§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Sir William Harcourt.)
§ MR. PARNELL
, in rising to move that the Bill be read a third time that day six month's, said, the Government had allowed themselves to be driven into a policy of coercion towards Ireland, and in forgetfulness of all the traditions which had generally been assigned to their Party, forgetfulness of all their policy and pledges in regard to Ireland, they had allowed themselves to carry out the policy of their Predecessors, and to become the tools of the landlord interest in Ireland. He thought the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant might advantageously change his title, and adopt the one of Chief Agent for the Collection of Rents throughout the country. It seemed to him that one of the results of the right hon. Gentleman's 12 months' tenure of Office was to make him suppose that his chief duties were to facilitate the collection of the rack rents of the Irish landlords. That seemed to be the whole object and aim of his ambition. He regretted that a Liberal Government should not have found something more worthy of itself than that policy of coercion. He regretted that it should have succeeded in dragging the Radical Party in the House of Commons after it; that it should have succeeded in inducing such men as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) to lend their powerful voices to the coercion of Ireland, and to retreat from words which they had spoken as to coercion in the country. The thing was now nearly done, and he supposed it was useless to regret it. They in Ireland would have to face the coercive measure of the Government the best way they could. He believed Ireland would emerge victorious from the strife. It was impossible, in the present times of the electric tele- 830 graph and steam communication, to coerce the public opinion of a whole country. They had not only Irish opinion to deal with, but they had a much more powerful opinion in America, which the Home Secretary had striven to represent as the opinion of conspirators and desperadoes—an opinion consisting of 16,000,000 of persons, and an opinion superior to our own. The Irish people in America had had the advantage of the free school system in the country; they had benefited by the educational institutions which were denied to the people of Ireland; and nothing struck him more during his recent visit to America than the superior position of the Irish people there. He referred to that matter because the Home Secretary desired to mislead the House with regard to the Irish people in America. He made a great mistake if he thought they were people who desired assassination, or adopted violent means in carrying out the aims and objects of the Land League. Nothing gave him more surprise and pleasure than to find how intimately in thought and feeling the young men of the second generation, descended from Irish parents in America, sympathized with the Irish Question at home. Everywhere through the United States he met them as barristers, medical men, merchants, leading men in manufactories, employers of labour, and everywhere he found the intelligent opinion of the Irish people in America was in sympathy with the aims and objects of the Land League in their struggle to free their country from the present system. If the Home Secretary thought he could mislead the people of England, by leading them to suppose that the 16,000,000 of Irish people in America were desperadoes, incendiaries, and assassins, he never made a greater mistake in his life. They had had resolutions of sympathy passed for them by almost every Legislature in America, in most instances without opposition. All the State Legislatures, on the arrest of Mr. Davitt, hastened to express their sympathy for him and for his sufferings. Some years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster delivered a speech, shortly before the passage of the Land Bill, which would explain his regret better than any words he could use. That right hon. Gentleman said— 831I entirely disagree with those who, when any crisis or disturbance arises, say you must first of all preserve order. You must put down all this disloyalty, disobedience to the law, and assert the authority of the Government, and then you must remedy the grievance generally. After having asserted the supremacy of the law the grievances are forgotten, and there is no consideration for them. This has been done in Ireland for 200 years, and nothing has been done except under the influence of terror.The Land League had kept within the law and within Constitutional lines. If they had not done so, probably they would have had the right hon. Gentleman for their defender, who would have recognized in them an important engine for the directing of public opinion, and for compelling legislative remedies, since nothing was ever done in Ireland except under the influence of terror. They did not adopt dangerous agencies. They did not blow up any great gaols in the Metropolis, which, according to the Prime Minister, was such a necessary factor to bring the Irish Question within the region of practical politics. They did not murder a policeman in the execution of his duty at Manchester. They did not do any of the acts which were necessary in the past to direct attention to the necessity of redressing Irish grievances. They simply confined themselves to the holding of great public meetings, which were perfectly useless when held on the other side of the water, to effect any reform for Ireland, and the consequence was they found that they were wrong. They found their local agents cast into prison in every direction because they did not violate the law, and they did not adopt any of the means which they were taught were necessary to procure legislation. By this they were taught that Constitutional agitation was no use in Ireland, and that the only way in which attention could be directed to the redress of Irish grievances was by forcible violence and unconstitutional means. He believed, however, that the Irish people would still continue to keep within the law, and that they would not commit themselves by wreaking the "wild justice of revenge." The Land League was too well organized to be destroyed by the arrest of a few dozen, or a few hundreds, or even thousands of the people. The result of the present experiment would be to show the Government that they never made a greater mistake than when they attempted to use the worn-out weapon of 832 coercion for the purpose of destroying the proper and Constitutional expression of public opinion in Ireland. The people were now well organized, and would not allow themselves to be drawn outside the limits of Constitutional agitation. There might be occasional assassinations during the three months of the height of the agitation. In the months of September and October assassination entirely ceased. Just at the commencement of the organization there were one or two frightful murders in Ireland—the murders of Mr. Boyd and Lord Mountmorres, for instance—but after the League had shown the people the power and strength of the organization murders entirely ceased. There was no more assassination until the Coercion Bill was introduced, and then the shooting again commenced. He feared there might be a revival of those outrages throughout the country, for landlords would undoubtedly be encouraged by the Bill to eject their tenants in very largo numbers. The Bill gave to the landlords a greater power of applying oppression, because it was by little petty influences which could be brought to bear on tenants that the landlords had maintained the old ascendancy which the Land League were doing so much to break down. Under the Peace Preservation Bill no tenant could have a gun to protect his crops against the ravages of birds and hares and rabbits, unless he went on his knees to his landlord and begged a letter that would get him a certificate from a stipendiary magistrate. The price of a gun would be subserviency, the maintenance of a cringing attitude towards the territorial class. The Bill would do more to humble and subdue the spirit of the people of England than anything else. Nothing would be more irritating or more productive of crime, because it would affect an immense proportion of the people far greater than the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Furthermore, it would be used as an engine of tyranny and spite. He had a letter from a commercial traveller the other day going the West and South of Ireland, in which the writer said that during the Fenian times, when he was a shopboy in an extensive establishment in the city of Limerick, the police, with arms, were in the habit of visiting the place and compelling the young men of 833 the shop to turn out their boxes for the purpose of proving that they did not contain arms and ammunition. The boys displayed their little kits upon the floor, and, the search having been made, the police would go away. The writer of the letter said he had always been an intense anti-Briton ever since, and that, he thought, had done a great deal to spread a national feeling throughout the customers and others with whom he came in contact. He felt certain, too, that three or four young men who were subjected to the same indignity had also become Fenians and haters of English rule. In conclusion, the hon. Member moved that the Bill should be read a third time on that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the hon. Member for the City of Cork had drawn their attention to the sympathy which had been shown by certain classes in the United States with the people of Ireland, and the hon. Member seemed much to prefer the institutions and policy of the United States to those of this country. He was not at all satisfied with the wide toleration and extreme leniency which Parliament had extended, notwithstanding great provocation, to Ireland and the Irish. The House, however, remembered well how America had dealt with rebellion within her own territories. The symptoms of coming strife were long neglected, until they culminated in actual civil war, and a vast amount of bloodshed. He put it to the hon. Member for the City of Cork whether or not he would like the House to adopt the method of the United States in their treatment of rebellion in Ireland. He must congratulate the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends on one circumstance. They had not merely brought coercive laws on Ireland, but they had induced the House of Commons to introduce into and to submit to coercion in its own proceedings. He (Mr. Newdegate) regretted that this coercion, as applied in that House, was so lenient, that as yet it did not appear to have any deterrent effect. He was afraid, that the wide 834 toleration and the leniency which had been shown in the treatment of Ireland and its Representatives had been entirely misplaced.