§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [THIRD NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [23rd May], "That the Debate on Question,
'That, in the opinion of this House, the action of the Irish Executive in arbitrarily arresting a Member of the House without reasonable ground; in proclaiming a state of siege in Dublin; in imprisoning the Rev. Mr. Sheehy and many other men of high character and good conduct; and in affording the use of the armed forces of the Crown for the wholesale execution of wanton and cruel evictions is an abuse of the exceptional powers conferred by Parliament; and is calculated to promote disaffection in Ireland.'—(Mr. Justin M'Carthy,)
be now adjourned."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that in the rapid pace at which events were marching in Ireland the situation was in some degree modified from what it was when the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for the County Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) was moved. The facts upon which he meant to rely were admitted by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and were thus left to public judgment. One of the most prominent statements on the other side was that Dublin had been proclaimed to be in what they called a state of siege for the purpose of arresting Mr. Dillon. The Executive were thus ready to sacrifice the Constitutional rights of 300,000 citizens in order to reach the individual speaker of a single speech. It was true that the Chief Secretary for Ireland found some fault with the use of the phrase "a state of siege," and drew comparisons between what that phrase meant on the Continent and in Ireland. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would maintain that practically it meant the same thing; but he claimed that the standard of comparison which they had a right to set up in the matter of Constitutional liberty in Ireland was not the standard of Continental despotism, but of the rights of British law among British citizens; and he maintained, judging by that standard, that the deprivation of 300,000 citizens of their Constitutional rights for the purpose of reaching one man was a gross violation of Constitu- 59 tional rights. With regard to the Police Circular, they had the admission of the Chief Secretary of its authenticity and purpose. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would sum up the issue of that point. In the first place, the Irish Party did not challenge the statement that outrages, even gross outrages, existed, and did not charge the Circular, as the Chief Secretary suggested, with manufacturing outrage. Their charge was that it manufactured and suggested, not the manufacture of outrages, but the manufacture of suspicion. Next, the right hon. Gentleman contended that the phrase "leaders and instigators of popular movements" was intelligible. The right hon. Gentleman explained that a popular movement, as understood by this Circular, was not a popular movement in the ordinary acceptation of the word—a movement merely for the securing of public rights—but a movement for the securing of unjust ends by illegal means. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) wished to point out that it was not to his mind, nor to the minds of active politicians, whether of popular or unpopular opinions, that this Circular was addressed. It was addressed to policemen putting a Coercion Act into force; and, practically, there was no distinction in the mind of policemen in such a condition between a movement which was popular and Constitutional and a movement which was popular and illegal. The effect of the Circular was not to establish, but to confuse, the distinction between popular and unconstitutional movement, and to induce the policemen to regard, or to reasonably suspect, every popular agitator as being an abettor and inciter of agrarian outrage. And, finally, the charge still remained unanswered that, in a document approved by a British Minister, deliberate mendacity was recommended. The Circular was an eloquent testimony to the steady demoralization which a false position exercised upon oven a truthful nature. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) ventured to say that 12 months ago no man in that House would have shrunk back more indignantly from the contemplation of any participation in such a Circular than the man who now admitted his responsibility for it. They were told by the Prime Minister on the first stage of the Coercion Bill that the right of association even for the purpose of in- 60 ducing people to break contracts would not be touched by the Coercion Bill. They knew very well what he was hinting at—that the Land League organization, even when it proceeded to that extent, would not be interfered with by coercive legislation. The Common Law remedies would remain the same. But had the Common Law been left to deal with such cases? Several of the warrants—he believed that against Mr. Kettle, for instance—described the offence as endeavouring to induce people not to pay their rents—in other words, to commit the Common Law offence of breach of contract. The practical operation of coercive legislation was in distinct and violent contrast with the declarations of the Prime Minister. The Solicitor General for Ireland, in the gush of his innocence, ventured to predict what would be the operation of the Coercive Acts when passed. What did he say? In his Arcadian dream of the future he anticipated that the number of persons imprisoned would be "one;" but they now amounted to something like 120. With these facts before them, he asked had coercive legislation been obtained under false pretences or not? As to the kind of persons who would be arrested, the Chief Secretary described them as "dissolute ruffians," "village tyrants," "mauvais sujets," and "midnight marauders." "Dissolute ruffians!" A Catholic clergyman, of unimpeachable character, was he a specimen? "Village tyrants!" His hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary was among their "suspects," towards whom the feeling of the people of Ireland was not that he was the "tyrant of a village," but one of the saviours of a nation. "Midnight marauders!" No; but public speakers on public platforms in the light of day attended by Government reporters. The letter which had been written by Mr. Dillon to the Speaker declared distinctly that he was coming to that House to state the case of his constituents and a large section of the Irish people when he was arrested. The Chief Secretary for Ireland almost said, or suggested, that if he had known Mr. Dillon was coming over for that purpose, he would not have arrested him. Now, that was proved on the best evidence, the evidence of Mr. Dillon himself; and the Chief Secretary, as a man of honour, was bound to order his release, in order 61 to enable Mr. Dillon to discharge his duty to his constituents and that Assembly. There could be no doubt that some portions of Ireland were in a state of considerable disturbance; that outrages were frequent and sometimes revolting; but what he asked the House to understand, as a necessary distinction towards a true comprehension of the situation in Ireland, was that there was a vast difference between what he might roughly call disturbance and what he would call outrage. He would class as outrages a murder such as the brutal murder in the County Galway, or a midnight visit, or the houghing of cattle. Such things as these were pure terrorism and inexcusable crime. But what he would call disturbance was the tumult or the riot that took place when an eviction was being attempted. It would be altogether erroneous and unjust to put such disturbance in the category of outrage. The provocation came from the evicting landlord; the disturbers, acting in the light of day, and not in the secret-ness of darkness, accepted the risks of their action; and the disturbers were men fighting for their cabins, their fields, and their children. If any loss of life occurred as the consequence of eviction attempted and eviction resisted, before we could lay any responsibility on those who resisted, we must be satisfied of the justice of the attack. Let the House dismiss from its judgment the utterly erroneous impression that the disturbance, which was the result of attempted eviction, was mainly the work of the Land League organization. The movement had gone on of itself, because its causes lay deep in the social conditions of the Irish people. Men and women did not face the risks of collision with armed soldiers and police in obedience to any eloquence, however persuasive. Were the evictions just or unjust? That was the question to ask; and if the evictions were unjust, the evictors were the originators of disturbance and the persons criminally responsible. At the Morning Sitting the Prime Minister gave an example of what appeared to him a case of the refusal of a fair rent by solvent tenants on the estate of Lord Kenmare; but Lord Kenmare was only one of the many evicting landlords whose names were mentioned. What of the Earl of Arran, another of the evicting landlords in the list quoted? Bead the evidence 62 on the management of this estate given before the Royal Commissioners by Professor Baldwin, a Government official. There was a case on that estate of a farm on which there were three changes of tenancy in two years, with an increment of 25 per cent on each change, which, as Professor Baldwin showed, amounted to an increase of 95 per cent on this one farm in the course of two years. In another case, the rent being £6 10s. 6d. in 1860, was raised, by successive increases, until in 1869 it had reached the sum of £12 13s. 2d.—that is to say, in which the rent was doubled in the course of nine years. Take the other case which he mentioned at Question time—the case of the Arranmore Island, in which the Goshawk was employed in carrying the police to serve ejectment notices. According to Father Walker, the people were, through the combined influences of the failure of the kelp trade, of the potato crop, and he believed also of the labour market in England, in a condition of deplorable want. Rents had been raised in one case from £81 to £182 0s. 4d., the Government valuation being £72 5s.; in another from £36 18s. to £71 18s., the Government valuation being £37 3s.; and the abject misery of some of the inhabitants was such that a case was given by this clergyman of a whole family sleeping in one bed, without distinction of sex, for want of clothing. The statement, in answer to Father Walker, by Sir William Charley was on these points, he found, not contradictory, but confirmatory. What added a sardonic element to this tragic spectacle was the fact that the Goshawk was employed last year in the distribution of food to the semi-starved population of these same isles. The distress on these isles had been described by everybody who had visited them as extreme. The question remained whether this distress was general. He would not then argue the question whether or not a tenant who was able to pay an unjust rent was or was not justified in refusing to pay that rent because of his desire to help his poorer brethren, and to fulfil what he considered the highest class of social comradeship and common citizenship. He would not argue that question, because he did not wish to overload his case, and because he submitted that the Government, in justification of their proceedings, were bound to show not merely that some 63 such cases existed, but that they formed a large proportion of the persons against whom eviction processes were being carried out. Therefore, the real point upon which he had to decide was, not whether there were some tenants who could pay rent and would not, but whether the distress and inability to pay rent was general. Let them see what were admitted facts on that point. It was admitted that there were three bad harvests, and it was not contended by any person acquainted with Ireland that one good harvest, admitting that of last year to have been good, was sufficient to restore the fortunes of the tenants whom three bad harvests had prostrated. He came next to a second point, which would be admitted by hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, that the depression in agriculture had been largely aggravated by what one of themselves, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), called "relentless foreign competition;" and, thirdly, Members on Liberal Benches would allow that it was an injustice to drive out these tenants, without any compensation, because of an inability to pay an unjust rent; but assuredly he was wasting his time in entering into a prolonged argument to prove to the present Ministry that inability to pay rent was general. Were not the Ministers the authors of the Disturbance Bill of last year? And were they not as such in this perplexing dilemma—either the inability to pay rent was general, or the Disturbance Bill of last year was supported and carried on false pretences? Deny the universality or, at least, the prevalence of distress, and, therefore, inability to pay rent; and what unmeaning, and even mendacious, words were those as to sentences of evictions being almost equivalent to a sentence of starvation, and all the other eloquent, but to our minds unexaggerated, pictures of Irish rural life which they heard from the Treasury Bench last Session. Her Majesty's Ministers could not escape from, those statements and acts of then own; and those statements and acts irresistibly prove that the large majority of tenants against whom eviction was decreed were not unwilling, but unable, to pay rent. The recent Return on evictions proved that the numbers of threatened evictions reached what, without exaggeration, he might call an appalling total. At the last Easter Sessions 64 alone the number of decrees obtained was, according to the Return, 3,003. There were, besides, 91 decrees of ejectment from the Superior Courts. That made a total of about 12,000 people threatened with eviction; but mark this. As he understood the Return, it took no account of the actions against tenants brought for the recovery of debt—that was to say, the actions which enabled the landlord to sell out the interest of the tenant, and to deprive him of all benefit from the Act of 1870, or the Land Bill that was now before the House. Let him point to the fact that these actions, as the collisions between the Emergency men and the Land Leaguers showed, had become one of the most common form of proceeding against the tenant, and accordingly they must set down a large number of tenants as threatened with eviction in this shape. Putting all these things together, ejectment decrees from the Quarter Sessions, ejectment decrees from the Superior Courts, and actions for the recovery of debt, he thought he was within the limit in saying that between 15,000 and 20,000 people in Ireland were now threatened with becoming what the Prime Minister described as houseless and homeless, without hope and without remedy. What, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) asked, in the name of the Irish people, was to become of those hapless creatures? The Government asked the Irish Members to "Bid them obey the law." What did that prayer mean but a request that they should ask them to allow themselves to be driven, without hope and without remedy, from their homes, because they were deserted by a Government supposed to be anxious for the "protection of life and property;" were they to abandon the means of protection which their own efforts supplied to them? What were the Government going to do, he asked, and all Ireland asked, for these people? The prayer came to the Government not merely from desolate hearths and threatened homes, but from desperate men and women, driven to the poor means of self-preservation at their disposal. The demand came from the representatives of all sections of popular opinion in Ireland—from moderate as well as from extreme men—from a Prelate like Archbishop Croke, from an organ so moderate as The Freeman's Journal. The Government told them that this Bill would 65 better their position as tenants. They would have ceased to be tenants by the time the Bill had become law. Could anything be a more cruel mockery than to bid these people hope with the bailiff at the door and the crowbar already on the roof-tree, while the Government measure crept along at a pace more slow than that of the Alexandrine. The Conservative and Whig Obstructionists of this measure might propose frivolous and dilatory Amendments, might waste time in the repetition of imbecile fallacies, but meantime their fate advanced towards them with the speed of lightning on the swift wing of landlord hate, and the Ministerial position was that of aiding in this work of destruction by soldiers, sailors, and police, charges of cavalry, threatened bombardment, and by gunboats; and by way of making the course of the tenant still more helpless, they imprisoned everyone who dared to raise his voice on behalf of the oppressed. The future was dark and dangerous; but it was made so by the relentless avarice of many landlords and the criminal neglect of the Government. The landlords were the perpetrators and the Government were the aiders of outrage and the abettors of disturbance.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that when the Sitting was suspended last Tuesday the House was discussing the Motion for the adjournment of the present debate. He would suggest that that Motion be withdrawn, in order that the debate might be carried on upon the Main Question.
