§ MR. PARNELL
asked the Chief Secretary a Question of which he had given him private Notice—namely, Whether he would inform the House as to the words or acts for which the hon. Member for Tipperary had been arrested, and when and where the words were spoken?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I think, Sir, I had better read the words respecting the arrest of the hon. Member. The warrant declares—That John Dillon, North Great George's street, city of Dublin, Member of Parliament, is reasonably suspected of having since the 30th day of September, 1880, been guilty as principal of a crime punishable by law, that is to say, inciting persons to forcibly oppose and resist the execution of a process of the law to give possession of land, committed in the aforesaid proscribed district, and being an incitement to an act of violence tending to interfere with the maintenance of law and order.That is the only reply I can give to the hon. Gentleman, and for this reason—that, at the time of the passing of the Act under which the arrest was made, the question was repeatedly brought before the House as to whether more information could be given than that contained in the Warrant. I have read to the House what was decided by a large majority in one, or, I think, two divisions, which decided that more information should not be given. I do not think, therefore, that I should be acting in accordance with the Act of Parliament or with respect to the House, without an Order of the House, if I gave more information in this case. I can only say for the Government and for myself, so far as I have anything to do with it, that we are perfectly prepared to meet any Motion which may be brought forward impugning our conduct in this matter.
§ MR. PARNELL
Then, Mr. Speaker, I wish to further call attention to this matter, and to conclude with a Motion. I think the right hon. Gentleman has altogether misinterpreted the intentions of the House in refusing to give information with regard to the arrest of my hon. Friend. In coming to their decision I think probably the House has been influenced by the supposition that, under certain circumstances, it might be impossible or inconvenient to give informa- 184 tion; but I submit that in the case of the hon. Member for Tipperary, and in the case of almost everyone arrested under the Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Act, it is perfectly within the power of the Government to give the information required. Let me call attention to the situation. An hon. Member of this House has been arrested for an offence which is not named, although generally described in the Warrant. That hon. Gentleman has no information as to the particulars of the offence; and when I ask the Government to give me information, and to tell me what offence my hon. Friend has been guilty of, and at what time and place the offence was committed, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland says he is not required to do so by Act of Parliament. When I turn to the circumstances connected with the case, I find that the Government have been singularly unmindful, not only of what is due to this House, but also what is due to an important Irish constituency. My hon. Friend at the time of his arrest was on his way to this House to speak on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill; and it is true that he had announced his intention of criticizing very severely the provisions of that measure, and to influence his Colleagues to reject that measure. This course might have been fraught with some inconvenience to the Government; but my hon. Friend certainly represented a particular school of thought and a particular political line with regard to this Land Bill in Ireland not represented by anyone else. I affirm, then, it was a deliberate interference with the Constitutional rights of my hon. Friend to arrest Inns on his way to this House. In fact, this Protection of Person and Property Act has been used simply for the purpose of blackening the character of certain Irish politicians. The Government know that they can make no case if they specify the acts and the offences under which the prisoners are charged, and they shelter themselves behind a Parliamentary Return which I have in my hand, which recites in ambiguous terms and in awful language the general character of the offences which are alleged against the arrested persons. But when we ask for information, and when I gave Notice that I should move for a Return in reference to a person detained in 185 prison under the Coercion Act, and under a Warrant that he was "reasonably suspected" of acts of violence or intimidation, or inciting to the same, together with the time and places of the offences, what course did the Government take? The hon. and gallant Member (Sir Arthur Hayter), at the direction of the Government, under the half-past 12 Rule, rendered it impossible for me to obtain the information which it was absolutely necessary for me to have in order to make my Motion. We do not know of what all these persons are accused; and I take it I have shown that the Government have not acted candidly in this matter, and are seeking to evade a full and fair inquiry into the subject. During the first reading of the Protection of Person and Property (Ireland) Bill, the Prime Minister, with a great flourish, said that all these arrests would be open to challenge on the floor of the House. May I ask the Prime Minister whether, when he made that statement, that he had in contemplation that Irish Members desiring information should be obstructed by a paid official of the Government? Many of the gentlemen arrested occupy respectable positions, and are honoured by their neighbours, some of them holding places of trust and responsibility in the local Municipalities and Poor Law Boards for the country. It is a perfect mockery to discuss the imprisonment of these men so long as the Government refuse us information; and I desire to move that the information be given. I think I have shown that I have especial interest in directing the attention of the House to the question of the arrest of my hon. Friend. When the Chief Secretary answered a Question put to him yesterday with regard to the health of my hon. Friend, he had received no official information on the subject; but, of course, the House could not be expected to liberate the hon. Member for Tipperary so as to enable him to continue the course he was pursuing at the time of his arrest. Now, I have had opportunities of becoming acquainted with my hon. Friend's character and constitution, and I know very well that confinement and imprisonment lasting for any time will be absolutely fatal to him. He is a man suffering from an illness which requires constant occupation in the open air to keep him alive. Several members of his family have al- 186 ready died of this illness. Ono of his sisters died this year of the same complaint from which my hon. Friend is suffering; and all his friends and his medical advisers know well that if the imprisonment of John Dillon is long continued it will result in his death, imprisonment crippling him in such a manner as will lead to his death within a short period. I now ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Government intend to keep John Dillon in prison until he dies? I ask him to enable us to show that he does not deserve imprisonment; and, for my part, I believe the House would recognize that fact, and would recognize that he was not deserving of the punishment of death which, practically, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant proposes to inflict upon him. I would ask the Government to re-consider the position they have taken up with regard to their refusal to give information as to the particulars of these cases. I do not want information from them where it is impossible to give it. I do not want information from them where they have not got it to give, or where the giving of it would inflict any wrong or injury upon any other person, or would be prejudicial to the administration of the law or this Act. But I submit that where the Government have no other reason than the mere fact that the House of Commons refused in this Act to direct them to give information, it is perfectly competent for them to consider each case in itself and, where no public wrong would accrue, to give such information as we ask for. I beg, Mr. Speaker, to move that this House do now adjourn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Parnell.)
