purpose required to restore law and order without the clause under discussion. In connection with the Peace Preservation Act of 1870 there were some serious figures which told with great force. It was passed on April the 4th; the absolute crimes in January were 274, in February 206, and in March 233, making altogether 713 in the three months. The Bill was passed on the 4th of April, and from that time to the end of the year the total agrarian crimes were only 123, which was not equal to one fortnight during these throe months. If that result was produced by a Bill of that character, it seemed to him that, for the purpose of carrying out that which was the fundamental principle of the Bill, the powers in the Bill were all that were required.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
desired to point out to the hon. Gentlemen opposite the awkward position in which they would put some of their Friends, if they insisted upon dividing upon that Amendment. He need not say how much he was opposed to the Bill; but it was affirmed by the majority that some Bill was necessary, and it was only upon 671 that basis that they could continue the discussion. The Government had made a large concession, not so large as he could have wished or so large as he thought they might have made if he had not misinterpreted the statement of some Members of the Government during the Recess. It was possible that he might have misinterpreted them; but he certainly understood a very prominent M ember of the Government to state in November that at that time the resources of the ordinary law had been found sufficient, and he regretted that the Government felt it necessary to go back some weeks before that date. He did not think it would be wise for them to waste time in discussing a simple question of one or two weeks, more or less; and, while he thoroughly sympathized with the hon. Members opposite in opposing the principle of the Bill, he put it to them not to drive Radical Members, who wished to vote with them, out of the House—which he could not help thinking cowardly sometimes—or to vote against them, as it might become their duty to do, if a vote were taken on the question whether the Bill should begin from the 1st of October or not, with the promise of the Government before them.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
accepted the statement of the hon. Member for Northampton, but he considered the question an extremely important one. It was whether the Bill should date from the 31st of October or from the passing of the Bill. That involved the question whether legislation should be ex pout facto or not. He must strongly dissent from the action of the hon. Member for Swansea, and he thought that the course that hon. Member had taken should be a beacon and a warning to hon. Members on that side of the House not to give up their Amendments to that hon. Gentleman in the full confidence that he would continue their opposition. He had himself put an Amendment on the Paper; and if the hon. Member came and asked him for precedence, as he had done with the hon. Member for Longford, he should certainly refuse it, because nothing could more prejudice a Committee than to find the proposer of a proposal deserting it, and he would ask the House to forget the action of the hon. Member in that matter, and discuss the proposition on its own merits. What was the question the House was asked to decide? 672 Their way would be very much facilitated in the discussion of the question and of the whole Bill if they knew the exact objects of the Government in pressing the measure. Prom what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said, it appeared that the object of the limit he proposed was either to enable the Government to lay hold of a small body of criminals, or seriously and largely to interfere with the Land League agitation, of which the outrages were said to be, if not the outcome, at any rate, the accompaniment. If that Bill be meant merely to catch hold of the mauvain sujets, the answer was that they were got hold of already. No Minister could possibly have the power of catching them under that Bill, as they would be out of the country before it came into operation. He was not going to argue that these outrages had been caused by isolated bodies of ruffians. If the object of the Bill was to get rid of such men, they wore got rid of already by the introduction of the Bill. He thought, however, that the object of the limit proposed was a larger one—namely, to interfere with the Land League agitation. The right hon. Gentleman cited the fact in favour of his proposal that crime had greatly increased in the three last months of 1880. But there was a point which the right hon. Gentleman steadily kept from the House—namely, that that increase was not of crime consisting of acts of violence to the person and property, but of intimidation. If anyone went through the list, it would be found that the major portion of that increase was under the head of threatening letters and notices, and not of injury to person or property. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues to meet him upon that point. If that be so, how did it affect the case of the right hon. Gentleman? That Bill would not enable him to get hold of the writers of those letters. Those writers were not persons who could be so easily laid hands upon as persons visiting houses at night, or stabbing, or committing acts of violence against property. The writer of a threatening letter was a person whom, necessarily, it was almost impossible to find. Again, the object of the Bill generally was said to be prevention, and not punishment. He accepted that as being an excellent basis for the Bill. But there was no more well-founded maxim of political economy than 673 that crime was not kept down proportionately to the severity of sentences. Therefore, the preventive character of the Bill would effect more than its character of punishment. Would not the case be sufficiently met by making the date of the Bill that on which it entered that House? If it were made to apply to an earlier period, it would, of necessity, be retaliatory and vindictive. As regarded the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), he failed to see the difficulty in the matter to which he had alluded. If he thought it was right that the Bill should be retrospective, let him vote with the Government; if not, what difficulty could he have in voting with the Irish Members '? He could see no difficulty in the case of the hon. Member, except that it was, perhaps, a painful matter for him to vote against the Ministry. That was an amount of torture that the hon. Member would have to go through several times, probably, in the course of his political career in that House. He (Mr. O'Connor) would appeal not only to the hon. Member for Northampton, but also to the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), who, he thought, had not acted quite fairly in the matter. He would appeal to them that, if they really had the courage of their opinions, and really believed that that Bill should be preventive and not vindictive, they should go on with their opposition to it. Finally, he must say that there had been one great argument brought forward with which he could not agree. He declined to allow its validity. It was that the character of the Government should affect largely the voting on a Bill of that kind. The doctrine of authority was an intelligible one, and was, as regarded Conservative Members, a part of their creed. But the fundamental doctrine of Liberalism was that the liberties of the people should not depend upon the authority of any particular individual, but on those laws and those rights which every Liberal was bound to defend. He hoped the present stage of opposition to the Bill would be persevered in.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, he had heard with infinite satisfaction the reply which was given by the Government to the speech of his hon. Friend who sat below him (Mr. Dillwyn). Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that the 674 hon. Member for Swansea should persevere with his Amendment, and that he had not acted fairly in the matter. For his part, he could not think that that was seriously meant by them. The action of his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea was well-meant towards both sides of the House. There was, no doubt, a general feeling on that side that some limitation should be inserted in the Bill; and he must say that it was his deep-rooted conviction that the Government did well to accede to the principle of the prayer which the hon. Member for Swansea had propounded on their behalf. That being so, he was bound to say that when once they had acknowledged the necessity for a Coercion Bill, it became also necessary to make it, in many respects, painfully effectual. When his hon. Friends opposite spoke of the Bill as being of a preventive character, he thought that a word or two from him might show why the Government felt it necessary to ask for powers which, at first sight, seemed startling. There was, beyond all doubt, a state of terrorism in Ireland, and the Government sought to abate it by asking for extraordinary means at the hands of Parliament. Therefore, they had asked for those means, and they undertook not to take up any man who was not guilty of a crime punishable by law. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Suspected of a crime.] His hon. Friends knew that one could not always put every part of a sentence logically forward while speaking, in the same way as if one were writing a newspaper article. He supposed that his hon. Friends would see that there must be, first of all, a crime punishable by law. The arrest might, no doubt, take place upon suspicion—that was partly the object of the Bill. The crimes referred to must come under one of two categories; either they must be acts of violence and intimidation, or the inciting to acts of violence or intimidation. Therefore, his hon. Friends seemed to be arguing as if favour should be shown towards men who had committed crimes punishable by law; those crimes being acts of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to such acts. He did not think that such an argument as that was entitled to much consideration. If it be conceded that there were people guilty of such crimes, who were exercising a terrorism over a neighbourhood, destructive of the 675 happiness of the people of that neighbourhood, the question arose—what should be done to prevent it? They had decided upon coercion. Should it be limited to the date on which the Act passed? A few minutes' consideration would, he thought, show that it could not he so limited. In the first place, if a man had been guilty of acts of violence or intimidation—let them assume him to be the tyrant of a village known to be carrying out designs of his own or the orders of others, houghing cattle, guilty of incendiarism, and acts of cruelty, perhaps firing into the residences of people in the neighbourhood—if all those crimes had been done in October last, and that Act was not to be retrospective, he could not be touched. Perhaps the Bill would not receive the Royal Assent until the 1st of April; and, if the limit was to be the day the Act passed, he would be able thereafter to carry out his designs silently, to keep an evil eye upon the whole neighbourhood— in fact, still to be the cause of terror— and yet he could not be touched, because the Act was not to have a retrospective effect. If such powers as those for which the Government had asked were unfortunately necessary, he submitted that it was also necessary that something like retrospective action should be given to the Act. His hon. Friends opposite bad spoken of the provisions of the Act being extended to the cases of men making speeches at public meetings. Most hon. Members had made such speeches; but he did not think that any of them were conscious of having thereby committed a crime punishable by law, being an act of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to such an act. Therefore, if hon. Members were conscious that they had not committed such crimes, why should they fear the consequences of that Act? He felt sure that no Minister, unless impelled by more than ordinary necessity, would be likely to make such extraordinary use of the powers of the Bill as to apply them to speeches; and, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, he thought that the powers sought for might well be granted to meet such eases as acts of violence and intimidation, which were crimes punishable by law.
§ MR. DILLON
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hop-wood) had assumed that they ought to 676 feel confident that the provisions of that Bill would be carried out strictly, and that they would only be applied to the case of persons suspected of having committed a crime punishable by law, being an act of violence or intimidation, or the inciting to such act of violence or intimidation. A man was arrested last week. He should like the hon. and learned Member for Stockport to say what act of violence he had been guilty of. He could tell the hon. and learned Member that he had not the least belief that the Act would be carried out in a strict sense. It might be said that the limitation was to be put upon the Act for the benefit of hon. Members of that House; but the Government would turn one face towards that House and another towards the people of Ireland. If the Government would consent to state on the face of the warrant what were the particulars of the offence alleged against the prisoner, or if they would allow that warrant to be laid on the Table of the House, so as to enable hon. Members to inquire what was the nature of the act of which the man was supposed to be guilty, there would be some force in the arguments of the hon. and learned Member. But when they asked that that should be granted to them the Government refused to agree to it; because they knew that they could not state upon the face of the warrant what act the man was guilty of, inasmuch as there was no act. In nine cases of arrest out of ten it would be found that there was no act of which the man was guilty, but that the cause of arrest was that the man was a prominent member of the Land League; and the members of that League were supposed to be guilty of every crime. He just mentioned that to show that even if a limitation were inserted in the Act there would be no security; the reasons for arrest would be known only to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant, and it would not be in the power of any hon. Member there to disclose those reasons. With regard to the concession which it was alleged the Government had made in that important portion of the Bill, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had stated it as a fact that the Government had made a very important concession. He regretted that he differed from the hon. Member en- 677 tirely. No one supposed that the Government intended to stand by the unlimited retrospection of that clause. No one supposed that the Government wished to arrest some of the leading members in its own service. There were many gentlemen who at one time were extremely opposed to that service which they were now proud to enter; and it was not likely that the Bill was to include them in its purview. They did not suppose that the Ministry seriously intended to pass an Act which would enable them to arrest any man who was now high up in the social circles of Dublin. They knew that the Government wanted something upon which to make a concession, so they framed the draft of the Bill with an unlimited clause in order to allow of a limit being inserted. The Government had decided upon having a limit within which they might entrap a number of men connected with the land agitation. He could have told them long ago what the limit was to be, so that the Government might effectuate its object. It was nothing short of a farce and an absurdity to tell them that there had been an important concession, when a limit was to be inserted in the clause which would give the Executive a hold on himself and his comrades who laboured with him in connection with the Land League agitation during the months of November and December. If the Government meant to make a concession he could tell them what that concession should be—namely, that that Bill should have a retrospective action, dating from the day on which it was introduced into that House—from the day on which it became known to the people of Ireland that such a Bill would probably be passed. What could be fairer than that? If the limit were placed beyond that they would he going to punish men for doing deeds by a Bill which was not even in the contemplation of the Government, perhaps, when those deeds were done. In short, the concession which they had been told was an important one was, therefore, in reality, none at all. The alteration had been made in order to meet the views of certain hon. Members of the Advanced Liberal Party, and to stop their consciences. For his part, he should vote in favour of the Amendment, although its Mover had desired to withdraw it. And, further, if the Government pro- 678 posed to make the alteration in the clause they had suggested, he should vote in favour of the clause standing in its original nakedness, in order that the Government might not have the opportunity of going before the country as having taken away from the pernicious character of the clause, when, in fact, its effect would not be altered in the slightest degree.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he had listened with great attention to the remarks which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood). The question was now, however, simply this—whether that Bill was to pacify Ireland by giving extraordinary powers for enforcing the law against crimes which might be committed, or whether it was to be of a vindictive character by going back upon the past? Now, the hon. and learned Member for Stockport, who was a Constitutional lawyer and a Radical defender of freedom, maintained this proposition—that granted that the country was perfectly peaceable and tranquil; granted that no crime whatever was committed in Ireland in the month of April next; granted that all agrarian disturbances ceased in April; this was his position. Still, he said, the Government must have the power of going back to last October, in order to gratify its revenge upon some men, and that not for what was done by them, but for what they were suspected of doing. The defender of popular liberty said that he was unable to put into a whole sentence everything that one might logically wish to include. But during the whole of that astonishing speech of his he had never brought in the word "suspected," which constituted all the difference. The hon. and learned Member had used the present tense seven times—"If a man is committing a crime." But the Government say—"If a man is suspected of having committed a crime in October." He was afraid that lawyers were apt to bring into that House too often the habits that were learnt at the Bar, and that they would not take a broad and comprehensive view of a question such as befitted Members of a Legislature. He thought that the Committee would own that the case of the hon. and learned Member was not that of the Government. Granted that crime ceased, that threatening letters disappeared this month, that 679 the Assize Calendars were a blank, the Government said, notwithstanding, that they could not put a clause in the Bill whereby they could go back to October and November in order to gratify the revenge of the terrified landocracy in Ireland and the village policemen. It was whispered among Irish Members that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, before he framed that Bill, exchanged letters with Count Loris Meli-koff in order to procure suggestions from St. Petersburg. In no letter, however, was there such a suggestion as that of retrospective action. Count Boris Melikoff never suggested such a clause as that which was then contained in a Bill brought forward by the most liberal and benevolent of Liberal Ministers that had ever sat on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, whom he saw sitting there, would not advance a step in order to remove the objectionable character of that clause. Judging him from his grand career, he could only say that, to even the highest, best, and noblest of all natures, it might come to pass that they would condescend to acts of despotism, at the thought of which they would have been considered to blush. If the Bill must be passed, let it be framed to meet the cases of crime as to which it could be shown that there was some ground for suspicion at least. If the Bill was to become law, let it be passed, bitter and objectionable as it would be considered still, containing, as it did, power to arrest on suspicion, and the removal of the necessity of trial by jury; but if there was any desire to pacify Ireland, let it not be retrospective to October, in order that revenge might be had upon men for giving vent to passion and temper during the months which wore the rent-collecting months in Ireland. Those who lived in Ireland, like himself, knew that during those months the friction between landlords and tenants was most keen. That being so, and those months having now passed away, he contended that the Bill should not be made retrospective so as to include them. The date of the Act should be that on which it was introduced into that House. If the Government did not accept that date, what was the confession? That they wanted to go back upon men who had submitted to the law and been tranquil and peaceable, 680 and suspect them of committing crime in October. But the hon. and learned Member for Stockport said that there might be peaceable and law-abiding citizens, and there might be others who kept an evil eye upon a whole village; and he said that the consequences of that were that that evil eye must be cut out. Why, that hateful doctrine, which the defender of popular rights stated in his speech that night, amounted to this—that they were to act worse than the Bourbons did in the case of the Bastille, and immure a wretch for life simply because he was suspected by the police of having committed an act punishable by law. He was afraid that the evil eye was upon some defenders of liberty in that House. There was a moral duresse which stifled the feelings of hon. Members opposite, and he wished the Prime Minister would rise, and, by one word, liberate the consciences of the men who loved and followed him. Bet him tell them that this morsel of concession should be given, and that the Bill should not go back on the career of any peaceable peasant and law-abiding person who did wrong no longer. It had been urged as an argument in favour of the retrospective action of the Bill that the words, "Shoot down the vermin; you know whom I mean," were used as far back as October last, at a public meeting, and allowed to pass unpunished. With abominable language of that kind he had no sympathy whatever; and be said that the Government at Dublin Castle should have laid the man who uttered it by the heels, and made him account for his conduct within 24 hours.