§ MR. PARNELL
asked, on behalf of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan), who was not present, to be allowed to withdraw the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, that the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had put himself forward as a champion of a Constitutional agitation which had conferred immeasurable benefits on the tenantry of Ireland, and he understood that the complaint of the hon. Member was that the Act for Protection of Life and Property had been put in force to repress that Constitutional agitation, and that leaders of Constitutional agitation who 66 had committed no crime had been arrested and were now incarcerated. Now, he held in his hand a Return which every Member had in his possession. Some of the apostles of this "holy and sacred cause" of defending their holdings, as the hon. Member had called it, were there recorded, and he found, commencing among the last on the list was one Patrick Ryan, and the advantage that he had conferred upon his country—at the instigation of agitators, as he apprehended—was recorded thus:—"Murder, committed in a prescribed district, and for an act of violent conduct tending to interfere with the maintenance of law and order"—
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, his statement was, that among the persons arrested under the Act were those whose only crime was that of having taken part in a Constitutional agitation. He did not say that all the persons arrested were of that character; but he repudiated the statement that the organization of which he was a member had anything to do with murder.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, he was glad to hear that the hon. Member only countenanced some of the persons who had been arrested; and he was sure that there were some whom the hon. Member would not seek to protect. Taking the next case promiscuously from the list, he found the man was arrested because he was suspected of having committed murder in a prescribed district. As far as he had an opportunity of examining the Return while the hon. Member was speaking, he found that of the whole number of 54, eight were charged with murder, or incitement to murder, as categorical offences; two with treasonable practices, and nine with having broken into dwellings and beaten the persons found inside, stolen their arms, or fired at them. The hon. Member would hardly attempt to vindicate persons of that kind as having been engaged in a Constitutional agitation. It was not necessary to go in detail through the Return; but, he would ask, could anyone who read the public newspapers of the day suppose that this agitation, this "holy and sacred resistance" as the hon. Member called it, was limited to those who were unable to pay their rents? How often did hon. Members read in the newspapers of 67 sheriffs' sales in which military and police were engaged in protecting persons from injury; and how, after the cattle, or other goods, which the sheriff had seized were put up for sale, the principle was said to he vindicated, and the tenant paid the rent straight off? Surely such cases, and they were of nearly daily occurrence, were not cases of inability to pay rent. No matter how deplorable the condition of persons, nothing could justify outrage. He would give the outline of a case which happened on the 26th of April, two days after the speeeh of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), the necessity for whose incarceration no one regretted more than he (the Solicitor General for Ireland) did. The wife of a man who was murdered gave this narrative upon her oath—I and my husband were in bed. I heard a noise. A party of men broke in the door. They went into the bedroom, which was dark. When they came in they went over to the bed in which I and three of my children were lying. I called out. They went over to the bed in which my husband and son Martin were lying. They told my husband to rise and come out. He said he was sick. They said he must. They caught and pulled him out of bed. They took him out of bed, and laid him on the stones outside. They came back into the room, and took my son Martin and laid him on the stones. When they had taken the two out of the house they began shooting. I was standing at the bedroom window. After the men went away, I went out, and saw my husband and my son Martin lying dead on the flags.If that was the way in which those who had influence among the people exerted that influence—not in redressing wrong, not in alleviating suffering, not in distributing charity, but in instigating crime and outrage, he thought conduct of that kind could not be too severely condemned. He would not weary, or he might say outrage, the feelings of the House with the narratives before him of other crimes. Nothing could be more cruel, nothing more heartless, than that to which he had referred, and he hoped there was no Member of that House who would seek to justify a proceeding of that kind. He put it to the common sense of any person who read journals of the day whether the present state of Ireland was not attributable to the action of the Land League? He did not mean to say that that was their object. He said it was the result of their action. Was there not a frightful load of responsibility lying at the doors of 68 those who were answerable for what was recorded in the daily papers? Was there any hon. Member in the House who would say that, so far, the Irish Executive had been too anxious or too vigorous in trying to repress these mischiefs? Those with whom this agitation originated, and by whom it was maintained, were unable in the present state of the agitation in Ireland to cope with the mischief that had arisen. It was like the story in the Arabian Nights; it was easy enough to uncork the bottle and let out the genie, but perfectly impossible to shut him up again. It was easy enough by violent speeches, by irritating topics, to lash a suffering people—and many of them had suffered, and were still suffering—into frenzy. What we had to deal with was a state of things like that mentioned in the House to-day, in which shots were deliberately interchanged between the peasantry of Clare and Her Majesty's Forces and the Constabulary. In that state of things, was it not necessary that the Executive charged with the preservation of peace and good order, should exercise to the utmost all the powers with which they were invested by the law? If the whole Army were employed in preventing these outrages, he could not think their services would be misapplied. He was a very subordinate Member of the Government; but he thought that if a Government, who saw such a state of things going on, did not exercise to the utmost the powers with which they were invested in trying to prevent bloodshed, or crime, or outrage among the peasantry of Ireland, it would incur a grave responsibility, and would not deserve to retain the power or be charged with the duty of keeping peace and good order in the country.
§ MR. A. MOORE
said, he fully recognized the very great difficulty of the situation in which the Government were placed. On the one hand, landlords were pressing, possibly in some cases with undue harshness, for their rents for the very means of existence, and, on the other hand, a large portion of the tenantry was excited and unsettled, and the more unsettled by the very fact that the Land Bill was undergoing discussion by the House. It was a thankless position to have to stand between those two bodies. He was always sorry when he saw the Chief Secretary for Ireland abused and upbraided in the House. 69 He thought that any man who looked back upon the right hon. Gentleman's career and remembered that his first essay in public life was the contribution of relief to poor perishing peasants in the West of Ireland, must know that the right hon. Gentleman could feel no pleasure in sanctioning the use of the military force of the Crown against these Irish tenants at the present moment. With regard to the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), he would be very glad if some arrangement could be come to whereby that Gentleman, who was an honourable, courageous, and straightforward man, could be restored to the discharge of his duties in the House. Such a thing had been, heard of as the release on parole of Smith O'Brien. He could assure the House that the Irish people looked upon John Dillon as a second Smith O'Brien. With regard to the arrest of Father Sheehy, he would remind the House of the seriousness of arresting a Roman Catholic priest in Ireland. If the Roman Catholic clergy had not taken part in this agitation, they would have had loss of life to an enormous extent. The ground would be red at this moment with the blood of British soldiers and civilians. He could not at all justify the actions or language of these gentlemen. He hoped that some arrangement could be arrived at, honourable to the Government and to themselves, whereby Mr. Dillon and Father Sheehy could be liberated from prison. If that course were adopted, he thought it would to a great extent allay the bitter feeling which unfortunately prevailed in Ireland. Seeing, however, what the Government were doing in that House, he could not bring himself to be a party to a Vote of Censure upon them, and therefore he should divide against the Motion.
