§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I rise to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the carrying and possession of arms, and for the preservation of the public peace in Ireland. I regret very much that the duty should have devolved upon me of introducing this Bill rather than on my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who, with far greater knowledge of the subject with which it deals, would have discharged the duty more to the satisfaction of the House. But as my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India 1964 stated yesterday, the present Bill is only a supplement to, and, practically, a continuation of, the Bill which the House has already passed this Session. In that light it was regarded by the Government, and in that manner it has been received by the House, for the House, by the Resolution of the 26th of January, gave precedence to those two Bills, and decided that they should proceed de die in diem as if they formed parts of one measure. It may, perhaps, be thought that it was a useless proceeding to separate the two Bills, and I may state that that was done because the Government considered the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act a matter of such paramount importance that it ought to be passed at once, and not to be encumbered with any other measure. That was the reason why we separated from it the Bill which I now ask for leave to introduce; and in making this Motion I have, at all events, the advantage that I am not under the necessity of presenting to the House any new case with reference to the condition of Ireland. I suppose, after the long and protracted debates which we have had, every Member of the House has made up his mind as to the actual condition of Ireland at this moment. I need not, therefore, discuss that subject generally further than to call attention to the particular facts which have a bearing on this Bill. I hope, I may add, that we shall hear no more of recrimination on the subject. There are, no doubt, many hon. Members who think that this Bill has been introduced too late, while others think that the Motion for its introduction is made too soon. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) I thought not very consistently with some of the language which he has used, or with the opinions of his Friends, was met with applause from some hon. Members below the Gangway on the opposite side, when he spoke of a Liberal being always more in favour of coercion than a Tory Government. ["Hear, hear !"] I hear the Leader of the Opposition, if I am not mistaken, cheer that remark; but I was under the impression that the great charge made against us by those who sit on those Benches was that we were the first Government who made the attempt to govern Ireland by the ordinary law, and that we refrained last year from continu- 1965 ing the Peace Preservation Bill. ["No, no !"] I thought that in introducing this Bill it might be necessary to say something on that point: but as I find that no such charge is made against me I will pass the matter by in order to avoid all subjects of controversy with hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am delighted to hear from them that there is no charge against us. ["No, no!"] Well, you cannot have it both ways; you cannot blow hot and cold. You cannot say we are a Party of coercion, and then condemn us for not renewing the Coercion Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether it is open to hon. Members, in the course of the present discussion, to refer to debates which have taken place on another Bill?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I can assure the hon. Gentleman who rose to Order that no man desires less than I do to refer to former debates, and I will entirely abandon that topic. I only thought it necessary to say a word as to why we did not think it our duty last year to propose a Peace Preservation Bill, while we are of opinion that we are called upon to do so now. I have, however, great pleasure in dismissing that matter, and I shall at once proceed to lay before the House what the conditions have been in previous times in reference to measures of this character. There has been, since 1847, a very complicated system of Peace Preservation Acts for Ireland; but the Acts with which we are most conversant are the recent Acts of 1870 and 1875. Both those Acts contain various provisions. I will not refer to them in detail, because the Bill which I ask leave to introduce deals with one of those points, and one only, and that is the question of arms and ammunition. This Bill is simply an Arms Bill. The other provisions which were contained in the Acts of 1870, 1875, and in that of 1847, we do not deem it expedient to renew, because, in our opinion, the instrument which the House has just placed in our hands in the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is suificiently powerful to render it unnecessary to revert to those particular provisions. This Bill, then, is an Arms Bill pure and simple, and what I have 1966 to show the House is that such a Bill is necessary and urgent. No doubt, we did last year think that we could do without an Arms Bill, and I will say no more on that subject, except that the experience of the period which has since elapsed has served to show that the hope which we then entertained was unfounded, though not, I trust, in the opinion of the House, ungenerous. That it was not altogether as unreasonable a hope even then as some hon. Gentlemen may be disposed to imagine, I shall be able to show from one or two passages in the Charge which Mr. Justice Fitzgerald delivered at the Winter Assizes for Munster, which describes what was the state of Ireland in August last and in the month of December. The Judge to whom I refer said—Now, the matters to which I shall have immediately to advert will be found to have arisen within a very short period previous to the present time; and you will recollect hero, and I recollect, that throughout the whole country, save the Province of Connaught, at the last Assizes—that is the Summer Assizes, which we may say terminated about the first week of August last—the general tone of the observations of the Judges—they did not pretend to see beneath the surface—was that in the other three Provinces in the country there was a very small amount of crime indeed to be dealt with. Of course, a Judge has no greater opportunity than you have of knowing what is passing, save that he is armed with reliable official Reports of all crimes reported to have been committed during a certain period. I must say that, at the last Summer Assizes, at the close of it, it was my duty to address the jurors of a neighbouring district, and in all cases to point out the great absence of crime.That was the condition in August last. That was the condition of Ireland which the Government found on their a: cession to Office, and which, according to Justice Fitzgerald, continued to August last. Now, what happened in August? That is what is important. What change did the condition of Ireland undergo between August and Christmas? That is the point to winch I shall ask the careful attention of the House, because that is really the foundation of the Bill. At the return of the Summer Vacation, at the end of October last, we found all that changed. And Judge Fitzgerald said—In place of the description that I have given you we found that some organization—1 do not profess to say or to know what it was—but some organization, acting on the cupidity, the passions, and the fears of the people, had reduced some districts in the country into anarchy and confusion—little, if at all, differing from civil war. 1967 In addition to that, it was obvious to everyone that you had to deal with an armed population, The offences, or possible offences, which I shall have to describe to you were all committed by armed people. As far as I can judge from the official Report sin certain districts in the Province of Minister, which we are now dealing with, every farmer's boy, every farmer's son, and persons of that class seems to be armed with a rifle and revolver, and they certainly have been used freely in the commission of the outrages which I shall have to advert to.That is the description furnished by the Judge of the state of things in August, and the change which took place in the condition of affairs in the autumn and winter. There are other circumstances which again led, at the close of last Session, to a certain amount of irritation and exasperation in the minds of the Irish people. I must say that, under these circumstances, men who ought to have known better took advantage of that feeling of irritation, and they instigated the people of Ireland to resistance of the law. Now, I have to remind the House of a speech to which, indeed, attention has formerly been called—a speech which, I venture to say, the leaders of the Land League cannot decline the responsibility. It was a speech made at this very critical time to which the Judge refers—in the middle of August—by the hon. Member for Tip-perary (Mr. Dillon). Now, although I shall have to speak of the language of that speech, and of the conduct of the hon. Member for Tipperary with severe reprobation, I shall certainly not speak of the hon. Member himself with personal disrespect. The hon. Member for Tipperary is a man who has the courage of his convictions. He is not a man who advises the people one day to break the law, and who recants the next day, and disappears from the scene the third. There are others who have taken that course, and who remind me of no one so much as the gallant French sea captain whose exploits were sung in the Anti Jacobin. His name was, I think, Monsieur Bon Jean, and the lines ran—Bon Jean was a gallant captain,In battle much delighting,He fled full soon on the 1st of June,But bade the rest keep lighting.[Laughter.] Yes, Sir; they do keep fighting; but, if I may say so without offence, with a spirit which is worthy of a nobler leader and of a better cause. But the hon. Member for Tipperary is 1968 not a man of that character. Although, in my opinion, his politics are dangerous and mischievous, he is, at least, a serious politician, of whose sayings and doings it is worth while to take some account. He is a recognized representative of the Land League, both in America, where the objects of that body are openly avowed, and in Ireland, where its designs are cloaked more carefully. Now, on the 15th of August, when the Land League was becoming active, and beginning, as I think has been amply proved, to change the condition of Ireland in respect of crime, the hon. Member for Tipperary, in a speech at Kildare, used this language—The only way to achieve victory was to have organization in this country so close and so well knit together, that every farmer should belong to the branch of the League in the parish or townland in which he lived, and that all the young farmers and all the young men should be brought to attend the meetings, and to march to the meetings, and in proper order too.Coming to details—and I would ask the House to mark these words—the hon. Member said—Let them get two active young men—men who were not afraid of anyone—and let those young men go to every farmer on their townland and see if he would join the League.…Then it would be the duty of those organizers to tell how many men they could march to a meeting, and they should march those men like a regiment of soldiers.The House will hear by-and-bye what those active young men, who were afraid of no one, did to induce people to join the League. The hon. Member afterwards explained the objects of the organization, which was to extend even to this House—He believed that those in Parliament faithful to the cause of the people could paralyze the hands of the Government, and could prevent them from having such laws as would throw men into prison for organizing themselves. In Parliament they could obstruct, and they could set the people free to drill themselves and to organize themselves, and to take it out of the power of the police to arrest every man who was out after 8 o'clock at night. They in Parliament would see that every man in Ireland had a right to have a rifle, if he liked to have a rifle.That is what is called Constitutional agitation. It is in favour of an organization of that description that hon. Gentlemen opposite appeal to the sacred principles of free discussion. Now, 1969 those might have been idle words; but what followed? In September crime began to follow that teaching, as it was likely—-nay, as it was bound to do. In the succeeding months, as the organization became more complete, outrages became more frequent and more atrocious. The hon. Member for Tipperary, in his first speech on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, very frankly avowed that the law had not taken its course in Ireland, and said he rejoiced at it. Now, why did not the law in Ireland take its course? In my opinion, it was because the Irish people followed the recommendations of the hon. Member for Tipperary. The hon. Member, and those who act with him, have raised a direct issue between themselves and the Government, and also, I will venture to say, the Parliament of the United Kingdom—namely, whether or not they are to be allowed to paralyze the Government and obstruct the law. That is the direct issue; and the object of this Bill, and the Bill that has pre-coded it, is to decide that issue. Now, I am to show you what the consequence of the teaching of the hon. Member for Tipperary was, and how it was acted upon. I will just take one Return—the Return of 29th December—it is unnecessary to travel over the whole ground—and here I find some instructive examples of the manner in which the Irish people used the rifles which the hon. Member for Tipperary pledges himself that, whatever Parliament might do, they should still have. On page 9 it is stated—Armed men visited the houses of several tenants on Lord Seaton's estate, fired shots, and warned the tenants against paying more than Griffith's valuation as rent.Is that a Constitutional agitation for the repeal of the Land Laws? I go to page 12—Eliza Reilly permitted a man named Hamilton to stack some of his turf in her yard on the night of the 9th of December. 1880. A party of men, one of whom was armed, visited her, and warned her to have the turf removed or they would burn her house down. They fired a shot when leaving. Hamilton would not join the Land League.That is the way in which the active young men induced people to join the Land League. On the same page I find— 1970A party of men came into the yards of each of the injured persons, warned them to pay no more than Griffith's valuation, and fired shots when leaving.On page 13 it is stated—Matthew M'Namara got about one acre of land from his landlord which had been in possession of another tenant. On the night of the 15th of December a party of men called at his house, fired a shot through the window, and ordered him to give back the land, and to announce that he had done so at the next Land League meeting in Edge worthstown.I turn to page 14—On the night of the 2nd of December, 1880, several shots were fired to intimidate Bernard Sandes, who had taken some land from which the previous tenant had been evicted.On page 19 it is stated—A shot was fired at night through Sinnott's window, slightly injuring his niece.We heard a good deal under the last Bill of the crime of interfering, in any circumstances, with women; but I do not find that the chiefs of the Land League have had any scruples in that respect. On page 23 I read—William O'Donnell, his wife, and six children, were sitting round the kitchen fire, when a shot was fired through the window. One of the children was struck on the cheek by a grain of the shot. O'Donnell had paid his rent, and would not join the Land League.That is the police of the Land League. They fire shots through the windows of people who have paid their rents or who will not join the Land League. If a shot hits a child in the cheek, that is one of the incidents of Constitutional agitation. At page 27 of the Returns, an account is given of an armed party who knocked at the door of the Rev. M. Tomes in the night-time. The door was opened and shots were immediately fired. Mr. Tomes had been observed taking notes of a notice threatening any person with death who paid the usual rent, and, having informed the police, they removed it. On page 29 of the Returns the following outrage is reported—A party of armed men visited Donovan's house at night, fired several shots, and put two notices under his door threatening him with death if he did not surrender a farm.Again—A party of armed men with blackened faces visited the house of M'Grath, and looked over all his receipts, &c, to see if he had paid more than Griffith's valuation for his rents.In the course of the discussion on this 1971 Bill we may, perhaps, hear something about the police of the land making domiciliary visits; but the police of the Land League have no objection to make domiciliary visits. Another outrage was thus described—Three men were unlawfully driving cows off the land of the injured person's father. He called out to them to leave the