It is my duty steadily to decline to enter upon the course to which the hon. Member invites us for reasons which appear to me perfectly clear and perfectly unquestionable. Parliament has thought fit, after long and full consideration, to intrust the Executive Government with powers of a character beyond the ordinary rules of the Constitution, for the purpose of preserving peace and order in Ireland; and Parliament has therein proceeded on the supposition that, under the peculiar cir- 187 cumstances of the case, it is desirable that the Executive Government should have those powers upon grounds apart from those on which they would or might be prepared to challenge the conduct of the parties who are brought to justice. They have established an exceptional method of procedure, to be exercised upon the discretion of the Executive Government. After a discussion upon the Amendment to the Bill which was proposed on the part of those who resisted the measure, that in every Warrant for the arrest of anyone under the Bill should be specified particulars analogous to those for which the hon. Member now calls, Parliament distinctly rejected that Amendment. I am not sure whether it was not tried more than once; but the deliberate judgment of Parliament was that the information should not be given. Were that information to be given, the effect would be that the whole of these cases would be liable to be vaguely and generally discussed in this House, and the House would become partners in the responsibility which Parliament requires the Government to assume whole and undivided. For that reason it was that the Government did not think it right that occasions when the House might be exhausted, with but few Members in attendance, should be made use of for the purpose of making Motions with a view to the production of this information, as I may call it, wholesale. But the ground that we took during the discussion was a different ground. What we said was this—"Our conduct on each and all of these occasions will be liable to be challenged. Where you think you have cause to think that our proceedings are open to question, there will be nothing to prevent you from raising the question in this House. When, instead of a mere discussion at large upon the merits of a case, you are prepared to make a charge against the Executive Government, then the Executive Government will be prepared to meet you upon that charge." But the hon. Gentleman does not make a charge against the Executive Government. He makes a speech upon the subject, but does not embody in a Motion the allegations which he travels over in his speech, and he concludes with a Motion that the House do now adjourn. Is that course necessary owing to the position in which the 188 hon. Gentleman is placed? No; nothing of the kind. We had, even so late as yesterday, upon the Notice Paper a Motion which, however incorrect in the allegations which it made, was perfectly legitimate as to the mode in which it proposed to raise the question of Mr. Dillon's arrest. It was a Motion as follows:—That, in the opinion of this House, the action of the Irish Executive in arbitrarily arresting a Member of this House without reasonable ground, and in proclaiming a state of siege in Dublin, is an abuse of the exceptional powers conferred by Parliament; and, coupled with the conduct of the Executive in affording the use of the armed forces of the Crown for the wholesale execution of wanton and cruel evictions, is calculated to promote disaffection in Ireland, and to mar any possible good results from the remedial proposals of the Government.In this particular case of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had given Notice of a Motion, and no doubt ho would in his speech have stated the specific grounds on which he would have founded the charge which he embodied in his Notice of Motion. The Executive Government would then have been put on its trial; and it would have been the right and the duty of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and those who thought with him to place the Executive Government on its trial in relation to matters of this kind. The Executive Government would have taken no step, whether by blocking the Notice of Motion or otherwise, to evade it; but would immediately have challenged the judgment of the House. But as to vague discussions ending in Motions for adjournment, when hon. Gentlemen without any responsibility can say what they please, the Government will decline to allow false issues to be raised, and to abandon the position in which Parliament has placed them by intrusting them with exceptional powers for the maintenance of the law for the protection of life and property in Ireland. I have now stated distinctly the path in which we are prepared to walk; but in the path opened to us by the hon. Member for the City of Cork we decline to walk, for it would be a cowardly attempt on our part to divide our responsibility with the House, and to shift a portion from ourselves on to the shoulders of 189 hon. Members. We intend to bear it undivided, and to confine ourselves—which would be our duty if the case arose—to defending ourselves from any and every allegation that may be made against us.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
failed to find in the right hon. Gentleman's speech any answer to the arguments of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. The right hon. Gentleman did not show by any Resolution or by any clause in the Act that Parliament prevented the Chief Secretary for Ireland from giving this information in cases where it was thought fair and right to do so. It was entirely in the discretion of the Government, if they pleased, to answer the questions which had been put—they could give the reasons why the hon. Member for Tipperary was arrested by the Irish Executive. The right hon. Gentleman complained that the Motion which stood in his (Mr. Justin M'Carthy's) name was not proceeded with, and protested that the Government were eager to meet it. But he would ask what chance was there of bringing it on at a reasonable hour for discussion? The right hon. Gentleman only suggested that if he waited his chance he would, no doubt, be able to bring the Motion before the House. That was to say he might be able to bring it on at the fag end of a long discussion, perhaps at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, when he should be speaking to empty Benches. The right hon. Gentleman was willing enough on two or three occasions to interrupt the course of Business in the House for the purpose of introducing questions which might very well have waited. He was willing to interrupt the course of important Public Business in order to propose a Vote of Thanks to men engaged in a war which he himself little more than a year ago condemned as a crime. He was willing to interrupt the course of Business to propose a National Monument to the memory of a statesman of whom he had said not long since that he had given some of the best years of his life to thwarting and opposing his policy. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) did not find fault with him for taking that course; he only mentioned it to show how easily he found an opportunity for interrupting the Business of the House for any purpose which he himself wished to carry out. The right hon. Gentleman had referred in that 190 House to the grievance of having a constituency deprived of one of its Representatives. For the purpose of preventing such a thing he was prepared to give up the time of the House to a most disagreeable and unnecessary discussion, especially at this period of the Session; but when they came to raise the question whether the act of the Government had not practically disfranchised Tipperary, he had no suggestion to make, except that anyone who had a Motion to make on the subject might wait for his chance, and take the first chance he got. If he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) was not mistaken, the event which they were discussing was absolutely without precedent in Parliamentary history. He believed there was no other case, so far as he could recollect, in which a Member of that House was arrested and imprisoned under the same conditions as his hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary. Mr. Smith O'Brien was sent to prison on a direct charge, openly made and formally recorded against him; and he was, on the first opportunity, brought before a public Court of Law, and tried for the alleged offence. But in this case his hon. Friend was arrested and consigned to prison without himself or any of his friends having any chance of knowing what was the exact charge on which he was committed, and whether he was fairly suspected of being guilty of it. This, he did not hesitate to say, was without precedent in, and reflected discredit upon, a civilized country. His hon. Friend was coming over to Parliament to ask the Government whether the charges which he had made against landlords in regard to the evictions going on were not correct. No reasons had been given by the Government to justify the course which they had adopted; and, therefore, many persons would see in the arrest not the act of legitimate authority, but the desperate stratagem of a political partizan. If the health of his hon. Friend should be seriously injured by his imprisonment, and if the worst should result from it, he would not be the first who had sacrificed his life for the benefit of the Irish people. The speech which his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) had made was not in the nature of a plaintive appeal to Her Majesty's Government for mercy to his hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary, 191 but was a note of warning to them of the serious and important responsibility which they had taken upon themselves in having, without reasonable cause, arrested an hon. Member of that House, and in continuing to detain him in prison. Her Majesty's Government had also incurred the responsibility of proclaiming a great, populous, and peaceful city like Dublin, and of placing it in a state of siege by a stroke of the pen. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, who certainly was not an admirer of the Land League, shortly before the Government took that step had declared the state of Dublin to be eminently tranquil; and, indeed, the only ground that the Chief Secretary himself had assigned for proclaiming that city was because one or two speeches had been made in it of which the Government did not approve. Could a parallel case be found in modern history, a case in which a great peaceful city had been placed in a state of siege merely because one or two persons, whose very names were not given, had made speeches which were disapproved by a Member of the Government of the day? He admitted that the course which had been pursued on this occasion of moving the adjournment of the House was somewhat irregular; but the Irish Members had felt bound to take it in order to bring a matter of utmost urgency under the notice of the House and of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Her Majesty's Government were compelled, in the first place, to make the laws of time country respected and obeyed in Ireland. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) supposed they could exact and enforce a sort of sullen obedience to the law by the use of their military and police; but to make the law respected in Ireland was not within the power of all their police or all their soldiery until they made the law different from what it was, and administered it otherwise than they did at present.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought that the course adopted by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M 'Carthy was unfair and unreasonable. It was in the power of the hon. Member to have brought forward that night the Motion of which he had given Notice—a Motion which brought a direct charge against Her Majesty's Government, which the Government were perfectly prepared to 192 have met. To the insinuations of the hon. Member the Government could give a perfect reply. The hon. Member had said that he had been prevented from proceeding with the Motion; but he might easily have made it that night. ["No!"] The hon. Member for the City of Cork dissented from that statement; but, looking at the state of the Order Book for the night, no one could doubt that the Motion might have been brought on. Indeed, he had been much surprised that morning, on looking at the Business for that night, to find that the Motion had been withdrawn. The hon. Member had chosen to raise the question on the Motion for the adjournment of the House rather than by direct Motion, because he was aware that by doing so he could make no charge which the Government could meet.