MR. J. COWEN
said, that whenever the state of the administration of Ireland came up for consideration in the House it was customary, as had been done by his hon. Friend near him, to remind them that the responsibility of Ministers was heavy, the duties distracting, and appeals were made to the friendly forbearance of their critics. He admitted the disturbed state of the country—that was all too palpable to everyone. He admitted, too, that this disturbance had taxed the temper, the capacity, and the resources of the Executive. But the 70 force of the ad misrecordum plea put in from Ministers was mitigated by the fact that they were in a large measure the authors of their own difficulties. They had been warned long and often that the rusty instruments of repression that they were so laboriously refurbishing would break in their hands and wound them. But they had heeded not the warning. And as for the thickening troubles, why, no body of men ever made such frantic efforts to enter Office as the present occupants. The legitimate weapons of Party warfare were sometimes, to secure that end, illegitimately wielded. He had no doubt that Ministers had found that the pleasures of possession were not equal to the pleasures of anticipation. It was not very Christlike, but he feared it was very human, for their opponents to mete out to them the same measures that they had meted out to their opponents under other circumstances. What were the reasons assigned by the Government for demanding coercive powers? He did not wish to put extracts from the speeches of Ministers in juxtaposition with their works. That had been done with damaging; effect by hon. Gentlemen opposite. He would take the general spirit and substance of their statements, and test them with their performances. The contention of the Cabinet was that there had been established in Ireland a "social terror" and agrarian tyranny—that the law of the land had been superseded by the law of the Land League; that the new law was enforced by gangs of desperadoes and miscreants; that the despotism that these men had set up, partly from love of gain and partly from love of mischief, was hateful to the people generally, but they were unable to free themselves from it. It hung like a horrid nightmare over the land, and they could not shake themselves clear of it. The Irish Secretary said he knew these marauders, or at least his police knew them. Although noisy, they were not numerous; and if Parliament would only give him the power to lay hands on them at once, and, without the inconvenience of a jury, put them in a place where they would cease from troubling, he would promise a complete and speedy re-establishment of law and order. To induce the House more readily to comply with their demands, the Government undertook not to interfere with the legiti- 71 mate privileges of popular agitation. The Press was to be untrammelled, public meetings were to be held as heretofore, and comment and criticism on the action of the Executive was to be as unchecked in the future as it had been in the past. All that the Irish Secretary wanted was power to impound the miscreants until the social virus with which they had innoculated the population had been exorcised. Parliament only too readily granted these powers. They superseded the Constitution, and established as arbitrary a mode of rule in Ireland as that which existed in Russia. ["Hear, hear!" and "No, no!"] He said "Yes, yes!" The law might be more leniently enforced in Ireland than in Russia; but the law as it stood was as far-reaching and uncontrolled in one country as in the other. It could not be too often proclaimed, it could not be too indelibly stamped upon the public mind of this country, that a Liberal Parliament had handed over the liberties of the Irish people to the mercy of an arbitrary magistracy, a vindictive police, and to that vilest and meanest of all created things, a political spy. How had the Executive used their powers? The Irish Executive themselves being the witness, Ireland was more disturbed to-day than it was at the commencement of the Session—more disturbed, indeed, in the estimation of some than it had been for the last half-century. Coercion had failed—failed egregiously, failed disastrously, and, speaking as an English democrat, he would say failed deservedly. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland—a mild mannered man, and one who was not given to say sharp things, much less unjust ones, of any person, and who was probably well acquainted with the thoughts and wishes of what might be termed the governing classes of Ireland—declared in that House a few days ago that the Irish Executive had lost the confidence of every class in that country. The tenant farmers and the tradesmen, who were largely represented by the hon. Members opposite, were sour, sullen, if not seditious. The less aggressive and more moderate section, who found their spokesmen on that side of the House, although silent, were not satisfied. Even the production of the long-promised Land Bill had ceased to allay the social unrest. Distrust, discontent, disaffection, now, 72 as many times before in the dark ensanguined annals of Ireland, expressed the prevalent sentiments of the people. They had nearly 13,000 gendarmes, an unnumbered list of local police, and one-third of the British Home Army in the country; yet they could not maintain order. The simple recital of these facts was a more eloquent and trenchant condemnation of the present mode of rule than any words could express. The Government had coercive powers. It was possible for them to possess themselves of the persons of disaffected Irishmen. But they could not by such acts win their hearts. They could not gain their affections. They had yet to learn the force of the simplest and oldest of Radical maxims, that liberty alone could banish crime, and that contentment was the best constabulary. The Government had arrested some 130 or 150 persons; but the House only knew the grounds for the arrest of 54 of these. And what did that Return tell them? During the discussions on the Coercion Bill they were assured, with wearying iteration, that it was a common if not a universal practice for the Irish peasants to maim the cattle belonging to offending landlords. The House was led to believe that the peasantry were so barbarous and brutal that they reeked their dislike of individuals on harmless dumb animals. Pictures of this debased and barbarous practice were drawn, and the English people were invited to express their horror and detestation of such savagery. Now, what was the fact? The Irish Government had the power to arrest anyone that they faintly suspected of being guilty of such cruelty. The authorities of Dublin had certainly the will to do that, and what had they done? There had only one person been arrested for a crime of this character, and that person had been released some weeks ago—the case against him being so flimsy and unsubstantial. He referred to that case, as it threw a lurid light on the social condition of Ireland. The man suspected of maiming cattle could not speak a word of English; he did not know who was Prime Minister; had never heard of the names of the Viceroy or of the Irish Secretary, and was even imperfectly acquainted with the existence of the Land League. When taken into custody he had no shirt, no stockings, no shoes, no hat. 73 The hut he lived in was unfit for human habitation, and there was not a Gentleman in that House who would keep a pig in it. Alone and unfriended, the existence of families in such a condition as this was a reproach to our mode of rule, and a scandal to our system of civilization. Yet all the might and majesty of the British Empire were invoked to drag this unfortunate person from the West Coast of Ireland to Kilmainham, for the suspected offence of cutting off a cow's tail. And their charge, made during the coercion discussions, was that it was a common practice for the Irish peasantry to burn offending neighbours' homesteads over their heads. The Government led the House to believe that arson was as common a crime in Ireland as pocket-picking on an English race-course. Yet in the list of prisoners there were only three who were suspected of this practice. Three too many, he was willing to allow, but three offences—or rather suspected offences—for the whole population of Ireland did not justify the wholesale accusations that were made against the people from the Treasury Bench. Some of the gentlemen that had been arrested—Mr. Boyton, Mr. Harris, Mr. Nally, Mr. Sheridan, and others—were active promoters of the Land League. They had gone from county to county, from town to town, making speeches and establishing branches of that organization. He had no knowledge of the fact, but it was probable that in the course of their proceedings they might have said some hard things of the English Government, and harder things of some Irish landlords. The barrier between law and lawlessness was not a broad one, and they might have broken through it. But it should be remembered that the agitation in which they were engaged was admitted by the Government, and decided by the Law Courts to be legal. The League was striving to amend the law respecting the tenure and occupation of land. The Government allowed that that law required amendment. The Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last Session and the Bill now before the House were proof of this. The Land League had succeeded in creating a state of public opinion which had rendered legislation practicable. If there had been no Land League, as he had said before in that 74 House, there would have been no Land Bill—certainly no Land Bill this year. Remembering, therefore, the success of the League in promoting Government measures, and its legality, some allowance should be made for the persons engaged in it. There never had been an agitation without exaggeration and extravagance, and there probably never would be one. When men got heated in such work, they insensibly drifted into excesses. All who had had experience in the matter knew this. The Government acted often enough on reasonable suspicion—they might sometimes act with reasonable consideration towards men who had only followed the example and the instructions of many Gentlemen who sat on that side of the House, and some Ministers who, in years past, had been adepts at the work of agitation. They had arrested two newspaper editors. He had taken the trouble to compare the papers of the incriminated journalists, and he would undertake to say that for one sentence of a seditious character, for one paragraph that by any system of legal torturing could be twisted into an incentive to illegal courses that could be found in these Roscommon and Mayo papers, he would find a score of sentences and a dozen paragraphs in newspapers that were published within a stone's throw of Dublin Castle. The coercion net was close enough to catch offending provincials, and it was wide enough to allow their bigger brethren in the capital to escape. The reason was well known. There was no stronger menace to the doings of an arbitrary jack-in-office, like Mr. Clifford Lloyd, for example, than the existence of an independent paper. It was a standing restraint on exacting magisterial magnates. Without that restraint they would be tempted too often to strain their authority in punishing troublesome neighbours. The imprisoned editors had offended in this sense, and hence their imprisonment. The Irish Secretary shook his head solemnly and mysteriously when such statements and accusations were made, and refused to explain. But he (Mr. J. Cowen) had long since ceased to be impressed by Ministerial solemnity. He did not mean the solemnity of the' present Ministers, but of any Ministers. At least they were but men, and liable to the common infirmities of mankind; and as to the mystery in which the Irish 75 policy was now shrouded, he had found that the other side of a mystery, either in politics or in daily life, was usually a trick. Not in the list that was before them, but since it had been published, three young men had been arrested. The-youngest of them, he believed, was only some 16 years, and the oldest about 20. They were mere striplings. They had been sent to Limerick Gaol, a prison where the Governor was most exacting and overbearing. He believed these youngsters had been guilty of some boisterous or roystering conduct, such as the sons of Ministers, or Ministers themselves in their youthful days, had been guilty of many times at College and school, and at celebrations like Guy Fawkes, and the like. By their proceedings these young men had occasioned some annoyance to a local authority, and they had been sent to prison to annoy their parents, punish the lads, and degrade their families. It was a reflection upon any Government to suppose that its authority would be imperilled or its influence weakened by the hilarious doings of such juveniles. But the majority of the men who had been arrested under the powers of these Acts were respectable and respected tradesmen and farmers. They were leaders of public opinion in their different districts. Many of them were Poor Law Guardians, Town Councillors, and Town Commissioners. They corresponded in social position to the chiefs of their Liberal and Conservative Associations in this country. In this respect the Government had closely copied the procedure of Louis Bonaparte when he succeeded in overturning the Second Republic. He had had not much difficulty in securing his authority in Paris; but he had doubts about the provinces, and Circulars were sent to the provincial prefets of the same character as those that had been recently issued to the Irish police. The prefets were told that they should arrest the sober, steady, sensible leaders of the Republican party in all their districts. They were to allow the fussy, foaming agitators to go untouched. Their weight with the community was small, and Republicans of the kind he had described were dangerous to Imperial ambitions, and they had to be thrown into prison—the idea being that if men of such character and position were arrested it would strike terror into the population of the locality, and 76 assure the authority of the new régime. This was exactly what the Irish Government had done. The "miscreants" and "scoundrels" that they had talked about had been unheeded. They were at large now, as they were six months ago; but the influential chiefs of political and local life had been incarcerated, the object, nodoubt, being to impress the people with the vigour of the Executive and act as a deterrent to others. The result had not realized their anticipations, as the arrests instead of pacifying the people had exasperated them; and as they all knew—no one better than the Government—Coercion had promoted disorder rather than prevented it. He had no wish to speak specially of the arrest of Father Sheehy, which had been referred to repeatedly in these discussions. All he desired to say was that the Government in taking that course had taken upon themselves a large responsibility. The