cows after them, when one of the party fired at him; young Murphy, who had a pistol, returned the fire without effect. Murphy's father took a farm which had been surrendered by another person.On the next page I read—A numerous party, armed and disguised, entered the House of Jeremiah Donoghue and other farmers in the townland of Toneagh; they asked at each house if the owner belonged to the Land League, and if he paid more rent than Griffith's valuation, and on receiving answers that they belonged to the League and had not paid their rents, the armed party went away, firing shots in some instances.Again—Two parcels of dynamite, each weighing about 2 oz., were found at Donovan's outhouse, attached to two trees, one with a detonating cap; an explosion was heard, and shortly afterwards the thatch of an outhouse was found on fire. The attempt to explode the cap was a failure, as both the fuses were fired, but the dynamite remained. Donovan is a bailiff and rent-warner.Then I read on page 38 of the Return—Between 1 and 2 A.M. an armed party broke into Griffin's cabin, dragged him out of bed, and administered to him an unlawful oath as to his employment as care-taker of a farm from which the former tenant was evicted.Another case is thus described—At about 1 o'clock A.M. a shot was fired into Sullivan's house, which pierced the curtains of the bed in which he and his wife were sleeping at the time; his windows were broken, and a violent threatening notice was posted on his door. Sullivan had paid a portion of his rent.I have now gone about a quarter through the book, but I will not weary hon. Members with further extracts; but I can assure them that what I have read are only samples of the rest. If hon. Members went through the book, they would find, page after page, the same history of these abominable outrages by armed men, threatening every man who did not join the Land League or suspend the payment of rent. In the month of December there were 73 cases of intimidation, seven of firing at the person, and 22 of firing into dwelling houses. It might be said that that was in the 1972 month of December, and it may be asked, what is the present state of things? I take up this morning's paper, and what do I read there? First of all I read of a horrible murder, and I find that—A report has been received from Ballinrobe, that Mr. John Hearne, Clerk of Petty Sessions, and land agent to the Hon. Mr. De Montmorency, brother of the late Lord Mountmorres, was fired at about 3 o'clock on Monday afternoon, when within about 40 yards of his residence. He was proceeding home on foot from Ballinrobe, which is about a mile distant. He received six wounds, and was not expected to survive the night. No arrests have yet been made. A woman who was on the road at the time of the outrage states that she saw two men fire at him, but she does not know them.This outrage is believed to be without doubt agrarian. It is also stated in today's paper that—On Sunday night five shots were fired into Stonehall House, Crossmolina, the residence of Mr. George Scott, High Constable of Twrwilly. The shots were fired into the room in which Mr. Scott was sleeping, and the bullets and slugs were subsequently found embedded in the wall near his head. The police are now staying in the house.We are asked to believe that these are not the doings of the village ruffians, and that the people who countenance and preside over those organizations and associations are the parish priests. I think, however, that the parish priest is getting tired of this business. I read in this morning's paper that at a largely-attended meeting at Mallow a letter was read from the Rev. Father Connor, severing his connection with the League, and assigning no reason. The reverend gentleman was denounced as a coward, who was afraid to face the Coercion Bill; but I should imagine that, as a Christian man, he is afraid to face the conscience of such deeds as these in any association with which he was connected. He was also declared to be a rogue, and, upon a poll being taken, it was determined not to return his subscription. I notice that, whether in America, or in Ireland, or in Paris, there is very great solicitude about the charge of the cash. Well, I also learn from this morning's paper that—A series of daring outrages was committed on Monday night in the County Kerry. A band of 60 men, armed and disguised, visited several houses in the vicinity of Ballymacelligott, and demanded arms, and in some instances money. One of the first houses visited was that 1973 of the Rev. Nicholas Foster, rector of Ballymacelligott. They also went to the houses of several farmers, whom they compelled to swear they would not pay more rent than Griffith's valuation. The marauders are stated to have taken away about 40 guns and some money. Two policemen appear to have been stationed at one of the houses visited for the protection of the occupier. They threatened to fire, and the party quickly withdrew.These are the descriptions given of the state of things at present existing in Ireland, and this is the way in which the instructions given by the hon. Member for Tipperary last August have been practically applied. ["No, no !"] What did he mean, then, when he spoke of people having rifles and marching in military array? These outrages, it will be observed, are not committed on landowners alone. There is an opinion in some quarters that because people hold real estate they are not entitled to the same amount of protection by the law as people who are owners of personal estate. As a lawyer, I may, perhaps, be excused for demurring to that proposition, for, although there are some distinctions in the law which I should wish to see done away with between real and personal estate, I should always desire the owners of both kinds of property to receive the protection of the law. The police of the Land League do not attack landlords alone. They spare neither age nor sex. You will find that young women and old women have been attacked. We lately had an impassioned appeal in favour of wives from one of the hon. Members opposite, who spoke as a husband; but the police of the Land League have not the least regard for wives. This book is full of attacks upon herds for herding cattle, upon artizans, upon mechanics, and upon small farmers and tradesmen—upon everybody, in short, who will not serve the Land League. The question I have to ask the House is this—Is this state of things to continue? The hon. Member for Tipperary and his friends say that it shall continue, in spite of the Government, of the Queen, and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. [Mr. M'COAN: He did not say so.] In my opinion, as long as the people of Ireland are armed, as they are armed now, for the purpose of carrying out the teaching for which they were told to procure arms, that state of things will continue. The object of the Bill is to 1974 put an end to that state of things. And now I will briefly describe to the House what the Bill is. It is purely and simply an Arms Bill. It declares that—It shall be unlawful to carry arms in any district proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant by a proclamation he shall make for the purpose.The general rule is that within a proclaimed district the carrying of arms is unlawful, except subject to such conditions and licences as may be provided for in the proclamation. The Bill will contain, as these Bills have always contained, power to search the persons and homes of those suspected to be in possession of arms unlawfully, and not according to the terms of the proclamation; but it will follow the rule of the Act of 1875 in this respect—that the hours of search will be limited to the hours between sunrise and sunset, and the warrants will be of a special character—that is to say, the person and the house to be searched will be named. We have, in fact, adopted the mitigated Code of the year 1875. Besides this, the Bill will give power to the Lord Lieutenant, by Order in Council, to prohibit and regulate the importation and sale of arms in Ireland. Of course, it would be desirable to interfere as little as possible with the legitimate trade in such things; and the Lord Lieutenant will, therefore, be able to alter these Orders in Council from time to time as he thinks the public safety may permit. Then I come to a material part of the Bill—namely, the penalties. In former Bills there were generally two forms of procedure—either by indictment, when there was a high penalty of two years and afterwards of one year, or by summary conviction. Now, in a matter of this kind, when you wish to take the dangerous weapons out of the hands of the men whom you believe to use them, I think you cannot employ too speedy a mode of procedure; and, if that be so, it is clear that indictment is not an appropriate method. We therefore propose a speedy procedure and a mild penalty, and the Bill provides for summary convictions and the imprisonment of the offenders for not more than three months without hard labour. In order to prevent objections that will easily occur to hon. Members, we propose, in adopting a summary procedure, that there shall always be a resident magistrate upon the Bench, either alone or with other 1975 justices; and, lest the Lord Lieutenant should abuse his power of issuing Proclamations and Orders in Council, it will be provided that the Proclamations and Orders in Council shall be laid upon the Table of the House. I may add that the Definition Clause of the Bill forbids, under the head "Ammunition," articles like dynamite and nitroglycerine. We propose that the Bill shall remain in force for five years. Now, Sir, I know that it will be at once said that the Bill will not take all their arms away from the people. It is true, of course, that arms will remain in their possession hidden away; but there will be this advantage—armed gang's will not be able to march along the roads and intimidate people without running the risk of having their guns taken away by the police. This measure the Government present to the House as one that is urgent in its necessity, reasonable in its aim, and moderate in its penalties. In my opinion, it is a Bill the discussion of which ought not to occupy a very long time. Ever since 1847 there has always been an Arms Act in Ireland, and when the country is moderately tranquil the pres-sure is not felt at all. But when times arise like the present, and men teach the use of arms to the Irish people, then an Arms Bill becomes absolutely necessary to law and order. Why, Sir, the possession of these arms tempts men to use them. I think we may say of them, as King John says to Hubert—How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds, Makes ill deeds done.And I think I might go on to apply to the animate as well as inanimate instruments of this organizations the lines which follow:—?Hadst not thou been by, A fellow by the hand of nature marked, Quoted, and sign'd, to do a deed of shame, This murder had not come into my mind: But, taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect, Finding thee tit for bloody villany, Apt, liable, to be employed in danger, I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death.I should like to ask whether these misguided and guilty men have not some right to reproach with their silence those to whom they looked for counsel and teaching. May they not say of the leaders of the Land League—Hadst thou but shook thy head, or made a pause,When I spake darkly what I purposed;1976Or turn'd an eye of doubt upon my face,As bid me tell my tale in express words;Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:But thou didst understand me by my signs,And didst in signs again parley with sin.Why, Sir, in the character of King John, as it seems to me, the great painter of human nature has left behind him a portrait that is true, generation after generation, of those criminal poltroons who, having incited others to crime, endeavour to shuffle off the responsibility upon someone else. I have detained the House too long. I ask the sanction of the House for a Bill that will injure and touch no one who seeks lawful ends by lawful means. I have a right to claim for it the support of those who profess to be the champions of Constitutional agitation. Pikes, revolvers, and dynamite are not the instruments of legitimate reform; but in such a state of society as has been created in Ireland, they are the secret armouries of treason and revolution, of the midnight brigand and the skulking assassin. It is against such persons that the Bill is directed. It leaves wholly unimpaired the resources of Constitutional agitation; and I ask the House, for the sake of the Irish people, for the reputation of a civilized State, for the honour of a Christian country, to take from the hands of these misguided men the implements of temptation to crimes which are darkly instigated and foully accomplished. I move for leave to bring in the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to the carrying and possession of Arms, and for the preservation of the public Peace in Ireland."—(Secretary Sir William Harcourt)
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had begun his speech by reference to the cases in the Blue Book in support of the Bill, and had concluded it by reading a studiously prepared, but singularly ineffective, peroration. He had also treated the House to a quotation from King John, which was inapplicable to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had attempted to defend the introduction of this Bill by stating that it was a supplement to the Coercion Bill. It could not be so re- 1977 garded. The Coercion Bill was introduced on the distinct ground that it was directed against a certain number of persons justly suspected by the police, and that there was no danger of its being wrongly applied. But this was a Bill of suspicion against the entire nation. It provided for searching for arms among the guilty and innocent alike. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, who made a speech by way of charge, which played very well into the hands of Liberal coercionists. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that outrages did not prevail to any great extent in Ireland till August last, and be traced the exasperation of the Irish people to a speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon). But if the right hon. Gentleman were speaking last year, he would have attributed an increase of exasperation and outrage, not to the speech of his (Mr. O'Donnell's) hon. Friend, but to the action of the House of Lords. Now, however, in order to secure the co-operation of the Conservative Party, the right hon. Gentleman found it convenient to drop all reference to the action of the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman professed his admiration for the candour and courage of the hon. Member for Tipperary, as compared with the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). But the comparison was as unjust as it was unworthy. The hon. Member for the City of Cork having given erroneous advice, afterwards withdrew it; and the hon. Member for Tipperary, in somewhat similar circumstances, had done the same. Having made a speech in Kildare, which in the Ministerial view was susceptible of being taken as recommending cruelty to animals, the hon. Member for Tipperary took the first opportunity, both in that House and in Ireland, of repudiating any such meaning. The hon. Member for the City of Cork was not absent from any fear; he was absent on a mission confided to him by the loving confidence of his Colleagues—he was enlightening Continental Europe as to the falsehood of Liberalism in place. The Home Secretary had drawn a distinction between Land Leaguers who showed signs of skulking behind the scenes, and those who came openly and boldly to the front and took the responsibility upon themselves; but they knew, by the treatment meted out to the brave and candid 1978 Michael Davitt, what respect Her Majesty's Government had for bravery and candour. The Home Secretary fastened upon words spoken by the hon. Member for Tipperary in August last, when his hon. Friend recommended his countrymen to hold up their heads and not be afraid to look any man in the face. Englishmen had a right to carry arms, to drill, and to march in order; and the hon. Member for Tipperary told Irishmen in the open day not to be afraid to drill, to march in order, and to carry arms. That manly address was tortured by the right hon. Gentleman, throughout his whole speech, as if it meant midnight assassination and cowardly outrage. No charge against the Irish nation deserved consideration from such lips. The Home Secretary's speech was pregnant with mischief to Ireland, for it implied that the landlords were to continue their abominable tyranny, and no hope was held out to the down-trodden tenants. It was not the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary that bad caused the outrages which had stained the annals of Ireland during the last two months. That responsibility must be shared by those who now sat on the Treasury Bench. It suited the political convenience of the Government to placate the Conservative Party—to go all lengths in order