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, they had now reached the last chapter of the events which for eight or nine weary weeks had distracted, and worried, and coerced the House of Commons. The last scene of the last act was drawing to a close; but before the curtain dropped he should like to offer one or two comments on the Bill, and also one or two complimentary remarks to those who had been not only the originators of, but the chief actors in, the drama—he meant Her Majesty's Government. They had a right to be complimented by any Member of the House on the extreme boldness with which they had not only taken but had actually eagerly rushed at characters which a little time ago they swore by all their gods they would not touch—and on the thoroughness and completeness, he would not say shamelessness, for that would not be complimentary, with which they had done their work, and on the ability with which they had assumed from time to time the various postures and disguises which were necessary for the success of the piece. The Chief Secretary had performed to perfection the rôle of the heavy father—with the rod in his hand and the tear in his eye, constrained by a stern necessity—namely, the retention of Office—to punish, but longing, ever longing, to burst into rhapsodies of paternal and tender emotion. The Home Secretary had filled with marked ability the more unattractive part of the heartless Lothario—stamping upon and denouncing and repudiating as criminal, almost as incestuous, those young Irish affections which he and his Colleagues not so long ago sacrificed so much of character to woo and win. He rejoiced to think that, owing to the masterly manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had conducted this Bill, the ever-widening circle of the popularity—he might almost say the adoration—with which he was regarded there would overflow the walls of that House, and penetrate into every cottage home of every Irish peasant. Now, as to the Bill itself, which was at last before the House in its finished state, in it, as in the Protection Bill, all precedent had been disregarded, and all Constitutional 835 precautions had been utterly despised and kicked aside. The Lord Lieutenant was invested with the most uncontrolled and absolute power, and the only consolation offered to those who viewed with uneasiness this unparalleled suspension of Constitutional rights was that they were invited to rely on the nobility, wisdom, and sense of responsibility of the Lord Lieutenant, assisted by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. While talking of Ministerial responsibility he would like to inquire of the Government what this Ministerial responsibility was, and how it was to be realized? When the Government last year decided not to renew the Peace Preservation Act, they reiterated that they were quite crushed with the responsibility that they had taken upon them. But what happened? The Home Secretary got up the other night and gaily told the House, without a word as to this Ministerial responsibility, that the non-renewal of the Act was an experiment which the Government had not been justified in making, and an experiment which he admitted had been a hideous failure. It was not surprising, therefore, that he objected to the attempt to raise again this phantom of Ministerial responsibility. As a matter of fact, there was absolutely no Ministerial responsibility. The Irish Government, with those two Acts, were perfectly irresponsible and perfectly absolute. The Irish Government would administer those Acts precisely in the same manner in which similar Acts had been administered before; and the House must not be deluded into the idea that it would have any control over the Irish Government, either now or subsequently. He had voted for the Bill; but it was necessary to destroy the humbug of this heavy Ministerial responsibility of which they had heard so much. Under the Act of 1847 the powers of the Lord Lieutenant were carefully limited and defined—indeed, so limited, that the Law Officers of the Crown were at times almost afraid to put them in force; but under this Bill there was absolutely nothing connected with the possession of and search for arms which the Lord Lieutenant could not do. For instance, he could utterly disorganize and dislocate the trade of the large ports of Ireland by his regulations with respect to the search for arms. He did not say that the Lord Lieutenant would 836 do that but he had the power to do it, and the only security they had that he would not do it was the Chief Secretary's nobility of mind. He wished to point out to the House the magnificent spirit of justice which pervaded the Bill. Not only did Her Majesty's Government abolish trial by jury for five years with respect to offences under it—he did not find fault with that, he was only pointing it out—but they had to observe this remarkable feature in the Bill, that the poacher who concealed a gun for the purpose of killing a rabbit was to be subjected to the same amount of imprisonment as the Fenian who imported arms and dynamite for the purpose, possibly, of killing great numbers of people. If the Tory Party had been in power, and had proposed such an unlimited Bill as this, no matter what the necessity had been, they would have been met by a united and remorseless Liberal opposition. With this Bill in his hand, and with the recollection of the Coercion Bill in his mind, he might be allowed to point out to the Irish Members the "rich and rare" rewards which had been showered upon them in return for the ardent and generous efforts they made for the success of Liberal candidates at the General Election, and in return for the many speeches which had been made by night and by day by Irish Representatives to the Irish masses in the English cities and towns whom Her Majesty's Government had seduced, corrupted, and betrayed. Instead of an extremely mild Peace Preservation Act which was only in force in eight or nine counties of Ireland, they had the Habeas Corpus Act suspended all over the country; they had trains arriving every hour at the Dublin terminus from North, South, and West, with cargoes of mauvais sujets—they had an unlimited Arms Act, which would be applied to the entire country. But they had more than this—the Irish Members had a promise of a Land Bill which was coming, like Christmas. The junior Member for Leeds (Mr. H. Gladstone), speaking the other night at a hole-and-corner meeting of the Liberal Club in Ealing, informed his audience that the Bill was in progress; and then with something of the ingenuousness and, perhaps, the indiscretion of youth, he added that nobody could imagine what a difficult question it was. That was the harvest 837 which Ireland had reaped from the most enlightened and God-granted Government this country had ever seen. That Bill was now passing away from them, and with it all that liberty-destroying machinery of urgency, clôtures, coups d'état, and Dictatorships, never, he hoped, to return again. [Cries of "Monday!"] They would now be told they ought to turn their attention to remedial legislation. Well, he would make no remark on that beyond this, that remedial measures planted under the shelter of coercion and watered and nourished by the suspension of the Constitution must in their nature be poor and sickly plants of foreign origin, foredoomed to perish almost before they commenced to grow. That Bill, the extraordinary crisis in Ireland, the extraordinary condition of the House of Commons, the best ever elected, that awful failure of Liberal hopes, was a conspicuous illustration of what was termed the irony of fate. It was on their capacity to grant to Ireland the same freedom that England enjoyed, on their capacity to grant the Irish overflowing prosperity, that the Liberals relied to gain for themselves immortal credit to scatter the Tories to the winds, and to secure for themselves permanent power. The Chief Secretary went to Ireland in April last, bearing with him the hopes, and the prayers, and blessings of an enthusiastic and victorious Party. He gave them all to understand that he was to become an emancipator greater even than O'Connell; and within 12 months of taking Office he had been compelled to come to Parliament for powers more stringent and more oppressive than were ever granted to or demanded by Lord Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington, or Lord Grey. He wished the Chief Secretary joy of these beautiful Bills; but he might tell the right hon. Gentleman that he had acquired by them the undying dislike and distrust of the Irish people. He was grateful to the House for having allowed him to make these few remarks to "point a moral and adorn a tale," and for having given him the opportunity of delivering to this measure what the House might permit him to term a parting kick. While he had never denied that some extreme measure or other, owing to the conduct of the Government, and them alone, was only too necessary for Ireland at the 838 present moment, and while he had always admitted that as to the nature and extent of that measure Her Majesty's Government, who were the culprits, must be the sole and only judges, he still recollected with unqualified satisfaction that coercion was a double-edged weapon which had before now fatally wounded those Administrations who had been compelled by their own folly to resort to it; and beset as the Government was on every side with difficulties and entanglements, all of their own manufacture, he made no doubt whatever that the blighting contempt of the present would wither, and the sure condemnation of the future overwhelm, the authors of this deplorable legislation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Sir, the House seems to have come to the very sensible determination not to have a protracted debate at this stage of the Bill. ["No, no!"] I will tell you why I arrive at that conclusion. It is because I have observed that at the end of a long and tedious drama of a tragic character we generally have what is called the "after piece," which consists of a screaming farce. I shall not, however, occupy much time in replying to the observations of the noble Lord, because it is difficult to treat him as a serious politician whose remarks require argument. It is very difficult to understand, and has been so for the last few months, to which of the four Parties in the State the noble Lord belongs. He once belonged to his own, the Fourth Party; but he has managed by his conduct during the discussion of this Bill to dissolve that minute Party, and his feats, in that respect, only afford a fresh illustration of the doctrine of the infinite divisibility of matter. The noble Lord has delivered a studied oration, and in it he has given what he has called the last kick to the measure which all last autumn and all last winter he has been imperiously demanding at the hands of the Government. I do not know whether among the faithless one faithful may be found. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) is about to venture, for the first time in the course of these debates, to support the Leader of the Fourth Party; but the Fourth Party having disappeared into space, we who have sat here night after night have seen the noble Lord conspicuously taking the part of con- 839 fidential adviser to the Third Party. ["No, no!"] I say "Yes." I do not think there has been one single instance in which measures have been taken for using every Form of the House to prevent the progress of this Bill when the noble Lord was not in intimate communion with the Third Party and its principal actor. That does not surprise me, for I remember that even in the responsible position of Private Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland a year or two ago, the noble Lord astonished all Dublin by delivering a speech in favour of Home Rule——