Irish Catholic priests occupied a peculiar position. They wore not mere controversialists who spent their time mumbling the dry-bones of an ancient theology. They were active sympathizers with their countrymen. They were the sons of peasants and racy of the soil. They knew the wants of their people, aided them in their difficulties, consoled them in their sorrows, and lent heart and hope to as hard a lot as ever fell to the children of men. He did not complain of the arrest of Father Sheehy, because he was a priest; but he trusted that, if priests were to be imprisoned, there would be no partiality shown, and if men like Father Sheehy had to suffer, higher dignitaries of the Church, if they acted like Father Sheehy, should be treated in the same way. The case of Mr. Dillon was one without precedent. It was an old Privilege of Parliament that Members could not be arrested or imprisoned for a civil offence. This Privilege dated from an older date than the existence of the present form of Parliament. It came down to them from their Saxon forefathers, and was a Privilege of members of the Witangemote. Of course, the Government would say Mr. Dillon's offence was not civil but criminal; but that was their distinction. They had arbitrary powers, and if they chose they could make an offence either criminal or civil. But that was not the point he wished to urge. Members of Parliament had been repeatedly arrested 77 on a charge of high treason and tried for it; but Mr. Dillon had been accused of no offence. He had not been tried, and there was no intention to try him. He had simply been arrested on suspicion. Another Member of that House, the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), chose to say that in his judgment there was reasonable suspicion that a speech Mr. Dillon had made might excite some of the Irish people to commit an illegal act, and in consequence of that suspicion he had been thrown into gaol. He (Mr. J. Cowen) affirmed that there was no case since the time of the Revolution, since the evil days of the Stuarts, when such an arbitrary and high-handed proceeding had been taken by any Government. Indeed, he did not know that even in those troubled times they could find an exact parallel to Mr. Dillon's case. If they believed that Mr. Dillon was guilty, let them put him on his trial, and if convicted let them punish him. No one wished to exculpate him if he had committed an offence. The charge he made was that the Government had arrested a duly qualified Member of the Legislature for no offence, but merely upon suspicion. He did not complain because of Mr. Dillon's superior social position. The bigger the man the bigger the offender—if he was an offender. But upon that "if" the whole question hinged. His accusation was that the Government had got the Coercion Bills for the purpose of doing one thing, and they had used them, for another. They were to imprison miscreants and ruffians, desperadoes and marauders. Would they have the hardihood to apply such a description to Mr. Dillon, to Father Sheehy, to Mr. Walsh, and others of their fellow-prisoners? He knew they would not so describe them. He felt strongly on this question, and he spoke strongly. It was his conviction that the policy the Ministers were pursuing was dangerous. It had already produced disorder. That disorder would broaden into disturbance, and the disturbance into insurrection and bloodshed. Such being his belief, he was bound to utter it with all the emphasis, energy, and earnestness that he could command. ["No!" and "Hear, hear!"] He knew he was speaking to a hostile and unwilling audience; but the fact that so few sympathized with the views he was enunciating—and the 78 deep conviction that the policy the Legislature was pursuing was a fatal one—only rendered it more necessary to be outspoken and resolute. He could never reflect on the position that England held towards Ireland without an overpowering sense of humiliation. After all the centuries of contact between the two countries, we were compelled to resort to the cruel, crude, barbarous, and demoralizing devices of despotism to uphold our authority. The capital of the, country, the second city of the Empire, was placed in a state of siege; scores of honest and honourable men were imprisoned without trial and on mere suspicion; the Constitution was suspended, and the country placed at the mercy of a single man and his few advisers. We might depend upon it that the fault did not "lay in our stars," or with the Irish, but with ourselves. At the same time that we were binding these dishonouring bonds in Ireland we were bending all our efforts to break them in other lands. The inconsistency was palpable to everyone but Englishmen. The Government, as well as their supporters in the House, and their defenders out of it, were constantly telling us that the disturbed state of Ireland was created by a handful of men whom they described as the Land League. We were assured that the Gentlemen on the other side were the originators of all this discord. ["Yes, yes!" and Cheers.] Hon. Members said "Yes, yes!" Why, it was exactly the opposite. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side were not the cause of the commotion, but the result of it. They were the outcome and consequence of the condition of things in Ireland. There was social and political discontent, and out of social and political discontent the Land League was evolved. Out of the Land League came the representatives who gave them so much trouble. Every tyro in history knew that, in Ireland, there had been an agitation or an insurrection nearly every decade for the last century. It was at one time Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen. Then it was Mr. O'Connell and the Catholic and Repeal Associations. Then it was the Confederacy and the Young Irelanders. They were followed by Mr. Stephens and the Fenians. Then came Mr. Butt and his scheme of Home Rule; and now they had his hon. Friend the Member for Cork City and the Land 79 League. They had different names, different forms of organization, different modes of procedure; but the thought, the idea, the aspiration of all these movements was the same. They all gave expression in one form or other to social misery and political discontent. And until that misery was relieved, until that discontent was appeased, agitation and incipient insurrection would continue. The Land League might perish; but it would be followed by some other body, and probably that body would be more aggressive than the one they were now troubled with. The Government believed they could beat out ideas by bludgeons. They seemed to harbour the impression that they could kill thought by bayonets. Bigger men than they were had tried that before, and had been beaten. And they would be beaten also. They could not kill thought. They could not thus exterminate the national aspirations of an entire people. There was one way, and one way only, of restoring order and preventing these eruptions, and that was by doing justice to the people and redressing their admitted grievances. Let the Government adopt a bold and generous policy. Let them cancel their Coercion Acts, cashier their spies, withdraw their military, release the "suspects," administer the Common Law firmly, resolutely, and wisely, and trust the people. If they did this their confidence would be reciprocated. This would do more to restore law than all their regiments of bailiffs and process-servers. It would do more to preserve order than the whole British Army. Englishmen did not seem to realize what would be the effect of the steady hatred of even so small a section of the population as the Irish people. He was astounded at the indifference with which English Liberals treated this subject. The question struck at the very root of the principles which they professed, and he did not doubt honestly professed, to entertain. It passed his comprehension to see Radical Members of Parliament taking the course they had taken during these discussions. He knew that many of them acquiesced in, though they did not approve of, what had been done. He respected their motives, and he could understand them, although he certainly denied their wisdom. They reasoned thus. They had got a Government in Office which they implicitly 80 trusted. Behind that Government there was a large majority, and behind that majority there was a strong popular sentiment. At the head of that Ministry there was a Statesman of great experience, of great ability, and one who wielded an influence in the country second to none. Their anxiety was to preserve the Government in power, and their desire was not to embarrass it. On this ground they consented to a line of action that their judgment and their convictions disapproved. He did not think he was incorrectly describing the attitude that some of the Gentlemen behind him had taken up. He believed it was an unwise one. If a man saw a friend rushing to his destruction, it was no part of friendship to allow him to do so unchecked. If he saw a neighbour careering over a precipice, he did not perform a friendly act if he failed to warn him of his danger. What was the result of their last five months' work? The House had been sitting that time, and what had they done? They had passed two Coercion Bills and had initiated a Land Bill. But the Coercion Bills had eaten the very soul out of the Party. All the verve and vigour that distinguished it last year was gone, and gone because, in a fatal hour, the Liberal Leaders had been induced, for a temporary advantage, to abandon the settled principles of their Party and their lives. It would take a greater effort than they dreamt of to restore the enthusiasm that gathered round the Party 12 months ago. Let them run in a rapid panorama what they had accomplished since January. They had passed a Coercion Bill that was the most drastic and far-reaching that had ever been inscribed on the English Statute Book. Competent jurists had declared that it was the most unqualified law that was in force in any Constitutional country in Europe. They had passed that by overwhelming majorities. One of its early stages was secured by an act of illegality—it could be described in no other words—by the Chief Officer of that House. And. yet that illegal action had never been commented on nor condemned, and not even discussed. It would pass into the Journals of the House as a precedent, and Liberal Members might regard it as certain that, at no distant day, it would come up in judgment against them. In a period of great exasperation they sus- 81 pended 30 Irish Members, and, during their absence from the Chamber, they hurriedly altered the Regulations of Parliament so as to enable them the more readily to pass their Coercion Bill. It was a piece of sharp practice unworthy of the British Legislature. When they had got their Acts, they had issued Circulars to the police which, if issued under the Third Empire, would have been received with howls of condemnation. Let them conceive such Circulars issued by the last Government instead of the present. All the greasy apparatus of our caucuses would have been put in play at once, and no Tory Government could have remained in Office a fortnight after the Circulars had been brought to light. Yet they passed unheeded and uncondemned. To such a position of political degeneracy had we been brought by weak subserviancy to Party interests, and, he doubted he must add, an unmanly anti-Irish prejudice. He feared the couplet that was true of other times was true of this—As bees on flowers alighting cease to hum,So, settling into places, Whigs grow dumb.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, that while listening to the rhetorical language of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, he thought it rather strange that the hon. Member should still find language of abuse for those among whom he still continued to sit. No shortcoming!of his own side, no generous expression from any of his own Leaders, received the least consideration from him. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that those who, under a free Constitution, took means to make the law respected and to put an end to outrage, were guilty of acts which would disgrace an autocratic Government; and that the powers they possessed exceeded anything that was ever entrusted to a Melikoff. Did the hon. Gentleman expect to win the ear of the House of Commons by such assertions, or by the declaration that the eminent Statesman at the head of the present Government was so dead to the claims of liberty that he and his Colleagues meant to trample upon the liberties of Ireland? For his part, he had as much interest in the subject chiefly under discussion during the present Session as hon. Gentlemen opposite had; and he said fearlessly that if a body of gentlemen in this country 82 by intemperate agitation roused a section of the people to commit acts of disorder and outrage, Radical as he was, he would, if necessary, vote to put into the hands of the Minister in whom he had confidence the powers necessary to put down such acts. Not one word had he heard the hon. Gentleman utter against the organization known as the Land League. Only the so-called wickedness of the Government would he remember, and why? Not because he loved Ireland more, but because he loved the Ministry less. If the hon. Gentleman went on in that course, it would naturally raise in their breasts a suspicion that he acted rather from spite than from a sense of public duty. With respect to the arrest of the hon. Member for Tipperary, where was the jurist who said that a man who had broken the law was above the law, and was not amenable to the law because he was a Member of the House of Commons? The Roman Catholic priest who had been arrested was, no doubt, a man deservedly respected in private life; but, as much as any other man in the community, if he broke the law, he was liable to be dealt with according to the law, and yet his arrest was made a part of the hon. Gentleman's indictment against the Ministry. The reminder that some who had been agitators were now sitting on the Treasury Bench was uttered apparently in the most disinterested manner, because the hon. Member was sitting below the Gangway; but, if they had been agitators, it had been for worthy objects, and the hon. Member had stood side by side with them in agitations which had contributed to the happiness, liberty, and prosperity of the country.