to obtain the contemptuous forbearance of those whom they bitterly denounced last year; but they appeared to forget their own conduct so long as Irish discontent fell in with their Party purposes. It now pleased the right hon. Gentleman to say that Ireland was in open revolt against the law. What law? Only one law—the Land Law, which sentenced the honest Irishman to starvation and death. When the Government brought forward their measure of Land Law Reform—if, indeed, it should ever be forthcoming—however slight its character, its Preamble must be "Whereas the existing Land Law is unendurable and ought to be reformed." That was the accursed law against which the Irish people were in open insurrection. With regard to every other law the Irish nation were a virtuous and law-abiding people. The hon. Member for Tipperary told the people to act up to their Constitutional rights—to seek equipment, and arms, and discipline; but no single outrage could be traced to the rifle-bearing columns, It was a base and paltry idea 1979 to ascribe to a man like the hon. Member for Tipperary the intention of hounding on the people to midnight crime and cruel outrage. The hon. Member would have been in the House if it had not been for the carefully-prepared surprise on the Irish Party. For days it had been insinuated that the Arms Bill would be dropped, and thus had been secured the absence of the Members it was desired to calumniate. The hon. Member would not hesitate to inform the English nation that it was his desire to see the Irish nation in possession of national independence, in union with Great Britain on Imperial questions, but with a Citizen Army such as England possessed. To stab him behind his back with the paltry accusation that his advice to Irishmen to conduct themselves like soldiers was an exhortation to behave like cowardly assassins was a foul stain which would always attach to the memory and reputation of the Home Secretary. Mysterious and undiscovered crime was not confined to Ireland. There was no clue to the recent murder of a woman in the King's Road. Chelsea, and of an officer at Chatham. Scores of cases could be cited of horrible murders, the perpetrators of which could not be brought to justice. In regard to undiscovered crime, Ireland would compare favourably with any portion of Her Majesty's Dominions. This Bill was meant to be a real measure of disarmament, or it was meant to be a gratuitous offence to the Irish nation. If it was meant to be a real Bill, it should be capable of being applied in reality. It would be utterly ineffective for its alleged purpose if the search for arms was to be strictly confined to the day, when, according to the Government, it was in the night that illegal use was made of arms. The main object of the Bill seemed to be to support the Government policy of attaching stigma to the Land League, who, after all, would be the real authors of whatever was good in the forthcoming remedial legislation. There was bitter internecine rivalry between the Liberal reformers and the Irish reformers who had conducted the Land League agitation. The Land Leaguers got the start of the Government in organizing their agitation, while the Government were wandering over Europe in search of adventure; and the Government were surprised to find the field of domestic legis- 1980 lation occupied by Mr. Davitt, the hon. Members for Cork and Tipperary, and their associates. Thereupon they set about employing the machinery at their disposal to blacken the character of the Laud League The Bill would not have the effect of depriving any murderous association which might exist of a sufficient number of weapons to carry out their murderous work. In the case of an outrage cited by the right hon. Gentleman there was a largo party, including one man armed with a gun; and there would still remain one gun at the service of 100 men who had half the 24 hours of the day in which to hide their weapons. This Bill would be used as an instrument to insult and wound the feelings of the Irish people; it would make village life almost unendurable; and it would have only one good result—it would make Liberal Administrations, if possible, more unpopular in the country. The right hon. Gentleman said arms would not be searched for at night time; no doubt the Government did not wish to interfere with the perpetrators of outrage who had already rendered such service. But respectable people could have their houses entered, the earthern floor of the kitchen dug up, the parlour carpet torn up, and the furniture knocked about by the local toadies and tools of the Irish magistrates, who would in this way gratify private spite and malice. What guarantee was there that this Bill would not be put into operation by persons like the Sligo landlord already referred to? The right hon. Gentleman had referred to one miserable case of a dispute between a priest and a Land League; but the priests and Prelates in Ireland, as a body, were in favour of the Land League, and by none would the wretched attack made by the Home Secretary on the hon. Member for Tipperary be read with greater scorn and contempt than by the priests and Prelates of Ireland. It was said that outrages still continued; seeing what human nature was, it would, indeed, be remarkable if they did not continue. The Government was doing all in its power to secure a continuance of that feeling in Ireland, which naturally had led to outrages. The Government had arrested Michael Davitt, whose voice day and night was raised against outrage; but though they had flung Michael Davitt into prison, the Irish people would never cease to 1981 feel grateful for the services Michael Davitt had rendered. The Government had stated openly that they did not intend to bring forward any remedial legislation until their Coercion Bills had been passed, and that being so, the course of the Irish Members was clear. They were in the House, not merely to protect the material interests of their country, but also to maintain its honour, which was attacked by these miserable projects of coercion. He did not, of course, know what would be the nature of the remedial legislation that might be proposed; but this he did know—that the Irish people would not accept any such project at the price of her previous degradation. The Irish Members stood there, as long as the Forms of the House would allow them, to exercise a remnant of Constitutional freedom in opposing the degradation of their country—the degradation which was contained in the projects of the Government, and such speeches as that which had been delivered by the Home Secretary. So far as he and his hon. Friends were concerned, as Representatives of the people of Ireland, they would unquestionably oppose the imposition of every fetter and of every manacle which the Government, in these coercive measures, were imposing upon the free action and free thought of the Irish people. Let the Government postpone their land legislation, and it would be worse for the Liberal Administration, and it would be worse for their landlord protéges in the long run. Lot the Government persevere in their policy of brute coercion, and the Members from Ireland would know how to deal with the perjured Liberalism which came into Office with promises of amelioration on its lips, and which now clung to the Ministerial Benches by the aid of its political opponents, for whom not long ago it had no word of calumny too bitter or too reckless. Now it was in Office, and was called upon to fulfil its promise of remedial legislation. But the Liberal Government had found it more convenient to secure the aid of their hereditary political enemies in England by accepting, by borrowing their principles. In a speech full of misrepresentation the Government had introduced this second Coercion Bill. It was a Bill insulting to the Irish nation. It placed in the hands of a maddened magistracy and a panic-stricken land- 1982 lordism and criminal tyranny of every description the opportunity of harassing and insulting every honest homo in Ire-land. So far as it went it was a Bill for the special protection of the disreputable class. It was a Bill for harassing men found pursuing their avocations in broad daylight, while it avoided all interference with the exploits of men who concocted murder in the night time, the period of outrage. It was the assassins in Ireland who supplied a Liberal Government with the wish for an opportunity of casting dirt at the reputation of the Reform Party in Ireland. The gratitude for the signal service rendered by the assassin in Ireland to Her Majesty's present Ministry, and the care with which the Government proposed to except midnight depredations from the purview of the Bill, was as singular a coincidence as had been noted in their proceedings either in or out of Parliament. The Home Secretary certainly did not display a very intimate knowledge of the ordinary law when he said that without a Bill of this kind the Government could not interfere with the marching of 50 men on the high road armed with bayonets and rifles on their shoulders. Irish Members had seen many specimens of the knowledge of the ordinary law displayed by the Irish Officers of the Government, and now the Home Secretary added one more to the number. Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not address such arguments to the Irish Party. It must have been addressed to the intelligence of the right hon. Gentleman's Liberal following. If, however, the intelligence of that Liberal following was to be tested by the arguments which the Government had thought fit to address to it, the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman was not very flattering to his Liberal following. In moving the rejection of the Bill, he (Mr. O'Donnell) did so in the interests of law and order. He was not in favour of exceptional facilities being given to midnight organizations as compared with the open and above board agitations carried on in the day time. The Irish Party were under no obligation to the party of assassination. They did not feel constrained to support their policy. They protested against that portion of the Bill, and they claimed a real right to protest against it from their point of view, which was an insult 1983 to the Irish people, inasmuch as it would worry, harass, and inflict moral torture, by bringing to bear a cowardly terrorism against every honest home in Ireland. At the same time, it was his firm conviction that long before the five years during which this Bill was to be in operation had expired the so-called Liberal Party would suffer much more from the course they had inaugurated than any section of the Irish people.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary seemed extremely anxious to dwell upon the political character of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon). He abused the hon. Member for the City of Cork very bitterly for being absent, while he indulged in extravagant praise of the hon. Member for Tipperary. He (Major Nolan) should certainly say that the censure bestowed upon the one was far safer than the praise lavished on the other. It was well known that a great number of people in Ireland considered that the hon. Member for Tipperary would be in some danger from the operation of the Bill which was now before the House of Lords, and which, probably, would be law before three or four days. They also knew that the Member for Tipperary was the gentleman who entertained an almost extravagant sense of honour; and he, therefore, believed that the speech of the Home Secretary would be sufficient to make him run still greater risks of being deprived of his liberty, so that the Executive, while loading him with praise, could at the same time put him into prison. That would be, from many points of view, a great calamity; but he could not help saying that the speech of the Home Secretary appeared to lead very much in the direction, because, while he praised the hon. Member for Tipperary at the expense of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, he was very careful to say that what he had been doing was illegal. He (Major Nolan) was not fond of giving advice to his brother Members; but he would very much prefer, particularly after the speech of the Home Secretary, to see the hon. Member for Tipperary present. 1984 He was sorry to say it had always been the policy of the larger number of the English Members of the House, and of a large section of the English Press, to praise the second man of the Irish Party. It had been their policy to praise anyone who was not actually leading the Irish Party for the purpose of depreciating the Leader, and he believed that had been principally the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. He remembered that that had been the case with regard to the late Mr. Butt and Mr. P. J. Smyth in the last Parliament. The Irish Members, under existing circumstances, were not free agents in the ordinary sense of the word, and therefore, very great forbearance ought to be shown by their opponents in the House in criticizing their absence. They had been led to believe, by statements made in the Press, that this Bill was abandoned; but whether Her Majesty's Government changed their mind within the last three or four days, or whether a very considerable pressure had been brought to bear upon them from the Front Opposition Bench to bring in this Bill, he could not exactly say; but it was pretty generally believed that it was owing to the action of the Conservatives that they decided on bringing in this Bill at once. But whatever was the cause, the result was very unfortunate for the Irish Party. They had been treated very badly, and had no reasonable opportunity of bringing up their Members to vote on this Bill. As to the general policy of the Bill, he had great fault to find with the five years' clause. He doubted very much whether that Bill would have the effect of reducing the number of murders. It was quite impossible, in his opinion, by any precaution they might adopt, to keep arms out of the hands of people who were bent on committing assassination. But, in his view, the whole policy of successive Governments on that question of arms was an exceedingly bad one. It was injurious to the manly spirit of a nation to forbid the possession of arms; and he thought the Government should have permitted Volunteer Corps to be formed in Ireland, because they would have been under discipline, and the people would have got gradually accustomed to arms. If, however, they began by allowing magistrates only to have arms, 1985 they ought to have extended the same principle by degrees to the large farmers, and then to the smaller farmers and other respectable classes. Last year the democracy were suddenly allowed to obtain arms, at a time, too, when arms were very cheap all over the world. No wonder if the possessors of them acted like children who had a new toy, and showed it off a good deal. That was the fault of the policy of the Government more than anything else, and it did not warrant the introduction of this measure. He suggested that a certain description of arms might be taxed, that all descriptions might be registered, and that all respectable men might be allowed to have a rifle under certain conditions. During the last seven or eight years the policy of the English Government in regard to arms in Ireland had alternated between extreme repression and extreme laxity—a mode of proceeding which no wise statesman could look upon as sensible and judicious. He knew, however, this Bill would pass in the present state of feeling. The Cabinet did not seem to be very united, and he had observed that they were getting into the habit this Session of yielding to the pressure of the Conservatives, who were a more solid and compact body. The Government faltered a little whenever the screw was put on by the Leader of the Opposition, and went a good way in the Conservative direction. There could be no doubt, then, that the Bill would go through; and, that being so, he would ask his hon. Friends to allow it to pass on certain conditions—namely, that the Government would so modify the measure as that every man who had a vote should be allowed—if he so desired—to keep a fowling-piece, provided that what arms were kept should be registered. The effect would be to place arms in the hands of those who might be relied upon not to make a bad use of them, and to keep them out of the hands of dangerous characters. He was afraid, however, that the Government would not grant even that reasonable concession. The Home Secretary referred to speeches about using rifles and pikes, and asked was that Constitutional agitation. He agreed with him that it was not; but be was not sure that talking of the right to possess arms was open to that objection. There was no 1986 document more intimately associated with the Constitution of England than the Bill of Bights, and in that document it was laid down as part of the Constitution that every Englishman, being a Protestant, had a right to carry arms. He was sorry to say that he thought history would pronounce that Her Majesty's Government were very good Constitutionalists for England, but bad Constitutionalists for the South Africans and for Irishmen.