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, at all events, the noble Lord stood in confidential relations to the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was a Member, at that time, of an Administration which brought in one of those horrible Coercion Bills of which this is almost an exact copy. I presume it was to the unfortunate fact that the late Administration introduced such a measure, which was administered by the late Lord Lieutenant, the father of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, that put an end, not to a "God-granted" Administration, but to an Administration from which the noble Lord has delivered us. It is unnecessary, for the reasons I have stated, to deal seriously with the noble Lord. At other times, if we had a little more leisure, I might have descanted at more length on his erratic conduct, and on the extraordinary amusement which he always affords the House; but I do not think the noble Lord's political opinions have that consistency which demand the serious attention of the House of Commons. I turn now to a more serious matter, the Bill which the Government asks the House to read a third time, and I shall not feel justified in trespassing upon the attention of the House at any great length. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) made, as was natural he should make, a solemn protest against the passing of this measure. But what is it he has told us? He has told us that this Bill is founded upon a deliberate falsification of facts. Now, that is a very grave charge, but I do not think the hon. Member has laid any foundation for an allegation of that character. No doubt, 840 he takes a different view of the facts from Her Majesty's Government. He says that on this so-called deliberate falsification of facts we have founded a measure that was totally unnecessary; and then he taunts not only the Government, but the Liberal Members and the Liberal Party, with being accessories to this legislation. I would ask the hon. Member whether he can really deny that the Government have received in this matter the support both of the Liberals in this House and of the Liberals throughout the country?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, I should say the country at large, with the exception of that portion of the country which hon. Members who object to this Bill represent.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
With respect to Ireland, it is a circumstance worthy of remark that in no single division against this Bill on any stage of it has one moiety of the Representatives of Ireland voted against the measure. If all Ireland were against the Bill, would you not have all the Representatives of Ireland voting in opposition to it?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, we have also been asked how it is that the Radical Party supported this Bill. I will answer that they have supported the Bill, no doubt with immense reluctance, but they have supported it because they were convinced of its necessity. Do you believe that in a country with a free Press and telegraphic and other means of communication, you can, by deliberate falsification, so mislead the Liberal Party in England and in the House of Commons that, after two months of protracted and continuous discussion, all the efforts of the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends to present their own view of the case should have only the effect of causing the Liberal Party, instead of coming more and more near to them, to depart more and more from them? What is the meaning of the solidity of the Liberal Party on this question? It is because the more this matter has been discussed and investigated the more it has become absolutely apparent to everyone that the Go- 841 vernment were justified in the course they have taken. The hon. Member for the City of Cork says there is an Irish nation in America. That is true; but I would venture to say that American opinion is not as unanimous in the hon. Member's favour as he supposes. Look in the most powerful and influential journals of the United States, and you will find an almost unanimous condemnation of the hon. Member's course. [Mr. PARNELL: Only in New York.] I see a little of the American papers. I have before me a copy of The Irish World, of which the hon. Member for the City of Cork knows something, and through which comes the largest contributions from America to the Irish Land League. He who pays the piper has a right to call the tune, as the largest subscriber to a religious society laid down the doctrine. As a specimen of the contributions which appear in this paper I will quote one which begins—"I append the report of a scene in the House of 600 scoundrels." That is ourselves.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Yes; and I have no doubt the hon. Member for the City of Cork can give me the real name of the writer. Well, the writer goes on—What can we do? Plenty of good work. The high seas are open to us, and covered with British merchant ships freighted with rich booty. There is our objective point.This is the sort of language that is used, and that there is a letter written from London shows the intercommunication which exists. I dare say I could supply the name of the gentleman who signs himself "Transatlantic." ["Name!"] No; hon. Members know it perfectly well. Of course, the writer is delighted at our difficulties with the Boers and Zulus, and he proceeds to say—The Boers are fighting the battle of Ireland, although they do not know it. May success attend them. I urge my countrymen to drill, and learn military drill night and day, Sunday and holiday, in the hut and on the hilltop.Referring next to a speech of Mr. Davitt, in which he said that there were 500 Land Leagues, the writer in The Irish World says that—If there were 500 or 600 men on an average in each branch, that would give Ireland 250,000 fighting men.842 These quotations sufficiently show what are the common objects of the Land League in America and in Ireland. Could any civilized Government submit to have such objects openly avowed and promoted? The hon. Member for the City of Cork challenged me the other night when I spoke of the connection between the Land League and Fenianism. The hon. Member said that for himself he had the greatest respect for many Fenians who believed in the separation of Ireland from England by physical force. That is not exactly the language which I think we have a right to expect that a subject of the Queen should use in speaking of a conspiracy to overthrow the Crown.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Am I right or wrong in saying that this Land League organization is really Fenian and Fenian in its character? I say exactly what I believe about the matter. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member stated, that the Fenian organization endeavoured in former times to attack the English Government by open force; but, having found that that course could not be successful, it is my firm conviction that exactly the same object has been, and is being, prosecuted by other and more indirect methods. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) said that the Land League had three objects in view—first, to paralyze the Government; secondly, to obstruct Parliament; and thirdly, to supersede the action of the law. But if they had accomplished these objects, they would have done all that the Fenian organization contemplated—they would have overthrown the Constitution as much as if they had attacked it successfully by open force. Now, as to the Land League movement, where did it come from? The hon. Member for the City of Cork blamed me for using the word "convict." I do not wish to use harsh language; but if a man is convicted of a crime, can he be spoken of as an innocent person? A man convicted of Fenianism is a convict, and the originators and organizers of the Land League are Fenian convicts. Does anyone deny that Michael Davitt was the original founder of the organization or that he was a Fenian? Does anyone suppose that he ever abandoned those opinions or those objects? Therefore, in organizing this attack upon 843 society he was pursuing the same objects, although it was under a changed name. The hon. Member for the City of Cork has never denied that there are a great number of Fenians connected with the Land League in America. The hon. Member cannot deny it. Then, what do I find? Why, that John Devoy, a Fenian convict, is an active agent of the Land League in America, and so is Red-path, who came over to Ireland last year. He used the most undisguised and unmitigated Fenian language in America, and while in Ireland he was a most energetic member of the Land League. When we find the Fenians and the Land League in such close connection what conclusion must we arrive at? Knowing these things as I do, I produced evidence of the facts. The hon. Member for the City of Cork might have disavowed and disowned the connection between those movements, but he has not done so.