§ MR. DALY
said, that his hon. Colleague had asked what were the words or acts on which the hon. Member for Tipperary had been arrested; and they believed that all the evidence which the Government possessed, and on which the arrest was made, could be given by the Government officials; therefore, the Chief Secretary need not shelter himself behind the extraordinary powers given to the Government by the Coercion Act, and. refuse to answer the questions which had been put. The Government had 30,000 soldiers and 12,000 policemen in Ireland; and, therefore, they could have no fear of any result arising from the reasons which they might give. The Government should have courage, and answer all the questions categorically. He believed that this Liberal Government would be accused of doing a mean and dastardly act, and then of sheltering themselves from the consequences of that act in a cowardly way. Practically, Her Majesty's Government had, of their own motion, disfranchised one of the Irish constituencies. His hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary could have spoken with authority in regard to the evictions in Ireland, and which were going forward in the most monstrous manner, as on all these things he had a more intimate knowledge than any other man. The position of the Government, in not answering the questions put, was unsound and untenable.
MR. J. COWEN
said, ho was astonished that the Government had not given a more satisfactory answer to the 193 question that had been addressed to them. They would have reasons for arresting Mr. Dillon, and surely they might state them. In the absence of this information, all the House could do was to speculate on the cause of the arrest. No one, he supposed, would accuse Mr. Dillon of having been engaged in houghing cattle, shooting landlords, or burning property. There was no overt act that he had committed. The only ground for his arrest, therefore, must be his speeches. He had not seen any report of those speeches, except such as had appeared in the English newspapers, and these reports were not to be trusted. They were usually at-tempered to the appetites of English readers. Many of the statements that appeared in the English papers respecting Ireland were absolutely false—others were grossly exaggerated. Even when the statements were themselves correct, the explanation necessary to their understanding was withheld. To form an estimate of what had been said by any man in Ireland from what appeared in the English newspapers was to do that man an injustice. Before the House passed a condemnation of his Friend he begged it to pause. He asked it to consider the circumstances—the strongly extenuating circumstances—under which Mr. Dillon had spoken. There had been great agricultural depression over the whole Kingdom. This depression had been most severely felt in Ireland. In some places it had deepened into distress—in others into want and starvation. Mr. Dillon, during several months, had employed himself in going from one part of the country to another, and had been brought face to face with the realities of the situation. The Government had introduced a Bill designed to improve the social condition of the Irish people. The measure might be wise or unwise; but that was its purpose. The landlords, or at least a large section of them, feared that the operation of the Bill would be injurious to their interests, and, with a view of getting quit of the responsibility that it entailed upon them, they were scattering notices of ejectment broadcast. These ejectments had, in many instances, matured into evictions. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen had witnessed an eviction. The harrowing scenes that accompanied them could not be viewed unmoved by any 194 man. To see a starving family crouching in the cold on a bleak hillside was a spectacle that no one could behold without emotion. Mr. Dillon had witnessed these scenes, and he had spoken in strong, but not too strong, reprobation of them. He might probably have overstepped the thin line that separated legality from illegality. But the surroundings being recollected, no generous man would judge him harshly. Especially ought this to be the case with the present Government. There were Members of the Administration who had lived amongst Leagues, and had risen to power through agitation. If everything they had said and everything they had done during periods of excitement had been as strictly watched and as strictly judged as Mr. Dillon's speeches and doings had been, some of them would certainly not have escaped a prosecution if they had escaped imprisonment. Mr. Dillon knew that the mass of the English people were ignorant of the condition of Ireland, that a large number were not only ignorant but indifferent, and that some even were hostile. It was a cynical but too common observation that this country would be benefited if Ireland was cut adrift from us, or if she was sunk beneath the Atlantic waves long enough to procure the destruction of her population. This hard view of Ireland and her people was not so prevalent now as it was in former years; yet still it existed. Mr. Dillon also knew that nothing ever was obtained in the way of political or social consideration from this country until there had been an agitation amounting almost to an insurrection. We conceded nothing to Ireland from a sense of justice—only from force. We yielded to fear what we refused to reason. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Members denied that statement. He appealed to history in confirmation of what he had said. Since the Union there had been three serious attempts made at ameliorative legislation in Ireland. And how had those attempts been initiated? One of the pledges given by the English Government in 1800 was that if the Irish Parliament would consent to the Union the penal laws against the Catholics should be at once repealed. How was that pledge fulfilled? Thirty years were allowed to elapse before any serious attempt was made to comply with the 195 engagement, and then it was not complied with because of its righteousness or its justice. The Prime Minister of the day had the audacity to declare that Catholic Emancipation was yielded because there were only two alternatives. The one was emancipation and the other Civil War. Emancipation was therfore, in his judgment, only a less evil than Civil War, and hence it was conceded. Sir Robert Peel endeavoured to deal with the three great Irish grievances—Land, Education, and the Church. But he did not deal with these questions from any intrinsic sense of the injustices under which the people were labouring. England was at the time in trouble with foreign States. There was a dispute with America about Oregon, and a dispute with France about Otaheite. The Government were afraid if they went to war with either or both of these Powers that French or American troops might be landed in Ireland. The