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, it reminded them of old times to hear again the voice of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood), who had once supported the Irish Members in miscalled obstruction, but who had been silent so long that they were wondering what had become of him. He formerly spoke manfully for the principles of public liberty and popular right; but he seemed to forget them when the Liberals were in power. Here were two Republican Democrats, the one not sacrificing his principles to Party, but the other giving up to Party what he had often assured them was 83 meant for mankind. The hon. and learned Member had not attempted to grapple with the Motion, and the facts on which it was based. The question was whether the hon. and learned Member defended the nature of the rule to which Ireland was now subjected. For himself, he could not look upon the existing state of things without feelings of alarm. He should not be able to speak on the subject again for a week, a period all too long for what might happen in the interval. He saw Ireland being rushed into civil war by the negligence of the Government and the imbecility of the Dublin Executive. It was to him unendurable to hear an English Democrat who would denounce such things on the part of Russia or any Continental Power approving by implication such Circulars as the Irish Executive had issued to the police. Under the benevolent and amiable Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) Ireland was being subjected to a despotism more mean and despicable than any the country had experienced since the days of Castlereagh. The secret confidential Circular was to be kept under lock and key, and to be communicated to subordinates only by word of mouth. With such instructions, in what shape would it be likely to reach the village policeman? By the time that Circular reached the village policeman, it would have assumed this form—"We have orders from Mr. Forster in the Castle to suspect more criminals, and we must send up more prisoners to Dublin." The fruits of the Coercion Bills had fallen below the expectations of the Treasury Bench, and the Circular had been sent out lest the English people should discover that the Coercion Bills had been obtained on false pretences. As the Duke of Wellington said, "The English people liked good butchers' bills, so they liked full gaols." The present Government was formed of known public men in England, who, one would say beforehand, would most probably be just and friendly to Ireland. Taking the Treasury Bench from end to end, he was not afraid to say no better men could be found, and the interests of the Irish people would be safe in their hands. But after one year's experience of all their talents and all their virtues, he was compelled to say that no Ministry with all their vices could approach the 84 mischief of their conduct. What with their weakness, what with their fatuity, what with their dread of their opponents and their carrying out the Tory policy, they had reduced Ireland to the position of being a scandal to the Empire and the civilized world. When the Coercion Bill was brought in they were told its object was to arrest "village ruffians" who were known to the police—on whom they could lay their hands at any moment. He now defied the Government to point out one village ruffian among all the prisoners who had been arrested. He remembered one of the Ministers of the Crown saying one day that those men were already taking flight, and it was their belief that before a fortnight they would hardly need the Act at all. All the London Press took their text from Downing Street, and said that the men were running away. Now, had the Coercion Act made things better or worse? Hon. Members heard him say on a former occasion that there was this unfortunate circumstance about the Coercion Bill, that if it failed the Government would say—"How much worse we should be if the Act had not passed;" whereas, if it proved effective, they would say—"See how the Act has pacified Ireland!" But who were the men arrested under the Act? There were many among them whom he was proud to claim as friends. If hon. Members were to go over the list and test the matter by social respectability and personal character, they would find that it was not "village ruffians," but men do-serving and possessing the confidence of their fellow-countrymen who were now filling the cells of Kilmainham Prison. There was, for instance, young Mr. Higgings, there was in his own county young Mr. Flood, who had been taken to prison as persons "reasonably suspected." Now, the Irish Members "reasonably suspected" the Chief Secretary for being the dupe of the police and for being a lamentable failure in the Irish Office. The last arrest was that of Mr. M'Sweeny, in Donegal. In the barony from which that gentleman had been taken there was no man of better position or greater social influence among his co-religionists. He was a man worthy of public respect, and he enjoyed it; and yet he had been torn from his home, not because he was a village ruffian, but because he 85 was president of the local branch of the Land League. As to Father Sheehy, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) asked was a man to be allowed to go scot-free because he was a clergyman of some denomination? Now, it was his intention to circulate a handbill in Ireland to show what a Protestant clergyman was allowed to say, and what a Catholic priest was imprisoned for saying. Father Sheehy, being asked his advice as to the course to be pursued by a man named Connor, told him to fight the battle to the bitter end, and asked the neighbours to support Connor by their presence, and to save him from the effects of his stand against eviction. Let them contrast that with the language of Parson Kane, who suggested to his hearers to form clubs and purchase arms, in order that they might shoot a Catholic priest in every parish where a Protestant had been murdered—indeed, Mr. Kane said that six Catholic priests ought to be shot for each. His Bishop called his attention to the matter. In reply, the rev. gentleman did not retract his words, but said, on the contrary, that they were deliberately uttered and intended. Yet, while the Protestant clergyman walked free, the Catholic priest was thrown into prison. The landlords believed the Land Bill would pass, but not this year, and they were determined to swoop down upon their tenants and evict them, so as to have the cleared farms as future tenancy farms next year. For the last three days the battle in Committee had been waged over future tenancies, and behind that battle lurked the fell design of the landlords to evict the tenants in large numbers. In the Easter term alone the number of eviction proceedings reached the enormous total of 3,000. The peasantry thoroughly understood the landlords' game, and were determined to protect themselves, even to the shedding of their blood. They believed that there was a gigantic scheme afoot, the object of which was to sweep them from the land before the passing of the Land Bill; and, unless the notion should be proved unfounded, the people would shed their blood in defence of their homesteads between this and August. If he could do so honourably, he would gladly retire from public life during the next few months, for he was in the diffi- 86 cult position of being unable to approve bloodshed and crime on the part of his countrymen, or of supporting the miserable Executive that was ruining the country. At the request of many ecclesiastic dignitaries in Ireland, he had to complain of the language used in the House of Commons by the Chief Secretary, in which that right hon. Gentleman imputed that the Catholic priesthood were, with unworthy motives, inciting the people to unworthy deeds. The Catholic clergy of Ireland sprang from the people, and were bound to them in consequence by the closest ties; but ever since the passing of the Penal Laws, theirs had been the hands which had restrained the people in the interest of civil order. Were it not for the restraining influence of the priesthood, before the lapse of 24 hours the country would be plunged into civil war. He could not therefore but regret greatly that the Chief Secretary should have filled up the measure of his lamentable incompetency by insulting the sacred body of men who had been throughout the whole of Ireland the best and surest guardians of peace, liberty, and order. The Government, he feared, would persevere in the course which they had begun. He supposed they were afraid of being humiliated. Already, the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) had taunted them with not being bloodthirsty enough. He asked whether coercive legislation had been successful in Ireland? All he could say was that he did not envy the feelings of those who could take up their newspaper in the morning and read its contents without a feeling of sorrow.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FARRER HERSCHELL)
said, he had listened with great pain on this as on previous occasions to the representations made by Irish Members that in the course they had taken with reference to Ireland Her Majesty's Government were actuated only by feelings of hatred, hostility, and dislike. ["Hear!" and "No!"] He quite admitted that that language was not universally used by hon. Members opposite; but it had certainly been employed by some of them. That was a charge which gave great pain to every one of the Members of Her Majesty's Government. For his own part, he could appeal to every act 87 he had ever done and to every sentiment he had ever uttered with regard to Ireland to show that he cared as much for Ireland as he did for any other part of the United Kingdom. However much they might differ as to what they might think was necessary to be done, surely they might at least give each other credit for honestly desiring to secure the well-being of their countrymen, which was only, after all, giving credit for the common sentiments of humanity. Evil to Ireland unquestionably meant evil to England; prosperity to Ireland meant the prosperity of the Sister Country, and vice versà. There was a general agreement that the condition of Ireland was very grave—in fact, the gravity could hardly be exaggerated—and they were agreed as to the respects in which that condition was grave. Outrages had been committed upon farmers, and upon herds and humble individuals, merely because they had done what was considered to be contrary to the interests of their neighbours; and surely any Government that were worthy of the name were bound to do their best to see that life and property and liberty were protected and that the law was obeyed. Then, with regard to the disturbances. The disturbances arose from a determined resistance being offered to the enforcement of the law. But how came it that the law was resisted in Ireland and had to be enforced? Hon. Members opposite attributed the disturbances to the evictions. But did they mean that the Government should refuse to enforce the law in certain circumstances? [Cries of "Yes!"] All that he could say was that that was one of the most frightful suggestions in favour of tyranny he had ever heard made to a Government. No tyranny could be more frightful than that a Government should pick and choose in what cases the law should be enforced. For his own part, he would entrust no Government with such a power. According to the doctrine which had been laid down by the hon. Member for Cork City, men were justified in resisting the law because they were of opinion that their rent was unfair in amount. He could not think that the hon. Member realized the morality of such a doctrine. A man had agreed to pay a certain rent, and had made his bargain. He had enjoyed the land; and when a claim was made for the rent, it was 88 inconsistent with any principle of morality that he should say—"I won't pay you, because I think the claim is unjust." He would put the hypothesis for a moment that the man was correct in saying it was unjust; but what right had he to say that? They would be leaving to the man to judge in his own case whether the claim was just or unjust, and he knew no man to whom they could leave the determination of such a matter. He had seen men utterly in the wrong in the opinion of every impartial person, and yet firmly persuaded that they were in the right. Nothing could be more dangerous than to allow any man to judge whether a claim made upon him was just or unjust, and yet that was what the hon. Member advocated. He would appeal to him to reflect upon the consequences to which such a doctrine would lead. They could not confine it merely to rent for land. If such a doctrine was proposed, they could not tell where it would stop. Suppose that a man honestly did think that he was paying an unjust rent. The man declined to pay, and afterwards his neighbour would say—"Oh! here is So-and-so paying no more, perhaps less, than I am; he considers his rent unjust; he is not paying, and therefore I won't pay." The man would say that, although he knew perfectly well the land was let at a fair rent. The result of this doctrine would be that people would combine for the purpose of preventing those whose who believed their rent was just from paying. He did not suppose that the hon. Member desired it; but circumstances had proved that such had been the inevitable consequences. It was suggested that all landlords in Ireland ought to go without their rents, which in many cases were perfectly just, because some people chose to consider them unfair. It was impossible that any Government could enter into these inquiries as to whether the claim was just or unjust before they put the powers of the Executive into operation to enforce it. The Legislature had not enacted it, and the Executive would be violating the law if they took on themselves such a power. He might take exaggerated notions of the obligations of law; but he could conceive no state of things more terrible than a state of lawlessness in which it was left to the Executive Government to decide what rights and contracts they 89 should enforce, and what they should not. Any Ministry who did that would be violating their duty, and acting with absolute illegality. And if they were not to do this, what were they to do? If, as had been suggested, the Government were to say—"We will not enforce the claim of any landlord in Ireland," the result would be that just rents would not be paid. It should be remembered that there were many landlords who had very little means and very few tenants, and would it not be a most serious matter to deprive them of that which they believed to be, and which often was justly, their due? The hon. Member seemingly assented to that; but surely the result of the doctrine he had advocated would lead to that state of things. They would find that men would refuse to pay debts which were perfectly just if they were told that they were to decide as to what was just. Moreover, if no distinction were drawn between just and unjust claims, it would be a distinct premium in favour of the bad landlords who might point to many cases where just landlords could not get their rents. Desiring, as he did to the full, that justice should be done to the Irish tenant, he would put it to hon. Members whether there was not a danger in advocating the doctrine to which he was referring? He had called attention, therefore, to the difficulties in which any Government would necessarily be placed in endeavouring to deal with this question. Hon. Members opposite would not, he was sure, imagine that the Government found it a pleasant thing to have to enforce the law. It would be much pleasanter to shirk the duty, if they wished only to make their tenure of Office agreeable to themselves, to let things take their course, and to regard the relations between landlord and tenant with indifference; but they must assume, from a serious sense of duty, that so long as the law existed, and so long as the legal right was a legal right, it was their duty to enforce it when called upon, and that they could not make exceptions in doing so. Now, however, they were attempting to do something to meet the very evil that the hon. Member had referred to. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes." The difficulty was to say what was a just and what an unjust rent, and they were seeking to obtain the most competent tribunal that could be ob- 90 tained for the purpose of determining what rents were fair and what were unfair. They wished to avoid that difficulty, which, he was sure, they all felt, of leaving a man to be a judge in his own case, whether landlord or tenant. He would not trust one more than the other, but would put the tribunal between them: and he should have thought, that hon. Members, if they only wished what was right to be done, would have done better to assist in the creation of such a tribunal than to have thrown obstacles in the way of it. He could not but say a word or two on one matter to which the hon. Member for Meath had alluded. He regretted very much the hon. Member's suggestion as to the publication of the handbill, because he was sure that, on reflection, the hon. Member would perceive that the Government could not possibly make any distinction between Protestant clergymen and Catholic priests. [Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: One was a Land Leaguer.] The Government could not make any distinction between Protestants and Catholics, whether they were Land Leaguers or not. Did the hon. Member really believe that was the reason?—[Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: I did not impute a motive.] The hon. and learned Member had imputed a motive. What, he asked, would be the result of publishing this handbill, and were there no reasons against it? In the first place, what Mr. Kane had said was said long ago, in the course of the summer of last year, when Questions were asked about it in the House; and it had been clearly shown that from such idle vapouring no results could be expected. Did the hon. Member think that any priests would be shot on account of what Mr. Kane said? [Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN: I did.] The expectation had proved fallacious, then, because the year had passed, Mr. Kane had not withdrawn his language, and still no priests had been even shot at, so far as he knew. On the other hand, when words were used inciting to violence, and acts of violence followed, every one, whether Catholic or Protestant, would be forced to the conclusion that the latter case called for the interposition of the law, while the former might safely be passed over. The hon. Member had spoken of disparaging words being used by the Chief Secretary towards the Catholics j but he was confident that no- 91 thing was further from the intention of the right hon. Gentleman than to do such a thing. He had read the speech of his right hon. Friend, and he was confident that, whatever expression might have been used in it, there was no intention to be disparaging to the Catholic priests. He (the Solicitor General), had desired to speak, and he trusted he had spoken, with perfect temper, and with no language that would embitter this controversy; and he desired to show how the Government might and did feel amidst all the grievous responsibilities of the case, that there was a responsibility on them, the burden of which could not be got rid of—namely, the responsibility of repressing outrage and disorder, and discharging the most solemn of all their duties, that of enforcing the law.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that he and all his hon. Friends thanked the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down for the perfect temper and kindliness with which he had spoken. If they had speeches like his a little oftener than they had, perhaps the duty of governing Ireland—though he feared it would not be made very much easier—would, at all events, be carried on with fewer unpleasant controversies. The hon. and learned Member had appealed to him, and to his sense of what was fair and. just. He had asked him whether it ought to be left to the Irish tenants to decide what the rent should be that they should pay to their landlords. Well, he did not think anyone ought to be the judge of his own case; but, at the same time, in the absence of any other tribunal or Court, it was necessary for the Irish tenants to be the judges in their own case. It was necessary for them, in self-defence, to combine, and to recommend the stronger to help the weaker. If they had not done this, the poorer tenants on the estates would have been overwhelmed, failing the support which they had been getting throughout Ireland during this struggle. It stood to reason that if the landlord could got his rents from tenants who were able to pay, he would refuse to reduce the rents of those tenants who were unable to pay; and it was for the purpose of obtaining a reduction of rents for tenants who were unable to pay that they had recommended them to combine 92 together and make common cause, and refuse to pay the landlord until he had given a reduction all round. Now, of course, the hon. and learned Member asked, "What can the Government do?" He did not exactly see what the Government could do, except to refuse to give the armed forces of the Crown for the purpose of carrying out evictions in Ireland—at all events, for a time. He knew it would be an unconstitutional course, but the Government were now doing a great many unconstitutional things in Ireland against the tenants; and really they might now give a little respite to the tenants in this struggle against rack-renting and unjust landlords. He thought the Government might have done something. They might have introduced a clause into the Land Bill giving the Courts an equitable jurisdiction as to the claims made by landlords; and if they had done that, they would have prevented the present position of the country. Undoubtedly, if they went on as they were acting at present, lending the armed forces of the Crown to the landlords for the purpose of evicting tenants, they would have extensive bloodshed in Ireland long before their Land Bill could be passed. Many of the tenants who owed arrears of rent would not be protected by the Bill, for reasons which it was not necessary for him to enter into at the present moment, and they saw that their only resource was to continue the struggle which they had been, and were at this moment, waging with tolerable success. The hon. and learned Member had said that it was impossible to distinguish between tenants who were and tenants who were not able to pay their rents, and that owing to the advice given by the Land League, many tenants were now in a position to pay their rents. But if the hon. and learned Member were to consult with the Chief Secretary, he would find that the cases where tenants who were able to pay their rents were evicted were a very small minority. In fact, it had frequently happened that tenants to whom the Land League had given pecuniary assistance to save them from starvation had handed the money to their landlords against all the rules of the Land League. ["No, no!"] He knew of a large number of such cases, and he was at the present time engaged 93 in the investigation of several. The Irish tenant would not suffer eviction if he could possibly pay his rent. He would go very close to the point of eviction. He would allow his stock to be seized, he would allow his interests to be put up to auction; but there were very few cases on record throughout the whole of this long struggle where the tenants were able to, but would not, pay their rent. The Land League had advised all tenants to refuse to pay unjust rent, and to allow it to be levied at the point of the bayonet—which latter was only a figurative expression which had been used by some, though not by him. It had been used, he believed, by Father Sheehy; but it only meant that in these cases the tenants should allow the bailiff to come before they paid their rents. This was the only reply he had to make to the hon. Member. The necessity of protecting the weaker by combining with them the stronger had been forced upon the people—first, by the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last Session; and, in the second place, by the refusal on the part of the Government to incorporate into the Coercion Bill powers that would have kept landlords in check, and would have prevented them from pressing evictions that every sensible man in Ireland knew they would press as soon as the Coercion Bill became law. With reference to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Clonmel, that some arrangement should be made with the Government by which the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) should be released from prison on parole, it would be quite impossible for his hon. Friend to assent to any arrangement of that sort, because it would subject him to the condition that he should not continue his connection with the agitation in which he had been engaged. His hon. Friend had chosen his course, and the courageous and plucky action he had taken had been of enormous advantage to the Land League. The hon. Gentleman considered that he had done his work, and was willing to remain in prison as long as they chose to keep him there, or until he died. The hon. Member had blamed him for not giving the Government some credit for good intentions as to the good government of Ireland. He could only say that if all the Members of the Government they had had to deal with were like the Solicitor 94 General there would be very much less cause of complaint in Ireland and much less ill-feeling against it. But when he remembered how his hon. Friend had been treated in this City of London—that he had been dogged by a detective day and night by the direction of the Home Secretary, that he had been followed about the streets like a common thief—how could they expect him to give credit for anything to the persons who had been guilty of this conduct? An explanation had been offered by the Government of the reason that had led the hon. Member to return to his cell instead of remaining in the gaol infirmary; but what the hon. Member himself had written to him was that he had been compelled to return to his cell in consequence of the insulting and offensive conduct of the doctor, who appeared to have received a commission from the landlords to insult and annoy him. The hon. Member further stated that the declaration of the Government that "suspects" were only to be confined, and not punished, was untrue and unjust, inasmuch as he was kept in a cell some 12 feet square for 22 hours out of the 24. His hon. Friend acknowledged that the prison officials, other than the doctor, were most kind and courteous. Their great charge was that the pretence upon which the Government obtained the Bill was that it was to be used for the arrest of ruffians and persons actually committing outrages. The Chief Secretary placed his case for coercion on the assertion that obedience to the commands of the Land League was enforced by intimidation in the form of outrage. The Irish Members pointed out in vain that it was really the public opinion of the country which enforced those commands; and that, he believed, the Government must have already discovered. On account of the intimidation and terrorism exercised by a few individuals, they compelled, or induced, crowds of men, women, and children to come out and submit to be shot down by the soldiers and bayonetted by the police. It was because the heart of every man, woman, and child was being arrayed against English rule in Ireland by the arbitrary and horrible conduct of the Executive Government in Ireland. The House could have no idea of the state of things which was brought about when extra powers wore given to the police, 95 when every sub-constable was encouraged to suspect all the people, and directed to keep registers of suspected persons, and to have always a sufficient number of "suspects" to send up to the Chief Secretary whenever he was spurred to extra exertions by his political supporters. What did the right hon. Gentleman say when he was asking the House for these extra powers? He drew pictures of the outrages by means of which he said the power of the League was enforced, and he asked for powers to lay his hands on the committers of those outrages who, he declared, were all well-known to the police. He drew most pathetic pictures of the maiming of cattle and the houghing of dumb animals; and those descriptions of injury to innocent beasts had more effect in inducing the House to grant excessive powers than almost anything else? But what were the facts? From the Returns of the persons arrested, they found that amongst all the "suspects" there was one individual suspected of houghing cattle, and he had since been released. The House was told of a great increase of threatening letters to an amount somewhat higher than at any time since 1845; yet just three persons had been arrested on "reasonable suspicion" of sending threatening letters. Then the right hon. Gentleman said it was necessary to put a stop to incendiary fires, and that some humble men on a lonely mountain were attacked, their houses set on fire, or their windows fired into, or their backs carded. How many had he arrested on suspicion of incendiary fires? Just two. The Returns showed, in short, that 11 or 12 persons had been arrested for being suspected of actually committing the different kinds of outrage, on the alleged commission of which the right hon. Gentleman based his claims for exceptional powers. And were these "village ruffians" and "midnight marauders?" One was a Member of Parliament; another was a Catholic priest; a large number were Town Councillors and Poor Law Guardians; and the rest, almost without exception, were substantial farmers and tradesmen of respectability. Whenever a man had been arrested under this Act, the parish priest had always walked by his side to the prison van, and he had the sympathy of the whole neighbourhood. His farm was tilled by hundreds, and, in some 96 cases, by thousands, of willing hands, and in his absence his wife and children were taken care of by friendly neighbours; while, if he had a shop, it was patronized by all his friends. All the "suspects" of the Chief Secretary, the men libelled in this Return, were the idols of their own friends and of the whole country-side, and to them in future would be given the credit of the Land Bill, which was now engaging the attention of the House of Commons. He asked the Government what they intended to do? Were they determined to press the situation in Ireland to its bitter end? Already they had alienated the sympathies and the affections of the majority of the