The hon. and learned Member is travelling entirely beyond the Question before the Committee, which is, whether the words "either before or" shall stand part of the clause.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he would bow to the ruling of the Chairman when he understood the connection of what he was saying with the Amendment before the Committee. The case had been instanced of abominable language used last November, which was cited as a justification of the clause under discussion. But it had been proved that the man who uttered that language had just come from a drinking bout with the police. He was not a member of the Land League, and he came upon the platform against the re- 681 monstrances of the members present, from whom he had received no encouragement whatever. The words in question formed the only argument used by the other side, which, in his opinion, would carry the Committee away with it. However, he would pass from the incident, and put it to the Government whether they were not bound to be content with the exercise of a severity that would date from the introduction of the Bill, and not make it a purely vindictive measure by retaining its retrospective powers.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
thought one important argument against the clause lay in the conduct of the Government. Her Majesty's Government desired the power of imposing punishment on men whom the officials suspected of having been guilty of certain crimes during the last five months. He would mention some of the acts which would be punishable under this Act, and would show that the Government had deliberately stood by while these things were being done without raising their voice against them. Under such circumstances, he submitted they were not to be heard when they came to the House of Commons and asked for retrospective powers. It was the general impression amongst landlords in Ireland, many of whom had, no doubt, suffered injuries and hardships from certain courses pursued by the Land League, that these acts were being done with the connivance of the officials to show the necessity for an Act which would terrorize the Laud League. That, at any rate, was the opinion of many whom he had met. The Government had stood by while the power of the law was being absolutely usurped by the Land League, and while Land Courts were being held in Clare and other districts. They never protested against them, the police never interfered, no proclamation with reference to them was made, and no single act done against them; although they were now to be made subject to this act. Again, meetings wore held all over the country, which would, undoubtedly, be made the subject of retrospective punishment. He was astonished to hear some hon. Gentleman speak as if this Act would be confined to deeds of violence only, and to incitement to crimes and assaults, for it was perfectly plain that it would empower the Government to inflict retro- 682 spective punishment on men who had attended meetings in Ireland. At the recent trial in Dublin, the Attorney General for Ireland had, in his speech, laid down, as exponent of the law, that an attempt to get up a combination against the payment of rent would be a violation of the law. Therefore, if words had any meaning, and if the intention of the Government was to carry the law as laid down by the Attorney General for Ireland, there was no doubt that every speech that was made for the purpose of getting up a combination to insist on the abatement of rent by intimidation would bring the person who made it within the retrospective provisions of this Act. It was plain that this was also the view taken by the hon. Member for Cavan, who had put down an Amendment with reference to that very point. It could not be denied, at all events, that the Government had tolerated the acts which had been done; and, that being the case, they had no right to come forward in that House and ask for unconstitutional retrospective powers. Nor could they plead that they had tried the ordinary law, and that it had failed, and that, therefore, they were going to fall back on unconstitutional punishment, because the Attorney General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary for Ireland knew that the recent trials would end in failure, and that this measure would eventually be resorted to. The agitation, then, having been carried on—lie would not say with the connivance of the Government, but with their consent—they were not now entitled to ask for unconstitutional powers to inflict punishment for things done long before the Act was passed.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
pointed out that there were three different classes of persona which might be brought under the provisions of this Bill. First, there wore the men who, as members of the Land League, carried on the agitation in a Constitutional way, who collected money for the League, and took part in its councils, and who had, perhaps, made speeches which he was not there to defend. Then there was the second class of men, who, perhaps, went beyond the ordinary lines of Constitutional agitation, and who opposed the serving of processes, who did not pay rent themselves, and encouraged others not to do so. 683 Finally, there were the persons who committed acts of violence and intimidation. Her Majesty's Government, he was afraid, had not sufficiently discriminated between these classes, and a retrospective law like that proposed would, consequently, inflict great injustice. In order to illustrate this, he would give English Members an instance from their own polities. In the year 1866 many Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench made strong speeches against the Conservative Government; and it was stated at the time by Mr. Disraeli that the present Prime Minister had addressed a tempestuous mob from his drawing-room window. This was denied at the time; but possibly if Mr. Disraeli had had the power of acting retrospectively he would have locked up the present Prime Minister for 18 months. Then there was another class of Englishmen who pulled down the park railings, and who, having done wrong, were sentenced by the magistrates to certain punishments. Now, if these different classes of persons had been made together the subject of retrospective law, he was quite sure that public opinion in England would have been very much shocked.
§ MAJOR NOLAN,
in deference to the ruling of the Chairman, would abandon that line of argument. He wished it to be remembered, however, that all these clauses had been rejected by the Irish Members; and, in addressing himself to English Members only, he had simply pointed to a parallel case in English politics to show that they would not have tolerated the retrospective powers now asked for by the Government in the case of Ireland. If he excepted the two Law Officers on the Government Bench and the four ex-Members of the late Government, the whole of the Irish Representatives, with the further exception of eight or nine Conservative Members, had pronounced their condemnation of this Bill. His object, therefore, was to attempt to convince the English Members. He wished to show them that as this Bill would not be tolerated by an English Parliament, as applied to England, the Irish Members were not so far wrong in pursuing a like policy. He would now turn to other matters, having made this apology 684 in order to convince the Committee that he was not purposely wandering from the question before them. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had pointed out that during the 14 days which preceded the meeting of Parliament there had been much speculation in Dublin as to what the Government would do. This was the subject of almost every conversation in the clubs, bars, libraries, and other places of resort, and it was thought that the Government wanted this agitation. If that were so, it was very wrong on their part to bring in a Bill of this kind to punish acts which they had encouraged.
§ SIR HENRY TYLER
rose to Order. He wished to know what Dublin gossip had to do with the Question before the Committee?
I point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the Bill is a Bill of urgency, and that it is the duty of the Chair to keep hon. Members strictly to the point before the Committee.
§ MAJOR NOLAN,
acting on the intimation of the Chairman, would proceed with his argument. He did not say that the Government had encouraged this agitation to the extent to which it had gone; but he knew that a great many people in the West of Ireland thought that the Government required some support against the House of Lords, and that a certain amount of agitation was necessary for that purpose. If some persons, acting on that belief, had overstepped the bounds of legitimate agitation, they ought certainly to be dealt with leniently, especially when suspected by Conservative magistrates, ordinary magistrates, resident magistrates, and Conservative police officers. It would be very hard that these persons should be punished when they believed they were only supporting the Government. He wished the Government would say that they would not put in force the retrospective portion of the Bill against persons who made public speeches only, and attended the meetings of the Land League; and that it should be confined to cases whore there had been violence. He would like the action of the Bill to be limited to cases in which outrages had been committed. He had another argument to urge against this retrospective power. One thing wanted in 685 Ireland was to make the people respect the law. It was a well-known maxim amongst lawyers that if they made a bad law the people's respect for good law was weakened. There could be no doubt that to arrest people on suspicion only was, in itself, bad law. It might be necessary under certain circumstances, but it was bad; and, for that reason, he thought it would be much more prudent on the part of Her Majesty's Government if they left out retrospective action altogether. The people of Ireland were perfectly convinced of the power of England; and there was no object to be gained by impressing it still further upon the Irish people. They should be convinced that the laws made for them by the English people, exclusively, were just. If, for the future, they insisted on discouraging people from going to meetings and depriving them of a good deal of their freedom, at least let them not make the law retrospective, or they would lessen the respect for the ordinary law in Ireland. They might increase a respect for some new course of law; but it would only be by striking terror into the minds of the Irish people, and producing a state of feeling which would not inspire respect for the ordinary law. Hon. Members must recollect that the law about to be passed was to be carried out with the utmost severity in the districts which were prescribed within it; and it would bring within its operation hundreds of persons who, at present, had committed no crime or offence, beyond sending subscriptions to the Land League. Some of them might have gone to public meetings convened for the purpose of hearing speeches in behalf of the Land League. Their only offence was that they had listened to such speeches; and yet, at this moment, they were in the utmost fear and dread as to the consequences which they might have entailed upon themselves. It would be very well, therefore, if it could be made known that the Bill would only apply to those who took an active part in these meetings. But Her Majesty's Government refused to do this; they declined to state that the measure would only affect those who had been actively engaged in the work of agitation; and the consequence was that it was looked upon with the greatest fear and horror. He thought no harm would be done if the Government would consent to give 686 up the retrospective clause altogether, and make the provisions of the Bill like those of any other measure.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
was anxious to say why he thought that the outrages which took place in the months of October and November really ought not to be considered as outrages of a character to justify the retrospective action of the Bill. It was a measure of a legislative description; and their object should be to minimize its operation as much as possible. He did not agree with the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) that the Bill could not be effectual if it were made prospective only, or that it would not be made to apply to speaking at a public meeting. Every person suspected of having incited, not merely to acts of violence, but an act tending to interfere with or disturbing the maintenance of law and order, could be punished. That was quite clear to his mind; although he admitted that there was a marked vagueness in the terms of the clause as it now stood in the Bill. The words were—"tending to interfere with or disturb the maintenance of law and order." They could not possibly have a more vague word than "tending," except it were the words "interfere with or disturb." Anything might be regarded as an interference or disturbance; and it would depend entirely on the animus of the interpreter whether or not the tendency or the interference would be considered a criminal tendency or a criminal interference. He presumed that the reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary selected the date of October as the commencement of the period to which the measure was to apply was, because in the month of October the outrages came to be increased very much in number, if not in absolute gravity. He would venture to lay before the right hon. Gentleman and Her Majesty's Government some reason why they should not consider these outrages as being of a nature that at all required the special revenge which was provided for them by the present Bill. It was said that in the months of October and November the outrages began to take place in increased numbers. Now, he ventured to say that this increase in the number of outrages might be referred to two distinct causes, neither of which 687 was of a character to justify the retrospective effect that was proposed to be given to the Act. In the first place, the action of Her Majesty's Government, or the position of the Government, was clearly and distinctly the cause of a large number of these outrages. He did not say this by the way of casting any stigma or reflection upon the action of the Government, because he was aware that a large number of these outrages were due to the general feeling of despair which spread throughout, if they pleased, the more ignorant districts of Ireland, and probably the poorest districts, but to the general feeling of alarm which prevailed in those localities after what was done by the House of Lords last Session, and what he had no doubt would be done by the House of Lords this Session, if the Government succeeded in passing their Land Bill in the House of Commons and sending it there. Her Majesty's Government would, in that case, find themselves deserted by their Whig supporters as they were last year. The people, smarting under their great disappointment, were under an apprehension that the Government would not bring in a remedial measure that would be anything like adequate to afford compensation to the Irish people. A great deal of the lawlessness which prevailed last autumn was the direct result of the public doubt and despair in regard to the proposal of remedial measures. He thought that Her Majesty's Government ought to bear that in mind on the present occasion, and when they knew that they were now about to bring in remedial measures for the misery and despair into which a large portion of the Irish people had been thrown when they honestly entertained the belief that Her Majesty's Government, although they might have the best intentions, could not possibly bring in remedial measures in time to be of service to them. Outrages which arose from that state of feeling, however mistaken it might have been, ought not to be considered by Her Majesty's Government as justifying them in making retrospective an act of coercion which was to apply to any part of Ireland that might be officially prescribed. Another class of outrages in Ireland, so far as they proceeded from incitement and from lawless agitation, came from another cause, also closely con- 688 nected with the position of the Government. It was honestly believed in Ireland that Her Majesty's Government wanted to have their hands strengthened in Ireland, and that they were really glad to see a powerful land agitation started throughout the country. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER dissented.] If that was a specimen of the suspicion upon which they were going to send persons to prison in Ireland for 18 months, it showed that the suspicion was very strong, and it increased his dislike to place these powers in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman who said" Oh!" He wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman that they already had the word of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that if a strong land agitation had been got up, so far as its objects were legitimate and legal, he would have supported it, and he would have been actually ready to send a subscription to it. And yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary cried out "Oh!" because he (Mr. O'Donnell) accused Her Majesty's Government of being anxious for a strong land agitation in order that their hands might be increased in introducing reforms. There was a very strong land agitation in Ireland incompliance, notwithstanding the denial of the right hon. Gentleman, with the wish of Her Majesty's Government. He was not prepared to deny that, in certain cases, that strong land agitation became degraded into an illegal land agitation, and into a violent land agitation. Many foolish words, many violent words, and many criminal words, were spoken here and there in carrying out the agitation. The illegal and violent agitation was the mere fringe of the legal agitation for which Her Majesty's Government were dying; but he would appeal to the Committee whether that was not the invariable accident of all popular agitations. There was a fringe of illegality upon the Corn Law agitation; there was a fringe of illegality upon the Reform agitation; and he conceded that there was a fringe of illegality upon the Land League agitation. But it ought not to stand against the Irish people now that the legal part of the agitation had done its work, and the Government were aware that their hands were strengthened, and were certain that they would be supported by 689 all the Land League Reformers. He failed to see why this fringe of illegal agitation should be held to be any reason for punishing these transient and temporary acts of madness and folly with the terrible vindictiveness proposed by the present Bill. Therefore, he said that, as far as the action of Her Majesty's Government was concerned, they encouraged, on the one hand, the Land League agitation; and, on the other hand, by their failure to introduce or to carry any remedial measure last year, they spread a feeling throughout the country that they might fail again. For both of these reasons he thought that Her Majesty's Government ought not to be too hard upon the outrages and excesses which occurred last autumn as the natural consequence of this condition of things. That condition of things had now passed away. The poorest and most ignorant of the Irish people knew that Her Majesty's Government required a strong land agitation no longer, and that they were bent on bringing in a strong measure of Land Reform. What good, then, would there be in taking advantage of a transient and miserable state of things that was not likely to return as a justification for punishing a whole nation with such terrible vindictiveness? There was another reason for the outrages which had taken place, and that reason, also, was one which Her Majesty's Government could not possibly entertain as a ground for giving a retrospective character to the Bill. The outrages were also caused by a state of things quite apart from the action or inaction of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. and learned Member for the County of Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) had very properly called the attention of the Committee to the fact that at the very time the outrages began to grow more numerous in Ireland, the relations of the landlords with the tenants were in a state of even greater hostility than was usually the case. It was all-important to know that this increase in the crop of outrages sprung into being at the time when the landlords began to make demands on the people at large, on the faith of an abundant harvest, for the full payment of high rents, and, in many cases, for the payment of arrears. Whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would admit the appositeness 690 of the argument he did not know; but he believed he would admit that this was the fact. Just previously to the outrages becoming more numerous, the landlords began to threaten the tenants, and to say that they had made quite enough out of the abundant harvest to enable them to pay up the arrears. But it must be notorious that the harvest, abundant as it was, was not sufficient to enable the tenants to pay the arrears. Nevertheless, those unfortunate people found themselves threatened by the landlords; and, finding that the clearing day was coming upon them, when it was possible for the landlords to turn round upon them and evict them; finding, also, that they had no remedial measure, because the Compensation for Disturbance Bill had been thrown out in the House of Lords, they took refuge, as miserable people in every country in the world always did, in acts of madness and folly. They sent round rude sketches of guns, pikes, and coffins, and other bogies, to their landlords, threatening them that if they attempted to enforce payment of the arrears out of their miserable savings they must be prepared for the consequences. He believed that the Irish Conservative landlords in that House would fully and entirely corroborate him in giving this explanation of the outrages. The increase in the number of outrages was directly caused by the increased demands of the landlords for rent. No doubt, Conservative Members would say that the landlords had a perfect right to demand their rents; but, nevertheless, he believed that both sides of the House would admit that this sudden increase in the outrages was caused by the demand made for rent. He was also of opinion that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself would not deny that, in a great number of cases, the rents demanded by the landlords were exorbitant rents.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I hope the hon. Member will not consider that my silence is an assent to all that he is saying.