§ MR. PARNELL
In my last speech I said there was neither an open nor a secret connection between the Fenian organizations and the Land League; but that money had undoubtedly been sent by some Fenians in America as individuals, but not as members of the Land League.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, Sir, I think that the distinction drawn by the hon. Member is a somewhat fine one. They were Fenians, but they assisted the Land League as individuals. What, however, I want to hear is a disavowal on the part of the hon. Member of any connection with the Fenian conspiracy in America, and I regret that it has not been made. Why has it not been made? Why, the fact is such a disavowal of that conspiracy would stop the supplies. I have waited to hear an open disavowal from members of the Land League that they have no connection with Fenianism in America. Then I am told I have spoken of absent men. Well, it is difficult to avoid speaking of absent men when they do not choose to be present in their places. I speak of the hon. Member for Tipperary. I have no right to say that he has any connection with the Fenian organization. I do not know it, and I cannot prove it; but his language in Ireland was precisely that which was used by the Fenian organization. We have been told that the Land League is a vigorous movement for Constitutional purposes. If 844 that were so, I should strongly condemn any man or any Government that would interfere with it. But is that so? When we see men seeking the support of arms to assist their purposes, and find members of the Land League in communicacation with Communism in Paris and Fenianism in America, then, I say, the maxim applies—"Noscitur ex sociis." Can anyone be blind to these facts? I did not intend to detain the House so long; but when the hon. Member asks us why it was that the Liberal Party came to the conclusion that these measures were necessary, and necessary, too, to press them forward through the House of Commons by means which I regret as much as any man can do, I say it was because they were convinced that the state of things in Ireland was not for the welfare of the country, and I may add because the Liberal Party never has had, and never will have, anything in common either with Communism or with Fenianism.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, it had been over and over again denied that there was any connection with Fenianism, which worked in secret, and the Land League, which worked openly in the light of day. It was by its printed programme that the Land League should be judged. They had heard that individual Fenians had sent funds to the Land League; but what lesson had the Land League taught those men? It asked them to give their aid, not to a secret society, but to an open and a Constitutional agitation, and they had been successful in obtaining for that Constitutional agitation monetary and other assistance. These men had been called revolutionists. Well, it was known that a high and distinguished personage in this Kingdom was in social relations and close friendship with M. Gambetta, who overthrew a Throne; but would that fact justify anyone in saying that that distinguished personage had, therefore, changed his ideas in reference to the Monarchy in this country? The men referred to by the right hon. Gentleman were called convicts; but were the convicts who were confined in Neapolitan dungeons forgotten because they were convicts? They were called rebels, agitators, and assassins; but did hon. Members recollect the welcome that was accorded in this country to Kossuth, Garibaldi, and Mazzini? As to the Bill, there was, he contended, no necessity for it, seeing that during the months 845 of October and November the cases of firing in Ireland had decreased; and that in nine counties, including Carlow, Dublin, Queen's County, Wicklow, Down, and others, with nearly 1,500,000 of inhabitants, not a single instance of even a pop-gun having been fired in violation of the law had been reported—and yet authority had been given to the Lord Lieutenant to suspend the Constitution in all those counties. They might just as well pass a similar Bill to apply to Yorkshire and Middlesex. It had been said, indeed, that the Irish people should avoid agitation; but experience had shown that it was only by means of agitation that concessions were wrung from the English Parliament. He believed that agitation had been the real source of their power. They had learnt many lessons from it; but the position which they had assumed there and elsewhere had been forced upon them. He was not a member of the Land League. He was asked to join its ranks; but he found that he could not give the time from his business, and, therefore, did not. He was not, in consequence, "Boycotted," or terrorized over to join it. He had read their proceedings and their printed programme, and those were the documents by which they were to be bound. It was traducing their policy to connect them with Fenianism, and, if anything would, it would drive him to become a member. If the waters in Ireland were disturbed, it was owing to the action of the English Government; and it was now the duty of those who occupied the Treasury Bench to bring forward a measure to calm them in the shape of a Land Bill, which would relieve the Irish people from the condition of wretchedness to which they had for so long a time been obliged to submit. He hoped such a measure would be introduced at the earliest possible moment, so that the Irish Representatives might have to tell their constituents—which they could not now do—that something else than coercion was in store for them at the hands of the English Parliament.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that the speech of the Home Secretary was the speech of an able advocate, but not the speech of a statesman. Great numbers of the men associated to the Land League were the most determined opponents of Fenianism. In ignoring that fact, the right hon. Gentleman had not been quite 846 fair. At the same time, he could not help admiring the ability with which the right hon. Gentleman selected every point and fact which could tell in favour of the side which he took. The Government went to the people of Ireland with their hands full of measures. There was the Peace Preservation Bill and the Coercion Bill, for both of which "urgency" was voted; but there could be no urgency for the Land Bill, which now began to recede day by day from their view. He predicted that the feelings of bitterness and exasperation which these Coercion Bills would excite in the hearts of all men of Irish blood all over the world would exist for generations to come. The English nation and the British House of Commons would not have heard the last of this business when the third reading of this Bill was passed. He held a letter in his hand, written by an Irish landlord to a tenant. If it was not a threatening letter, he did not know what was one. It was as follows:—O'Dowd—I wish you to explain what you mean by writing in public newspapers stating that my tenants are rack-rented. If it is possible by any means, I will visit you with punishment for such a statement.That showed the kind of feeling which existed, and which would produce mischief. He could not, however, look upon the measures of the Government with unmitigated dislike, for they would have the good effect of bringing home to all Irishmen the conviction that they must never expect to obtain liberty or justice from the House of Commons.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. BYRNE
, continuing, said, he should offer the Bill his most uncompromising opposition. He was surprised that the Bill should have been so drawn as to apply to women and children. It appeared to him that the Government had thought too lightly of the result which such a Bill would have on the people of Ireland; and he was afraid, unless the Government extended to the people of Ireland that justice which they had a right to expect, the Bill would not make them as good citizens as he could 847 wish them to be. It was not coercive legislation, but remedial legislation, to which he looked for an amelioration of the condition of the people of Ireland. He maintained that the general tone of the American Press was strongly favourable to the principles of the Land League, which also were supported by Protestants and Catholics alike, and had now the hearty recognition of the general body of the American people. It was the League that had promoted that combination of sections of the Irish people; and he should wish to ask the Home Secretary whether he thought it likely that when the Irish race in Ireland, in America, and in Australia were united, it would be possible to continue in Ireland a system of government which was productive of many evils to its people?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
remarked, that if the hon. Members with whom he acted had been accused of being abettors of assassination, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was charged by a portion of the Irish Press with the same crime. It was not unfair, perhaps, to conclude that the accusation was as unfounded in the one case as in the other. On the 4th of May, 1867, the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster presented to that House a Petition with reference to the Fenian organization, in which it was stated that there was a legitimate ground for the chronic discontent of which Fenianism was the expression, and that, therefore, there was a palliation for the errors of the Fenians. There was a good deal of dispute about that Petition; but, undeterred by the clamour with which he was assailed, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright) presented it, and it was received in spite of the opposition of many Tory Members. On a question of political ethics, he preferred the judgment then expressed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to that of the present Home Secretary. The Home Secretary had repeatedly gone out of his way to charge the Land League with being connected with Fenianism; but the right hon. Gentleman had made a still more serious charge—namely, that not only was the Irish Land League associated with Fenianism, but it was also associated with some of the worst and most criminal proceedings in which some members of that organization were said to have been engaged. Those accusations had been unwarrantably made, 848 and he hoped that on re-consideration the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw them. How did the right hon. Gentleman account for the fact that the Land League in America was joined by many of the most eminent and most respectable men in America? Was he prepared to cast on the highest citizens of a Power with which we were on the most friendly relations the slur that they were the abettors and fellow-conspirators of the most atrocious criminals perhaps ever connected with a political organization? It could be shown from newspaper correspondence that the Land League in America had 300,000 members before the arrest of Mr. Michael Davitt, that the number of its adherents had been largely swelled since the news of that arrest was received, and that in its ranks were included men of all nationalities and of all religious creeds. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Orangemen were in sympathy with the Land League in the United States; and were those persons on that account to be held up by the Home Secretary as being responsible for the acts of an. atrocious incendiary and a revolutionary organization? When the Coercion Act of 1875 was under discussion in the House, the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary spoke strongly in favour of giving to accused persons the right of appealing to juries to settle the question of their guilt or innocence; but since that time the position of the right hon. Gentleman was changed, and he now held very different language when he had become a Minister of State. He hoped the mere passage from one side of the House to the other did not produce an entire change in the political principles of any Member of that House, and that the right hon. Gentleman was something better than a mere holder of Office. If he was right in his hope, he might add to it the further expression of a desire that the right hon. Gentleman would accept the assurance that the Land League, both in Ireland and the United States of America and Australia, would, in the event of a just Land Bill being introduced by Her Majesty's Government, so utilize the large funds that had been entrusted to them as to make the Irish tenants owners of lands on which they lived. There was not a cabin in Ireland which had not a heart beating for it across the Atlantic wave—a son or a daughter—who, out of his or 849 her savings, subscribed something to every Irish national movement. These would be ready to sacrifice almost any comfort if the Government, by their Bill, gave them an opportunity to make their father independent. On the other hand, if the Government remedy was so mild as its measures of repression were severe, every penny of their savings would go to some enterprise which he regarded with dread and abhorrence, and that was the keeping up of the desperate strife between class and class in Ireland. The Government had these two alternatives before it. Which would it choose?