Irish, being discontented, might receive them as deliverers. It was not because the people were suffering from an injustice, but because it was desirable to send them what Sir Robert Peel described as a message of peace, that the three measures he had indicated were proposed. It was fear of the Irish aiding the French or the Americans in the threatened wars that got for them the Queen's Colleges, an increased grant for Maynooth, and an attempted amendment of the laws respecting land. The third occasion when Parliament essayed to solve the Irish difficulty was during the last Liberal Government. The circumstances were still fresh in their recollection. They all knew how many times the question of Land Reform had been submitted to the House by Mr. Sharman Crawford and others, and how often Resolutions respecting the Irish Church had been rejected. The House refused to legislate on these points until the Fenians broke open a prison van in the streets of Manchester, released two of their leaders, and blew down the wall of Clerkenwall Gaol, in the expectation of setting free a third. It was a fear of the Fenian insurrection that caused the Church and Land Questions in 1868–9 to pass from the domain of speculation to that of practical politics. Mr. Dillon knew all this. Every Irishman knew it, and they also know that the legislation of the present Session 196 would never have been attempted if it had not been for the action of the Land League. If there had been no Land League there would have been no Land Bill. The movement directed by the League had created a public opinion such as had compelled the Government to take action. The League really had forced the Government measure. The Ministry was the acting power, but the organization which Mr. Dillon controlled was the motive power. It was most unfair to send to prison the men who bad aroused the public opinion which rendered the measures of the Ministry possible. What were the simple facts of the case? Mr. Dillon had collected a larger amount of information respecting the condition of Irish peasants than was possessed by any other man in the House. There was no Member there, not even the Irish Secretary, who had anything like the amount of information on the subject that he had. He was on his way to Parliament to submit this information to it. An announcement to that effect had been made in all the papers. It was well known to his Friends that he intended to be in the House last Thursday and to take part in the discussion. The Government arrested him on his way there, and landed him in Kilmainham. And what would be the consequence of that step? If he had been in Parliament his power would have been circumscribed; but now that he was in prison his counsel would be more potent than ever. The Irish peasants trusted him and respected him, and they would trust him and respect him all the more since he suffered for them. Mr. Dillon might be a rebel at Westminster; but he had long been a patriot in Tipperary, and now he would be a martyr. Ministers used no end of smooth words about the condition of Ireland; but they did not back up these words by their actions. The arrest of Mr. Dillon was like sticking a blister on a raw wound. The English people were singularly unfortunate in their government of subject races. For some reason or other—even when they had the best intentions—they failed to win the good feeling or the affections of those they ruled. He could not explain it. He could only lament it. But such was unquestionably the fact. They had ruled Ireland for 700 years, and the people were as discon- 197 tented and dissatisfied as they were centuries ago. France ruled Alsace some 200 years, and in that time the Alsatians became even more French than the Gascons. There must be something either in the manner or the spirit of the English administration that engendered in the Irish people so much distrust. The minds of some statesmen were said to be like the pupils of the human eye—they contracted themselves the more the greater the light that was shed in upon them. With all the experience of the past, and with good intentions, the present Government were treading in the footsteps—the painful and disastrous footsteps—of past Administrations. Just let them look for a moment at what they had done during these troubled times. There never was an agitation that did not have at its head one or two men who typified the hopes and aspirations of the people. These men in the present agitation in Ireland were Mr. Davitt and Mr. Dillon. They embodied, to a larger extent than any other two, the spirit and wishes of the Irish race. And how had the Government treated them? They had sent one to penal servitude and the other to gaol. The late Government, when they believed that Mr. Davitt was guilty of some offence against the law, attempted to put him upon his trial. This was a fair and honourable way of treating him. If he had broken the law, it was right that he should be made to feel the consequences. But the present Government did not follow a like course. They went back upon a conviction that in equity and morals, if not in law, had been more than complied with. He did not speak of the wisdom, of the cruelty, of the justice of Mr. Davitt's re-imprisonment. But he was there to declare that he did not know in his experience—and he did not believe any man in that House knew—of a meaner thing having been done by any Government than the sending back to slavery of this man. If the Government imagined that that was the way to pacify the Irish people they were grossly mistaken. The treatment of Mr. Davitt would neither be forgotten nor forgiven by those who shared his opinions and admired his character. And Mr. Dillon. He was not a common man. He was not angling for Office—he was not canvassing for a job. He knew the wants of his countrymen. He had seen and sympathized with their sufferings. 198 He was in earnest in what he did and said. He would not equivocate, he would not excuse; he would be "as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice." If they laboured under the delusion that by degrading such men they would facilitate their rule in Ireland, they were in error. He knew their theory was that Ireland ought to be taught to fear before she was taught to love. The falsity of that theory had been shown by experience. By Coercion Bills and Arms Bills they could not win the confidence of a suffering, struggling, and sensitive race. They could not kill ideas by chains and prisons. Ideas were as indestructible as either earth or heaven, and the attempts to annihilate them by pains and penalties would fail now as they had failed in all past times. It was a source of deep regret to every man concerned in the future of Ireland to see the prospects of the legislation the Government were prosecuting blasted by the harsh, unwise, and illiberal treatment that they were now manifesting towards Mr. Dillon, Mr. Davitt, and their countrymen.