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he is going at very great length into matters of very questionable application to the subject immediately before the Committee.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was utterly unable, consistently with a conscientious 691 regard to his duty, to refrain from controverting the statements of Her Majesty's Government as to the origin of these outrages.
The Question before the Committee is not the origin of the outrages, hut whether, outrages having existed, a retrospective power of punishment should be given. The hon. Member is travelling- quite wide of the Question in entering into the origin of the outrages.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the Bill was of a retrospective character, and gave power to inflict punishment for certain outrages said to have been committed months ago. He contended that he was fully within his right that those outrages were not of such a character that they ought to be visited with punishment now; and, therefore, that there was no necessity for the retrospective action of the Bill. Surely nothing could be more germane than such an argument. He was quite willing, however, to sit down; but he thought the people of Ireland would have something to say in the matter. The question would not be lost sight of elsewhere.
I have stated the views of the Chair as to the irrelevancy of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. If the hon. Member, in spite of my ruling, persist in continuing- the same line of argument, it will be my duty to ask him to discontinue his speech.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he did not think that even the Rules of urgency would prevent him from putting forward views that were germane to the Question clearly before the Committee. He should certainly sit down now; but he protested before his country as to the way in which he was being gagged on that occasion. If it could not be shown in that House, it would be shown elsewhere, how the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland had requested the Chairman to interrupt the Irish Members.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, that if he were unfortunate enough, however unwit- 692 tingly, to fall into the meshes of some irregularity, he trusted that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland or the Solicitor General for Ire-land would have the manliness, if he (Mr. Finigan) wished to call attention to the matter, to act according to the practice of the House, and rise in his place, and not sneak along by the Bench—
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the language of the hon. Member is Parliamentary?
§ ["Order!"and "Withdraw!"]
I have told the hon. Member the word is not according to rule, and I must call upon him to withdraw it.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, he would withdraw it according to the Chairman's ruling, and substitute the word "glide" along. The Government held very extraordinary opinions on this subject, and one of their most extraordinary pleadings was with regard to the certainty of their observing the spirit of the measure. He must observe to them, however, that when it became law it would be read and construed by its very letter, and not by its spirit. If any counsel attempted to urge the reasons adduced by the Government in support of the retrospective character of the Bill, he would be told that the arguments of Ministers in Parliament had nothing whatever to do with the letter of the law. All the arguments adduced hero by the Law Officers, or by the Chief Secretary, would be absolutely valueless in any Court of Justice. He found the Chief Secretary had said that it was the prevention of crime that was aimed at; but he failed to see how they could introduce any retrospective clause and, at the same time, with any show of reason or logic, ask the House to believe that they wore proposing a measure of prevention. They were proposing a measure of vindictiveness, and there 693 was nothing more calculated than that to exasperate public opinion in Ireland still further against Her Majesty's Government, whether that Government were Liberal or Tory. If there was any portion of the Bill which was unjust— and his contention was that the whole of it was unjust and unfair—it was this retrospective clause, which was contrary to the spirit and letter of all English law. It was diametrically opposed to the best interests of justice in Ireland. The Irish people wore told in the House of Commons that they had been guilty of very serious crimes, and to a very great extent, and that the outrages they perpetrated came under the ken of the ordinary law. He held that if the retrospective proposal were withdrawn, and the Coercion Bill were passed without it, the measure would, of itself, enable the ordinary law to be carried out. The Government confessed they wished to deal with treason, felony, or treasonable practices. Well, the ordinary law would give sufficient procedure by which to punish the perpetrators of these offences, as well as of agrarian outrages; and those who might be reasonably suspected of inciting to, or committing of, such crimes. It was, therefore, quite in accordance with the pronounced policy of the Government, if they wished to make the measure preventative and not vindictive, to punish all future crime after the passing of the measure, and not revert to the policy of exasperation—the policy opposed to the law, and certainly hostile to the real interests of justice. This policy of going back to the past, and punishing a man for an act which he might not have believed to be criminal when he committed it, would really be a turning back on the part of the Liberal Party from the path of justice which they had announced as their panacea for Irish grievances. He trusted, therefore, that the Government, who claimed that the Bill was one of prevention and not of punishment, would withdraw this retrospective proposal. He was extremely anxious that the Government should be enabled to carry out the ordinary law, and not have to depend upon this extraordinary and unjust measure. The Irish people were certain to be very hostile to the Bill; and he should be sorry if it could be said of any Government that they had created a measure by which 694 they sought to punish a man who had, under cover of the Constitution and public meetings, been unwittingly guilty of what was now alleged to be a very serious matter. If the Government wished to be just to Ireland, and there was any real confidence to be placed in Government professions, he trusted that they would not stop at this small compromise, into which he would not enter; but would be generous, bold, and liberal enough to say that they would only make the Bill act from the time of its introduction into the House, and so awe the offenders, whom they said they knew through their officials, into a respect for the law in time to come by punishing them under the ordinary law. He therefore hoped the Government would endeavour to make the Bill as just as it was—[Mr. WARTON: Generous.]—as just as it was deemed necessary; and he trusted that if he were interrupted at any future time by an hon. lawyer it would not be in the interest of despotism, but in the interest of justice.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he was opposed to any retrospective action; but, as his hon. Colleague (Mr. Bradlaugh) bad pointed out, those who took that view were in the minority, therefore it was desirable that they should come to some sort of an arrangement with the Government if it were possible. Some hon. Members seemed to think that the proposal now before the Committee was a fair and reasonable one; but to have any effect the arrangement should be made with hon. Members from Ireland. They themselves had proposed a compromise—namely, that the Bill should only be retrospective from the day on which it was brought into the House, and this appeared to him a very reasonable proposal—nay, a great concession from those Gentlemen. He would put it to the Government whether it would not be desirable to temper coercion with a little concession. They had been exceedingly fortunate in getting the Bill through the second reading; it was now in Committee, and he presumed they were as anxious to get it out of Committee as a short time ago they were to get it into Committee. If the concession proposed were made, hon. Gentlemen opposite would see that the provision must be accepted, and that the Government desired to render the measure as innocuous as it was possible for 695 such an instrument of tyranny as a Coercion Bill to be.
§ MR. BLAKE
joined with his hon. Friends in appealing most strongly to the Government to concede the reasonable request made to them. He had had many years' experience of residence in Ireland; and he could assure the Government, from his knowledge of the country, that there had been scarcely an offence committed there within the last six months that the ordinary law could not deal with, therefore the retrospective powers asked for were not necessary. The difference between the one side of the House and the other was very small. The Irish Members asked the Government to concede what amounted to scarcely three months; and he was sure, if he gave a favourable reply, the Chief Secretary would purchase a considerable amount of peace for himself and the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland. They had heard it stated the other night that there was nothing in Ireland more vicious than the police system—than the fact that no rewards were given to the police unless for convictions. There was no instance, he believed, of a policeman having been rewarded for a failure; and the result would be that when the Bill became law these officers would be put upon their ability to ferret out persons who could be arrested under the Act. He had given a great number of instances in support of his contention on a previous occasion, and he would not trouble the Committee by repeating them. He had no doubt in the world that if these restrospective powers, even to the extent of three months, were retained in the measure, similar instances would arise. Hon. Gentlemen who had spoken before him, particularly the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had endeavoured to show that nothing was ever gained for Ireland from the mere abstract justice of it; and it was well known that, unless a strong agitation preceded anything that was asked for in this House, there was little hope of its being obtained. It was a sad fact that the people had to be worked up almost to the point of demoralization before anything could be accomplished. The prevalent feeling in Ireland had been—and not without justice—that unless there was a strong agitation to show the necessity for Land Reform they would not get a Laud Bill, and he had no doubt 696 that a good many people had been betrayed into indiscretion and petty crime under the impression that they were aiding in the accomplishment of a very important measure of justice for Ireland. A very politic and graceful way of proceeding on the part of Her Majesty's Government would be to concede the very moderate demand now made on them. All the persons described in the Bill had now full notice that they must keep themselves within proper bounds or the consequences would be very serious. What had occurred during the past six months? He had been carefully examining the details, and really they did not seem to him of a nature to entitle the Government to ask for these retrospective powers. In the interests of the peace and good feeling of the country, and for the sake of preventing over-zealous stipendiary magistrates and police officials from being betrayed into unnecessary arrests, he hoped the Government would accept the Amendment, and only make the measure retrospective in its action from the period of its introduction. They might depend upon it the Bill, as so amended, would serve all their purposes, prevent unpleasantness to themselves, and the raising of a great amount of acrimony in Ireland.
§ MR. GILL
thought every Irish Member was bound to support the Amendment, as the clause was one against which they must all enter their protest in the strongest possible manner. They must all do their utmost to induce the Government to accede to their very reasonable request. He had no doubt that if the retrospective action of the Bill were to extend to the 1st of October many cases of injustice would be caused. He would mention a case in which he thought injustice would occur in the country parts of Ireland, in consequence of what he believed to be the very imperfect system of reporting adopted at public meetings which had been held since the 1st of October by the shorthand writers sent down by the Crown. There was no doubt that these gentlemen had made enormous mistakes, both in their reports of speeches, and in putting into the mouths of one set of people that which had actually been said by another. What were the grounds for reasonable suspicion that would be looked for by the magistrates and the police? Would they not be in very many eases 697 the speeches delivered from the platforms of Land League meetings throughout the country? When they found that in this House the Prime Minister himself brought forward a speech and quoted it as having been uttered by the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell), when it had been spoken by quite a different person, was it not probable that the same thing would be done by lesser officials in hundreds of cases throughout Ireland? A speech made by some unimportant individual on a platform was put into the mouth of the hon. Member for Cork City. Then what was to prevent other speeches of unimportant personages being put into the mouths of a great many other people? The result of allowing this Sort of thing to occur, and the Bill to pass in its present shape, or even as about to be amended by the Government, would be, that perhaps a great many innocent people would be arrested on account of utterances that were not theirs at all, but for which some of that class whom the Chief Secretary characterized as "disreputable blackguards" were responsible, and he did not deny that at many of these meetings there might have been some people of that class. In the following of every army going into the field there was always a class of disreputable camp followers, who must be perfectly distinguished from the soldiers who were about to fight; and, in the same way, he did not deny that at these Land League meetings—at all of which there had been a large attendance of the most respectable farmers in the country—there had been some "blackguards," and that sometimes they had got an opportunity of speaking. He had been to some meetings in his own county at which, on account of the confusion that occurred on the platform, he would have defied any newspaper reporter to put the words in the right person's mouth. This was one reason why he believed a great amount of injustice might be done under this Act. But he had listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary this evening, and certainly, in some of his utterances, he could not follow his logic. He had said that the principal cause of the decrease of crime in Ireland during the past two months, or since the 1st of January, was the fear of this Bill becoming law. Well, he immediately 698 went on and stated that the Government wanted the measure rather as a preventative than a punishing power. If this wore so, and the very fear of the Bill becoming law had been sufficient to cause an enormous decrease in the amount of crime, was it not reasonable to suppose that when the measure came into operation, and punished the perpetrators of outrages and their abettors from the time it was introduced, it would still further tend to reduce crime? If it was to prevent crime that the Bill was introduced, why on earth did they want to give it a retrospective character? These were some of the reasons why he thought they should not make the Bill retrospective. There were many others; but they had been fully dealt with by hon. Members who had spoken before him. If the Government wished to let the Irish people see that they were resolved to act fairly and justly to their country, and not to irritate them and, perhaps, urge them into fresh excesses, he would ask them to abandon the retrospective portion of the Bill.