people; and it was just possible that as the result of what they were now doing they might lose Ireland. It might seem to be very impossible that their strong power and hold over Ireland should be destroyed; but more impossible things had come about. There had never yet been a rebellion in Ireland which was taken up by more than a small section of the population. In 1798, only three counties were up, and it taxed all England's resources to put them down. He believed if, at the present moment, any revolutionary party made a determined appeal to the Irish people, every county would join in a rebellion against English rule. The people were saturated with disaffection, and justly so; and therefore he asked were the Government intending to go on sitting on the safety-valve and driving the people to desperation, or would they not exercise a little forbearance and try the effect of following Archbishop Croke's advice and see whether the people in some particular county, at all events, could not come to a peaceable arrangement with their landlords without outside assistance? Let the Government announce that in Tipperary they would give the tenants and landlords three months to settle their disputes amicably, and keep the police and military out of the county. Such a course would be for the interest of the landlords as well as the tenants. It was perfectly true, as had been stated often in that House, that the Irish tenants were willing to pay just rent; but if they were driven to desperation, he did not know how long they would continue in that frame of mind, or how long England would be able to assert its power, It was a very 97 difficult thing to execute these decrees. They were beset with difficulties from the first, and when they turned a man out they had no assurance that he would go back again. The whole administration of the law in Ireland was being brought into contempt, simply because the Government were supporting the unjust claims of the landlord, who had manœuvred to place them in that position which they were foolish to accept. They would do well to try the advice of Archbishop Croke, and see what would happen if they withdrew their troops and police from Tipperary for a single month. He felt sure the priests would be responsible for the peace and order of the county, and there would be an entire cessation of outrages. If, however, things were allowed to go on in the course they were now taking, nobody could predict the result, and he feared it would end probably in the loss of the entire property of the landlords in the land. If the people once found out that they could, by combination, successfully resist process of law and evade payment of rents, was it likely they would return to pay rents even after the Land Bill had been passed? They were willing now to pay just rents; but they had been urged by some to strike against all rents. He had, up to the present, successfully opposed any such advice generally; but he did not know how long he could continue to do so. Events were marching so rapidly in Ireland that it was impossible to say what the situation might be that day four weeks or four months. It might happen, if they went on in their course of aggression and irritation, they would find themselves face to face with a strike against all rent, and when the people had once struck, it would not be found easy to get them to pay any rent at all. The outlook was a serious one for the Irish landlords. He knew no class who had more to obtain by prudence and moderation in the present crisis. The Government had before them the prospect of being utterly discredited in Ireland. They were teaching dangerous lessons to the Irish people; and those who occupied a middle position, as it were, in this movement, did not know when they might find others very much in advance of them. He had endeavoured to put the case as plainly as he could as regarded the present 98 situation in Ireland. Unless the Government did something to stop evictions in Ireland there would be a very large increase of outrage. If blood were shed by the police and military in Ireland there would be undoubtedly a rebellion—he did not say this at all as a threat—and landlords would be murdered in retaliation. Nobody would regret such a thing more than himself; and he could assure hon. Members that he should regret to the last extent that the life of either landlord or tenant should be sacrificed in this movement. But he could not help saying—and he did not say it in the least degree in the nature of a threat—that if things wont on as they were now going that the lives of many landlords and tenants would be lost. The Government had the control of events. They could control the forces of the Crown. Let them try the experiment of accepting the advice of the Archbishop of Cashel, and let them, leave to the clergy of the premier county, Tipperary, the responsibility of maintaining order and peace for three months, and neither landlords nor the Government would regret the result.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I can assure the House that I have no intention of following at any length the course of the debate on the present and on a former occasion; but I think there are a few words of the hon. Member who has just sat down of which it is necessary that some notice should be taken. The hon. Member has pursued on this occasions course which he has been frequently in the habit of pursuing, and against which, I think, it is necessary, on the part of the Government, that a protest should be made. The hon. Member has, under a very thin disguise, uttered some very serious threats. I admit that they are in disguise; but I will ask the House, when I have described what he has said, whether they were threats or not. The hon. Member has not said he wishes—on the contrary, he has said he hopes certain things will not take place—but, under the guise of prophecy, he has told us that, unless we accept his bidding, the following things will happen:—We may lose Ireland; probably the landlords will lose their property; there may be considerable bloodshed, and a considerable number of landlords will lose their lives. He has also told us that the people are saturated with disaffection; 99 and having, on former occasions, by himself and his Friends, told us that he and they represent the people of Ireland, he then thinks it is likely, and probable, and desirable that we, the British House of Commons, should follow the advice of those who, he has informed us, are saturated with, disaffection. What is the advice which, after these, if I may not call them threats, prophecies, has been offered for our consideration, and which he tenders to the Government? It is that the Government should withdraw from the execution of the law the military and police forces, and, in fact, that we should resign the functions of government altogether. That is, I must say, with all respect, not the course the Government have any intention to pursue. It was not for the purpose of abdicating their functions, it was not for the purpose of settling difficulties between landlord and tenant as between those who have property and those who have not, it was not for the purpose of placing all the social and legal relations of the country in the hands of the Land League, or even of the Archbishop of Cashel, that the Government asked for and obtained from this House exceptional powers. We have been intrusted by Parliament with exceptional powers for the purpose of maintaining, or, at any rate, attempting to maintain, law and order in Ireland, and we intend to use those powers to the best of our ability. We have used them, I believe, with moderation—["No!"]—and forbearance, and we shall continue to use them until we are convinced that they are not effectual for the purpose for which they were given. We are told we have not used our powers with moderation and forbearance; but the description which has been given of the Act to-night, when compared with the use which has been made of it, shows that it has been used with great moderation and forbearance. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) informs us the Act is the most drastic on our Statute Book, and compares unfavourably with the legislation of any other country. The last Returns showed that something like 50 persons had been placed in confinement, which, according to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), was not of a rigorous description. I have no desire to follow all the arguments that have been used; but 100 after having listened to the language employed by the hon. Member for Cork, I think it is due to the Irish Government that I should say, on the part of my Colleagues and myself, that we are content with, and we stand by, the defence of our Irish policy which was made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other night. The debate was resumed, as I understand, on the urgent representations of the Irish Members, and especially of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, that the statements of my right hon. Friend had not been answered because there had not been time. I have not heard to-night any attempt to answer them. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) complains in his letter to the Speaker that he is unable to answer the misrepresentations made by the Chief Secretary in the House. It is somewhat hard for the hon. Member for Tipperary that no attempt has been made to explain in what respect his speech was misrepresented by the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and it is rather astonishing, considering that the debate has been resumed for the express purpose, that no attempt has been made to controvert the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and which has been repeated to-night by the Solicitor General for Ireland, that arrests have been made either on reasonable suspicion that the persons had been concerned in the commission of actual outrages, or concerned in an incitement to a breach of the law. Reference has been made to the arrests of Mr. Dillon and Father Sheehy, and an attempt has been made to prove that those arrests were of a character different from that which was anticipated when the House was induced to pass the Coercion Bill. But no attempt has been made to show that those arrests were not legally made, that the Government had no legal power to make those arrests under the Bill, and that the offence for which the two gentlemen were arrested did not come within the terms of the Bill. If the Government had the power they were bound, in the present state of Ireland, under a very heavy responsibility, to exercise that power. The condition of Ireland, no doubt, has changed since the passing of the Bill. To a considerable extent the Bill has been successful in suppressing secret outrages; but while secret outrages have been 101 diminished or checked within the last few weeks there has been an increase of open resistance to the execution of the law. I am sure hon. Members opposite look upon this state of things with very grave anxiety, as we do, when we see large armed mobs offering resistance to the constabulary and military forces employed supporting the civil power. When we see the military forces attacked, if not with dangerous weapons, at all events with stones and other missiles, we cannot but feel there is an imminent danger of a collision that will be productive of the most serious results. In that case the heaviest responsibility rests upon those who, having the power to arouse or to calm the passions of an excited people, do abuse that power by language calculated to excite them to resistance. Is it possible to suppose that passages such as those read by the Chief Secretary the other night from the speeches of Mr. Dillon and Father Sheehy were not calculated to produce breaches of the peace, and to rouse the people to actual resistance likely to lead to a lamentable loss of life? I have said that great responsibility rests on the Government. Great powers have been placed in our hands, and this House and the country will hold us responsible if, possessing those powers, we neglect to use them in a way as would tend to prevent those distressing events of which we have lately read. An attempt has been made to show that this resistance is justified by the conduct of the landlords in enforcing their rights. But no facts have been brought forward to show that the landlords are using their legal powers improperly. The latest Return of evictions shows the number to be 3,000, and it has been represented by the hon. Member for Galway City (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) that this was equivalent to sentence of death upon 15,000 persons. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: I was quoting the Prime Minister.] I know the hon. Member quoted from a speech which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has repeatedly alleged has always been misquoted, and which was made in circumstances altogether different from the present. Now, the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends, who have the direction of the Land League entirely in their own hands, are preaching the refusal of rent, and have done so for nearly nine months. 102 After they have actually driven the landlords to resort to legal powers, was it to be wondered at that there should be an increase in the number of evictions? The House has to be persuaded that resistance to the law is justified by the conduct of the landlords. Some instances should be given of the circumstances in which these evictions have taken place. But, after all, whatever may be the circumstances of the evictions, it is not, as the Solicitor General has pointed out, the question for us to try. The Government cannot choose in what place they will act, and in what place they will forbear to act. If the landlords use undue powers in the process of eviction that is a question for legislation; it is not a question which, in a Constitutional country like ours, can be decided by the mere will and pleasure of the Government. We are endeavouring to alter and improve the law, though we have not received much assistance from the hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who sit opposite. I am not now speaking of the Land Bill; but the first act of those hon. Gentlemen this Session was to protract the discussion of a measure which the great majority of Parliament thought necessary for the preservation of peace in Ireland for two or three months, thereby postponing for that time the introduction of the Land Bill. And although I admit they have not taken any undue length of time in the discussion of the Land Bill, they have certainly contrived, on various occasions, to raise discussions which have not tended to the progress of that measure through Parliament. Whatever may be the fate of our efforts to improve the law, we hold now, as we have always done, that it is our duty to carry out the existing law as it stands, and not to surrender the powers, ordinary or extraordinary, which Parliament has confided to us, into the hands of the Land League or any other body.