§ MR. HEALY
congratulated the House that they had in the Home Secretary a more lively performer than the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had complimented the hon. Member for Tipperary on his courage, candour, and manliness, and had done so for the purpose of casting a reflection upon other Members of the House. The speech delivered last autumn by the hon. Member was declared to be wicked and cowardly; but his speeches now were candid, courageous, and manly. The right hon. Gentleman had laid before the House a number of so-called Land League outrages. He, for one, disputed the authenticity of the details given. They were compiled by the Irish Constabulary, and then doctored at Dublin Castle. Crimes of a far more serious character had occurred in England; but the Government dealt with them, not by repressive, but by remedial measures. On a former occasion it had been denied that outrages had been committed by trades' unionists; but he held in his hand the Report of the Royal Commission on the Sheffield Trades' Unions, in which it was stated to have proved that rattening had been largely resorted to by members of the trades' unions. The rattening was always done in the interests of the union, and commonly at the direction of the secretary. He challenged the Home Secretary to establish any such complicity on the part of a secretary of the Land League. Cattle were maimed, gunpowder was exploded, and persons were fired at, and yet there was no Arms Act for Sheffield; but inquiry was followed by remedial legislation. Irish Members naturally objected to the unjust application of principles to Ireland which the Government refused to apply to England under similar circumstances. The hon. Member proceeded to quote from 1987 the Report of the Commission their statement of the facts in a number of cases, when—
§ MR. SPEAKER
intimated to the hon. Gentleman that he was going at too great length into the case of the Sheffield Trades' Unions.
§ MR. HEALY
, resuming, challenged the Government to produce from Ireland cases half so harrowing as those that occurred at Sheffield; and there they wont on for a number of years. With what conscience could the Government propose this Arms Bill, seeing that they did nothing of the kind to put down the outrages at Sheffield, which in magnitude and number exceeded those of Ireland? The Bill would be ineffectual for its alleged object. No man who had the inclination to murder would want for the tools of assassination through the Bill depriving him of them. If there were secret societies which prescribed the punishment of death, they would have secret armouries which the Bill would not reach. As to gatherings of as many as 50 armed men, they would constitute riotous assemblies which could be reached by the Common Law and by the White boy Acts; and, therefore, special legislation was not needed to prevent them. A great many outrages were committed every year by Orangemen. Would the right hon. Gentleman give the assurance that the Bill would be applied to those persons? The prohibition of arms would tell very severely upon the Irish farmers, who would have no means of keeping down the wild birds and ground game which attacked their crops. The Home Secretary based his case on a Blue Book which had been produced so late that there had not yet been time to procure a refutation of its alleged facts. The Home Secretary, in fact, told them to pass the Bill first, and then study the reasons afterwards—much on the principle of hanging a man, and then trying him afterwards. The statement of the Home Secretary that the members of the League never denounced crime was absolutely inexact. They had constantly done so, though they had not chosen to do it precisely in the way which would please their English critics. He maintained that the language which Judge Fitzgerald had put in his speech was that of the authors of the Bill—the voice was the voice of Judge Fitzgerald, 1988 but the language was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Members of the Land League had not been obtained by intimidation, as had been stated, but by the unjust laws which prevailed in Ireland. He did not thank the present Government for saying that no search should be made by night; on the contrary, that was a provision inserted in the Act of 1875 by the Tory Administration. This Act, unless remedial measures were passed meanwhile, would have to be renewed about the end of the five years over which it was designed to extend, from the same occurrences as those which it was alleged made it necessary now. It was always the old story—instead of finding out the sources of the crimes, and stopping them by ameliorative legislation, they had constant recourse to coercion. They had been promised ameliorative legislation, but were in the dark as to what it was to be, or as to when it was to come. They had been told, however, from the Treasury Bench, that crime and outrage in Ireland were entirely owing to the state of the Land Laws, and that the persons mainly responsible for agrarian crime were the landlords. There was never an agrarian crime committed by tenants that was not preceded by an agrarian crime by the landlords; and he would only say, in the words of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 10 or 15 years ago, that crime and outrage in Ireland were inevitable, if only as beacons and warnings to the Administration of the iniquity of the Laud system there.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the Home Secretary had laid great stress upon two classes of crime—the first being threatening letter-writing, which everyone knew could be increased to order; and the second, firing at the person and at property, which was also capable of explanation. In Minister, where Judge Fitzgerald delivered his famous Charge, there was no firing at the person in August; in September there was no tiring at the person; in October there was one case. He would like to know how many there were in England? In November there was one case, and in December there were three. There had been firings in Ireland, no doubt. The great query was, who fired? It was a curious coincidence that while the police 1989 had been patrolling cases of that description occurred with alarming frequency. The Homo Secretary said that they should now find parties of 50 or 100 men marching with arms through the country at night to attack persons obnoxious to them, and that they could arrest them red-handed in the act. Why did they not arrest those persons before? It did not require an Arms Bill to do that. Hon. Members had heard a good deal about Judge Fitzgerald's Charge. It should be remembered that Judge Fitzgerald was once a great patriot himself; and though he did not fire shots, he made very strong speeches before he ascended to the high position he now held. His Lordship read a threatening letter in Court, which contained French and other foreign languages, as if it came from an Irish farmer. Curiously enough, from August forward threatening letters steadily increased. In August there were three threatening letters; in September there were 10; in October there were 76; in November 183; and in December there were 211. Therefore, the reading of a threatening letter in Court had a wonderful effect. He had already told the Prime Minister that it was dangerous and unfair to say that threatening letters had increased in proportion to the meetings of the Land League; and he repeated now, that nothing could be more unjust than to deprive a whole people of their liberty because of the increase of a class of offence which could be regulated to order. The Home Secretary had told them that the hon Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) advised active young men in that county to go about canvassing for the Land League. Why should not they do so? He had seen active young men in Dublin canvassing for much less laudable objects. Oh! but the hon. Member for Tipperary said every young man should carry a rifle. What was there reprehensible in that? Every person was anxious to exercise the right of a freeman to bear a rifle and arms in his native country. And it would be the proudest boast which Her Majesty's Government could make, if every Irishman was allowed to carry arms as a defender of the Law and the Constitution. They had heard that certain Members were almost instigated to use arms in that House. Well, the only appeal to arms in Parliament during his experience was made 1990 by the Speaker, when he invoked superior force against the Irish Members. The Home Secretary dilated with great force upon the danger of discharging fire-arms where there were numbers of women. Could the right hon. Gentleman, after all the use he made of his Blue Books and of the Land League, point to one single instance in the province of Munster, to which he alluded, where a woman had suffered a hair's breadth? The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) had shown the right hon. Gentleman that in his own country—at Sheffield—women were not spared. He asked the House to wipe out the stain which the right hon. Gentleman had attempted to put upon his country, but which was unsupported by a single fact. If the right hon. Gentleman had a Blue Book prepared in reference to crime in his own country, he would be forced, from the argument he had used, to suspend the Constitution in England. Did he ever hear of dynamite? Ever hear of explosives being placed on railways in England? They had actually seen the right hon. Gentleman driven to support the case he attempted to make out in support of the Bill, which was announced in the Queen's Speech, by referring to outrages committed a few days ago. How exceedingly absurd and weak must be the case of the right hon. Gentleman, when he was obliged to appeal to newspaper reports of that very day to support a Bill which Her Majesty's Advisers thought necessary two months ago. Whatever occurred—whether crime increased or decreased—the Government had the hardihood to advance it as an argument in favour of coercion. They had been told that there were arms in the country. There might be. They knew how spies and informers, under previous Acts like this, found arms concealed in the thatch of the widow's cottage; how they got the widow's son, and only support, imprisoned and transported beyond the seas, and how it transpired after the unfortunate victims had died in exile, that they had never perpetrated the crimes, but that they were committed by those who swore their lives and liberties away. A sub-inspector holding an high position was tried for that in Dublin Castle, and his myrmidons were convicted and dismissed from the Force. But it was then too late, for their vie- 1991 tims had spent years in exile. Really, this Bill out-Heroded Herod. There was some excuse for the tragic air of the poor Chief Secretary, because he found that a few sheep had fallen over a cliff, and that a few hairs had been pulled out of a horse's tail; but, really, the Home Secretary had thrown the whole question into ridicule, and they had how arrived at a stage when it was manifestly unworthy of the consideration of the House.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
ventured to congratulate Her Majesty's Government which he feared a few days ago he would not be able to do, on their having exhibited a certain amount of firmness of purpose with regard to this Bill. Within the last 48 hours the Arms Bill had been in great peril, and it was a grave question whether it would be introduced. Her Majesty's Government—who had very curious relations with the Press of this country—had circulated in one newspaper an announcement that the Bill would not be proceeded with; but they instantly qualified it by announcing in another paper that they would not give up the Bill, and the House was left in a state of uncertainty whether the Bill would be brought in or not. What had been going on in the Government was somewhat analogous to a process not unknown in Ceylon. When the Indian Government wanted to recruit its troop of elephants they sent out into the jungle old and tried elephants to seduce the young and untried ones into the official enclosure, and, after some violent struggling, the wild young elephants became tractable and, sometimes, even useful. Her Majesty's Government received a great accession of strength from the Radical Party when they took Office, and that Party, no doubt, contained Members of great intelligence, eloquence, and ability, but who were firmly impressed with the idea that they themselves wore perfectly capable of reforming and governing the universe. It had always been difficult when a Government took in a Radical section to harmonize the section with Whig traditions and Whig ideas. This process, however, seemed to be going on with great care, and to have been conducted with some amount of success. The wild elephants were represented by the right hon. Members for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright and Mr. Chamberlain), the 1992 hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), who, if they had been asked the question 12 months ago as to whether they would have submitted to Bills of this kind, would have replied, as Hazael did to Elisha—"Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing?" The wild elephants had been greatly tamed by the overpowering Whig section, and appeared to have fallen into the ordinary common-sense methods of governing a country. It was clear, after the speech of the Home Secretary, that the Arras Bill could not now be abandoned; but it was also clear that no Business could be interpolated before the Bill became law, because the right hon. Gentleman had put forth all his strength to make out an unanswerable case for the Bill. He hoped the Home Secretary would excuse him if he did not find himself in a position to congratulate him altogether on his speech, which appeared to him to be provocative and defiant. He was not quite sure whether it was expedient, in introducing a Bill of this exceptionable character, and which must be viewed by a great portion of the Liberal Party with disfavour, if not with positive dislike, to assume such an attitude. No doubt, it was easy to be defiant; but they were now legislating under Rules of Urgency, and a defiant attitude might be taken up with far greater safety than if they were not legislating under such Rules. When the Home Secretary introduced his Hares and Rabbits Bill, he did so in a defiant manner. But there were no Rules of Urgency then; and before the Bill passed the Home Secretary was far tamer than any hare or rabbit. In taking up this defiant attitude the right hon. Gentleman was hardly politic, and certainly not generous. The Irish Members in opposition to the Protection of Person and Property Bill, after the lapse of seven weeks, had been trampled upon. They were told they had failed, and the Home Secretary dilated on the feebleness of the opposition with which this Bill was likely to be met. Now, he would ask Irish Members to contrast the tone of the Home Secretary with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) when he introduced the Peace Preservation Bill of 1875. ["Oh!"] He recollected the last Parliament, 1993 and he used to think then that the Tory Party were impatient with Irish opposition; but he never saw the Tory Party exhibit one-tenth so much impatience as had been displayed by the Liberal Party. If they went over all the speeches of the right hon. Member for Gloucestershire when he introduced and carried through the Bill of 1875, they would find the most marked and favourable contrast to the speech of the Home Secretary in introducing this measure. The right hon. Gentleman said he wished to avoid matters of controversy, and not to be acrimonious. But he fell foul of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and transgressed the Rules of the House in alluding to past debates. Then he fell foul of the hon. Member for Tipperary and the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who were not in their places to reply. If that was the right hon. Gentleman's idea of avoiding acrimony, he would like to know his idea of producing harmony. His belief was that the right hon. Gentleman had that evening delivered a speech which he had intended to deliver on the Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Bill, but which the Government, in a state of nervous anxiety to get the Bill through the House, prevented him from delivering, and which he would not have delivered but that, the Chief Secretary having gone to Ireland, it fell upon him, as a matter of etiquette, to introduce this measure. The right hon. Gentleman raked up old speeches and paraded facts which the Attorney General for Ireland had dwelt on for four days in the Pour Courts, which had been repeated by the Chief Secretary and by the Prime Minister. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman had occupied an hour and a-quarter in a speech which might have been delivered in 20 minutes.