§ MR. REDMOND
had no desire to occupy many minutes of the attention of the Committee, because he felt that, after the long discussion that had taken place, almost everything that could be advanced on the one side or the other had been brought forward. But there was one point which occurred to his mind, and which he should like to give expression to on this matter, and it was this. It was in the recollection of the Committee that an extensive and elaborate attempt to incriminate a certain number of the members of the Land League, by legal proceedings in Dublin, had just failed. These gentlemen were charged with the commission of certain acts which, it was alleged, wore illegal, and which took place just in those very months to which the Chief Secretary wished to extend the action of the Bill; and he must say that this attempt to render the measure retrospective looked very much like an attempt to make up for their failure in the one direction by seizing on the persons of the gentlemen whom they could not legally convict in open Court, and punishing them under the Coercion Act. ["No, no!"] Well, that might not be the case. He was aware that the Chief Secretary had stated deliberately in the House that the object of the Bill was only to punish men who had 699 committed outrages, or prevent men in the future from committing' outrages; but lie could not forget that there was a portion of the Bill which proposed to put it in the power of the Government to arrest, and to throw into prison for 18 months, men who could be "reasonably suspected" of having incited to an act of violence or intimidation. Well; but surely an act of incitement to violence or intimidation, according to the theory of the Irish Law Officers, was to be found in almost every speech which hon. Gentlemen sitting around him had made during the Irish agitation or within the past few months. No gentlemen attending those meetings, who had advocated on the part of the tenants a course of action that would prevent individuals of their number from taking farms from which men had been unjustly evicted, would be secure from a charge of having incited to an act of violence or intimidation. That being so, it seemed very like an attempt on the part of the Government, having failed in the ordinary course of justice to prove these gentlemen guilty of any legal crime, to get hold of them and punish them under the Coercion Act. What was it reasonable to suppose would be the first effect of this Bill? Wiry, the police through the country would feel that they must of necessity show their zeal; and how would they do it? By justifying the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who said that the police in every district in Ireland knew the men who had been committing these outrages, and were ready to put their hand upon them. The police, in order to prove their zeal and render their promotion certain, would at once come forward and "reasonably suspect" a large number of persons. In common honesty and fairness the Government ought not to go back before the passing of the Bill. The date at which it passed into law would be a reasonable and fair time for its powers to come into effect. His very limited experience of that House had only tended to prove to him what a much more lengthy experience had proved to other men older in Parliamentary life than himself—namely, that there was no more disheartening work in this world than for an Irishman to come and make an appeal on behalf of his country to the Front Treasury Bench. The difference between the Irish Mem- 700 bers and the Government, however, on this occasion was very small. Was it that the right hon. Gentleman had his eye on certain individuals in Ireland, who had committed acts of violence or intimidation in these three months, and that he desired to put his hand upon them? If so, his Bill was not, as he had stated, preventive, but vindictive. Why did not the Government come forward in a conciliatory manner and meet the views of the Members on those Benches? The Bill must become law, he knew. He regretted it; but he hoped they would have an opportunity of still protesting against it. They must look at the Bill in a practical way. He knew it would pass into law; but he was endeavouring to induce the Government to make it pass into law in as conciliatory a manner as possible, and to meet the Irish Members openly and fairly. They did not ask much; only that the Government should act on the recognized principle of all law, which was that no man should be made responsible for an act which, when it was committed, was not illegal. Lot the House act upon that principle, and then, at any rate, the Irish people would see that although the Government were determined to pass an Act of Coercion, detestable as it was to them, the views and opinions of their Representatives were not altogether ignored in that House. Let them come forward and, by accepting that Amendment, show the Irish people that they did not always reject the opinions of their Representatives; that in some points they were ready to accept Amendments. If they did that, although he did and should cordially detest the Bill even with the Amendment, still he should be the first to acknowledge that the Government had acted, in that instance, in a fair and conciliatory manner.
MR. PASSMORE EDWARDS
said, he should not have risen to make the suggestion he proposed to make, if it had been advanced by any other Member. It had been stated that a great concession had been made by the Government. He admitted a concession had been made; but it was made to Members of that (the Liberal) side of the House. The general—he might say almost universal— opinion of the House was, that the retroacting power of the Bill was wrong in conception, and would be unjust in operation. The Government 701 having made a concession to that side of the House, he would entreat them to concede a little to the other side. They had been appealed to again and again from the other side of the House; and he believed that the Bill would be equally effective for all the purposes of its existence, if the Government, in the plenitude of their generosity, would accede to the appeal which had been so frequently made to them.
§ MR. MOLLOY
observed that, after the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had brought forward his Amendment, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made some concession to that side of the House; but it was based on a strange species of logic. He had stated that the intention of the Government was to prevent the commission of outrages in the future; the Government had said, in a fashion, that certain outrages had been committed; but they did not want to punish those who had committed them; and the concession which he made to that side of the House was to name the 1st of October as the day before which the Bill should not operate. If the intention of the Government, as it had been announced by the Chief Secretary, was to prevent outrages for the future, he should like to ask what was the object of naming the 1st of October? because the right hon. Gentleman had stated to the House—although he did not state that he was glad of it—that outrages had practically ceased since the beginning of this year, or that at present there were next to no outrages. If it was only intended to prevent crime, and not to deal with the past, what was the object of naming the 1st of October, seeing that under the Bill he would have full power, if he had reasonable suspicion, or if he had even a wink or a nod from a policeman, that somebody was about to commit an outrage, to arrest such person and deal with him according to the Coercion Law? He was, therefore, unable to under stand the object of fixing the 1st of October. It was not to prevent crime, because the Bill gave power to arrest on reasonable suspicion. It could, therefore, only be—and that was one of the weak points in the peculiar logic of the right hon. Gentleman— that he had his eye, or rather the eye of his police, on somebody who had done something in contravention of the law; and he, therefore, wished to be enabled 702 to seize upon that person. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would condescend to answer any question from the Irish Benches; but he would be glad to ask the Chief Secretary to explain his peculiar logic, and to tell the House, if his only object was to prevent the perpetration of crime in the future, why he named the 1st of October. If the 1st of October was fixed, the Bill would deal with crimes or outrages committed, and not with those which were being committed at the present time, or would be committed in the future. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had given an explanation which, to his mind, had no meaning in it—no common sense or meaning in it; and he begged the Chief Secretary to take the trouble to explain—he did not take the trouble to explain very much to that part of the House—the extraordinary logic upon which he founded the peculiar date of the 1st of October.
§ MR. P. MARTIN
admitted that the discussion had now continued for a considerable length of time. But, believing that, if put in force, great injustice might be inflicted on persons whom it was not the desire of the House to subject to the stringent provisions of the Bill, he felt justified in now making his protest against the principles asserted by the Government. If the clause had been confined to those whom the Government stated they had evidence to show knowingly led on and systematically incited others to acts of violence and outrage, he could understand the contention of the Chief Secretary. Experience and the records of the past showed, however, that such persons would take care of their own safety by flight, and ignorant dupes and comparatively innocent persons alone would remain in Ireland. Under those circumstances, he respectfully entreated the House to be very careful before passing the retrospective clause of the Bill. Was it in accordance with precedent that they should give retrospective clauses? Let them go back on the records of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act from 1801, and they would find that neither in 1801 nor in 1825, when a new Habeas Corpus Suspension Act was passed, nor in 1848 nor 1866, did any of those Governments claim to have the operation of those Bills made thus generally retrospective. It was true that persons who 703 were in custody under the Lord Lieutenant's warrant when those Acts were passed were allowed to be detained under a warrant signed by six members of the Executive Council. Every one of those Acts was different from the present Bill, and at the time of every one of those Acts—in 1801, in 1825, in 1848, and in 1866—there were proofs given to the satisfaction of the House that treasonable and rebellious insurrectionary conspiracies existed. Former Governments had acted on the plain Constitutional principles of proved necessity. They demanded the concession only of such limited and restricted powers of this character as the circumstances of the times showed to be imperatively required. For the first time the present Government asked the House to depart from this principle. The words which conferred this general retrospective power ought not to be permitted to remain in the Bill. It was perfectly true that they had been offered a species of concession by the Chief Secretary, when he said that the words should be "the 1st of October;" but did that get rid of the principle which he maintained was opposed to precedent, that the Act should be retrospective? Was making the Act retrospective, more especially in respect of crime, in accordance with any principle of jurisprudence? The Criminal Code of every civilized nation rejected the assumption that a man, without notice, could in justice be punished for an act which was not made an offence or crime until after its commission. Our own law was specially careful that no one should suffer for the consequences of any act unless he had previous notice. A very remarkable instance was mentioned in most books on jurisprudence, in which a man, under 39 Geo. IV, which created a new offence in respect to maliciously firing with intent, was tried within a week after the passing of the Act, and before notice of it could have reached the place. What was the result? The Act having been passed, he was tried under that Act and sentenced; but the Judges recommended him for pardon on the ground that although, according to law, they were bound to pass sentence upon him, yet, according to every principle of jurisprudence, he should not be allowed to undergo that sentence; and, in consequence, he obtained a pardon. The present Bill was opposed 704 to every principle of jurisprudence, and every principle known to our law. The conduct of the Government during the past Session, and in the earlier part of the Recess, was such as, in his judgment, constituted an estoppel against their now pressing to retain the words which made the provision retrospective. Judge Fitzgerald had declared that, in his opinion, the rules constituted and resolutions passed at the Land League made it an illegal organization. Very many of the meetings, and speeches made at those meetings, if the principles laid down in his recent Charge to the Jury in Dublin were to be admitted, were, in fact, illegal, and must have been known by the Chief Secretary, if he sought the advice of his Law Officers, to have been illegal. Now, how did the Government deal with those meetings? Several questions, it might be within the recollection of the Chief Secretary, were put by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), as to what course he intended to take with respect to those meetings. Did he warn the people who were going to attend those meetings, or who were going to make speeches at those meetings, that they had better beware, because he was going to bring in a Coercion Bill, under which they would be hold responsible for the meetings? The answers which the right hon. Gentleman had given had led people to believe that those meetings were legal, and that no man would be held responsible for them. The impression was not produced alone by the answers given in the House. In The Times he found a report of an application made in the Court of Queen's Bench in Dublin to postpone the recent trial in Dublin, and of an affidavit which was made by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)—an affidavit which remained on the files of the Court, and had not, he believed, been contradicted by the Chief Secretary. If the proposal of the Chief Secretary was adopted, every person who had attended any of those meetings after the 1st of October could be arrested as a matter of course; but the hon. Member for the City of Cork said in his affidavit—These meetings were reported from time to lime in the public; Press. They wore frequently made the subject of comment in the House since the meeting of the present Parliament in the presence of the Chief (Secretary and other Members of the Government,705 He said, further, that it was never insinuated or alleged—those were not words merely uttered in the House, but had been asseverated, under the solemn sanction of an oath, by the hon. Member for the City of Cork—It was never insinuated or alleged that those meetings were illegal, or the attendance improper, or that the language used was improper.He then, in that affidavit, referred to a matter which would be in the recollection of hon. Members who had been present during the discussion last Session on the Constabulary Estimates. He said he made a complaint of the attendance of the constabulary at those meetings which were legal and proper; and he received an assurance from the Chief Secretary for Ireland that if those meetings were quiet and orderly, and facilities were given for the Government reporters to attend them, the constabulary would not be required to attend. He said that he stated that at a public meeting in Dublin. Was not that a complete estoppel against the proposal of the Government? It was stated that an assurance was given to the people who attended the meetings that if the meetings were \conducted in a quiet and orderly fashion the meetings would be legal; and no plainer evidence could be given than the fact that the constabulary, in pursuance of that arrangement, received instructions not to attend if the Government reporters were allowed to appear on the platform. Under those circumstances, it was monstrous that numbers of unfortunate men should be responsible, as they could be under that Act, for acts which they might have committed in perfect innocence, relying upon the arrangement which the hon. Member for the City of Cork had stated was entered into. He knew not whether it was made or not; but the affidavit was made in open Court, and was reported on the 6th of December, and had never been contradicted. The hon. Gentleman said, further, that he repeated the terms of that arrangement to the League in Dublin; and, of course, it spread throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. Under those circumstances, even if it had been the habit of the House to make such Acts retrospective, a peculiar claim had arisen that the words objected to should be omitted from the Bill. He 706 must say that he thought a great and grievous injustice would be committed unless that was done. When persons possibly innocent, and those who had such good grounds for confiding in the statements thus made, might be subjected, on mere suspicion, to 18 months' imprisonment, he trusted the Committee would not assent to any such proposal as making the Bill retrospective, and so involving those persons in the consequences of acts which they, not unnaturally, considered right and legal at the time.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, some arguments had been used in the course of that discussion, to which, he thought, it would be no harm to draw some attention. The junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had laid clown the doctrine that because the general principle of that Bill was agreed to by a large majority, therefore the Irish Members might be easily satisfied with amendments of details. That was a proposition which he had never heard advanced before. If they had proposed to leave out what was the leading feature of the Bill, that argument might have some ground; but what they proposed to alter was strictly a matter of detail, and in doing so they were strictly within their right; for it was clearly open to an hon. Member, when he disapproved of any details, to raise such a point. There was, also, another objection to the argument of the hon. Gentleman; for although the Bill was passed at the second reading by a large majority, that was no reason why the House might not, at some subsequent time, change its mind. The second reading of the Bill was passed at a time of great panic among hon. Members of the House, and it was possible that the House might change its opinion and come to a different decision. With regard to the Amendment before the Committee, the Chief Secretary had told them some things that seemed to be rather peculiar. He said, there were a great number of outrages in the last three months of the last year, and the right hon. Gentleman referred to what he (Mr. Biggar) thought had been explained a long time ago—namely, the threatening letters. His experience of the Return was, that if the threatening letters were excluded there was practically nothing left behind; so that the right hon. Gentleman had no basis for the case in favour of the provision under 707 discussion. But the right hon. Gentleman went further. He said the Bill was not intended as a punishment for retrospective conduct, but to deter from future crime; and that it was intended to act against persons who were notoriously guilty of offences during the last three months. That was curious; lie-cause if the parties who committed the outrages were notoriously guilty, why did not the Chief Secretary deal with them under the provisions of the ordinary law? If offences against the law were notoriously committed, the offenders could still be prosecuted before the ordinary tribunals, and there would be no occasion for the present Bill. The Bill did not propose to deal with persons who had committed offences simply, but with parties who were suspected of offences; so that, in point of fact, the contention of the right hon. Gentleman was thoroughly worthless, and he would do well to consent to the Amendment. They had heard a good deal of concession. He did not understand the word "concession." The Irish Members appealed for justice. They did not expect anything from the present Government; but that was the ground upon which any application should be made. They did not want any favours, but simply fair play. They did not expect to get it, but they asked for it. If they got it, they would be satisfied. If they did not get it, the responsibility would rest with those who refused it.