MR. MAC IVER
said, he agreed most cordially with much that had fallen from the hon. Member who had just spoken. It was not necessary to approve of what Mr. Dillon had done to condemn what had been done by the Government. What the hon. Member for Tipperary had done had been compared fairly in the light of what the Prime Minister himself said when he was in Opposition. But the Government allowed this agitation in Ireland to go on to an extent they ought not to have done. They might long ago have stopped this agitation, which had led to the formation of this Land League; but they did not wish to do it. The Prime Minister said that the explosion at Clerkenwell Prison and the murder of a policeman at Manchester were necessary to bring the Irish Church Question within the range of practical politics. He (Mr. Mac Iver) spoke directly to the right hon. Gentleman, the apostle of peace, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who represented Birmingham, which provided arms and ammunition for all the world. His inconsistency on this and every question was well known to all in that House; but he did say that the right hon. Gentleman in his Irish views was perhaps more inconsistent than on any other question, 199 The right hon. Gentleman, however, had always been perfectly consistent in one respect. He disliked the landed interest of this country. He (Mr. Mac Iver) had no desire to make any lengthened remarks; but he wished to say that he thought the Government had been very lax. They ought either to have arrested Mr. Dillon before or not at all; but they allowed the time to go by, and they had now arrested him when he was coming to take his seat in that House. He cordially supported the views expressed by the hon. Member for Newcastle.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he had been much astonished by the speech of the Prime Minister, which was a remarkable instance Of the way in which a great master of Parliamentary Forms could evade the real issue. The right hon. Gentleman said that was an irregular mode of bringing forward that subject, and because he considered it to be so he declined to enter into it. He further challenged them to bring a substantive Motion before the House, when they might discuss the whole transaction; but when the Government were asked to give facilities for the discussion of a substantive Motion they withheld all such facilities. The Irish Members had been prevented at all points from bringing forward the matter in a regular way; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the face of all the facts they had had to confront, had risen in his place and declared that the Irish Members were afraid to bring the subject forward. He had told them they could have brought on the Motion that night; but if he had looked at the Order Book he would have seen that there were seven Notices of Motion down for that night, four of which were opposed. One of them related to police superannuation, and the hon. and gallant Member in whose name it stood (Colonel Alexander) took too deep an interest in the subject to give way in favour of the Irish Members. To another of those Motions Notice of opposition had been given by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), who, though his career in the House had not been long, had already acquired a reputation for unyielding and relentless hostility to any proposition which he wished to prevent from coming before the House. If there was any- 200 thing which the hon. and learned Member desired to impede the discussion of more than another it was an Irish grievance. The line taken that evening by the Government was altogether inconsistent with their arguments when the Coercion Bill was passing through the House. The Government had said that they could not give the House further information, because, if they did, the person who had supplied it would be liable to be intimidated by his neighbours. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had now changed his ground completely. Who could intimidate those who had given the information on which the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) had been arrested? He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) took it that his hon. Friend had been put in prison because of certain speeches which he had made openly at a Land League meeting in Dublin. That speech had been published in all the newspapers, and there could be no fear of anyone being intimidated in consequence of the information given against him. Therefore, the whole reason for the absolute silence and secrecy urged in regard to the nature of the information disappeared in the case of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) had said the arrest should have taken place sooner, or not at all. If his hon. Friend were engaged in the utterance of speeches which were exciting to public disorder, he ought never to have been allowed to make a second speech, and accordingly they were driven to this conclusionthat—that the hon. Gentleman was arrested for a speech made months ago, or he was arrested for a speech made two or three weeks ago. If the arrest was in respect of a speech made months ago, it had come too late; but there could be no doubt it was made on account of a speech delivered only two or three weeks ago. The only recent speeches made by his hon. Friend that he knew of which bad attracted notice during the last few weeks were two, one of which was made on a Sunday, and the other at a Land League meeting in Dublin. The speech made on the Sunday could not have been the cause of his arrest, because his hon. Friend was in prison before the report of it could have come before the Dublin authorities. He was, therefore, forced to the conclusion that it was in consequence of his speech be- 201 fore the Land League meeting that his hon. Friend had been arrested. But, on April 7, Mr. Justice Fitzgerald stated in a Charge to the Grand Jury that Dublin was in an unusually peaceful and orderly condition. For himself, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had never seen Dublin in anything but a peaceful and orderly state. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was questioned with regard to the Charge, and his reply was that since the Charge of Judge Fitzgerald one or two speeches had been made in the Land League. Was the Metropolis of Ireland to be proclaimed in a state of siege, and were the liberties of 300,000 people to be placed at the mercy of every policeman, because one man made speeches which it was sought to prevent? If such a thing were heard of as occurring at Berlin, or even at St. Petersburg, English Members would receive it with disgust, and would hardly believe it possible. What was the speech of his hon. Friend? The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had himself declared that if the Irish people had the control of their own affairs, either justice would be done to the Irish tenants, or the Irish tenants would exterminate the landlords. If he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) were to act the part of a plagiarist, and to give as his own, in the Council of the Land League in Dublin; some of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last year, with regard to the horrors of eviction, with regard to the process of eviction, with regard to the threats of violence, and the difficulty of preserving and maintaining the public peace, he had no doubt he would have an uncomfortable lodging in Kilmainham before 24 hours were over; but if he were to adopt some of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, he did not think he would even be let off with a lodging in Kilmainham, but believed that he would be brought before a packed jury, if a packed jury could be got in Ireland now, and sentenced to penal servitude for inciting to riot. No one could deny the truth of what the hon. Member for Tipperary had said; but its very truth was its guilt in the eyes of the Government. His hon. Friend had said that there were 10,000 persons threatened with eviction; and 202 that was true. The hon. Member was understating rather than overstating the case. Was he to be put in prison because he spoke what was true? Did anybody suppose that the public peace and order could be preserved in Ireland if the Government were criminal enough to allow evictions to be made? No one who knew the animosity which the present action of the landlords in Ireland created, or the feeling of the people towards them, could fail to be aware that 10,000 or 12,000 evictions could not take place without resistance. If that were so, could his hon. Friend, knowing the fact, be blamed for stating it? As a chief officer of the Land League, it was his duty to proclaim the facts; and instead of having been imprisoned for doing so, he ought to be thanked for it; if he had abstained from doing so, he would not have been performing his duty as a citizen. Instead of that, there could be no doubt that that was the speech which led to his hon. Friend's arrest. It was deplorably strange, but it was true, as had been said by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), that the Irish people had never gained anything from England except by violence or threatened insurrection, and the Land Bill was no exception to the rule; whereas his ideal was that of a country where legitimate ends were pursued by Constitutional and legitimate means. Indeed, a country could scarcely be said to be civilized in which the means did not exist of influencing public opinion by peaceful meetings or through the Press; while violence was the miserable concomitant of English rule in Ireland. He charged that upon the Government as one of the worst and most demoralizing influences which they exercised in this country; and, in conclusion, he begged to say that if the Government gave the Irish Members facilities for discussing the arrest of his hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon), the question would be discussed in a frank, full, and fair manner; but if the Government demurred to or denied that reasonable request, then they would be compelled to take such means as the Forms of the House might afford of securing attention for a matter which lay near to millions of Irish hearts.