§ MR. RAMSAY
rose to Order. He wished to ask whether the remarks of the noble Lord were in accordance with the Rules of the House, or whether they tended in any way to elucidate the subject of the Arms Bill?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord is replying to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he could not but admire the chivalry of the Scotch Member in coming to the defence of the Home Secretary. 1994 A considerable portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech had very little to do with the question of carrying arms. He appeared to forget that urgency had been voted for the measure he was introducing, and that the time of the House should not be taken up with matters which had been exhausted over and over again. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Blue Books which had been produced by the Government; but he might have remembered that those Blue Books had not been compiled with any very great care, and it was dangerous to invite hon. Members to treat them with microscopic inspection. The Home Secretary had to acknowledge with a very ill-grace that this was a mere renewal of the Peace Preservation Act of 1875. There was no part of that Act to which more importance had been attached by the late Government than that which related to the carrying of arms. This was the part of the Peace Preservation Act which could not be said to press hardly on anyone, for he could not recollect any case in which a man, having a legitimate use for arms, for sporting or agricultural purposes, and who could not be suspected of any intention to make an improper use of fire-arras, had been refused a licence. It was only the mauvais sujets that were refused. It would have been perfectly possible for Government to have introduced this Arms Act in April last by a most simple renewal clause, which would not have taken a week's discussion. If that had been done, and if the ordinary law had been administered with the same vigour in summer and autumn as in January last, there would have been no occasion for coercion. He looked on the Arms Bill as a necessary consequence of the very stringent and unprecedented Coercion Bill, to which it would operate as a check. If the Arms Act had been abandoned a great many arrests would have been made by the police on the suspicion of possessing arms. They must not expect to recover arms under the Bill. Search-warrants for that purpose would practically be of little use. Immense expeditions had been organized from time to time for that purpose. They had been carefully conducted with every kind of preparation and precaution simultaneously over large tracts of country, but they had never resulted in the recovery of any great number of arms. 1995 No doubt, arms were possessed; but they would be hidden away very often in a manner which would tend to destroy them. The great importance of this Bill was that it would prevent the exhibition of arms, which was attended with so much danger. It was also of extreme importance to prevent the importation of arms, which was the life-blood of the Fenian movement. But the Home Secretary had given a very brief account of the Bill; and, therefore, he ventured to ask whether it was intended to revive in to to the Act of 1847? Then, with respect to the warrant for search, the Act of 1875 continued general warrants; but he now understood that the warrants were to be special, general warrants being liable to be abused. Warrants under the Act of 1847 were allowed to run for three months; but the late Government, always endeavouring to do away with the more objectionable features of such Bills, had modified the Act by reducing the time of the warrants to 21 days. He wished to know whether the Home Secretary had adopted the three months or the 21 days?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was obliged to the noble Lord for reminding him that he had omitted to state that he had taken 21 days.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he was glad to hear it, and he must again congratulate the Government on having so slavishly copied the Act of his right hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Then, as to the question of summary jurisdiction under the Act of 1875, the persons found in possession of arms might be either tried summarily or sent to the Assizes. If under this Bill a man was to be deprived of the opportunity of having his case dealt with by a jury, that was a departure from the former Acts, under which a man had the option of being sent to prison and awaiting a trial. This was more or less an abrogation of trial by jury for a new offence, which would require careful consideration. The present policy of the Government was satisfactory to the Tory Party. It appeared to him that the Tory Party, although in a considerable minority, for a considerable time had directed, the internal policy of the Government in such an exceedingly satisfactory manner that the responsibility for any miscarriage would not fall upon them. 1996 They had some title to enlarge on this conversion of the Government to sound and rational principles, because it was their lot last year in various debates on Irish affairs to point out to the Government that these measures would be the inevitable result of the policy they had chosen. In the debates on the Compensation Bill he ventured to tell the Chief Secretary that the policy of mock conciliation, appeals, and bribes would inevitably end in a policy of severe repression. He did not recall those opinions with any idea of exulting over a fallen Minister; but he did it rather with the object of expressing a hope that as Irish affairs of great moment and importance would undoubtedly continue to occupy their attention for a considerable part of the Session, the opinions and arguments of Conservatives might possibly be treated with a little more respect and attention by right hon. Gentlemen opposite than they had any chance of obtaining last year.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the noble Lord who had just spoken had referred to the conduct of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), while Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1875, as conciliatory; but he did not think that description was quite accurate. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Comparatively conciliatory.] For his own part, of the present Chief Secretary and his two Predecessors, he preferred the right hon. Gentleman who was recently candidate for Cumberland—Mr. Lowther—for while the right hon. Gentleman was at Dublin Castle, he had no fault to find with the manner in which he discharged his duties. What had been said by the noble Lord about the Radical element in the Cabinet was justified by the fact. In dealing with the Blue Book, the Home Secretary dived into the middle of it, passing over the first few pages, in which there were scarcely any cases in which firearms had been used. And, with one or two exceptions, in the cases which had been referred to, the guns were not fired, or, if they wore, no harm was done. He had never fired a gun or a revolver, and, therefore, he had no prejudice in favour of carrying or using firearms; but there were many in Ireland who had a fancy for using them innocently, or merely in bravado. The Government should understand that men in possession of arms 1997 might exhibit even gross rudeness without having any very vicious purposes in view. He had himself been surrounded by political opponents with deadly weapons in their hands, but they had done him no harm. There was one thing that pleased him very much in the speech of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman did not express his regret that he had to bring in a Coercion Bill; he did not add hypocrisy to his other sins. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Charge of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald in justification of the measure; but at the time the learned Judge made that oration the number of serious crimes in the county of Cork was very small. He was not prepared to contend that Mr. Justice Fitzgerald was a corrupt Judge; but, when considering what weight ought to be given to his testimony, he could not forget that that learned Judge was a Whig partizan, who was likely to make out a good case in favour of the existing Government. The probable effect of this Bill would be that persons of a timid nature, who would never make a bad use of arms, would give them up; but persons of a vicious nature, likely to use arms for an improper purpose, wore pretty certain to dispose of their arms so that the police could not get them, and thus the object of the Bill would be completely frustrated. His constituents were not greatly interested in this particular Bill, which would press far more hardly upon the extreme Protestant section of the population than upon the Roman Catholics. In fact, a good many of his constituents would be pleased to see the Bill become law. Nevertheless, he was disposed to vote against it on general principles. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the warm terms in which he had spoken of the character of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon); but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman had fallen into some errors when criticizing the speeches of the hon. Member. It was not the fact that his hon. Friend had advocated the formation of an illegal society; he had advised organization, and, if he had mentioned rifles, had certainly not recommended that they should be put to an improper use. At any rate, his words did not justify the introduction of an Arms Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had laid some stress on the number of cases of firing—73 in all— 1998 that had occurred in December. He presumed that those figures formed part of the strong arguments on which the Bill was based; but, after all, only one person was wounded, and no other damage whatever was reported to have been done. He was glad to see that the Bill only gave power to search for arms between sunrise and sunset. That provision would get rid of much discussion similar to that which had taken place in the last Parliament. He did not think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made out a case for the Bill, the instances of crime he had adduced on which to base it being too trivial to justify such a measure. He should, therefore, vote against its introduction.
§ MR. E. COLLINS
said, the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, who had recently spoken, had referred to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks - Beach) had, when in Office, brought in a Bill similar to the present. The noble Lord contrasted the manner in which that Bill and the present had been introduced, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman had expressed much regret for having to deal with what he styled a very painful subject. When the right hon Gentleman introduced his Bill in 1875, the condition of Ireland, if not altogether tranquil, was, at all events, much more so than it was supposed to have been in the last two years. But although he did not absolutely complain of the present Bill, he must say that he disapproved it very much. It might, he thought, be very well dispensed with, especially after the severe and drastic measure which had just passed through the House. He regretted that it should have devolved on the Government to bring in this Bill as a supplement to the one to which he had alluded, and he could not help thinking that they might very well have deferred this measure to another period, and might have better employed their own great abilities and the time of the House in discussing another subject to which they were all so anxious to devote their attention.