§ MR. BYRNE
desired to say a few words in support of the Amendment, and in opposition to the clause then before the Committee. It appeared to him that the clause was bad in its conception, and bad in its introduction into the Bill; but it would be still worse if the Committee sanctioned it. The Chief Secretary had gone so far—and that was an admission to the Committee—as to say that, instead of making the operation of the Bill to begin without any limit as to time, he was willing that it should commence from the 1st of October of last year. That was an admission that fell in with the principle for which the Irish Members were contending. It was proposed that anyone who was guilty of any act punishable under the law of the land as it stood, or by the retrospective provision of the present Bill, should be punished after the passing of the Act. Any clause of that kind 708 was exceptional, and one which would not be adopted by any hon. Gentleman in the House—even by those below the Gangway—in their own private affairs. If they were directors of a public company, they would not leave their manager with unlimited powers; and he could picture what the shareholders of the Bank of England would say if the Chairman of that institution asked them to leave, unchecked and uncontrolled, all powers over the finances of that institution. He ventured to say that, as the Committee of that House were so careful and regardful of the interests of every shareholder in every company, introducing into every Act protective clauses checking and controlling the audit of the affairs of the companies— if they went so far in the right direction in a business matter—in a matter like that under discussion, concerning the happiness, the well-being, the liberty, and perhaps the lives of 5,000,000 people, they should take some amount of precaution such as they took in regard to commercial undertakings. The Chief Secretary stated that the object of his Bill was—he did not dispute that he stated what was accurate—to put down actual outrage, or inciting to outrage; and he asked the Committee to give him an urgent remedy. He did not object, for a moment, to give such power; but he did object to the form it was to take, and he thought the House should not grant it. If the Amendment were rejected, any man or woman could be punished in Ireland hereafter for an offence which might have been committed 20 or 30 years ago, and which, when committed, might not have been an offence, but was made so by this Act. [Cries of "Divide!"] He should not detain the Committee long; he was not in the habit of speaking at great length. He ventured to say that there should be no misunderstanding, nor misconception, nor any ambiguous language in the Bill. The best way to avoid misunderstanding was to have a good understanding. If the Government would consent to agree to the Amendment, or to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), it would be very satisfactory to the Irish Members. ["Divide!"] Some hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway seemed to be impatient. He could tell them that it was his conviction that if they voted, not from impulse, but from conscientious 709 motives, they would support the Amendment, which had been proposed by one of their own Party. He hoped that the Government would give way upon this point.
§ MR. LEAMY
(who rose amid loud cries of "Divide!") said, he was sorry to detain the Committee. Hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway refused to extend any consideration to Irish Members upon that occasion. He would ask them to bear in mind that they were discussing a clause of a Bill which sought to affect the principles upon which the Constitution of the country was based. The object of the Bill, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, was the better protection of property and life in Ireland. He would ask whether that object would not be sufficiently attained without making the Act retrospective. If the Bill were brought in to punish outrages, the object of it was to strike terror. The very fact of introducing it had struck terror. If that be so, the mere fact of making the Bill a law will, by arming the Irish Executive with exceptional powers, enable them to place those suspected of being guilty under arrest. There were hundreds of men who went upon Land League platforms during the three months now sought to be brought under the Bill, who verily believed that there was no objection to the Land League agitation, and that there was nothing illegal in that agitation. What was the fact? That, during the greater part of the five months' Recess, they never had a single announcement as to whether the Land League agitation was legal or not. There was not the slightest intimation that the Government intended to unearth the old weapon of constructive sedition to present against the people. Another point was this—the law of England was defined either by Statute or by the Common Law of the country; but in Ireland it depended upon the Attorney General. They had seen in the recent trials statements made as to the law. They had seen information filed by the Attorney General which was not the law. ["'Question!"] He submitted that that was the question. They were now about to arrest a man on suspicion of inciting to crime, which was punishable by law. What law was that—Attorney General's law, or the law of the land? He would say distinctly that, in 710 some cases where information had been filed by the Attorney General, offences were created by that information which was not known to the law; and if that Bill would empower the Irish Executive to arrest any man reasonably suspected of committing these offences, which were not known to the law, he would submit that it was only fair and reasonable that that clause should be rejected. That Bill should go no further than to empower the Executive to arrest persons suspected of actual crime.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided;— Ayes 193; Noes 61: Majority 132.—(Div. List, No. 33.)
§ BARON DE FERRIERES,
who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—In page l, line 6, after "either," insert "within six months," said, that through the conciliatory spirit which the Government had evinced in so readily conceding the principle of a limit to the retrospective action of the Bill, the necessity for moving his Amendment had been removed. The object of his Amendment was to place a limit of six months. The 1st of October, mentioned by the Government, was really only five months; and, therefore, the only question he had to submit was whether it would not be best for the Government to accept the terms of his Amendment. Some more explicit terms than those of his Amendment might be inserted, in order to obviate further discussion on the third reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GRAY,
in moving, as an Amendment—In page 1, line 6, to leave out "before," and insert "after the first day of February, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one,said, that the Amendment was not very clearly worded; but the effect of it would be that the retrospective action of the clause would only take effect to the 1st of February, 1881. The subject had been so fully discussed that he did not think it necessary then to occupy the time of the Committee. One of his 711 reasons for mentioning the 1st of February as the limit was that the powers of the Bill might he conterminous with its introduction into that House. He would content himself with simply moving his Amendment.
In page 1, line 6, to leave out the word "before," and insert the words "after the first day of February, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one."—(Mr. Gray.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'before' stand part of the Clause."
§ The CHAIRMAN rose to put the Question, when Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN rose, amid cries of "Order!" "Chair!"
said, the Question had not been fully put, and that, therefore, the hon. and learned Member for Meath was in Order.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, it would really be much better if hon. Gentlemen would leave the question of Order with the Chair. They had very narrowly escaped a most unpleasant scene. He rose to say that he hoped some Member of the Government would respond to the appeal that had been made upon that point of retrospective action. The hon. Member for County Carlow had proposed that the Government should accept the 1st of February as the limit. The arguments in favour of such a limit had been already adduced, and he had no wish to take up the time by repeating what had been already said upon the previous Amendment. He must submit that some Member of the Government ought to give the Committee some tangible reasons why it was that they desired to have the opportunity of going back upon the past. If the people were law-abiding and peaceable, why not accept the limit of the 1st of February? If the country wore peaceable, crime had disappeared, and disorder was at an end, why was it necessary to go back to the past at all? If there were disorder after the 1st of February, they would have sufficient powers, under the Bill, to meet it; they would have almost as much power as any despot ever had. There would be no trial by jury, and no accusation; but sworn information, based on the suspicions of 11,000 policemen with 20,000 spies at their back. Was it possible that the Government of England could not be secure, nor preserve peace, without such assistance as that? 712 They now asked to be allowed to go back upon the past, which ought to be buried and forgotten, unless they wanted to make Ireland a hell upon earth.
As the Amendment roads it seems to introduce an alternative procedure into the clause. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Mover to press it in its present form, or to substitute one of a simpler character.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he really must appeal to the Ministers to say something upon that question. Up to the present they had had upon that important point, one of the leading points of the Bill, only one expression of opinion from the Treasury Bench. He saw there the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Why did not they stand up and tell the Committee why there was to be this retrospective action? He understood perfectly the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary; but he wanted also to know the reasons—
Order! The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) took a judicious course when he simply moved his Amendment, the subject having been already fully considered. It is impossible to allow a general discussion again upon that subject. The only question which can now be discussed is, whether there be any reason for introducing the words "after the 1st of February, 1881,"into the clause.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that on the question whether the action of that Bill should be limited to the 1st of February, he would only say that if they began then they would be armed with all the powers required; whereas, if they went back to October, it must be considered that the object of the Government in so doing was to catch the people who had been merely engaged in a Constitutional and legal agitation. He wanted to know from the Treasury Bench what was the real moaning of that Bill. Was it to enable the Government to imprison men who had been guilty of crime, or those who had boon merely engaged in a Constitutional agitation?
§ DR. COMMINS
said, with regard to the form of the Amendment, it would 713 mate the Bill run—"either after the passing of that Act or after the 1st February." It was pretty clear that the Act would not be passed prior to the 1st February, so that if the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) left out the former portion of the phrase he would be quite in Order. He certainly should like to ask what was the object of the Act? Were they to have civil war brought upon them?—
Order! The Question before the Committee is not the object of the Act, but whether the words "after the 1st February" be inserted in the clause. The hon. Member must confine himself to that Question.
though the could make his argument perfectly clear if he was allowed to finish it. He was sure that the Chair, in interposing, had acted with the best possible intention. Even where civil war had existed amnesties were granted; and were they to have an amnesty now, or was it to be in the power of the Government to go back vindictively, and punish for words spoken before the 1st of February? If Her Majesty's Government showed now that they were simply actuated by vindictive motives, they would manifest a spirit which had not been manifested even by persons who had embarked in a bloody civil war.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
would only say one word upon the question. He knew what a serious difference it would make to persons in Ireland whether the 1st of February or the 1st of October was the date named for the measure to come into operation. If the Bill were to come into operation on the 1st of February, people would have notice given to them that it dated from that time, and they would be unable to say, if they broke the law, that they had done so without notice from the Government that they would be held amenable to the stringent provisions of the Bill; but if they fixed the 1st of October as the date, they would make it apply to men who, in addressing the meetings of the Land League, had no more idea that they were breaking the law than he had. But the Press goaded on the Government—
I must draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that the Committee have already decided, 714 by the last vote, the principle, and the question was now limited to a particular date.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he had been speaking strictly to that Question, and to no other whatever. He was trying to show that the 1st of February was a preferable date as a limit to the retrospective operation of the Bill to the 1st of October, and he had not said one word on the general question. What he wanted to point out was that men speaking at public meetings of the Land League before the 1st of February were under the impression that they were doing so under the sanction of the Government and of the law. That impression was made even stronger by the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in refusing to respond to the many appeals that were made to them to proceed against the persons who at that time were taking part in the agitation. Therefore, if the Government made the Bill retrospective and fixed the 1st of October as the date, they would have been positively deceiving and misleading men who had acted in the full conviction that they were performing a public duty, and that they were not placing it in the power of any hireling, or underling, or common informer to secure their apprehension. He sincerely trusted that Her Majesty's Government would not adhere to the limit of the 1st of October.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he would obey the ruling which the Chair had strictly laid down to other hon. Members; and he would compress into a single sentence what he and others with him were contending for. If the Bill was allowed to have retrospective action, it was vindictive. If it was allowed to have prospective action, it was preventive. The Amendment before the Committee was to allow the Bill to come into operation on the 1st February. The Government had declared repeatedly that they had no vindictive or revengeful feeling towards the promoters of the agitation in Ireland. If that was their intention, they had no need to seek retrospective power; but the fact that they were insisting upon it justified the worst suspicions entertained in Ireland that they were seeking these powers to use them in a vindictive spirit.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
was also an advocate for the 1st of February as the 715 date upon which the Bill should come into operation, if it was to come into operation at all. He wished to point out one consideration which ought to guide the Committee in the selection of the date. There were two Members of the House who would be especially exposed to danger if the Irish landlords continued of the same frame of mind they were last autumn. Those Gentlemen wore the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. No two Gentlemen in the House had been more violently denounced by the landlords as inciters to turbulence, inciters to crime, and inciters to outrage in Ireland than those two right hon. Gentlemen; and if the Irish landlords were still in the same frame of mind, and Her Majesty's Government made this Act retrospective, the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary would be the two first men arrested. The landlords, if there was any consistency in their conduct, would at once declare that these right hon. Gentlemen were "reasonably suspected" of having incited to acts of outrage, and that, therefore, they came within the provisions of the Act. It was very likely that the Irish landlords would not act in this way, and why? Because the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had purchased peace from them by trampling on the rights of the Irish Members, and offering up as a sacrifice to thorn the liberties of the Irish people.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
protested against the indefniteness of the retrospective character of the Bill.
I have already decided that although the Amendment is not very clearly put, it reads grammatically, and as an alternative, which I gather is the object of the hon. Member in putting it.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the Chairman had already put the Amendment; and, therefore, he conceived that it was perfectly in Order to discuss it. He was strongly of opinion that the wording of the clause, as it now stood, should be amended. He gathered that the objection which had been taken 716 to the clause would have been fatal to it.
The Committee have not yet come to any decision in regard to the wording of the clause beyond the word "either."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the object of the present Amendment was perfectly clear. It had been decided that the Bill was to have a retrospective effect; but the retrospective character it was to have was at present indefinite. Those who were in favour of the Amendment wished to make it definite, and to limit its scope in point of time to the 1st of the present month; because they believed, as the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) had already pointed out, that if it was made retrospective for a period further back than the 1st of this month it would be used, whether the Government intended it or not, in a manner that would be simply vindictive. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said, the other day, that the outrages of which he complained were the direct result of a certain number of meetings which began to be held in the first week of the month of October. It was perfectly plain, therefore, that the object of the Government, in proposing the 1st of October as the date at which the operation of the Act should commence, was to seize a number of men who, at the present moment, were quiet, and wore acting in a perfectly Constitutional manner, but who, in consequence of certain things which they did in the month of October, had incurred the displeasure of Her Majesty's Government. But it must be borne in mind that these men had had no warning; and if the Bill was allowed to pass in the terms which the Government proposed, the effect would be that a number of persons who had been allowed to be at liberty for months, without the least suspicion that that liberty would be interfered with, would be pounced upon for offences they had almost forgotten. He had no doubt whatever that if the Bill was made retrospective and carried back to the 1st of October it would be made use of for vindictive purposes; and even if the Government did not wish it to be so used, it would be perfectly impossible that they could clear themselves of the suspicion that they were using it for a vindictive purpose. For these reasons 717 he hoped that the Government would accept the Amendment which had been moved by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray).
§ MR. MACDONALD
thought the ends of justice would be amply served by limiting the date for the Bill to come into operation to the 1st of February, he had seen it stated—and it certainly might be true; but whether the report had official inspiration or not he was unable to say—that already 1,200 persons in Ireland were marked out for arrest. The net was at this moment being spread for them. No less than 1,200 persons wore to be bagged at once; and if that were really true, then the statement of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), that the retrospective operation of the Bill was clearly vindictive, was borne out to the letter. Indeed, he failed to see how there could be any other object in putting the date of the Bill back to the 1st of October instead of selecting the 1st of February. He thought that such a course was altogether unworthy of a Liberal Government, and only fit to be associated with the worst Acts of the most despotic Governments in the world.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
wished to call the attention of the Government to the fact that the last vote taken proved that a large number of Members of the House, including Representatives of Ireland of all shades, except, perhaps, extreme landlordism, were entirely in favour of taking away the retrospective character of the measure altogether. The proposal now was only to limit the retrospective character; and he hoped the Government would see their way to making some concession. It had been suggested that that concession should be a limitation of the date to the 1st of February instead of carrying it back to the 1st of October. The concession which had been suggested on the part of the Government, that the 1st of October should be the date, was no concession whatever; and he thought the effect of leaving the 1st of October as the date would be most injurious to the credit of the Government. It was to the interest of all parties to make both the law and the Government respected in Ireland. Would it not be better then to fix some date at which the people of Ireland affected by the Bill would have had fair notice of the penalty impending over 718 them? If they left the people without warning up to the last moment, without a word of admonition, without a word of menace, and then to hand them over by a Bill of this description to the tender mercies of a police spy, to be denounced at will as the most revolutionary agitators in Ireland, Her Majesty's Government would only have been engaged in laying a base trap for the Irish people. If he were speaking as a Separatist, or as an enemy of English rule in Ireland, he would advise the Government to continue such a course of conduct, and to go on laying traps for the Irish people.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 218; Noes 63: Majority 155.—(Div. List, No. 34.)