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he had opposed the passing of the Coercion Bill, and he now regretted some of the conse- 203 quences of that Bill. He did not rise to criticize the policy of the Government with regard to the arrests that had taken place in Ireland, because he was not in a position to say whether or not any of the action taken there was justified. There was, however, abroad, he thought, a very general feeling of regret that, as the Government had stayed their hands so long, they had not found it consistent with their duty at the last moment to avoid arresting Mr. Dillon. No one that had read the speeches of Mr. Dillon could doubt that he had made statements which would justify his arrest; but what he (Mr. Collings) wished to ask the Government was this—when were they to stop in the process of arresting various Leaders of the Land League? He could not help regretting that the Government had chosen that particular time to create a feeling of irritation by their action in Ireland, a time when a Land Bill had been brought in, which redeemed the promise of the Government. It was a Bill which throughout the whole of England had been received with favour, and generally in Ireland with thankfulness and appreciation. ["No, no!"] The Bill was generally received with appreciation, and in a manner better than the Government could have expected; and by doing what they had, they were likely to destroy, to a great extent, their remedial legislation. The state of Ireland appeared to be now even worse than it was a few months ago as regarded the feelings of the people; and a word ought, he thought, to be said about those who were the real culprits in the case, and without whom the Dillons could not exist in Ireland. He meant the men who were evicting the tenants from their farms. By arresting 50 Dillons the Government would not secure the object which they seemed to have in view. It had been said by the Prime Minister. that "crime dogged the steps of the Land League;" but anyone who had read the statistics of crime in Ireland would see at once that crime dogged the steps of eviction, and if crime was to be stopped evictions must be seen to. The Government must be aware that the Coercion Bill was being put to a purpose which they never contemplated. A week or two ago, evictions were enforced at the instance of a justice of the peace for the county of Armagh, Mr. M'Geough, with the aid of 204 50 policemen, at which the most painful scenes were witnessed. And who was Mr. M Geough? Why, a gentleman who, according to the evidence given before the Bessborough Commission, was one of those who had brought Ireland into the condition in which she was now placed. It appeared that one of his tenants, a widow, wished to sell her tenant right in a farm for which she paid £20 a-year; but that he refused to accept a man as tenant who was ready to take it, unless he consented to have the rent increased to £27 a-year. Those terms were refused. The widow, inconsequence, could not sell her tenant right, and she was evicted without any compensation. That such proceedings should create a deep feeling of irritation in the minds of the Irish people was scarcely matter for wonder. He (Mr. Collings) gave the Chief Secretary for Ireland credit for his humanity; but he must say people were tempted to commit offences in their despair. They might say that that view was not logical; but then they were dealing with a people who thought they had no right to be turned out on the roadside. When they talked about sending large forces to be present at these evictions, so as to prevent resistance, they lost sight of the fact of what human nature would do under such circumstances. They must not forget that the very beasts would fight for their lair and young ones when driven to desperation; and these evictions must be stopped, unless they were to increase even the disorder which they had now. There had been the greatest misconception in this country as to the character of the agitation in Ireland, and it seemed to him that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had been duped by the Tory landlords in Dublin Castle. The story which had been placed before thousands of people by the English Press as to the roasting alive of a process-server had turned out false. The Times, a short time ago, represented the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) to have told the Irish people to stick to their arms; but, on turning to the Dublin Freeman, he (Mr. Collings) found that what the hon. Member really had said was—Your organization has given you the benefits you have gained, and I advise you to stick to the arm which has done so much for you.What was to be done? He strongly advised the right hon. Gentleman at the 205 head of the Government to publicly signify his intention of making the Bill retrospective in its clauses. Even this Bill might not pass this Session, and the landlords would be protected in their legalized plunder.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member was travelling into a Bill which was appointed for a future day.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
, apologizing, said, he was led away from the question by a consideration of the injustice done to the Irish people while the Land Bill was being delayed in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking last August, stated that if the landlords used their powers in such a manner as to force the Government to support them in injustice, the Government would accompany their request for special powers with a Bill which would prevent them being obliged to support injustice. After that speech, one might have hoped that something would be done to prevent the injustice which the Government would not deny was at present taking place in Ireland. He did not know, for instance, whether it would not be possible to refuse the use of troops and Constabulary at evictions, until the justice of the case of the Irish tenants was first settled. He would appeal to the Prime Minister to say one word of comfort to these poor Irish people, every one of whom, as well as every one of the people of England, believed in the right hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "No!" from the Irish Members.] He would say yes, and, speaking from experience of public meetings in England, he said the mention of the name of Gladstone always raised unbounded enthusiasm.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
maintained that even recent proceedings had not destroyed the popularity of the Prime Minister. He made the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman from a sense of pity for the poor people of Ireland, and could assure the House that, if he were the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he could not sleep in his bed for thinking of the injustice inflicted on these unfortunate persons. He would remind the Prime Minister of the theory he propounded long ago, but which was still well remembered—namely, that the 206 people were our own flesh and blood? [Several Irish MEMBERS: No, no!] Oh, yes, they were. He was sorry the Irish Members were so parochial that they could not understand his meaning. In a wider sense the Irish people were their own flesh and blood. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to hold out some hope to these poor creatures who were turned out of their homes every day, and who, if they left the country, left with curses on England. The Government dare not logically carry out the Coercion Act; if they did they would be compelled to shoot down the people. [An Irish MEMBER: They have done so already.] He maintained that the people of England were not prepared to approve of any such extremities. The Government were in the position of an unskilful physician dealing with a skin disease. They were taking steps to spread that disease inwards, and, by casting into prison the leaders of the Land League, they were leaving the whole thing in the hands of the ruffian part of the population. He therefore appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to say something whereby the bad landlords would be taught that if they persevered in the course which led to crime they would have to make restitution. He was saying nothing against the Government; but he was asking that they should give effect to their good intentions. He regretted that the Coercion Act was being used simply for the purpose of evictions and of collecting rents whether those rents were just or unjust, in a most barbarous manner, and with a total disregard to the position and poverty of the poor people who were evicted. Let the House remember that the Irish people were turned out of their homes for resisting a law which Parliament was about to proclaim an unjust law. Insisting on those evictions, bad landlords were doing that which they knew two months hence it would be unlawful for them to do; and what was more natural than that the people of Ireland should refuse obedience to the law which gave them no protection in return?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