§ MR. BYRNE
offered his strongest opposition to this Bill, and retorted upon the Government which had introduced it the charge which they lately brought against the Irish Members—namely, that 1999 they were delaying the remedial measures which were so necessary for redressing the grievances of Ireland. Instead of bringing in an Arms Bill, the Government ought to proceed at once with a Land Bill. The proposal to fix-the duration of the Bill at five years was most unjustifiable, a year or 18 months being quite sufficient to meet all its professed objects. The people of Ireland would look on the action of the Government as intended utterly to grind them down. Their Constitutional liberties had been taken away, and now they were not to be allowed to carry arms. Where was that repressive policy to end? If it was pursued much further, the Irish people would be reduced to the position of slaves in their own land. He emphatically protested against this Bill, not because he was afraid it would do much mischief, as very few people in Ireland, as far as he could learn, had guns, but because it would deprive people of liberties to which they were entitled.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in the speech with which he introduced the Bill, took credit to himself for both the possession of candour and of courage. He (Mr. O'Connor) did not wish in that House to discuss the personal courage of any man; but as the right hon. Gentleman had thought it appropriate to attack absent men, he felt justified in saying that a spirit of swagger and a tone of bluster from those who sat on the Treasury Bench were by no means satisfactory proofs of the possession of personal courage. He certainly hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to establish his courage upon a better basis than his candour. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman bristled with results, and was crowded with misrepresentations. There was a kind of dramatic appropriateness in giving the duty of introducing the Bill to the right hon. Gentleman, who, he firmly believed, would find it impossible to make a civil speech upon the most ordinary and commonplace subject. ["Oh!"] He was sorry that his observations did not commend themselves to hon. Gentlemen behind the Treasury Bench. If, however, they did not wish to have a repetition of them, they should endeavour to restrain the right hon. Gentleman in the use of provocative language, and adopt the advice once addressed from that side of the 2000 House to a previous Administration—to"muzzle"their Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman professed to take his facts at random from the Blue Book. He said that he would begin at the beginning of the Blue Book; but the first county mentioned was the county of Carlow, and in regard to that county no single case was given of the use of a gun. The second county was Dublin; in that case, also, there was no instance of firing a shot or of using a gun. The third—Kildare—was in the same position; in the fourth—Kilkenny—there was only one case; in the fifth—King's County—only one; in Longford, only three; Meath, none; Queen's County, none; Westmeath, one; and Wicklow, one. Out of 123 crimes in the province of Ulster, there were only nine cases in which mention was made of the use of firearms. That was the candour of the right hon. Gentleman. He certainly hoped the right hon. Gentleman's courage would bear better proof. In Munster there were 135 cases of outrage, in only 37 of which had firearms been used; in Leinster, 139 cases, and 10 instances of the use of a gun; in Connaught, 263 cases, in 32 of which the use of a gun was mentioned. He would leave the case of candour and the fairness of the right hon. Gentleman where they stood after this assertion of the true facts. The right hon. Gentleman still prided himself on the possession of courage as well as of candour; and, to prove his courage, he quoted a speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon). But he (Mr. O'Connor) ventured to say that a grosser, or a more unfair, or a more prejudicial misrepresentation of the speech of an absent man was never presented to the House. The hon. Member for Tipperary recommended the young men of Ireland to form Volunteer corps. In the course of a few days the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would give a glowing account of the noble and martial spirit produced in the country by the arming of young men for the Volunteer Force. If it was an ennobling thing in this country to see the ardour with which the young men volunteered for military training, surely there was nothing wrong in recommending the encouragement of the same martial spirit in Ireland. He pronounced no opinion as to whether the Volunteer Force was a good force or not. Indeed, 2001 he was somewhat of the opinion of a right hon. Gentleman who was formerly a Member of that House (Sir Robert Peel), that although he knew there were many fools in the country, he never knew who they were until he saw them in the Volunteer uniform. The hon. Member for Tipperary, in his speech, recommended the young men of Ireland to form Volunteer corps, and he was represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as having recommended the cowardly formation of bodies of assassins. What could be worse than accusing a man behind his back of inciting others to assassination! Yet, the right hon. Gentleman—this man of candour and courage—got up in his place, and, without the slightest foundation, charged an hon. Member with encouraging assassination. Such was the text of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and he quoted from the Blue Book cases which he said were fair specimen cases. He (Mr. O'Connor) utterly traversed that statement. The cases selected by the right hon. Gentleman were cases of exceptional atrocity. Without knowing it, the House found that they had among them two distinguished melodramatists—first, the Chief Secretary for Ireland; and next, the Home Secretary, who, in introducing the present Bill had borrowed some of the dramatic effects of his right hon. Colleague. The Chief Secretary introduced the Coercion Bill by citing two or three cases of shocking and exceptional atrocity, and induced everybody to believe that when the Blue Book was published every page would bristle with similar cases. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman said "Hear, hear!" He would test the accuracy of the statements made by the Chief Secretary by-and-bye; but he must be at liberty to select his own time. The instances cited by the Chief Secretary were given as fair specimen cases. The Blue Book had not been published then, and the Ministry, the Parliament, and the whole British public were pledged to coercion before it was laid on the Table. The Blue Book had now been produced, and, on examining it, it would be found that the horrible cases of outrage consisted principally of throwing down a few perches of an old wall, sending threatening letters, and maliciously spilling a barrel of coal-tar. In most cases 2002 the injury inflicted was most infinitessimal, and the malice open to doubt. The cases of atrocity were entirely exceptional cases, and cases where women had been exposed to injury were most exceptional. In most of the instances given, it would be found that a number of persons visited a farm-house in a secluded part of the country, that they frightened the in mates without absolutely injuring them, and, on going away, they fired a shot, not at any human being, but into the air. He would not contend that this was not an offence for which the offenders might be deservedly punished. But the habit of using firearms with recklessness was increasing in this country as well as in Ireland. He had heard the Home Secretary speak of the detestable practice of carrying revolvers in England; but he had never heard the right hon. Gentleman gravely propose in consequence that the house of every man and woman should be thrown open to his minions, in order that the revolvers might be seized and carried away. He (Mr. O'Connor) was inclined to believe that the detestable practice of carrying revolvers had been introduced into Ireland from England and America; but it was only in regard to Ireland that Her Majesty's Government proposed to deprive her subjects of the right to carry firearms. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his very extraordinary speech, gave the House some idea of the character of the Bill. But a misrepresentation purposely ran through the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks—namely, that the men who had committed outrages in Ireland were the employés of the Land League. Now, he (Mr. O'Connor) was a member of that body, and he said deliberately that a more cowardly calumny was never uttered than the statement that these men, in any sense of the word, were encouraged by, or were the agents of, the Land League. The fact was, that the whole teaching of the Land League had been to wean the poor tenants of Ireland from that secret conspiracy and midnight assassination; and if it had not been for the Land League, the agitation which had been disturbing Ireland would have given 50 for every single murder that had been committed. Had they indulged in any of the arts of conspiracy? Had they not even ostentatiously proclaimed their principles? 2003 Was there a single county in Ireland in which they had not done this on public platforms with all the publicity they could give, with police agents reporting their proceedings, protected by the League, enjoying its patronage, and supplied with more comfortable places for taking notes than some of the speakers had for delivering their speeches? The idea of accusing the members of the Land League of conspiracy was one of the most absurd notions that ever entered the mind of a Minister, and he had certainly heard a few that were very absurd since he became a Member of that House. The supporters of the Land League had not advised the people of Ireland to resort to the dark ways of assassination. They had told the people to use moral excommunication and social excommunication; but it was a system which was practised even by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. It was resorted to every hour in that House in this supreme moment of Liberal betrayal and apostcy. What hon. Member on the Liberal side of the House who had ventured to raise his voice on behalf of Ireland had not been "Boycotted" by his Party? They talked of social and political excommunication; but they were themselves the greatest of social and political excommunicators that existed. If they wished to find a real tyrant and discover true intolerance, let them go to the Party opposite who professed free dow and Liberal toleration. It was quite true that the Land League had recommended moral and social excommunication. But was it not the fact that the trade unions of this country did precisely the same thing? Every trade and profession in the country practised it. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary was practising at the Bar, if he ventured to see a man in the interests of his clients without the intervention of a solicitor, he would have been "Boycotted." If any Member of that House who happened to belong to the Medical Profession took a smaller fee than the league of doctors permitted, he would soon find himself "Boycotted." If any member of that body which regulated all their electioneering proceedings, and selected the candidates—that excellent body of Conservatives known as the Reform Club—if any member of that body were to give a vote against Her Majesty's Govern- 2004 ment, he would at once be "Boycotted," and would soon find that it was a great deal more comfortable to be out of the Club than in it. The right hon. Gentleman said this measure was required as a kind of policeman in Ireland. No policeman was wanted. The National Land League, in the feeling of reprobation against the perpetration of atrocities which they had implanted in the breasts of the Irish tenants, had a policeman far better than any under the control of the right hon. Gentleman. It was the healthy sentiment they had implanted in the breasts of the Irish tenants that it was not well to overbid each other for farms from which persons had been unjustly evicted, and by that means to play into the hands of the landlords, that was the backbone and strength of the Land League movement. Not even the threats of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would remove the impression which the action of the Land League had created. He spoke of the threats of the right hon. Gentleman. Ever since this unfortunate legislation had been spoken of hon. Members representing Irish constituencies had just cause to complain of the tone and manner of the right hon. Gentleman. He would not say that the right hon. Gentleman intended to be offensive; but some men were offensive unintentionally, and, whether he intended it or not, the feeling which the right hon. Gentleman's speeches always produced was one of irritation and resentment. On this occasion the right hon. Gentleman, shaking the keys of his prison doors in the faces of the Irish Members, talked of establishing law and order in Ireland. Now, the Ministry did not want to establish law and order in Ireland. That was not their purpose; but he would tell the House what the object of the Bill and of its anther was. Their object was to remove out of the way of the Administration the inconvenient rivalry of more powerful politicians than themselves and of more sensible plans of Land Reform than they were able to bring forward. They knew very well that the Irish tenants needed a larger scheme of Land Reform than the Whig and Radical combination in the Government could devise. They knew very well that the tenantry of Ireland were now associated and working together in a way that would ren- 2005 der it difficult to put them down. Her Majesty's Government wanted to clear the board in order that they might pose as the saviours of Irish society, and that their Land Bill might have no opposition from the Irish tenants. That was their plan; that was their strategem. How could any man speak with respect of a Bill which would leave the midnight assassin untouched, and only gave the police the right to enter the houses of the people-in broad daylight? The Bill was not a Bill to put down assassination or to disarm the Irish people. It was a Bill for the disarmament of the opposition. It was a mere tactical move. They had probably heard among dramatists of a stage-carpentry scene. It was not easy in stage-carpentry to have two large set scenes follow each other immediately. Accordingly, some person went on in front and delivered a soliloquy, which nobody understood or listened to, while the scaffolding of the first set scene was being removed, and that for the new one being set up. It seemed to him that the present measure was a mere stage-carpentry Bill. Either the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, had not yet succeeded in managing the Conservative opposition to the Land Reform, which, according to popular rumour, had been developing in the revolutionary mind of the Prime Minister; or the happy family had not yet had time to arrange their minor differences, and, accordingly, the stage-carpenters' scene of the Arms Bill was put on until the two Parties were ready, like stage lovers, to fall into each other's arms, and commence the comedy of professing their mutual affection and cordial agreement in principle. Perhaps there was another explanation of this Arms Bill. It might be that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had important proposals to make which might lead to a prolonged discussion, and a discussion that might not be very agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers desired to get the large and nebulous scheme for the future organization of the Army, to which such dark and mysterious references had been made, cleared off the board; and, therefore, his right hon. Colleague was making a bid for Conservative support by bringing forward this miserable Arms Bill, the pettiness of which was concealed 2006 under the swagger of the right hon. Gentleman. If that were the true history of the Arms Bill, what were they to say of the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary? It was his (Mr. O'Connor's) main charge against Her Majesty's Ministry for bringing forward this measure, that they were sowing the seeds of discord between the two countries, and he knew no man who was engaged more persistently, more unscrupulously, and more wickedly in sowing the seeds of that discord than the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Every speech the right hon. Gentleman had made on this question had been a distinct provocation to the passion of despair among the Irish people, and the passion of national hate among the English people. He had sought in every quarter for the wild ravings of foolish and wicked men, in order to drag men, to whom he knew these ravings were novel until they heard them from the right hon. Gentleman, into prison. He had sought to cast the responsibility of these opinions upon hon. Members who had risked their lives in times past in defence of Constitutional as contra-distinguished from revolutionary action. The right hon. Gentleman sought to drag these hon. Members down into the mire of revolutionary incendiarism in order to excite passion and prejudice against them. At that moment, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan) was sitting beside him, a man whose life for many a day was in danger because of the bold stand he made against unconstitutional agitation. Then, again, there was his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. M'Carthy), of whom they had all some reason to be proud. Had his hon. Friend ever, by any single word or act, shown that he was in favour of any course but that of strictly tranquil and Constitutional agitation? So far as he (Mr. O'Connor) was personally concerned, he challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, or any hon. Member, to consult the notes of his speeches, which were probably in the possession of the Home Secretary from his police and shorthand spies, and point to a single passage among them in which by a single word he had insinuated that the people of Ireland should leave the broad and safe path of Constitutional agitation. The work which 2007 the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues had done in sowing the seeds of discord between the people of England and Ireland was a work that 10 years of conciliatory legislation by a different Ministry would fail to undo. He had himself vainly endeavoured—not that his humble voice could possibly have any effect against that of a powerful Minister like the Home Secretary—he had vainly endeavoured to protest against the evil work the right hon. Gentleman was doing. He had not hesitated to attend numerous meetings of his English fellow-subjects and attempt to dissipate the vile calumnies which the right hon. Gentleman was spreading. He told the right hon. Gentleman that no man could commit a higher offence than to excite the people of England against the people of Ireland, or to excite the people of Ireland against the people of England. ["Hear, hear !"] He accepted that cheer with gratitude, because his withers were unwrung. He could point proudly to the fact that, when speaking hundreds of miles away from England and from that House, he had said to his countrymen—"I have spent 10 or 12 years of my life among Englishmen, and my feelings are those of esteem and respect for the English nation. But I have no feeling of esteem or respect for the English Ministry." In endeavouring to impress these views, he knew that at least the heart of the people of England and Ireland was sound; that the heart of the people of England would refuse to be led astray oven by wicked appeals to bad passions. He repeated, that the highest crime a man could commit was to excite the people of one country against the people of another. To do so was in the highest sense of the word a criminal policy; and, if so, he was afraid that the uncomplimentary epithets which had been employed against the Irish Members must be cast back again upon the Members of Her Majesty's present Government.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
wished to express the satisfaction he felt that the Government had not abandoned the Arms Bill. Apart from the circumstances of Ireland at the present time, such a Bill was not, in his opinion, an objectionable one. Indeed, he did not consider that it would be objectionable for England either, seeing that the practice of carry- 2008 ing firearms had become so common that he had heard of many cases in which schoolboys went about with revolvers in their pockets. Why was it that the Irish Members wore resisting this Bill so much? For what purpose did they require arms? Certainly not to use against the enemies of their Queen or the enemies of their country. They could only, therefore, require them to protect themselves against each other; and surely for that purpose the national weapon was sufficiently offensive. The speeches of the Irish Members had a very hollow sound; they sounded like the language of despair. In point of fact, hon. Members below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House felt that the game was well nigh played out; but they were determined to pursue their old tactics of wasting time and obstructing Public Business as long as possible. ["Question!" At any rate, that was his opinion. They had compelled the House to alter some of its Rules, and they had now succeeded in abolishing the observance of Ash Wednesday. ["Question !"]