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, in rising to move as an Amendment in page 1, line 7, the omission of the words "high treason," he hoped with some confidence that he should obtain the support of a very considerable number of hon. Members of that House. The first objections to the appearance of those words in connection with the measure of the Government, intended, as they told the House, to put down crimes and outrages attendant upon agrarian agitation was that high treason had nothing on earth to do with agrarian agitation, and that no proofs whatever had been laid upon the Table of the House of the existence of any treasonable movement. There had not been an attempt to justify the statement that there was any treasonable movement in Ireland; and the scope of this Bill for the repression of agrarian offences, and for the wholesale and individual arrest of the Irish people, was already sufficiently vast without impertinent, vague, unproved, and unprovable charges of the existence of a treasonable movement amongst the masses of the Irish population. He complained of the introduction of this reference to high treason as a surprise that had been sprung upon the House. Her Majesty's Government had prepared the House, by statistics on the subject of agrarian offences, to believe that they were under the impression that the character and number of agrarian offences in Ireland were such as to require special legislation. But why introduce this 719 extension of a measure for the control of agrarian excesses, to the vastly graver and more important subject of an alleged treasonable movement? Before the charge of treason was attempted to be attached in this underhand way to the land movement, Her Majesty's Government ought to have laid before Members of the House some statistics—some information other than that of the anonymous character in which they delighted in order to give some colourable grounds for their wholesale charge of treason against the Irish people. No charge of treason could be more wholesale, for they claimed the right to ask for power to arrest and imprison at their pleasure from one end of Ireland to the other any number of victims they might choose upon the assumption that treasonable movements were of such importance and had such a dangerous prominence in the social state of Ireland that nothing less than this wholesale outlawry of the nation would meet the exigencies of the situation. He asked Her Majesty's Government, before coupling in a single class charges of high treason and charges of agrarian excesses, as if to imply that the leaders of the agrarian agitation were also traitors—before attempting in that underhand way to prejudice the cause of agrarian Land Reform by the charge most odious in the ears of law-abiding citizens, whether they would not lay upon the Table of the House some evidence, no matter how slight, or some reason even, for applying a charge of this description? High treason was a most dangerous crime, and the gravity of the crime demanded a certain gravity in the procedure to be applied to its detection and punishment. It was not upon vague hearsay, nor upon insinuations in the dark, that charges of high treason should be brought either against nations or individuals. Had Her Majesty's Government sufficient proof of high treason to convict a single individual in the whole Irish nation? If they had even that much evidence, why was it not produced? If, according to evidence of their spies, informers, and magistrates they had sufficient prima facie evidence to bring a single Irishman before the magistrates to be committed for trial, why had they not brought it forward? They had not brought a single man before the magistrates in Ireland on the charge of high 720 treason. They could not allege, in this case, the breakdown of the ordinary law, for they had not attempted to put it into execution. The first hint of alleged suspicion of the existence of a treasonable movement was to be found in a mass of irrelevant matter contained in the speeches which officials had imposed upon the House. But there had been no trials, no proofs, and no accusations. They had not even heard the name of the conspiracy, nor had stated a single one of the usual grounds which had always governed the most Conservative as well as the most Liberal in similar cases. When the former Government had been asked to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland—that was to say, the Constitutional liberties of the Irish people—-on account of the existence of a treasonable movement in that country, they came down to the House armed with proofs and with documents they had seized, as well as with informations and depositions of informer after informer. But, on the present occasion, Her Majesty's Government had not produced the deposition of a single informer in order to give colour to the truth of this monstrous accusation against the Irish people. Even in the English journals most hostile to the Irish cause the utmost attempt to give colour to the charge of treason was based on some words of an Irish speaker that he would not have taken such an interest in Land Reform if he had not seen Home Rule behind it. But Home Rule was a Constitutional movement, and it was not upon that Her Majesty's Government could base their accusation of high treason. He challenged the production of a scrap of evidence. He and his hon. Friends considered it no evidence to have an official without experience of Irish affairs, without producing a single witness, bending over the Table of the House, and, in accents of simulated terror, assure Parliament that if he had only liberty to say all he could tell the House wonders. But they asked not for wonders, they asked for the smallest instalment of evidence. He observed in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Let it be acknowledged that the right hon. Gentleman would not have consented to the abrogation of the liberties of the Irish people unless he had some statistics to convince him that there was a ne- 721 cessity for legislation on the subject of agrarian crime; but he would not rise in his place to say that evidence had been laid before him, or that information had been laid before him even, the general character of which he could communicate to the House as justifying the suspension of the Constitution in Ireland on the monstrous, ridiculous, and unproved charge of the existence of a treasonable movement. The course pursued by Her Majesty's Government was an innovation in that House, where English Members were but too accustomed to treat Irish matters as of purely secondary importance. In their denial of this he willingly took hon. Members at their word, and asked them whether they would grant a suspension of the Constitution in England on a whispered charge of the existence of a treasonable movement in England in support of which no single scrap of evidence had been produced before any section of Parliament? Why they would scout such a manœuvre as base, discreditable, and despotic in the highest degree. What, he asked, would be the result of sentencing Irishmen, on the unproved and false charge of high treason, to all the special penal-ties to be inflicted on persons suspected under this Act? Her Majesty's Government had not even alleged the existence of an imaginary band of dissolute ruffians in support of their allegations of high treason. No one had yet said there existed in Ireland any confederacy or body deserving of notice in such a manner as this. Of course, in Ireland, as in England, there would be men of extreme opinions who would use words that in the eyes of lawyers would be equivalent to the declaration of treasonable opinions; but oven that allegation had not been made in the House. Neither treasonable speeches, nor treasonable acts, nor treasonable intentions, had been brought under their notice, nor had there been any attempt to use the ordinary law against the alleged treasonable practices. Not a man in broad Ireland had been even accused of treason; and yet, in the absence of accusation and proof, Her Majesty's Government name forward and tried to foist into an agrarian Bill this monstrous charge of high treason against the Irish people. If they were not prepared to lay upon the Table of the House full justification of their charge, Her Majesty's Govern- 722 ment must be regarded as the too willing dupes of a most monstrous gang of calumniators that ever lied away the reputation of a country.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the words "high treason."—(Mr. O'Donnell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'high treason' stand part of the Clause."
§ DR. COMMINS
said, this measure had been constructed with a precipitancy and confusion of mind, as well as ignorance of principle, that was simply disgraceful to its author. He could not believe that either of the Law Officers of the Crown had put their hand to it. Every six months' student of law knew there was no such thing as an accessory in high treason; and, therefore, in the Bill they had the introduction of a term and principle unknown to the law, which was an attempt to widen the net by which people might be brought within charges of high treason. For several hundred years precautions had been taken for the purpose of protecting individuals from having such charges falsely made against them. Such charges had to be made within a limited time, and proved by a prescribed number of witnesses. But hero there was no restriction whatever. People were to be brought up upon a charge of treason upon suspicion only; and, therefore, the introduction of these words in the Bill he arraigned as showing there was a deliberate intention so steal away the character and liberties of the Irish people on false charges. But he believed this had been done in the grossest ignorance of the law of England, and of what had been already done to protect the people of England and Ireland from trumped up charges of treason.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, that documents and proclamations had appeared indicating the existence of a treasonable conspiracy in Ireland; and their simultaneous appearance in every part of the Kingdom fully justified the insertion of the words "high treason" in the Bill. Of course, this was not a matter of which, from the nature of the case, regular proof could be laid by the Government upon the Table of the House. He would only say that the Government had reason to suspect the existence, more or less of treasonable conspiracy. But 723 the idea of bringing a charge of high treason against the whole Irish people, and of doing them such an injustice, was perfectly absurd, and had never for a moment been entertained by Her Majesty's Government. The provision was needed only against those comparatively few persons who were trying to carry out treasonable proceedings, and, as the Government had reason to believe, doing so under cover of the land agitation. It was quite right to say that there could be no accessory in high treason, all concerned being principals; but the Bill was framed to deal with three classes of crime—treason, felony, where there might be accessories, and misdemeanours, and the draftsmen had classed them all together. The Government, he repeated, had reasonable grounds for supposing that there existed a treasonable conspiracy in Ireland, and from this they were anxious to protect the Irish people.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
contended that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) had laid it down that a man could be confined for having the document referred to in his pocket—that was to say, the proclamation concerning which there had been no proof at all. Who, he asked, put up that proclamation, and who came to the aid of the Government? Her Majesty's Government had their Blue Book, with its Return of window-breaking and hen-stealing; but they had discovered that they had no case whatever of treason. Who, then, made their case? Cui Bono? Who was to be benefited by this proclamation? The Attorney General for Ireland knew very well that in the history of Dublin Castle such facts had been discovered, and were on record, that proclamations of the kind had been concocted by the police. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the House when he quoted the names of persons who had been guilty of conduct more atrocious still; but now he quoted this proclamation as a pretext for putting the words "high treason" into this Bill. He who hides can find. Hon. Members might think that no Government would employ a man, or suffer their police to employ a man, to go out with the Government pay for the purpose of swearing men to secret societies. But he had given the names of persons who had done so. The 724 story of the Attorney General for Ireland about those proclamations proved too much. The proclamation had been posted, he said, as extensively in England as in Ireland. Why, then, did not Her Majesty's Government extend the Bill to England? Because there was no man on the Treasury Bench who dared to introduce the Bill, for no one would tolerate it, even if proclamations were as thick as blackberries in autumn. The English people would want something more than window-breaking to justify the introduction of a Coercion Bill for England. But there were iron shutters on windows in this city whore English people had broken windows; and he would tell the House that houses and castles would blaze, as they did in 1831, if such a Bill were attempted to be introduced. The announcement of high treason raised a new ground, just as the doctrine of treason-felony, which the House of Commons invented, was a now crime in dealing with Ireland, which was wide enough when it was desired to deal with anything touching on treason. This mode of proceeding was not unlike that confessed to by the shorthand writer who appeared as a witness for the Attorney General for Ireland at the trial at Dublin, who said he only took one sentence in seven, be-cause if he had not done so the report would read nonsense. He had only risen to protest against inserting "high treason" in the Bill upon no evidence whatever. The Government had nothing to produce but this mysterious placard, and it was well known that those placards had been got up in former times. The wretch Talbot, who pretended to be a Catholic, and had knelt at their altar rails, was not alive; but his acts were with their memory, and what policemen had done in times past they would do again. That abominable wretch, in the pay of the Government, admitted on oath that he had pretended to be a Catholic; and he had taken the Holy Eucharist in order to draw men into the Fenian conspiracy.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I have sat through these debates, and have heard with great indifference charges made against myself, although they have been charges such as, in my recollection, have never been made by Members of the House against hon. Members holding official positions; but I cannot allow to 725 pass the utterly unfounded charges which has been made against the authorities of Dublin Castle in reference to these proclamations or placards. I will not trust myself to use words in the endeavour to describe this charge; and I will only state my belief that if I were to search for the strongest term which Parliamentary usage would allow me to use it would scarcely be sufficiently expressive. The hon. and learned Member for Meath has charged the officials at Dublin Castle with manufacturing this placard, and with scattering it throughout England, Ireland, and Scot-laud. Of course, the absurdity of the charge is its refutation; but I should not be fitted to represent the Irish Government were I not to express my wonder that the hon. and learned Member should have allowed himself to make such an insinuation. But the placard was not the solo reason why the words "high treason" were introduced into this Bill. The ground was, as I stated in bringing the Bill forward, that we believed, and had reasonable ground to believe, that individuals in Ireland—not the mass of the Irish people—but individuals who could do harm in Ireland, would take advantage of this agitation for treasonable purposes. I stated that I would bring forward proofs, and I must ask the House to believe that, when I made my speech a few days ago, these proofs were presented. The hon. and learned Member brings before us the extraordinary supposition that these placards were simultaneously posted all over England, Ireland, and Scotland by the authorities of Dublin Castle. To the minds of the enormous majority of Members of this House the fact that the placard was so simultaneously posted will show that, in all probability, it was posted by the members of a strong organization. That is the sole reason why the matter was mentioned.