, who said, that he did not rise to reply to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings), 207 but to ask the House to consider the Position in which it had been placed by the hon. Member. He would admit, as fully as the hon. Member could desire, that the evictions in Ireland, and the consequences to which they led, were a very serious question; but he could not help thinking that the hon. Member had ingeniously intended to do the Government a good turn by continuing the debate on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill. That evening was devoted to private Members; but his hon. Friend had managed to make a speech which would have been very suitable for the second reading of that Bill, but was scarcely appropriate to a Motion for the adjournment of the House. He did not propose to follow up the discussion introduced by his hon. Friend. That would be very irregular on the part of the Government. The debate had been diverted into that channel, and that was why he rose at the same time as the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson), who, he rather thought, was about to make an elaborate reply to the hon. Member for Ipswich. There was no doubt the discussion had been raised upon another matter, and no doubt it was a very serious and grave matter that a Member of the House should be arrested and imprisoned. So serious a matter was it that it was a most unsatisfactory thing to attempt to deal with it upon a Motion for adjournment, for on such a Motion no decision of the House could be taken. If there ever was a question upon which the House should definitely pronounce, it was upon the conduct of the Government in arresting a Member of that House; but it was quite clear that no definite and distinct opinion could be pronounced upon such a Motion as that, however willing anyone might be to give an opinion. How, on a mere interlocutory Motion, could the Government enter on the details of the grounds of the arrest of the hon. Member for Tipperary? That was a question of the gravest gravity, and the Government were not entitled to go into it except upon the most urgent grounds, and after a distinct challenge of their conduct had been given, and a decision of the House invited. He thought that, in the circumstances, the House would, upon reflection, agree with him that no advantage could be gained by continuing the debate.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he quite agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department in thinking that no good object would be gained by discussing the matter further. He would have been glad if the discussion had terminated before the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Collings) had spoken; but a new direction had been given to it by that hon. Member, who had made a peculiar, not to say extraordinary speech. The Motion had been introduced unexpectedly by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Thereupon the hon. Member for Ipswich, watching his opportunity, had risen and produced a mass of letters and documents which he fired away for half-an-hour, and pleaded earnestly for a reply from a Minister. He avoided calling upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who the hon. Member knew was always ready to speak; and, indeed, he looked thoroughly put out when the right hon. and learned Gentleman got up to say a few words on the subject. He (Mr. Gibson) had no intention of making an elaborate speech; but he should like to make a few remarks in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Ipswich. The hon. Member from one of his documents drew comfort, which he found in the speech made last August by the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but he forgot to draw the obvious moral, when the right hon. Gentleman stated last August that if he saw occasion for interfering with the landlords he would not hesitate to take action. It must therefore be fairly and honestly assumed that he had found nothing since that time, with all the vast information at his disposal, that would justify him as a responsible Minister in submitting to the House a proposal on the subject. But the case did not rest on that obvious inference; for, within the last two months, the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated in the House there was nothing whatever in the conduct of the landlords as a class calling for objection from him, and similar remarks were made on a recent occasion by the Prime Minister. What, then, was the meaning of the extraordinary remarks about landlords made by the hon. Member for Ipswich? Some glimmering of what was due to justice appeared to have crossed the 209 mind of the hon. Member towards the close of his speech, when he said no one could tell at present whether the evictions were just or unjust. That thought should have suggested to him some caution, when he said just before the real culprits were the landlords; that they were trying to clear the land from tenants as from vermin. What proof did he offer of that, or of his other statements, that they were seeking for ill-gotten and legalized plunder, and that what they were doing were reckless outrages. ["Hear, hear!" from the Irish Members.] He did not object to applause from any quarter. He desired to point out that those were strong statements to be made in that House without any proof, especially as they culminated in the statement that the speaker was unable to tell the House whether evictions were just or unjust. In the name of common sense, what did the hon. Member for Ipswich think the Irish landlords should do when they were not paid their rents? Had the hon. Member the faintest conception that, at the present moment, on many thousands of holdings in Ireland rents were deliberately, without reason, justice, or cause, withheld from the landlords? Were the landlords to remain idle in those circumstances? Was it to be suggested for a second that the landlords, face to face with an organization whence came unjust and improper teaching, were to remain utterly quiescent, and not to seek to recover their legal rights? The proposition of the hon. Member, when seen from a sensible point of view, was utterly absurd. Did the hon. Member deny that in thousands of cases rents were improperly and unjustly withheld? Did he mean that the landlords so treated were to do nothing? Why, there must, in the very nature of things, be a substantial increase of evictions. That would of necessity be so, unless the landlords were, in the words of the hon. Member for Ipswich, to submit to be made the victims of legalized plunder and legalized outrage. He regretted that there was some truth in one sentence used by the hon. Member for Ipswich. The hon. Member had said that the condition of Ireland was worse now than when the Peace Preservation Act was passed. He held also that the state of things in Ireland now was grave and serious, and the re- 210 sponsibility of the Irish Executive was of the gravest kind. He (Mr. Gibson) concurred in that, and should not, at the proper time, hesitate to criticize frankly and fully the conduct of that Executive. Before the Irish officials were strengthened by the addition of exceptional powers, they did not apply until on the very eve of the meeting of Parliament the powers left in them by the ordinary law with anything like adequate vigour. Before the meeting of Parliament the Executive in Ireland had, in fact, been so administered that it did not command proper respect in that country. For a short period after the passing of the Peace Preservation Act many people thought that a quieter state of things was going to arise; but the fact remained at that moment, that with the powers of the ordinary law and of the exceptional law at their disposal, the administration of the country had been such that the Irish Executive was not regarded by the community, from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear, with anything approaching to due respect. These, of course, were matters to be gone into when they should come regularly before the House for discussion, and the Government had the opportunity of defending themselves. He should then, probably, not hesitate to take part in the discussion. He would admit that the position of those responsible for the maintenance of law and order was a difficult and responsible position, and that every fair allowance should be made in reference to their conduct; but, at the same time, they must expect that their conduct would be jealously scanned and anxiously scrutinized by those who had to look to the law for their vindication and protection.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
said, that his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had made some very natural observations on the strange divergence of the debate from its original purpose. It might, accordingly, have been expected that his right hon. and learned Friend would have kept in mind the principles which, according to him, ought to have guided the hon. Member for Ipswich, and, at all events, would not so far have forgotten his position as to make the Motion for adjournment the occasion for a somewhat fiery 211 Party attack upon the Irish administration of the law during the last six months, at a time when he knew that the responsible Minister who could best answer him must sit with his mouth closed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must have known, indeed had called attention to the circumstance, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland was one of the two principal Ministers now present who, having already spoken, could not be heard again on the question before the House. Knowing, however, that this was not the proper occasion for such a speech, his right hon. and learned Friend had delivered an angry philippic with the not very amiable object of destroying any respect that might be entertained for the present Administration. His right hon. and learned Friend, after administering his gentle rebuke to the hon. Member for Ipswich, might, without any disadvantage, have wandered back to the particular subject under consideration, and not have proceeded to make a gratuitous attack upon the conduct of the Government under cover of a Motion such as this. A proper occasion would, no doubt, soon arise for the discussion of that question; and the Government would be then perfectly ready to meet the charges made by his right hon. and learned Friend and take the judgment of the House upon them.