§ COLONEL MAKINS
said, he would bow to the decision of the Chair. His only object in rising had been to express the satisfaction he felt that there was no intention on the part of the Government of abandoning the Bill. He should certainly vote in favour of its introduction.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
had hoped, a few days ago, that they had seen the last of the cruel contention which now, for five or six weeks, had arrayed the Irish Members against the Supporters of the present Government. Many of them who had taken a prominent part in that contention—some of them who had been in the hottest part of the battle—most warmly welcomed the close of the combat. They had fondly hoped that those who had been friends before might, in the course of a few days, learn to forget much of what had been said and done during the continuance of the struggle, and that a period of repose, and of peace, and, he might add, of returning friendship, was at hand, for the organs of the Ministry had given out that satisfied, as they well might be, with their savage and merciless Coercion Bill, Her 2009 Majesty's Ministers intended to repose, as it were, upon their blood-stained laurels—["Oh !"]—and seek no further glory in triumphing over the Irish people with all the might of their Ministerial majority. The dream that they had seen the close of the cruel war had been rudely dispelled, and even the Ministerial journals—the journals which received communicated leaders from the Treasury Bench—for, in this respect also, Napoleon III. had furnished a model to the present Government—even the Ministerial journals, supplied with Ministerial pap from the Home Secretary's Office, gave forth to the world the pleasing intelligence that, now the Government had passed the Coercion Bill, it was by no means certain that it would be necessary to take up the Arms Bill. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker was allowed to rise in the Chair and to sever, with a stroke of his authority, that marvelous "urgency" which had been declared for the benefit of this Bill. But the illusion had been dispelled. A mysterious change had come over the political atmosphere of Downing Street, and Her Majesty's Ministers had, for some reason, thought better of it; There was no doubt that they had meditated the abandonment of the Bill; but, with miserable vacillation, they had thought since that they should like another change of front. Why was this? It was whispered in the Lobby that it was all a bit of stage-play—that the people of Ireland were not to be hurt by the Bill at all; but that it was a blind for the Tory Party. It had been made very clear to the Government that unless they kept their pact with their Tory masters, whose policy they were carrying out, they would see a change on the Front Opposition Benches, and, in plain language, the question had been put to them—"Do you mean to break away from your noble pledges of coercion; can it be possible that you have deluded us into supporting you in a measure of urgency and that you are going to give us no reward?" Even that night there had been indications of the same character from those hon. Gentlemen who wore enabling the Home Secretary to carry out this Bill, which it had been the intention of the Government to abandon on Friday last. The Government, therefore, had set up again that evening the urgency which had been 2010 severed on Monday, having, so to speak, marched up the hill, and then marched down. The present Bill was brought in in order to keep faith with the Tory Party, and the Irish Members were told that the Bill, having been lightened exceedingly, was not to hurt them, but to please the Conservative Opposition. To such miserable expedients could a Ministry sink after having abandoned their principles to carry out the policy of their foes. He declined to accept the statement of the Home Secretary with regard to the harmless ness of the Bill. On the contrary, he resisted the measure, although he was prepared to admit that it had been shorn of one feature that would have made it most hateful and objectionable to him—namely, the power of making midnight domicilliary visits. Some of his hon. Friends had intimated that a tender affection for the midnight assassin was a reason why this had been struck out of the Bill; but, however that might be, he was glad that this hateful and miserable expedient was not to be again resorted to. In removing it, the right hon. Gentleman had shown that he was contented with the coercion precedents of his Tory opponents, so far as this measure was concerned. Nothing could have been more objectionable than making provision for searching the homes of the Irish people at the dead of night. But the Government were about to complete the mischief which their policy was doing in Ireland. They had first stripped the people of all Constitutional protection; they had given the power of striking the people with a mysterious terror—the power of unlimited arrest—and they had given the power of depriving the people of confidence in justice, and in the belief that innocence could be a protection, because the most innocent man in the country would not be able to make his innocence heard. Guilt and innocence were thereby put upon the same level; and in order that there might be wanting no hateful cause of irritation, the police by the present Bill were to be brought upon the scene under circumstances most likely to lead to conflict and bloodshed in the country. The House was now asked to give the police authority, under the pretext of searching for arms, to enter into actual struggles with the Irish people on the floors of their houses in the Western and other portions of Ireland. If that 2011 did not succeed in bringing forth its bloody crop of conflict and outrage to make the justification for the Coercion Bill which the Government wanted, all he would say was that effect would not follow cause. If that effect did not follow, it would be due to the exhortations of men now sneered at on the Treasury Bench—Land League leaders, numbering amongst them the Catholic clergy of Ireland in a largo measure; men accustomed to be reviled in this country, but who it was certainly new to hear calumniated in language used against them on the Treasury Bench, as "confederates in assassination." It was an easy thing to make use of grandiloquent language. With 800 docile Members behind one, it was easy to mount on the stilts of the Home Office; and especially was it easy to be brave behind the backs of absent men. After the language held forth with regard to the Land League leaders and their "confederates in assassination," he thought the Home Secretary should know that the persons he had calumniated were men but for whom all the police in Ireland would be useless. They numbered amongst them the Mayor of Limerick City, as well as some of the most eminent Catholic Ecclesiastics in Ireland. Such were the men with regard to whom this language had been used. Did the Government or the House believe they were about to pacify Ireland by a measure passed with such bitter language as that? He would imagine for a moment that the Government were sincere in their desire to tranquillize the country. Would it not have been one chance of success to win to the side of order and law every element of strength and moral support that they could command in Ireland? Would it not have been a wise and prudent policy to use moderate and conciliatory language on the Treasury Bench, and to rally to the support of the Government the Protestant and Catholic clergy in Ireland': But the Government had pursued a contrary course. The language held forth by them had sought out every wound that could be made to rankle; every man who could be personally affronted had been insulted by speeches made on the Treasury Bench. Members of the House had been scowled at amidst the jeers of too many hon. Members opposite; and insults had been hurled 2012 against men in that House which no one dared to utter against them in the Lobby. The last insult to Irish Members had been given by the Home Secretary, who, within 24 hours of his receiving this Bill, had become exceedingly un-Parliamentary in his language. Now, he asked the House to consider the position of affairs. The Government might deceive themselves for a moment; but the hour of reflection must come for them. Did they not know they were making war upon the Irish people by means of this measure? They would say they were only making war on a faction—a faction or a Party. He invited the Government to ponder this serious question. It was not only those hon. Members near him who opposed this Bill. If they were not listened to as Members for Ireland, where, he asked, were the men who could give the Government a warrant to pass this measure? Where were the non-Home Rule Liberals of Ireland in these Divisions? Let not the Government say that by this measure they were not drawing the sword of war in Ireland, and that they were warring with a faction only. It was with Ireland, as a whole, taken through its Constitutional representation, that the House was warring by means of this Bill. Again, he asked, how many of the 103 Members which Ireland sent to Parliament followed the Government in these Divisions? The Government had found their strength in that section of Irishmen who hated their policy—from the Tory section of Irish Members who were true to their principles, which the Government were not—and they were, therefore, face to face with the tact that there was no test which could be applied to the expression of a country's will, mind, interest, or views, that was not against them. But the Government had to deal with a Constitution which would take cognizance of the Ireland that was represented on the floor of the House of Commons. No doubt, they ought to take cognizance of every element of society in Ireland; but the actual Ireland they had to deal with was that presented by Constitutionally-elected Irish Members. If the Government had paused on Friday night, many Irish Members would have been glad that an end of this business had been reached. There was no need that the work, which would not only injure Irish Members, but other hon. 2013 Members opposite, should have been carried to this bitter extremity. Again, the feeling with regard to the Bill in Ireland had been proved by the Municipal and Poor Law elections, so that there was no test known to the Constitution of the Realm by which the voice of Ireland could make itself heard, that was not against the Government. But it was said that all the lovers of order, and the best elements of society, were against the Irish Representatives. That was the story which the followers of Henry V. told in France. Her Majesty's Government must face the fact that they were absolutely dealing with Ireland to-day as the Emperor of Russia had dealt with Poland. He did not say this for the purpose of taunting them; but for the purpose of serious argument that would have weight, not that night,' but hereafter. As he had said before, he and his hon. Friends would have been glad if an end had been made of this work last Friday; but, instead of that, they now found the Government had driven them to their last position in the House, with their backs, so to speak, to the wall—they found there was no resource of arbitrary Parliamentary despotism which had not been used to crush their country on the floor of that House. He denied the competency of the House morally to introduce this Bill against the pronounced will of the overwhelming majority of Irish Members in every Division. The Bill might be forced upon his country; but it could never be made obligatory upon his conscience. Irish Members had been driven to a position in which, if they had the spirit of men, they would, at least, turn to consider how they were to defend themselves, and assert the power of their country in an Assembly which disregarded every consideration of political weight in dealing with Ireland. Was it worth the while of the Liberal Party to so embitter matters as to dig a gulf between them and hon. Members who came from Ireland? He could not join with some of his Colleagues, who scorned to speak with affection of Members of the Opposition above the Gangway because of their natural enmity to the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was too candid to say that he did not regard those Conservatives as greater culprits than hon. Members opposite who were carrying out the policy of coercion. All 2014 he would say of them was that they had the courage of their convictions, and were wise in their generation, availing themselves of the opportunity when they found a majority willing to carry out their views. For himself, he would declare that it was with pain and regret that he saw this gulf dug, in so large a degree, between the English and the Irish popular Representatives. He would assure hon. Members opposite that with the passing of this Bill, that which was possible on Friday would have become impracticable, and that the determination of the Irish Members would have become formed, and their policy accepted. Let it become known to all whom it might concern, that all the Irish Members proposed to themselves, as rational men to do, with regard to the Coercion Bill, had been accomplished through their perseverance and courage. With all the power of this House, the Irish Members had been able to effect a certain amount of protection, the utmost they could have reasonably aimed at, for their countrymen. This should be his last as well as his first word, on every stage of the present measure, that he believed it to be unnecessary. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in this, that the present was a very small measure; but, small as it was, it would be a most irritating, a most offensive, and a most insulting Bill to the Irish people. For his own part, he had no sympathy with men who, for purposes of armed resistance to public authorities, provided themselves with arms and munitions of war. They who played at bowls must expect rubbers, and he who prepared to strike against authority could not complain when repression came upon him, for all constituted Governments would defend themselves from attacks such as these. He had said nothing on behalf of these people. He did not wish, either, to enter into any personal matters with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, because personal considerations should be put aside in an affair of this sort. The measure must take its chance as a measure of repression; but he would call attention to this fact, that through this Arms Bill Ireland stood before the world as a reproach to Great Britain, as she did when the King of the Two Sicilies, on receiving a despatch from our Foreign Secretary, throw her in the face of that official. From the 2015 North to the South of Europe there would not be a country in whose internal affairs we could take an interest without herreplying—"You have a country under your own sway in which you dare not trust the people with arms, whose Representatives you silence and expel from your Legislative Chamber, and to whom you do not allow the first principles of Constitutional Government." Let England no longer talk of the Czar, or the miserable King of Ashantee—she must abandon that which was once her proud boast, that she was the example, the model, and the propagandist of National liberty from the North to the South of Europe. The day for such a boast had gone by. Ireland now, 80 years after the Unification, was in the miserable plight that she was in when the flag of Bonaparte was flying over Europe, in spite of the cry raised in England for Constitutional liberty. Was not this a disgrace to all their English statesmanship? How far had they progressed in the course of conciliating the Irish nation? What were her conditions and her relations with this country in 1813, and what were they now in 1881?—the Constitution was again suspended, the right of carrying arms again denied. Let them remember the liberties their fathers had won for them. What remained to the Irish people of those liberties now, save the one right the Irish Representatives exercised here in the House of Commons?—and he thought, without egotism, he might say that the small band of Irish Representatives had shown England and the world how to arrest a Bill which trampled the liberties of a country under foot. For his own part, if his public life were to end to-morrow, there was no chapter, the recollection of which would afford him more pride than that in which it was permitted to him to be one of the handful of men who—as was once said of the British Army—"Never know when they were beaten." There they stood, a few men against hundreds; but with a nation at their backs, and the sympathy of that nation, not alone upon the Irish shore, but that nation stronger than the one at home, scattered wherever the British flag floated, and that still stronger one living beneath the protection of the Stars and Stripes. There were millions of the Irish people at their back. He would put it to every man who was 2016 a statesman—and there were many of eminent ability amongst them—he would put it to anyone of reflective mind whether it could be a wise policy in the interest, either of England or Ireland, to persist in a constant warring between the two countries? He would put it to every reflective mind whether it could be a wise policy that had made the Irish millions all over the world burn, as they unfortunately did, with such hatred for the power of England? Why should this be? Why should they not, by a policy of conciliation, make of these men, all over the habitable globe, lovers of their power and sympathizers with their greatness? As to what Irishmen abroad were doing to-day, let them ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many of the Legislatures in the United States had publicly passed Resolutions of sympathy with the Irish Members in their struggle here against the Government? How many of the Legislatures of that great Republic which would soon divide with England the Empire of the English-speaking world, in formal assembly, had passed resolutions sympathizing with the Land League—for which the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary had nothing but words of scorn and contumely—and with that man, the Leader of the Irish Party, who had been insulted in his absence? There was this to be said, that the Congress of America and the Senate, the highest Assembly of the power and the political greatness of that glorious Republic, had paid to Mr. Parnell a compliment never extended to Princes of this country—the compliment of inviting him to the floor of their House and giving him a hearing there to plead the wrongs of Ireland. Had they not reached the end of this sorrowful chapter? Were the Irish Members for over to bo speaking in these tones on the floor of this Assembly? Why was it they were repeating history to-night? Let them open the pages of any record of the proceedings of this Chamber, and let them say whether this tone of complaint of want of conciliation on the part of the Irish Members was not to be found in every decade from the year 1801 to the year 1881, and let them say whether, correlatively, was not to be found some Coercion Bill, some Arms Bill, some Arms Bill, some Coercion Bill, for Ireland? He would invite the 2017 Government to turn over a new leaf, to burn their Arms Bill, and produce their Land Bill. Do not tell him about pacifying Ireland—he knew a little about the country. The production of a satisfactory Land Bill would paralyze disaffection in Ireland, and would do more than 100 Coercion Bills to bring peace and contentment to the country. For this he would cite as his authority the Irish Liberals, for they, too, knew their country. He would cite the hon. Member for Monaghan and another Irishman, although he held an official position, the Attorney General for Ireland, or he would take his authority from Ulster alone, leaving out, for the moment, the rest of Ireland. The feeling was unanimous that a good Land Bill would put an end to disaffection. It was no pleasure to him to have to speak in that House in the tones and with the sentiments that had been wrung from him within the past six weeks on this matter. On Friday night he had gone home blessing Providence that it was all over—thinking that they might shake hands and be friends again; but it was all a dream. They were on the verge of another chapter of hateful strife, because they might depend upon it the language used to-night had had its effect, and the Irish Members, who had been over-mastered in every division, crushed by the laws of Parliament to put down the minority, small as they were, yet knew how to face an unequal contest, and to dare everything in defence of their country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Sexton.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I hope the House will not assent to this Motion; but that it will determine to conclude this debate to-night. If we may judge from the tone and character of most of the speeches recently delivered, it appears to me that there is not material for another discussion. I have heard a great many of the speeches which have been delivered to-night, and many of them have come from hon. Gentlemen opposite. From that quarter we have heard eloquent speeches, especially from the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), who has just sat down; but we have heard extremely little of the proposal of 2018 the Government, or of the necessity, or want of necessity, for an Arms Bill. We have heard a great deal of criticism of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, a great deal about the relations of the Government to the Press, and about an imagined change of front in this matter. We have heard a disquisition by the hon. Member for Galway about a guilty compact with rival factions that is supposed to exist, and we have heard a great deal from the hon. and learned Member for Meath declaring that the Government may rest on what he is pleased to call their "bloodstained laurels." The hon. Member for Galway gave us 20 minutes of description of the various forms in which"Boycotting"—political and social—was practised—[Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: No; only seven minutes on that subject.]—and the hon. Member then gave us a disquisition upon stage carpentering; but of arms, and the necessity for this Bill, of the allegations that are made as to the general armament of the people of Ireland, and of the armament that has been recommended to the people by some of their leaders, we have heard very little indeed. We have heard nothing about the alleged intimidation—intimidation largely practised by armed parties. We have heard scarcely anything about all these matters, and the discussion has turned almost entirely upon matters irrelevant to the subject of this Bill. Now, let me remind the House that it is not in accordance with usual practice to debate at great length the introduction of a Bill. I do not think there will be any disposition on the part of the House unduly to curtail discussion on the principle of the Bill when the stage of second reading is reached; but I must say I think the House will expect that the discussion on that stage of the Bill will be confined a little more closely to the subject than it has been to-night. It is not unreasonable to ask that one whole night should be considered sufficient for the discussion of the introduction of a Bill which is not of an extraordinary or unusual character; which is, as I reminded the House the other night, only a portion of an Act in force this time last year; the character of which was thoroughly known to the House, and which does not afford scope for the unlimited discussion which hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed 2019 inclined to give it. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not persevere in his Motion for the adjournment of the debate. If he is not induced to withdraw it, I trust the House will not assent to it.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
hoped his hon. Friend would persevere with his Motion for adjournment, and trusted the House would have the good sense and fairness to assent to it. The noble Lord who was now the Leader of the House had said that he had heard very little practical discussion as to the actual points of the Bill; but he (Mr. M'Carthy) had been in the House during the greater part of the night, and had heard a great deal of very practical and close discussion on the points of the measure. But he agreed with the noble Lord that the actual measure itself was not so closely and fully discussed as it well might have been. Who was to blame for that? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was decidedly responsible. It was he who, in the beginning of the evening, led the House away altogether from the practical reasons for which the measure, presumably, was introduced, and made the greater part of his speech a series of strictures upon hon. Members, some of whom were present and some absent. The right hon. Gentleman had made an attack upon the Irish Members, calling them the confederates of the men whom he himself described as inciters to assassination. It was that that had turned the discussion away from its reasonable and proper path, and had compelled hon. Members to rise in their places to reply to his extravagant and unjustifiable calumnies. ["Oh !"] He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) could use no words less strong than these to describe the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, who got up deliberately and, having described certain men as assassins and persons who incited to assassination, went on to speak of their confederates, the leaders of the Land League. It was impossible, after a speech such as that, for the Irish Members, or the friends of the leaders of the Land League, to turn away to the calm discussion of the measure, and leave the character of those absent and honourable men under the stain that the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to set on them. He would tell the noble Lord who led the House that 2020 he was mistaken in supposing that it was usual to allow the first reading of a Coercion Bill to pass without discussion. However it might have been in the feeble days, when there was no organized Irish Party, it was not usual in other days. If the noble Lord would turn to history he would see he was mistaken in supposing that it had been the practice to allow a Coercion Bill to be read a first time without discussion. He (Mr. M'Carthy) only now rose for the purpose of showing why the discussion had not been kept so closely as it might have been to the points of the Bill. The Home Secretary was solely responsible, and had, in his speech, done as much mischief as it was possible for any statesman, under the circumstances, to accomplish. It might be said of the right hon. Gentleman, as was said formerly of a much greater statesman, that it had rarely fallen to the lot of any human being to do so much good as in the course of one single night he had prevented.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 21; Noes 202: Majority 181.—(Div. List, No. 100.)
§ And Mr. SPEAKER, having stated that he collected from the last Division that it was the general sense of the House that the Question be now put:—
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Question be now put."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 200; Noes 22: Majority 178.—(Div. List, No. 101.)
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 196; Noes 26: Majority 170.—(Div. List, No. 102.)
§ Bill to amend the Law relating to the carrying and possession of Arms, and for the preservation of the Public Peace in Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Secretary Sir WILLIAM HAR-COURT, Mr. GLADSTONE, and Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER.
§ Bill presented accordingly.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be read a first time."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 188; Noes 26: Majority 162.—(Div. List, No. 103.)
§ Bill to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 98.]