said, he agreed with the noble Lord that some disappointment might naturally be felt that some direct reference was not made in preceding speeches to the elaborate speech which the Chief Secretary delivered a few days ago. He attributed that circumstance to the fact that several days had elapsed—that perhaps his hon. Friends near him might have been influenced somewhat by the reports of 103 occurrences in Ireland since the delivery of that speech, and wished to direct particular attention to them. Although he listened to every word of the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other day, the right hon. Gentleman did not convince him, and he believed he did not convince the House of Commons, that the now famous Circular was not a very unfortunate document. The right hon. Gentleman had failed to prove that the action of the Government in respect of the Circular was either politic or just to the people of Ireland, or to the police who were intrusted, at the present time, with very important duties under the Bill for the preservation of life and property in Ireland. He would like to try and present the kernel of the question absolutely before them. What would be the effect of the adoption of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Longford? It was a very ably and a very clearly drawn Resolution. The point which it sought to establish one could apprehend at a glance. It did not strike at the heart of the present difficulty; but it contained a series of negative propositions. It said the Government did wrong there and did wrong here; but the most important part of the Resolution was the concluding section, which declared that the Government were doing wrong in employing the armed forces of the Crown in executing wanton and cruel evictions. He would ask his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), who would have the opportunity of replying, how it would improve the situation in Ireland if they affirmed that proposition? They would still have the difficulty before them, because if the Executive Government were not to employ armed forces, the Executive Government must determine what eviction was wanton and cruel in its character, and what eviction might be legitimately carried out. If it were not presumptuous in him he should certainly say that the speech of the Solicitor General was a statesmanlike utterance from beginning to end. The hon. and learned Gentleman really did grapple with the serious difficulty of the situation, and with the difficulty which any Executive Government must have to contend with in a crisis similar to that through which they were now passing. He (Mr. O'Connor Power) would suggest, therefore, that an effort should be made, if it 104 was not now too late, to draw from the Government some more emphatic expression of opinion in reference to the class of evictions which his hon. Friend (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), according to the terms of his own Resolution, thought might not be assisted by the armed forces of the Crown. If the Government exercised their influence in discouraging the exercise of arbitrary powers on the part of the landlord, they might possibly arrive at some modusvivendi until the Land Bill was passed. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had recommended Her Majesty's Government to adopt the advice of the Archbishop of Cashel; and, for his part, he was sorry the hon. Gentleman himself had not adopted that Archbishop's advice with reference to the second reading of the Bill. It would be uncandid not to admit that there was a divided responsibility as to the present condition of Ireland. The true patriot—whether Englishman or Irishman—was the man who would labour to bring about a reconciliation of the two great classes into which the agricultural population of Ireland was divided, but who remembered, at the same time, that no such reconciliation was possible except on the basis of absolute justice. If the Executive Government, by its extraordinary powers, enabled the landlord class in Ireland to obtain the supremacy for a time, the subjection of the mass of the population would be avenged when those extraordinary powers had been withdrawn; and if, on the other hand, this powerful organization, the Land League, succeeded by its power, in any given locality, in inducing those tenants who were not subjected to unjust rents to refuse to pay those that were fair, the landlords would in time be avenged; but they would still be only at cross purposes, and would have made no real advance towards establishing the just rights of either class of the community. There was an important subject included in the Motion which he regretted to see had been lost sight of—namely, the position of the gentlemen arrested under the Coercion Act. He had understood, when it was first intended to draw the attention of the House to this subject, that the action of the Chief Secretary in reference to certain arrests would be discussed, and that the Chief Secretary would be challenged to defend the exer- 105 cise of those extraordinary powers confided to him in certain cases. Now, considering the powers vested in the Irish Government by the Coercion Acts, he thought the number of arrests which had been made was not very extraordinary, and, when he was in Ireland during the Easter Vacation, he supposed there were not more than 20 men who had been arrested under those Acts; yet the result of his inquiries, even then, was sufficient to convince him that at least two or three innocent men were suffering under the operation of those Acts. He said this in all sincerity, and not because of an extravagant supposition that those intrusted with the powers could exercise them with more discretion or less hardship. He merely stated it as a fact, and as a warning to those who thought that they could exercise such exceptional powers without inflicting gross injustice upon innocent men. He should not think of accusing the Chief Secretary of having been wanting in sufficient consideration of those cases before he signed the Warrants under which those men detained were arrested; but there were some things the right hon. Gentleman might have done which, he thought, he had not done in regard to these cases. He was entitled under the Act to withhold from Parliament all knowledge of the evidence on which the reasonable suspicion was based in connection with these arrests; but he (Mr. O'Connor Power) could not understand why, in any given case, when evidence was laid before the Chief Secretary that a certain person was suspected, an opportunity could not be given to that person, within 24 hours of his arrest, to lay before the Chief Secretary a statement of the grounds calculated in the opinion of the prisoner to rebut the accusations against him. He understood that they were to have a review of these different cases; but he remembered only two cases in which prisoners had been liberated since this Act came into operation. Then it must be borne in mind that the Act was enforced not merely against members of the Land League, who had been charged with violating the law, but it was also put in force against a class of politicians known as Nationalists. He himself was a Nationalist, and he knew two or three young men who were subject to imprisonment under this Act; and, as far 106 as he could learn from their own statement of the case, with the references they had given him, there was no solid ground on which suspicion could be based against them, except the fact that they cherished that sentiment of Irish nationality which certainly had been supported by some of the greatest names that were to be found in the roll of Irish history. He would ask what object the Government meant to achieve by keeping in prison men of National opinions? He was not referring to men whose National opinions were to be defended by force of arms; but to men who merely defended a Constitutional National principle. These men were prisoners who had never taken part in the Land League. He only mentioned these points to show that the Irish Government ought to exercise the powers conferred on them with very great discretion, and that immediately after his arrest every prisoner should have facilities to lay the most ample evidence before the Chief Secretary, so that the Chief Secretary might judge whether or not he had been prudently and reasonably advised. He felt so strongly the inutility of coercive legislation to re-establish peace in Ireland that he should be bound to vote for the Motion if it were persisted in; but he would not recommend his hon. Friend to take a division, because the propositions contained in his Motion were of a negative character, and did not propose any distinct course which the Government should adopt to bring to a termination the present unfortunate state of things in Ireland.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, that as to the Motion suggesting no remedy, his hon. Friend who had just sat down, with his longer experience of Parliament, must know that the negative form was one of the conditions of a Vote of Censure on the Executive. They could only say—"In the past you acted badly in such and such a thing; and we feel bound to protest against it." He should, therefore, not fail to go to a division, however overwhelming the majority against him might be. They had been challenged again and again to go to a division, and it had been said that they had refrained because they did not dare to face the opinion of the House. He and his Friends were not so simple as to suppose 107 that by any argument or statement of theirs they could obtain a majority; but they were anxious to get some opinions of theirs placed on the record, in the hope that they might in some way obtain the judgment of the English public and gradually work their way to some substantial good by arousing the sense of the English people outside the House of Commons to the present condition of things in Ireland. He felt satisfied that they had succeeded in doing something to that end, and, for himslf, he should be satisfied with the result if it was only for having elicited the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), for he could not help thinking that that speech would have an effect upon the English public. So long as it remained unanswered—and it must always remain so—there would be something to go to the country in their behalf to claim the sympathy of the public. The Secretary of State for India had made use of a kind of argument not uncommon in that House. It came from those in authority, and was most unfair and unjust. The noble Lord had charged the hon. Member for Cork City with having used threats scarcely disguised under the semblance of a warning. Where was the justification for this? The hon. Member had warned the Government already more than once, but always in vain. He had now warned the Government most wisely, and it would be well for them to profit by it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had once been accused of using threats against the peace of the country, because he pointed out that if a certain state of things continued disturbance would be the result. The right hon. Gentleman had made use of a powerful illustration in reply to the accusation, for he asked—If I stand near a volcano and see that an outburst is about to come, that the lava is about to descend, am I to be accused of using menaces because I warn you of the danger?That he (Mr. M'Carthy) wished to apply to the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India. But the noble Lord himself, almost in the next breath, warned Members opposite that if they did not do something he did not know what would happen—that bloodshed would occur, that the forces of the Crown would have to be used. In fact, the noble Lord had used a menace, and his manner was much more like that of 108 a person using a menace than was that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork City. Some hon. Members spoke of healing the breach between the landlords and tenants of Ireland, and had referred to the existing difficulty as though it was a thing of yesterday or to-day. But with the birth of the landlord system came the birth of eviction, and the law had always been against the tenant, and the tenant had always suffered until the Land League had sprung or had been forced into existence. The tenantry had found that if they did not band themselves together for their own salvation, they would have no chance of protection from the law, the Minister, or the Government. That discovery was the author of the Land League—not the hon. Member for Cork or any other single individual. The Solicitor General in his speech had not taken account of the serious nature of this question, with all its traditions. It was not to be settled by an appeal to the ordinary conditions of debtor and creditor, or by asking whether any man was to be allowed to decide for himself what he was bound to pay. No man should have it in his power to say what he was entitled to pay; and no tenant in Ireland would contend under the influence of any organization that he had such a right, if it were not for the fact that the landlords had gone on squeezing what they wished from the tenants, by means of the forces of the Crown. He thought the Irish Members had fairly established their case, and they would be content with the result. He should have been glad if the Chief Secretary had been present to hear some of the arguments. They did not know what weighty business was occupying him at that moment. Perhaps he was concocting another Police Circular, or perhaps leading an attack of the forces on Quinlan Castle. They had heard it stated the only person in occupation of Quinlan's Castle was an old woman; if so, he did not think that was the only castle in Ireland in a similar occupation. The Irish Members were well aware that they would not be in a majority; but they would gladly allow the House to divide. He hoped, however, that they had succeeded in impressing some portion of their case on the minds of the English people, and had done something to bring about that better state of things in Ireland—that 109 reconciliation between all classes, without which Ireland could never be prosperous.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 130: Majority 108.—(Div. List, No. 229.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, it was understood that no other Business would be taken to-night, after the debate had been concluded. There were several Notices on the Paper, and perhaps the best course would be that he should move that the House do now adjourn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)