§ MR. DILLON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had stated, in justification of including these very grave and serious words in the Bill, that the Irish Government believed, and thought they had reason for believing, that there was a certain conspiracy on foot in Ireland of a treasonable character. But he (Mr. Dillon) would ask whether, in the whole history of Ireland, any Minister had ever come down to the House and asked 726 for the suspension of the Constitution on his mere statement that he had reason to believe that there was a conspiracy of a treasonable character on foot in the country? The Constitution had been suspended in Ireland more than once on the plea of treasonable practices; but never, that he was aware of, on the mere ipse dixit of one Minister. He had read descriptions of the debates which took place on previous occasions when the Constitution was suspended in Ireland; and the very fullest, and certainly very convincing proof was brought forward, and brought forward in detail, showing how necessary Ministers felt it to be in order to prove their case. He did not believe that any Minister, in the whole history of Parliament, ever did what the Chief Secretary had done here to-night— that was, to ask the House to suspend the Constitution against men who were accused of treason without offering one shred of evidence in support of his case—at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman had fallen back upon the only shred of evidence he was able to bring forward— namely, this placard, which came so opportunely to his assistance. He (Mr. Dillon) should not have touched this placard if there were not a much deeper question underlying it than appeared on the surface. He was sorry to say that he had good reason to believe that the officials of Dublin Castle were deliberately concocting an imaginary conspiracy for the benefit of this House and the English people. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, he believed it, and he did not know on what day, or at what hour, this imaginary conspiracy might not burst upon them in Ireland at its full force, and when a number of them might find themselves arrested. ["Hear, hear!"] He heard an hon. Member say, "Hear, hear!" and, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman considered some of the Irish Members ought to be arrested; but he might, at least, have the fairness to let them attempt to save their liberties. In Dublin, at the present moment, a condition of things was existing which, he supposed, was unknown to most of the Members of the House. Guards were being doubled; men were being kept up at night armed to the teeth parading round all the barracks and arm stores; pickets were stationed out at a distance at night, as though they were part of the garrison of a town in the midst of a 727 hostile country. Some hon. Members might believe that they were on the eve of a revolution in Ireland; but he (Mr. Dillon) did not believe they were, unless Dublin Castle did what it had done five or six times before in the history of the country—namely, deliberately drive the people into rebellion. Hon. Gentlemen might believe he was stating what was a very far-fetched and foolish notion; but he would ask the Government what was the meaning of the large garrison such as was now in the City of Dublin, conducting itself as though it were encamped in a hostile country and in face of an enemy, if it were not to irritate and goad the people into acts of violence, and, what was more important and to more immediate purpose, to lead the people of England to the belief that he and those with him wore engaged in a treasonable conspiracy to overthrow the authority of the Crown in Ireland. He had reason to believe this was one of the deliberate objects of the extraordinary proceedings that were going on now, not alone in Ireland, but in England also. Did anyone believe that the rumours which wore flying about this country— which had set Manchester into a panic, and had induced many in the North of England, who at ordinary times wore cool-headed people, to believe that they might at any time be blown up by Irish dynamite or gunpowder—came from Irish sources? He believed they came from men who had Irish landlords' money in their pockets, and who, seeing the Irish Members obstructing this Bill and raising a feeling against the Irish landlords in the minds of the democratic people of England, were raising such a storm as would render it impossible for the Irish Members to save the Irish tenants. He was expecting to be called to Order by the Chairman for travelling-over such a wide range of the question; but there was a connection between the point he was addressing himself to and the question before the Chair—namely, the operation of this conspiracy to force the Coercion Bill through the House, and raise a prejudice in the minds of the English people against the Irish Members. It was most unjust for a Minister to come down to the House and say—"I won't show you my hand. Deep and dark treasonable practices, under cover of the Land League, are going on in Ireland, of which I have no 728 proof I can show you; but you know me to be a truthful man, and here in my Bill I put in words which show on my undoubted faith that the people of Ireland are pretending to be Land Leaguers, but are, in reality, conspiring to overthrow the Throne in Ireland, and set up a Government of their own." He could assure Members who were anxious to approach this question in a spirit of fairness and justice to Ireland that there was much more concealed beneath these words than they imagined, and that if those words were allowed to remain in the Bill rendering it retrospective, they would be availed of before the month was out to imprison men whom they knew, and whom the Government might declare they suspected of inciting to acts of violence. Men like Mr. Davitt—who never incited anyone to acts of violence—would be arrested, and when Ministers were challenged as to why they had arrested so-and-so, they would fall back on the deep and dark treasonable conspiracy which they now spoke of, declaring—"We cannot tell the House— it would not be to the interests of the Public Service to inform the House— what the conspiracy is, or what this man was engaged in; but we have proofs against him collected by two or three of the ordinary staff of Dublin Castle;" and this staff, it was well known, had been largely reinforced from England of late. Those were some of the reasons why the Irish Members thought they were justified in making a steady, a determined, and a last appeal to the justice of this House on these questions—first, as to the insertion of the words "high treason"—because they said no Minister had a right to come down and accuse a nation of high treason, and then, when asked for proof of his statement, to fall back upon his own honour and high character to enable him to put his word against the good name of an entire people—and then as to their being accused before the whole world of being engaged in a treasonable conspiracy, and by that means facilitate the passing of the Act and prepare the way for its future use, without this proposed limitation.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
was sure the Committee would sympathize with the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the indignant denial he had given to the serious charge brought against him by the hon. 729 and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A.M. Sullivan). He (Sir John Lubbock) had thought the hon. and learned Member, when he rose just now, was about either to apologize or to bring forward some evidence that had led or misled him to make the accusation; but, as be had not done so, he thought the hon. and learned Member for Meath was bound to retract the serious charge he had made.
§ MR. GRAY
said, that when he had seen the Chief Secretary for Ireland rise a few minutes ago, and heard the indignant and highly effective speech he made, he had come to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat mistaken his vocation, and that really in his youth he ought to have taken to the stage. He would have been there a far more unquestioned success than he even was in the House of Commons. He had never seen the right hon. Gentleman less lamblike. The Chief Secretary had risen to deny in indignant terms the charges that had been made against him by the hon. and learned Member for Meath; but he only ventured to deny one of them, and that was the least serious. The serious charge made against the officials of Dublin Castle—the permanent officials, who were working now as they were working years ago—was that they were suborning witnesses to give evidence. A charge was made that an official of the Government—[Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: I gave the names.]—it was charged against the Government of Dublin Castle that Talbot, a man in their pay, had pretended to be a Catholic, had gone to Catholic places of worship, and had partaken of the most sacred of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, in order to induce confidence in his dupes, whom he swore in to be Fenians in order that he might betray them. There was another man, Casey by name, who was arrested as a suspected person?— ["Question!"]—these were sufficiently grave matters to be worth the consideration of the Committee—but Casey was released by the Government, and sent out as their emmissary to swear in by hundreds Ribbonmen whom he then denounced and had imprisoned. It was asserted—and justly asserted—that these officials, who were guilty of these crimes of suborning witnesses within the memory of living men—even within the memory of hon. Members of that House—would, under similar circumstances, in 730 all probability, commit similar crimes. The Chief Secretary denounced as atrocious the suggestion that the machinery of the Government, which had in the past adopted measures of this kind to attain its end—sending out blackguards for the purpose of exciting suspicion of a conspiracy—would, under similar circumstances, pursue a like course. Would any reasonable man say that the Government who would be guilty of employing a Talbot to perform the work which had been described, and which the right hon. Gentleman had not ventured for one instant to deny, might not fairly be suspected, at least, of being guilty of a very much smaller crime? Was that an unreasonable position to take up, and should it so much excite the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman? He agreed with the Chief Secretary that he (Mr. W. E. Forster) had been sometimes the subject of attacks in the House which had not been always justified; and he hoped it would not be thought that he (Mr. Gray) had taken any part in making those attacks. He had never intended to take part in them, at any rate; but here was a fair and legitimate argument, and it must be met by something more than mock indignation. He confessed he felt very indignant on this subject; and, if the Committee would pardon him, he would tell them why. There were many hon. Members in the House who knew the late Sir John Gray, who was a friend of O'Connell, and not a Member of the Revolutionary Party, for he had always sought to bring about the changes he had in view by Constitutional means. He had endeavoured to dissuade the Young Ireland Party from breaking out into open revolt. Previous to the outbreak of 1848 he was accosted by a person, whom he ascertained afterwards to be the notorious Jemmy O'Brien, then an old man, but notoriously having been connected with the '98 movement. This man put before him a proposal, or endeavoured to put before him a proposal, showing the feasibility of an armed revolution in Ireland. The man was so plausible, that some of the men connected with the '48 movement listened to him, and actually called a meeting to receive his proposals for a revolution. It so happened that Sir John Gray lived at Claremorris, where also resided the son of the late Major Surr, a clergyman. On 731 one occasion, calling upon his neighbour, the Rev. Mr. Surr said to him—"Sir John, you are very much interested in the affairs of Ireland; here are some of my late father's papers—if you look over them you may find something in them to interest you." He looked amongst them, and he found there a list of payments made by the late Major Surr to this O'Brien for swearing away the lives of men in 1798; and this old ruffian was found, in his old age, at the same game he had been engaged in in his youth, endeavouring to bring men to the gallows. That was the policy of the Government in 1848; by the same machinery they brought men to conviction in 1865; and they would pursue a similar course in 1881. They would be asking the House by-and-bye to vote £20,000 for secret service money, and would refuse to say how much they intended to use in Ireland. But the Irish Members knew what the money would be wanted for, because they knew what it had been used for in the past. The hon. Member for Tipperary had said— and no doubt it was a fact—that up to this no Minister had ever come to the House and asked for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland without bringing forward some kind of proof, or without the condition of the country itself being proof sufficient to convince any man that treason existed in an active form in the country. There was no such proof brought before the House at the present moment. The country was peaceful. ["No, no!"] If the hon. Gentleman who said "No" would stand up and give them one tittle of proof he would be satisfied. There was no proof that treason existed at this moment in Ireland beyond the placard, which the right hon. Gentleman said he did not depend upon, because his Bill would have been introduced in the same form if that had not been posted. Was it not reasonable for the Irish Members to say that a Government with such antecedents, when it asked for the suspension of the public liberty, should bring forward some kind of proof of the justice of its demand, and that this proof should be exacted on the present occasion? The Chief Secretary, when asked for proof, had said—"I cannot give it to you—you must take my word for it. "He disposed of the whole matter in his speech in two moments, and the House said 732 "Hear, hear!" showing that it was quite prepared to take his word. He (Mr. Gray) would remind the House of an instance quoted during a former debate. Mr. Frank Porter, a magistrate, when he retired from the Bench, published an interesting book of his reminiscences, in which he declared that it was only within a year or two of his retirement that he became aware that in Ship Street, near the Castle House Yard, the suborned perjurers lived and held mock trials. Mock counsel were engaged, and the whole paraphernalia of a trial was carried on, and these witnesses were trained to give perjured evidence. Would the right hon. Gentleman deny that?" When he rose a few minutes ago, not only did he fail to rebut the charges made against Dublin Castle, but he could not rebut the natural deductions which were to be drawn from them. He could not deny that what the officials of Dublin Castle had done in the past the living men were prepared to do to-day. He could not deny the charges brought against past officials; therefore, he was not justified, logically, in being so very indignant at their assuming that Dublin Castle would do similar things in the future.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
was sure the Chief Secretary could scarcely have reflected on the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), when he rose so indignantly to reply. The hon. Baronet the Member for the London University (Sir John Lubbock) was mistaken in supposing that the hon. and learned Member made any personal charge against the right hon. Gentleman. When it was stated in the House that a Department did certain things through its subordinates, or that a certain number of subordinates did certain things, no one necessarily implied that the person at the head of the Department either knew or—
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I think I stated the case clearly, that I was not replying to any charge made against myself. If it had been made against myself I should not have replied to it. I was replying to a charge which I understood to be made against gentlemen in Dublin Castle—against some of the leading officials, who, it was said, had caused a certain placard to be posted up.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
did not think his hon. and learned Friend meant to charge any leading officials. What the hon. and learned Gentleman had said was that the police were known to have done these things in the past, and that what police agents were known to have done in the past they would do in the future. "Dublin Castle" was a very comprehensive term, which might mean the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary or any backstairs policeman. What he would challenge the right hon. Gentleman to do was this, to meet the charges that were made, not the charges that were not made. No one made a charge against the officials of Dublin Castle. ["Oh !"] No; the charge was that the administration of Dublin Castle was such, that acts like these were bound to be committed by the subordinate officials. He did not, however, care to dwell too much upon that question. [Laughter,] Well, if the Committee wished him to dwell upon it he should be happy to do so. He would make this passing allusion to it—that he challenged the Chief Secretary, or anyone on the Treasury Bench, to deny the infamous career of Talbot or Corridon, who went about resorting to every kind of deception and treachery in order to entrap their dupes. He challenged them to deny that these persons guilty of these atrocious acts were guilty of them with the money of the British Government. He now came to the main question. The Government had put in this Bill "high treason" as one of the offences under which they claimed the right to put a person in prison. They would have a perfect right to put in prison a person guilty, or reasonably suspected of being guilty, of high treason; but they did more than that by putting it in the Bill; they said it was prevalent, and that a large number of people might be suspected. That was the inference. ["No, no!"] Well, if there wore only some half-dozen persons guilty of high treason, why not take them into the Court and dispose of them that way? The inference, however, was that there were a large number of persons whom they could not get at by the ordinary law; and, therefore, they wanted extraordinary powers. Why the Irish Members resented this was because it showed the profoundest ignorance of the agitation now going on. Did the right hon. Gentleman know 734 that the leaders of the Land League had been subject to stronger attacks from persons of most revolutionary opinions, nearly all of them resident in America, than from the Chief Secretary himself? Did he not know that one of the main recommendations of this movement in the minds of a large number of politicians in Ireland was that the movement was decidedly and exclusively social, and not political? Why the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), and even he himself, had been frequently criticized in a very severe spirit, because, in the opinion of some Irish politicians, they seemed to lose sight of the main principle of self-government for Ireland. In the face of this, in the face of their being blamed for making their movement purely social in place of political, the right hon. Gentleman sought to attach to it the stain of high treason. Was it not a natural inference that high treason had been provoked by the agrarian movement? If high treason existed only to the extent to which it had existed in ordinary years in Ireland—admitting that it existed at all—what was the object of extraordinary precautions now? If high treason did not exist to a larger extent than in average years, the Government had no right to put it in the Bill; and if it did, it must necessarily be connected with the movement in connection with the Land League; and that it was not asking too much of the Chief Secretary that, if he made a series of charges like that against the people, he should bring some evidence before the Committee to support it. He had had, for one reason or another, to read a large number of the debates in that House on previous Bills of the same kind; and there never had been an instance when a Bill for the protection of life and property in Ireland had been introduced on the ground of high treason, nor that charge introduced into a Bill, when solid and large and grave foundation was not advanced. Take the Peace Preservation Bill of 1848. On that occasion Sir George Grey, who introduced the Bill, was able to produce dozens of speeches, dozens of proclamations, dozens of newspaper articles, and a vast pile of evidence in proof of the existence of a comprehensive and dangerous conspiracy of a treasonable character. Take, again, the Bill of 1866, which was brought in on the ground of treason. Sir George 735 Grey, in introducing that Bill, also produced articles from the Irish papers, dozens of speeches in Ireland and in America, and a whole mass of evidence in support of his proposition. The only evidence that they had in support of the present Bill was such as was locked up in the bosom of the Chief Secretary and a solitary placard. When the right hon. Gentleman asked for their confidence in the evidence locked up in his bosom, he was not at all disposed to doubt, in the least degree, the desire of the right hon. Gentleman not to put any evidence before the House which did not satisfy his own mind; but he (Mr. O'Connor) was not satisfied that the Chief Secretary understated the state of Ireland, and he was convinced that the Chief Secretary was under grave misapprehension as to the state of the country. The Chief Secretary had more than once hinted—and more than hinted—he had actually stated that there was a large and dangerous and treasonable state of things in Ireland; and there could be no doubt that the evidence of the last few days had proved that suspicion had passed from suspicion into confident belief in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. He had no desire to put his judgment against the Chief Secretary's; but, so far as he could judge of the state of affairs in Ireland, he should say there had never been, in the history of the last 10 or 15 years, a moment when the minds of the people of Ireland were so averse to violence and revolution as they now were. He did not deny that the agrarian movement had, to a certain extent, revolutionary objects, in the sense of desiring what would be necessary in the system of land tenure—ho acknowledged that the movement had in view changes which, to his mind, were certainly just, but might be described as revolutionary, on the land tenure; but he declared, on his credit, that there never had been a moment when the people were more averse to entering upon the rash and dangerous movement of revolution. He pressed the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject, because he wanted some authoritative statement on the question of high treason. There was a state of dangerous alarm in the minds of the people in England and Ireland upon this question. Many people in Ireland and many in England were in a con- 736 dition of alarm most dangerous to public tranquillity, asking themselves what was going to happen to-morrow. Was there a volcano under their feet? Could the authorities be taking those steps without any ground for them? Were they face to face with one of those violent revolutionary outbreaks that had caused so much misery in the past? He wanted the Chief Secretary to assure the Committee what grounds there were for the grave and alarming rumours that wore heard. So far as his judgment went, there was no foundation for them, and it was a calumny on the agrarian movement in Ireland to associate it with the revolutionary movement; and the right hon. Gentleman was himself a most dangerous enemy to public order and peace, by spreading rumours without any tangible proof.