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
complimented the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the skill, moderation, and good feeling with which he had, upon the whole, discharged a very difficult task. The Irish Members expected nothing from the right hon. Gentleman; he had made no professions of sympathy, or protestations of sturdy, rugged honesty; they were not disappointed in him. But as Shakespeare had been more than once quoted in the course of the discussions on the present Bill, he might give an illustration from King Lear of the kind of statesman for whom Irishmen from their recent experiences were not any longer disposed to entertain a feeling of much confidence—This is some fellow,Who, having been praised for bluntness, doth affectA saucy roughness; and constrains the garb Quite from his nature: He cannot flatter, he!—An honest mind and plain,—he must speak truth:An they will take it, so; if not, he's plain. These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainnessHarbour more craft, and more corrupter ends,Than twenty silly ducking observantsThat stretch their duties nicely.Such a man they knew in that House—it was certainly not the Home Secretary—and in such a man the people of Ireland would never again put the slightest confidence. The Home Secretary had told them a great deal about a Mr. Redpath. Who was this Mr. Redpath? He was neither an American, nor an Irishman, but an Englishman—a member of the 850 Cobden Club. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, he believed, was a member of that Club, and was also a member of the Reform Club, which once gave a grand banquet to Garibaldi—a man who was in alliance with all kinds of secret conspirators and revolutionary designs. Nothing could be more unjust, unfair, and even absurd, than the attempt of the Home Secretary to hold the hon. Member for Cork City and his Colleagues responsible for the doings and sayings of every stranger and alien who happened to have made some contribution to the Land League or to have spoken on its platforms. Having referred so frequently to Mr. Devoy and Mr. Redpath the Home Secretary should, in candour, have told them that it was not those gentlemen alone who came upon public platforms in America and supported the doctrines of the hon. Member for Cork City. The right hon. Gentleman had doubtless heard of such distinguished men as Mr. Tilden, Colonel Higginson, and the great American orator, Mr. Wendell Phillips; and would it not have been more candid for him to have told them that men of that class were in sympathy and co-operation with the hon. Member for Cork? As to this measure itself, it had now passed almost beyond the range of criticism. It must be left to its work. He did not believe it would serve any good purpose whatever. No weapons would be taken by this Bill from the hands of those who wished to use them feloniously The Irish Members had said all they had to say with regard to this Bill; and he could only express a hope that the remedial legislation of the Government, when it was finished, if it ever were to be finished, might close this melancholy controversy and lead to something of a brighter spirit and brighter expectation than they had lately had in that House. But he wished to call the attention of English Members to the sacrifices they had made to pass these worthless Coercion Bills. They had sacrificed, in the course of a few weeks, ancient Constitutional rights and liberties—some of the dearest traditions of the English people. Some of their oldest and most cherished privileges they had recklessly and wantonly thrown away to effect this petty purpose, and had dragged down the English Parliament as far below the ordinary level of Continental Assemblies as some few 851 weeks ago it had proudly towered above them. Those steps they could never retrace. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues wore no longer masters of the situation. They had given the mastery into the hands of the Leaders of the Opposition. The Government must obey the Conservatives; every time they wanted urgency they must make some concession to the Opposition, and that Party would drive a hard bargain. It was true that Ministers claimed despotic power over that Assembly, and seemed to think that they were not bound to pay any attention to hon. Members from Ireland—not to show them even the ordinary courtesies and decencies of debate. He was himself able to illustrate that by his own experience. When, in the course of the evening, he put a most proper and reasonable Question for an Irish Member to ask—when he asked whether the Government's boasted remedial legislation was complete or not—he was turned upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the language of furious emotion—he might say of hysterical passion—and dealt with as if he were unworthy of the courtesy or decency of an answer. That was the sort of treatment that the Government thought they had power and security sufficient to enable them to give with impunity to hon. Members of the House; but he warned them that they were mistaken. He reminded the Government that they had made new masters for themselves as well as for the Irish Members, and now the lords of every crisis were the large minority who sat in Opposition, and who would have to be bought and bribed for every concession they made to the Ministerial demands for urgency and speedy legislation.
§ MR. REDMOND
contended that the existence of measures of this kind afforded a complete condemnation of English rule in Ireland, and their history was full of humiliation for England and English Members. They had seen a great Party pledged to a policy of redress—a Party who were the friends and champions of freedom all over the world, after all their professions, having recourse to the degrading weapon of despotism. By the measures which the Government had forced through the House they had succeeded in establishing a reign of terror in Ireland. Already, by the new powers with which the Exe- 852 cutive had been invested, the gaols of the country were being filled with men against whom no evidence of wrongdoing had been adduced. There existed in Ireland a despotism which could not be found in any Constitutionally governed country in the world, and he could not but conclude that it was the deliberate intention of the Government to-day, as history proved it was the deliberate intention of English Governments in the past, to drive the people of Ireland into acts of violence and bloodshed. The charge of cowardice which the Home Secretary had preferred against absent Irish Members reminded him that there was a strong resemblance between the right hon. Gentleman and the swaggering Shakesperian braggart, "Pistol," who, while always charging others with cowardice, was himself at heart the veriest coward. ["Order!"] The passing of this Bill was attended with one consolation; it exposed the sham of Constitutionalism in Ireland. Representative government, as far as that country was concerned, was a mockery; and the Irish people, while bearing their share, and more than their share, of the burdens which the State imposed, were not permitted to enjoy the rights and the privileges of citizenship. The day might come when the hate with which the Government were filling the breasts of the Irish people might be a source of danger to England in her hour of peril. Another result of these debates had been to show in their true colours those men who had been sent to this House to protect the liberties of the Irish people, but had basely betrayed them. A further result had been to strip the Whigs of the hypocritical guise they were so fond of assuming as friends of liberty. His primary object in that House would ever be to endeavour to overthrow the government, or, rather, misgovernment, of his country by this Parliament; and with that object in view he was not inclined to altogether regret the passing of these coercive measures, for their effect would be to intensify the hatred with which the Irish people regarded foreign rule, and to strengthen their resolve never to rest satisfied until every vestige of British interference in purely Irish affairs was swept away.