§ MR. W. CORBET
expressed the belief that the placard which had been referred to was a bogus placard. It had been received by the Committee with much surprise; and as the case in point would have weight, he would cite a case which was brought before that House by a very esteemed Member of it, who had himself been Chief Secretary for Ireland. He alluded to the late Lord Mayo. When he was Chief Secretary there was an unfortunate movement on foot, and Lord Mayo distinctly set his foot down against coercive measures such as that now introduced. Lord Mayo mentioned a case to illustrate the way in which such documents as the placard referred to were manufactured. It was the case of a Mr. Birch; and he quoted a letter from the Private Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in which he said that His Excellency was entirely ignorant of anything connected with the Pike affair and Brown, and that information could only be obtained from the mauvais sujets, who often misinterpreted their instructions and exceeded the limits of their commission. He (Mr. Corbet) thought, with that instance of the way in which evidence was furnished in Dublin Castle, it would be right to add the proposed Amendment to the Bill.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, the hon. Member on the opposite Benches (Sir John Lubbock) had complained of the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) for making certain allegations with regard to Dublin Castle 737 without giving any evidence. It seemed to him that, in that whole matter, evidence was being entirely dispensed with. That was what he complained of. The liberties of the people were being suspended without evidence; Irishmen might be put into prison without evidence; and evidence was being dispensed with entirely, so far as the Bill went. An unfortunate remonstrance had been made against allegations touching the honour of Dublin Castle. Well, they knew something of the history of Dublin Castle. They had reason to know something of that history. They had very cogent and bitter reason for making themselves acquainted with it. Its history was part of the history of their race, and they ought to know something of the character it held in the estimation of the people. He could assure the Committee that none of those disclaimers would wash away the stains of blood and corruption that had attached to the history of that establishment. So bad was its repute, founded upon historical reasons—only too well founded; so bad was its repute that it was repellant to the reputation of an Irish politician to be seen walking through the Castle yard. They had not the same trust in the officials of Dublin Castle, taking them all in all—he did not specify any particular ones or individual amongst thorn—but Irish people knew very well what was meant when Dublin Castle was spoken of, and they had very good reasons for not trusting it. The words regarding treasonable practices and treason-felony had been introduced into the Bill for the sake of effect. It was part of a system that had been introduced since the Bill came before the House to try to terrify the country and hon. Members of the House by vague and significant words of that kind, in support of which no evidence would be brought forward. A black screen was hung before them, and they were told that inside that there was a chamber of horrors. They were not allowed to get a peep into it. They were to take it all on the word of the Chief Secretary, who had it on the word of somebody else. They contended that they were light and insufficient excuses and pleas on which to take so serious a step as the suspension of the liberties of the people. It was quite true that such were the attachments of Party, such were 738 the ties of Party feeling, that there were a number of hon. Members who would take the word of the Chief Secretary for anything with regard to Ireland; and, as he had heard one of them say, they would, in a matter of this kind, give the Government the benefit of the doubt. That was not the way the liberties of England were won. It was not by giving to the Government the benefit of the doubt that the liberties of Ireland would be observed; but, as he had already said, it was a light matter with that House to sacrifice the liberties of the Irish people.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he disbelieved in the genuineness of the proclamation referred to. He believed that the relative position of the agrarian party and the treasonable party were that the treasonable party despised the agrarian party, and the agrarian party were afraid of the treasonable party. He believed that if the main object of the Bill was in respect to treason or treason-felony it was founded on a most monstrous pretension; but he believed if the Chief Secretary would closely confine himself to the agrarian outrages and transactions the better it would be for the Bill, because, if they included the treason-felony people with the agrarian people in one Bill of pains and penalties against both classes, they would tend to bring the two classes together. He could assure the Committee—having had a great deal of experience in the testing and sifting of evidence upon documents—that he was as convinced as a man could be of anything of which he had not direct proof—he had a great deal more evidence approximate to what might be direct proof than would be necessary to lock up a man—he was convinced that the proclamation, which was destined to make, and had made, such an effect on the public mind, was not the work of Dublin Castle. But he was also perfectly satisfied that it was not the work of its pretended authors, but was that of some partizan, who desired to play into the hands of Dublin Castle in their present policy. No one could acquit more completely than he did, or discharge from his mind more fully, the idea of any suspicion of the Chief Secretary, or of the chief officials; but it was the misery of such establishments as Dublin Castle that they necessarily had a body of camp 739 followers, who were not very chary of what they put into the hands of the Chief Secretary. It would be just as unfair, and not more so, to charge a general of a gallant army with the acts of his camp followers, as to charge the heads of Dublin Castle with the infamy of Talbot; but they could not wholly discharge themselves, in the minds of the public, from the connection. For the well-working of the Bill and the putting of agrarianism on its proper footing it would be better to disassociate it from anything relating to treason or treason-felony. They had elected to be kept asunder, and he would urge that they should be still kept asunder. The treasonable party were more dangerous than the agrarian; but it would not only be adding one to the other, but multiplying them both, if they were put together; and he implored the right hon. Gentle-man in a loyal spirit, and as one who had given hostages to fortune on behalf of order and peace in Ireland, to exclude anything of treason-felony from the Bill before the Bill became law, simply for the purpose of keeping asunder two parties which were asunder at present, and which, he hoped, would remain so for ever.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
A question has been put by the hon. Member for Galway(Mr. T. P.O'Connor) which ought to be answered. It was answered partly by the hon. Member who has just sat down (Sir Joseph M'Kenna), who says there are two parties in Ireland, which he has described by the names— the treasonable party, and the agrarian party. He says those two parties exist in Ireland, and he has given a reason, which is not convincing to me, why one party and not the other should be dealt with by the Bill. It seems to me that, if there be two such parties, they ought both to be dealt with. If there be a treasonable party in Ireland, if it does not act with the agrarian party but adversely to it, why should not that party be' dealt with? The evidence of such a danger does not rest upon any surmise of my right hon. Friend. If proof were wanted, it has been proved by the speech of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). He spoke of a revolutionary party; he used a different phrase from the hon. Member for Youghal; but I imagine he meant the same thing, and he said there was a 740 revolutionary party, who were adverse to the objects of the Land League and the party with whom the hon. Member acts. I have no doubt it is true; but does not the hon. Member prove the fact of the existence of the party'?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I did not say there was a revolutionary party; but that there were persons of revolutionary ideas, some of whom were in Ireland, but most of whom were in America.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I accept that explanation. What does it mean? I imagine it means very much the same thing as the party described by the hon. Member for Youghal as the treasonable party. There are people of revolutionary ideas, some of whom, apparently, are in Ireland and some in America; it is possible that the majority in America may come to Ireland, and if you are to have a Bill which is to be of any service at all that Bill ought to cover that party of revolutionary ideas, some of whom are now in Ireland, but the majority of whom are in America. It is for dealing with that party of revolutionary ideas, of whom the hon. Member seems, at all events, to have sufficient knowledge and conception to be able to describe their relative number and their relative situations-—for he seems to know where the majority is and where the minority is—that the Bill is required. He says the minority is in Ireland and the majority is in America. Well, the Government think it their duty to make this proposal, and they have formed very much the same opinion as the hon. Member for Galway. They would ill-discharge their functions if, having some acquaintance with, and perhaps as complete knowledge as, the hon. Member of that party, if they did not deal with them; and they have come to the same conclusion that there are some of them in Ireland and a great many in America. It is the object of this Bill and this clause which is now under discussion to protect society, and to protect the institutions of the country against that revolutionary party, some of whom, as the hon. Member says, are in Ireland and a great many of whom are in America.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) had adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for [Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) by saying that there were 741 people of revolutionary ideas in Ireland; and he would like to know whether or not it was proposed by the Bill to put people in prison on account of their ideas. The evidence was too slight on which to pass a Bill of so much importance to Ireland. He did not know much himself with regard to the revolutionary party; but he asked a Catholic priest whether there were any Fenians in his district, and the priest said there were none. He said—"There are no Fenians here; but they are all Fenian sympathizers. All the Irish people hated the English system of government; and by the action of the Government on the present occasion they were fortifying that feeling and the revolutionary party. They were not treated with fair play by the different Governments which from time to time sat on the Treasury Bench. They were exceedingly unfairly treated by the Bill before the House. They were asked to allow a stringent measure to pass without the slightest evidence, and to take on trust the opinions of right hon. Gentlemen who themselves acknowledged that they had never read the evidence upon which they based their opinions. They were asked to pass a clause of that sort on the whispered information of perjured informers; and, with regard to Talbot and the other men, who were notorious scoundrels, as was acknowledged by all parts of the House, the Ministers who used such people were in a large degree responsible, and became in some cases their confederates, for it was an undoubted fact that a person who employed an agent, knowing what he did, made himself morally as guilty as the agent.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked leave to make a personal explanation, as the Home (Secretary had grossly misrepresented what he had said.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
wished to make a personal explanation. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had put into his mouth—he did not know with what object—words and ideas which he had not expressed. What he said was that there were men of revolutionary ideas in Ireland, as there were in England; but it was a totally different thing to say that because a man had 742 revolutionary ideas, for that reason he was a member of a revolutionary organization. The right hon. Gentleman had grossly misrepresented what he said, and he must have known it.
§ MR. MOLLOY
asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he could give any information to the Committee as to whether it was or was not true that, in 1866, a man named Talbot was employed by the Government in Ireland—first, to swear in Fenians; and, secondly, he would not say by their instructions, but, at any rate, with their knowledge, that he, not being a Catholic, went into a Catholic church and received the sacrament, in order to induce the confidence of the people of that country; whether or not he gave evidence against those whom he had induced to become Fenians; and whether or not he was paid by the Government of Ireland?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
It is not the fact that Talbot was either employed to swear in Fenians or that he did so. It is not a fact, not being a Catholic, that he received the sacrament in the Catholic Church at Carrick-on-Suir. Those who are interested in the matter will find the entire circumstances reported in this book which I hold in my hand, and which belongs to the Library of the House. It contains the trial of Burke and others, and the cross-examination of Talbot will be found on page 606 and subsequent pages. The counsel who cross-examined him was the present Baron Dowse, then at the Bar. The learned Baron has himself contradicted, in the Curt of Exchequer in the presence of the public, the statement that Talbot admitted he had received the Sacrament. It will be found that the Judge who presided at the trial of M'Catferty's case, in which Talbot was examined, approved of his conduct.
MR. J. COWEN
wished to ask a question. Was he to understand that the Representatives of the Government distinctly stated that Talbot did not act as a spy and receive money from the Government?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
I said nothing of the kind; but that he was a constable who acted as a detective policeman and earned the approbation of the Judge.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken of those whom, he said, were not within that House, and, therefore, could not defend themselves. He would make a complaint on a different basis. He complained that the authorities of Dublin Castle were not directly responsible to that House for the maladministration of Ireland. While that Committee might put much confidence in the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, history and facts alike showed the Irish Members that they could never trust their case into the hands of the authorities of Dublin Castle. A Bill of that kind, carried out by those authorities, was exactly the measure to aid in the promulgation of those revolutionary ideas which had been so much condemned in that House. Treasonable practices might be allowed to remain in the Bill, for he know of no law that embraced them; but he thought that treason and treason-felony might well be omitted, and dealt with by the ordinary law. It would be a wise thing if the Government would omit from the Bill everything which would be at all likely to lead to further progress in the revolutionary ideas which might be then existing in Ireland.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
(who rose amid loud cries of "Order!") said, he should not occupy the time of the Committee more than three minutes.
The hon. Member is in Order if he limits himself to an explanation; but he cannot reply.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the only explanation he had to make was this. He sought to obtain from the Government an explanation of the facts they alleged. It might have appeared that he was bringing some sort of personal charge against the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He did nothing of the kind; and he begged to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had never brought any charge against him except one founded on inexperience in Irish affairs.
§ MR. M'COAN
wished to be allowed to read two or three words from the volume to which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson) had 744 referred. The contradiction of the hon. and learned Gentleman to what had been hitherto received as an undoubted fact was so complete, that for the moment he was staggered that his hon. and learned Friend should have ventured to make an assertion for which there was no foundation. The impression left with him was that the whole story as to Talbot's entering the Catholic churches and taking part in the Service was entirely without foundation. He had, however, that moment looked into the Report of the trial; and a couple of sentences had accidentally caught his eye, which, with the permission of the Committee, he would read. He did not charge the hon. and learned Gentleman with dishonesty; but what he did was this, to tell as much of the story as an advocate would—namely, that part which supported his own case. [Confusion. Ones of" Fair play!"and "Order!"] He had never read the trial; but his eye had accidentally fallen upon those sentences, and, no doubt, in 10 minutes, he could find sentences which were much stronger. He did not know whether that part of the trial was examination or cross-examination. That did not matter. Talbot was asked these questions—He went to transact business after Mass along with you?—Yes. Did he ever suspect that you were not a Catholic?—No. No one said anything about it?—No. Did you do the same as all the other men in the chapel?—Yes. Did you bless yourself in the same way, and go through all the forms of the Catholic Church at Mass, as if you were a regular Catholic?—I did. And you did not believe one hit of it the whole time '—I did the same as they do in chapels or in churches. Did not you go there to act a lie, that you might affect to be a Catholic when you were not one?—I did not understand it in that light. Did you go to Mass for the purpose of acting a lie, and appearing to he a Catholic?— Yes; I went to Mass in order to get among the Fenian societies.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON),
rose amid loud cries of "Order!" and great confusion. He said: I was asked two questions, neither of which—[An hon. MEMBER: Dublin Castle again.]—neither of which has been in the slightest degree touched—
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
Cer- 745 tainly. Sir. I was asked two questions—First, whether Talbot had received the sacrament of the Catholic Church, to which I answered, No; secondly, whether he had sworn in Fenians, and I answered that he had not.
§ Several Irish MEMBERS: We can prove it.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that if the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson) were uncontradicted, it might go forth to the country that the charge made against Talbot was a falsehood. It was well known in Ireland that Talbot was, even after those transactions, kept in the pay of Dublin Castle; and that it was a fact that he had gone into the Catholic church and received the sacrament. Let the hon. and learned Gentleman disprove that if he could. Talbot was, in fact, in the pay of Dublin Castle up to the clay of his death, notwithstanding that those charges against him were known to be true by the authorities.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 225; Noes 49: Majority 176.—(Div. List, No. 85.)
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Justin M'Carthy,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.