§ MR. LEAMY
urged that the Irish people were altogether in error in placing any reliance on the so-called Liberal Government, and that those who so placed 853 reliance had no right to hope for a single hour of happiness, prosperity or freedom. He was extremely sorry that the Home Secretary had not acceded to the proposition that the operation of the Bill should be limited to a period of three years instead of five years, thereby leaving the measure more severe than the Act of 1875, which was the work of a Conservative Government. The assertion of the Home Secretary that this Bill would not interfere with a man who sought lawful ends by lawful means was obviously incorrect, as the most peaceful citizen might be stopped on suspicion, taken to the police barracks, and searched for arms. He did not think very much of the Home Secretary's boasted concessions, and remarked that the proviso for the storing and returning of arms was contained in the Act of 1847. [SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT: But not paying for them.] He (Mr. Leamy) only hoped a considerable price would be paid, considering that the purchase would be compulsory. However, he was very much afraid that a great spirit of irritation would be caused by the Bill, and he hoped the Government would take care to limit its operation to as few counties as possible.
§ MR. MACDONALD
rose to give what the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) called a parting kick to this Bill. He did so, however, with feelings entirely different from those which actuated the noble Lord. He hoped his Friends on the opposite side below the Gangway would not allow themselves to be deceived by the language of the noble Lord. The noble Lord's parting kick was the kick of a loving parent rather than that of an enemy who desired to see the Bill mutilated or injured in any way. The noble Lord's principles and the principles of his Party were in harmony with coercion. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite said "No;" but he ventured to affirm that the principles of the government of Ireland by the Conservative Party had been bullet and bayonet, coercion on coercion, cruelty on cruelty, and iniquity on iniquity. He felt humiliated that a Liberal Government should have stolen the Bill, taken it from the hands of the Tories, put it on the Table in their own name, and then have got the smiling chaff and banter of the noble Lord for having performed their duty well. He regretted that his hon. Friends 854 opposite had not taken his advice, and they would now have the Land Bill introduced, or they would have convicted the Government of insincerity and of trifling with a great question that required to be dealt with at the first moment. He objected to this Bill because, like the last, he thought it would only exasperate the Irish people and tend to create a stronger aversion than ever to English rule in Ireland. He regretted that instead of coercive legislation the Land Bill had not been introduced at the assembling of Parliament, for if it had been they would have given peace to Ireland instead of prospective unhappiness and misery.
§ MR. GILL
thanked the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) for the speech he had just made, but took exception to the amendment that the Irish Members, by their conduct in Parliament, had delayed the introduction of the Land Bill. But he believed they had not delayed the Land Bill a single day, and he believed it would not be laid before the House a day sooner if the Irish Members had not taken the course which honour and necessity compelled them to adopt. Less than three weeks ago The Times newspaper, which was the leading organ of public opinion in this country, stated that the Land Bill was not yet ready; but three or four days ago the same journal stated that, but for obstruction, the Bill would have been introduced in the middle of January. Now, if it was not ready three weeks ago, how was it possible it could have been introduced in the middle of January? This Bill was quite as objectionable, if not more so, than the Coercion Bill. It proposed greater punishment for mere trivial offences than the Coercion Bill did. By that Bill a man charged with inciting to the commission of outrages would be imprisoned comfortably for not more than 18 months; by this Bill a man found in the possibly innocent possession of firearms would be confined far more rigorously, though for a shorter period. Every opportunity would be taken to put the Act in force. Under its provisions any district could be proclaimed under the Bill without the slightest difficulty. The county of Westmeath, for instance, in which outrages had been singularly infrequent, had been proclaimed in consequence of a single murder. Surely an isolated outrage of that kind should not be made 855 a reason for insulting 78,000 people, especially when the causes which led to it might be found to be other than agrarian, and to be of long standing. It proved the eagerness of the Government to test the efficacy of their measures. The Home Secretary had alleged over and over again that the agitation in Ireland was promoted only by Fenianism. The Irish Law Officers, who were in their places, knew that on the occasion of the late State trials the entire people subscribed for the defence of the traversers, and that amongst those who sent in subscriptions were 10 or 12 of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman for a moment say that an agitation with which the hierarchy of Ireland sympathized could be of the diabolical character which he described. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that the Bill was not opposed by the majority of the Irish Members; but that was not the fault of the constituencies, but of the Members who had broken the pledges they made to work with the active Irish Party. He believed that these Coercion Bills, instead of uniting the people of Ireland and conciliating them to English rule, would prove the greatest incentives that could be devised to the Irish people to struggle for the restoration of their native Parliament, without which, as the present Government taught them, they could have no beneficial legislation.
said, nothing could be more unfounded than the charge of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), that the Conservative Party had always ruled Ireland with the gun, the bullet, and the bayonet. When the hon. Member made that statement, he must have forgotten the facts and merely relied upon his imagination. The hon. Member said that these measures would have been unnecessary if a Land Bill had been brought in at the beginning of the Session; but he (Captain Aylmer) could not believe that any person who had looked into the facts of the case would say that the Land Question was the main one in this agitation. It had only been used by the organizers of the Land League to hide the real purposes of the League. Those purposes were the disintegration of the Empire and the overthrow of the authority of the Queen. The League made laws for themselves, thus usurping the prerogative of Par- 856 liament; and they enforced these laws in Courts of their own devising, thus usurping the prerogative of the Sovereign; and, by so doing, in his opinion, were guilty of direct treason. If these Bills would not make the people less treasonable they would make them less warlike, because under their operations the weapons would be taken out of their hands. He could not but think that any Member of the House who aided the members of the Land League in their efforts would be among the worst enemies of the British Constitution.
§ Mr. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, that as the curtain was about to fall upon the progress of this Bill through the House of Commons, he wished to say a few words upon it in its aspect as a complement to the Act for the suspension of the Constitution in Ireland. If the Government had brought in a Bill to prevent the carrying of revolvers, and made it applicable to the Three Countries, he would have supported it; but this Bill applied only to Ireland, and would deprive the Irish farmer of his fowling-piece, which might be considered an agricultural implement. What had happened before under Arms Acts might happen again. On the 18th of this month it would be just seven years since he made his first speech in the House of Commons, and on that occasion he called attention to the case of a poor old woman who kept a marine store in the town of Clonmel, who was taken up and brought before the magistrates because the police found amidst a heap of rusty iron one piece which had been the trigger of a horse pistol. He had already told the House of the amateur player who was taken up because he carried a sword or dirk while playing the part of Douglas. Again, the son of an Irish Baronet, who was now a Member of the House, returning home in the Vacation from his English University, was placed under arrest for carrying a fowling-piece over his father's estate, and every Irish Member was familiar with the Shinrone, county Tipperary, case, in which Sub-Constable Harker, with one of his sergeants, concocted with a wretched hireling a plot to place a gun in the thatch of a farmer's house, and to scatter Ribbon documents in another house, and, that being done, they proceeded and made several arrests of innocent people. The Government, on the application of the parish priest, ordered an investigation, 857 which resulted in the dismissal and punishment of the guilty parties, as, no doubt, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary would punish those who abused the powers given by the Act. These accidents were likely to happen under the exceptional powers about to be conferred on the constabulary. It would have been a different thing if the Bill had been brought in for only two or three years. He supposed, however, they knew their own book—they knew their own Land Bill. They mistrusted their own policy, and refused to believe the efficacy of their measures. If there were any earnestness or truth in the Cabinet, they would show the House that they had a Land Bill which was capable of healing up the sores and wounds of Ireland. But the fact that the present Bill was to last for five years indicated that the Government had little confidence in the effect of the Land Bill they were to bring forward. They had learnt nothing from the previous failures of coercive legislation. In spite of the Stanley Arms Act of 1831, the agitation against tithes increased in Ireland. The description given of the condition of the country showed that it stood far more in need of severe measures than at present; but, although the magistrates recommended the renewal of the Insurrection Acts, the Government refused to renew them. On the Motion of Sir Henry Parnell the question was referred to a Committee, who reported that, without any departure from the principles of the Constitution, measures could be adopted to improve the state of things in Ireland. This was at the time of the Chief Secretaryship of Mr. Drummond, who once personally and alone quelled a riot from the power he had acquired over the people through refusing to consent to coercive legislation. The Home Secretary had endeavoured to prove a complicity on the part of men of the Land League with other persons whose conduct he had held up to approbrium; but did not Napoleon III. bring home to the Liberal Party complicity in an assassination plot? [Cries of "No, no!" and "Order!"] Well, he was sorry he had said that; he had no intention of going so far. Still, it was a fact that a Member of the then Liberal Government was so far compromised that he had to quit the Treasury Bench. Such being the case, it was unfair on the part of hon. 858 Gentlemen opposite to suggest that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was plotting in Paris. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary seemed very much afraid of Mr. Redpath; but Mr. Redpath was not a member of the Land League, but was, as a matter of fact, a co-member with the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the Cobden Club. He confessed that it was a relief that to-night the debates on these coercion measures would be over. On Monday the troubles of the British House of Commons would begin. Before Business that day they had a taste of the Nemesis at hand. To accomplish this frightful blunder of legislation they had, as a Party and a Government, harmed and wrecked interests which ought to be dear to Englishmen, and, in their blindness and terror, broken down safeguards which, for many a year, they would endeavour in vain to recover. Let them not blame the Irish Members. All that was noble in Englishmen warranted him in saying that if England were an appanage of Germany or France, and the Government of that country wished to impose a Bill of that kind upon England, every man of them would have surpassed in resisting it what the Irish Members were blamed for doing. He could measure what they would do by what their fathers had done when their liberties were in peril. The resistance which Irish Members offered to the Bill was strong, because they felt it would be ineffectual for putting an end to crime, but most mischievous in putting down honest opinion in Ireland. Let not Englishmen hug the delusion to their souls that, having forced Irish Members to defend their country with the gag in their mouths, they themselves would easily get rid of the gag. There was no Government that had tasted despotic power which did not love its convenience and facilities. Any man could govern with a state of seige, whether in Italy, in Ireland, or the House of Commons. He who used to be plain Mr. Speaker had been turned into the august Cæsar of the House. That example would grow, and would be followed in after years. In order to make the motives and conduct of the Irish Members misunderstood, the English people had been told that they had stood in the way of beneficial measures, not only for Ireland, but 859 for England. ["Hear, hear!"] But there never had been a Bill for the benefit of the English people which his countrymen had not been ready to sit from morning till night to promote. Not theirs was the choice which had put English legislation behind, and Irish legislation in the front. Why, then, blame them for defending their own country? They had simply done their duty. The last words he would say on this measure would be to remind that House and the English people, between whom and the Irish Members he hoped there would be no quarrel, that on three occasions they had to endure obloquy, reproach, and scorn as Obstructionists. The first of those occasions was in resisting the annexation of the Transvaal, and there was not an Englishman now who would not wish that the Irish Obstructionists, as they were called, had, in that resistance, been successful. The second was in resisting the application of the lash in the Army, and the third was in resisting that Bill. It would be for him for ever a pride that he took some part on those three occasions. Time had brought vindication of the resistance to the annexation of the Transvaal, time had brought victory in the matter of the lash, and time would bring triumph in the resistance to coercion.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he agreed with one remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan)—that the prevailing feeling in the House was one of relief that they were coming to the end of these debates. There was also a strong feeling that it would be a bad thing for anyone to prolong them, and he was not going to do so by more than a few words. Much had been said against the Bill—almost as mach as could be said; and the arguments against it had been met by the advocates of the measure. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who had kindly and efficiently done his (Mr. W. E. Forster's) work, had left him nothing to add in defence of the action of the Government with regard to this Bill. But it would not be according to usage if the Bill were to pass from the House without a word from the Minister who was most responsible for the government of Ireland. Much had been said in the debates, and as often as possible by hon. Members opposite—he did not mean to 860 say it by way of blame, but hon. Members seemed to put off the actual question and to amuse the House by personal allusions and supposed inconsistencies in the action of his right hon. Friends and, perhaps, himself, in Opposition and in Office. He always wondered that the time of the House should have been taken up in inveighing against that inconsistency when there was apparently a far greater inconsistency against which to declaim—that of a Government which that time last year thought it could do without an Arms Bill, and yet was now engaged in endeavouring to pass one through the House. It was, however, most reluctantly and to their great disappointment that the Government had come to the decision in the matter at which they had arrived. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), in the speech which he made at the beginning of the evening, was so far carried away by his wish to amuse the House as to say that the Government alone were responsible for what occurred in Ireland last year. He did not suppose, however, that anybody but the noble Lord would say that, and no other Member, he imagined, thought so. The Government, no doubt, did hope last year that they would be able to do without not only the Bill which had just passed into law, but without the present Bill also. But, as he had said, they had been disappointed. Repeated advice had been given to the people of Ireland to arm themselves, and to anyone responsible for the good government of the country that advice did not seem to be calculated to lead to the preservation of order or obedience to the law. Besides, there was the additional fact that many of the Irish people had followed the advice thus given. Foolish young men and persons who were easily led away began to arm themselves all over the country. The Government could not be blind to the fact that quantities of arms were being brought into Ireland and were getting into the hands of those persons, and in some cases of persons whose intentions were bad, to an extent to endanger the peace of the respectable and law-abiding people around them. There was another consideration which, he might observe, hind exercised a more powerful effect on his own mind than almost any other, and that was that, in the state of excitement 861 which prevailed, the possession of arms might lead to disturbance, and, consequently, the police and the military, in making the law obeyed, might be driven to use the power placed in their hands to shoot the people down. That apprehension that there might be a great loss of life it was which, more than anything else, reluctantly brought conviction to his mind, and compelled him to advocate this year what he had refused last year to propose. Two or three alterations had, he might add, been madein the Bill which rendered it a measure of a less stringent character than when it was first introduced. Instead of its being at the option of the prosecutor to take the case before the Superior Courts, and have a possible punishment of a year inflicted, it must be taken before a magistrate, while the possible punishment would not be more than three months. Again, the power of searching the person was taken away, and replaced by the power to arrest. There was, he might add, one provision in the Bill against which much complaint had been made, and that was that the period of its duration was fixed for five years. He, however, hoped that it would not be found necessary to put it in force in the whole of Ireland at any time, and that long before the expiration of the five years the Government would be enabled to treat Ireland in a different manner. The experience of the present Session showed, at the same time, that such long debates on similar measures were as much as possible to be avoided. In 1875 the state of things was different. None would deny that as regarded agrarian disturbances the state of Ireland was a great deal worse now than it was in 1875. The House had then also to deal with an Irish Party which was differently conducted. He did not wish to say anything offensive to hon. Gentlemen opposite; but when the late Mr. Butt found that the House of Commons, having heard the arguments on a question, had made up its mind to take a certain course, he ceased to resist and to hinder the course of Public Business. Nor did he believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite would find that the course which they had adopted this Session was in the long run the best. No doubt, it was their right and duty to state the arguments against a measure to which they objected; but it was the very essence of a Representa- 862 tive Assembly that when the majority had clearly made up its mind on a question opposition to its will should speedily cease. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last had said that a Nemesis would visit the House because of the course which it had taken with regard to the Bill, and the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) contended that the Government were exercising over the House an absolute and despotic power. But what, he would ask, had the Government and the majority of the House by whom it had been supported done? They had merely endeavoured to free the House from the absolute and despotic power of a small minority. There was an end to representative government if, by making use of the Rules of Debate instituted for the purpose of enabling a question to be reasonably discussed, a minority could prevent a majority from doing what, after a full hearing, it thought ought to be done. It was, no doubt, much to be regretted that, for the first time in the history of the House, it had been found necessary to curtail freedom of discussion in order to give the House control over its own deliberations. But for that, he maintained, neither the Government, nor those who supported them, were to blame, and he was sure the country would be of that opinion. He was perfectly certain that on a question affecting the immediate government of the country, and the preservation of law and order, when a large majority in Parliament was convinced that a certain course ought to be taken, they could not allow—and they would have been the laughing-stock of the world if they had allowed—their object to be defeated, and the country to be misgoverned owing to the Rules of the House being made use of for a perfectly different purpose to that for which they were established. Now they had come to the end of that chapter of protective legislation, as he called it, but coercive legislation, as hon. Gentlemen opposite called it, and this Bill and the Bill that had boon passed had now to be carried out, and he did not expect hon. Members opposite to give him credit for any good intention in carrying them out. Sufficient proof had been given in the course of those debates that he had no right to form any such expectation. He should not, however, object—if that 863 was the time to do it—even in their present excitement, to appeal from hon. Gentlemen opposite to the people of Ireland. For he had watched that agitation with great care and attention, and he had observed one or two facts with regard to it. Different persons, some of them friends of his own, who had been at some of the largest of the public meetings held in Ireland, had all told him that there was an extraordinary absence of enthusiasm at those meetings; that, to judge by what was called enthusiasm at an English meeting, it did not exist; that there was, indeed, curiosity, interest, and a hope among some of the people present that some good might result from the agitation; but that there really was no strong enthusiasm. Then, again, the persons who went to those meetings never heard the other side of the question. Hon. Members were able to address them, they read the papers which took their own side; and his own belief was that if a real reform of the Land Laws was introduced, and if they found out that the Government, notwithstanding all the reproaches cast upon them by hon. Members opposite, were determined to remove their real grievances, the attacks which had been made upon the Government would very speedily be forgotten. He had noticed throughout all the opposition to that Bill, and to that desperate attack, as it was called, on the liberties of Ireland, that a small minority of the Irish Representatives had appeared in the House and continued their protest. Did anybody believe that, if there was an overpowering feeling in Ireland, if there was a real outburst of the public opinion such as they had in former days seen in England and also in Ireland, hon. Members from Ireland—he was not speaking of those who agreed with the Government, nor even of those who sat below the Gangway on the Ministerial side—would, so many of them, have been absent from the House? If, he said, there was an overpowering feeling among their constituents, why had those hon. Gentlemen not been in their places? He was sure that he could venture to appeal with confidence from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to their constituents. [An hon. Member: Try!] He did not make any appeal to those hon. Gentlemen; but he did wish to make one to hon. Mem- 864 bers on the Ministerial side, and also, if he might be permitted to do so, to many Members of the Opposition. Much had been spoken in those debates, by hon. Members advocating, as they said, the interests of the people of Ireland, which must have been grating, unpleasant, and sometimes almost offensive to those who had thought it their duty to support the Government, and especially to Liberal Members. He hoped that they would, every one of them, forget it; he hoped that they would regard those remarks as though they had never been made. Above all, he trusted that they would not let their determination to do justice to the people of Ireland to be in the slightest degree influenced by any recollection of any words they had heard. After all, they must remember the past history of the Irish people; they must remember what even now was the suffering of many among them; they must remember, also, their great virtues. His experience of the last few months had not been an altogether pleasant experience of the Irish character. But in one or two matters he had even a higher opinion of the people than he had before. Their strong domestic affection, their love of their homes, the willingness of the poor to help the poor, the remembrance on the part of the men who had gone to a far distant country to earn their living, of those whom they had left behind—all that had been more brought home to him than it was ever before. And there was one part of their character which, although it made the hard task of any man who had to do with their government more difficult, yet also gave cause for hope if they could but reach their hearts, and that was their loyalty to one another—oven when wrong, even when engaged in a crusade against the Government, and in what must be considered atrocious attempts against law and order. Above all, it must be borne in mind that the English and the Irish people were united together, and must live together, and must, therefore, do justice to one another. He was perfectly sure that what had happened in that House would have no effect; but that the Liberal Party—aye, and the Conservative Party—would be determined to do their duty to Ireland.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that as he had not taken any part in these debates, he asked for the kind indulgence of the 865 House. He had heard his noble Friend near him (Lord Randolph Churchill) and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in their brilliant duel. His noble Friend, who had throughout supported the Bill, said that he wished, before it left the House, to give it a parting kick. He had no wish to give the Bill such a kick. But the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had told them that these measures were only introductory to a real reform in the Land Laws; that Irish grievances were to be removed—that this country had determined to be just to Ireland. He thought, therefore, that the time was opportune for asking the House whether that perpetual alternation of coercive or, as it was sometimes called, protective legislation and of remedial measures, so called, had been successful. That course had not proved successful in the past, and would not be so in the future. He would ask whether any country or people could be governed on principles of that kind? They had had coercion followed by concession, and concession exacted by lawlessness. No country, no nursery, could be governed on such principles. He had with great reluctance supported the coercive measures of the Government. Every Member of that House must feel a like reluctance, as they must all desire to see Ireland free, prosperous, and contented. But there was no doubt of the absolute necessity for such measures. The only question had been raised whether they ought not to have been brought in earlier. He was bound to say that it was very questionable if the Government would have been as successful in carrying such measures at an earlier period. There would have been a large number of their supporters who would have sharply criticized them. [Cries of "Divide!"] He had not spoken on that subject before, and he would appeal to the tolerance of Liberal Members—of which they had not seen much—to allow a person who had not before spoken to say a few words. How had the Government been met? They had been met in such a way that the House was compelled to surrender many of its liberties to the Speaker and to the Government. He hoped that the powers so given would be wisely used. But they had been told that remedial should have preceded coercive legislation. By that argument 866 the Home Rule Members had shown a strange illogical inconsistency. They had endeavoured to refute the figures of the Government, and to prove that there was no lawlessness in Ireland, and in the same breath boasted that the law of the Land League had superseded the law of the land. It was absurd to deny that the Queen was not in Ireland in all causes and over all persons supreme. He gave his support to the Bill undeterred by all the warnings of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, undeterred by any fallacious appeals to liberty, or by the parrot cry that "force was no remedy." There were times in the history of nations when force was a remedy, and the only remedy. It had been stated that there had been 48 Coercive Acts applied to Ireland, of which he believed 33 came from Liberal Governments. And, on the whole, they had been effective. He believed it would be much more true to say that concession was not conciliation, than to say force was no remedy. As he had pointed out, coercion had as naturally followed concession as the fruit followed the seed. He believed the root of the evil lay in the Land Act of 1870, which laid down the false principle that the tenant had a possessory right in the soil; and when that right was once given by legislation, what was more natural than that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the Land League should ask them to proceed further in the same direction? He repeated that this coercive legislation proceeded necessarily from measures of remedial legislation founded on false principles. He trusted that any legislation which might be attempted in regard to the Land Question would be founded on sound principles, and principles of justice; but if not, they might rest assured that it would in its turn, having laid ground for a new agitation, again lead to coercive measures. The only way to benefit the Irish people was to tell them the truth, that so far from having been oppressed in the matter of land legislation by the Parliament of this country, they were, at the present moment, the most favoured tenantry in any part of the civilized world. [Ironical cheers.] He asked those who gave ironical cheers to disprove his statement if they could. If, instead of telling the Irish that they had grievances, they were told that laws had been passed more 867 favourable to them than to any tenantry in Europe and America, and that those laws must be obeyed, they would become again a peaceful people, capital would again flow into Ireland, and it would become prosperous and contented. But to bring that about the two Front Benches should agree to take the same course; they should cease to make Ireland, as it had hitherto been, the battlefield of Party, and should not, by remedial measures or otherwise, scramble for the Irish vote. If they pursued the course which had hitherto been adopted—first concession and then coercion—to be followed again by concession leading to fresh coercion, the end would be certain—that end which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for the City of Cork—namely, separation and the disruption of the Empire.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 255; Noes 36: Majority 219.—(Div. List, No. 152.)
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 28: Majority 222.—(Div. List, No. 153.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill do pass."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 236; Noes 26: Majority 210.—(Div. List, No. 154.)