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he did not think that Her Majesty's Government ought to regret the discussion which had taken place, as it had been turned into a very good debate upon the Irish Land Question. If, however, they did regret it, he could only say that they could at any moment have stopped it by giving an honest and straight answer to an honest and straightforward question. The question was—why did they arrest Mr. Dillon? They defied the Government to give them an answer there that night. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said this was a question of the greatest gravity, he (Mr. R. Power) said that was all the more reason why the Government should give them an opportunity for discussing it. Would the Government give them an opportunity for discussing the question? He thought they would not. He thought the Government had too much common sense to allow them to discuss the arrest of 212 Mr. Dillon. He quite admitted that Mr. Dillon was, to the Government, a great annoyance and a great inconvenience. The Chief Secretary for Ireland did not want him in Ireland, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not want him in the House of Commons. The Chief Secretary for Ireland imagined he saw in him a great conspirator against his authority in that country; and he (Mr. R. Power) could not help thinking that the Secretary of State for the Home Department imagined that he saw in Mr. Dillon a second Mr. John Devoy, who might come into that House and put a cask of dynamite under the Government Bench and blow it up, thereby sending the right hon. and learned Gentleman to another place. Was Ireland in a disturbed state at present, and was it on account of Mr. Dillon? He did not think it was on account of Mr. Dillon; and he was very glad indeed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Law) gave them, the other night, the reason why Ireland was in a disturbed state. He said that "Rapacious landlords keep the country in a state of disturbance." He (Mr. R. Power) should like to know why the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not put into Kilmainham some of those gentlemen who, he said, kept the country in a state of disturbance? He himself should be sorry, in Ireland, to say, in the Land League rooms in Dublin, for instance, that the rapacious landlords kept the country in a state of disturbance. He did not think it would be a safe thing to say under the present circumstances. He thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had certainly qualified himself to become an honorary member of the Land League by that statement. He did not remember any speech made in Ireland which would excite people more than to tell them that the rapacious landlord was the man who created all this disturbance—the man who turned them out on the road-side, and had no mercy for his tenants in any respect. But he would ask seriously—what was the feeling that the arrest of Mr. Dillon had created in Ireland? If there was one man in Ireland whom the people looked up to for counsel and advice—if there was a man who, by his character and his acts ever since he came into public life, merited 213 and obtained the confidence of his countrymen—it was Mr. Dillon; and the arbitrary arrest of that man could not but weaken the hold of the Government, if they ever had any, upon the affection of the Irish people more than all the Coercion Bills they had ever passed in that House. He had just received a resolution from the Dungarvan Board of Guardians condemning the Government for what they had done, and they might expect similar resolutions of condemnation from the various Boards and public bodies in Ireland. They might depend upon it that by his arrest they had done more to create disloyalty and disaffection in Ireland than anything Mr. Dillon ever could or ever did do.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that when the Coercion Bills were being passed through the House, he warned the Government that those measures would be used for the purpose of vengeance by the Irish landlords, and used by the Government for the purpose of suppressing political feeling in Ireland; and he thought the result had proved the perfect truth and justice of those forewarnings. It was a notorious fact that the men now arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham and Galway were not the class of men described to the House by the Government as the persons whom they desired to arrest. The Government alleged that they desired to arrest the inciters to outrage, the midnight marauders, the village ruffians, and all the rest of it; but they, the Irish Members, alleged, on the other hand, that that was not their intention, and that their intention was to arrest the young men who were carrying on in a spirited, but in a perfectly legitimate and Constitutional way, the organization and the agitation of the Irish Land League, and that was really the case. With respect to his hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), it was a remarkable fact that he was not arrested until the eve of the second reading of the Land Bill, and after he had made a speech which did not differ in character from many of those he had previously delivered. He must say that that looked very like foul play. Only last week a young man of excellent character, named Higgins, was arrested for signing, as honorary secretary, a resolution passed at a meeting of a local branch of the Land League, and sending a copy of 214 it to a farmer residing in the neighbourhood. No one had, in fact, been arrested under the Acts answering to the character of those who were described by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland during the debates on the Bills. The Government secured the passing of the Coercion Acts by false pretences; the grounds they gave to the House did not and do not exist; the whole story was shown to have been a mass of exaggeration by the manner in which the Acts had been carried out. The Government should have been slow to arrest Mr. John Dillon at any time, and especially at the time they did. At the commencement of his political career he was grossly attacked in his absence by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The most serious outrages in Ireland were those that were being committed under cover of the Act. The real criminals nestled in Dublin Castle, and their "head centre" was the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
said, he would ask the Government to remember that clemency was far more powerful than cruelty. What was the result of the course the Government had pursued? Had any good ensued? Was Ireland any quieter, were the peasantry more contented, or were there fewer evictions? No; the evictions were increasing day by day, proving that the policy the Government had pursued was a bad policy. Everybody was sorry that Mr. Dillon was arrested; but the question was whether his imprisonment had been for good or evil. He was as much interested in the success of the policy of the present Government as anyone, believing the failure of it would be a misfortune to the country; but he must admit that Mr. Dillon's arrest was producing no good in either Ireland or England. Let them remember how English public opinion was aroused in regard to the trial of Governor Eyre for proceedings in Jamaica. The English people disliked the trickery used in that case; they resented the manner in which, in Jamaica, Gordon was arrested in a district not subject to martial law, and then transferred into a district where martial law had been proclaimed, and there tried by subaltern officers under such law and hanged. What was the feeling of England in this case? Was it not that the proclamation of the City 215 of Dublin was made with a view of entrapping Mr. Dillon? Was it not also felt that he was arrested at a time when of all others he should have been left free, when he was corning over to England to discharge his duty, and when he considered his person safe. He (Mr. T. C. Thompson) said the feeling of the people of England was a feeling of indignation. The Government had many opportunities of arresting him. They had heard Mr. Dillon say many things in that House for which, supposing the Government had done their duty now, they ought to have arrested him then. Why did they arrest him now? A belief had gained ground that it was simply because his evidence on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill would have been most important? The Land Law (Ireland) Bill was a middle-class Bill, and there were few men in that House who represented anything but middle-class people, while Mr. Dillon represented a class he would have been proud to represent—the peasantry of Ireland. The blot upon that Bill was that there was no provision made in it in favour of the peasantry, no provision to prevent eviction in bad seasons, and Mr. Dillon would have spoken strongly against such an omission. They might pass hundreds of measures to relieve Ireland; but if no relief against evictions in such seasons as the peasantry had gone through lately was included in them they would be of no use. He appealed to the Government to let one of their first acts be the release of Mr. Dillon from prison, and the next the repeal of the odious Coercion Acts.
§ Mr. O'DONNELL
rose to address the House, when—
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. O'DONNELL
resumed, by saying he wished to utter a few words upon the matter. It appeared hopeless to expect that either the English or Irish Government, so amply represented on the Treasury Bench at the present moment, would give anything like a satisfactory reply to the request of the Irish Party that evening. They had asked for facilities to discuss the case of Mr. Dillon. It was admitted on all hands that various suspicious circumstances attended that arrest; and they wanted an oppor- 216 tunity, in a straightforward manner, of grappling with the Government case. It certainly appeared that the probability of his appearing in the House to express the opinion of a very large body of the Irish people on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill had something to do with his arrest. Mr. Dillon had said nothing within the last few weeks preceding his arrest in any way different to what he had been saying months before; and the matter required a little more explanation than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given it, for he had simply defended himself for not giving information by reference to the bare letter of the Coercion Act. But an engagement had been given, when that Bill was under discussion, that the causes which led to every arrest should be laid upon the Table, and the breach of that engagement ought to bring a blush to the face of every Member of the Government. He saw that he was still more unfavourably situated than when he rose to address the House, because now there was not a single Member of the Government present. But he must say that there was as much intelligent knowledge of the affairs of Ireland on the Treasury Bench now as at any time since the Government came into Office.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he had no sympathy with the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon); but he must say he had, at least, been consistent in delivering exactly the same kind of speeches five months ago as three weeks ago; and it was the duty of the Government to have arrested him long before they had done. He (Mr. Warton) had himself brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary for Ireland many passages from the hon. Member's speeches; but ho was always met by the right hon. Gentleman in a shuffling manner, and told that the passages cited were correctly given, though in some cases he had produced reports from different sources. The right hon. Gentleman was inconsistent in his conduct, and deserved the epithet he (Mr. Warton) had applied to him long ago.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ The House was adjourned accordingly at a quarter before Nine o'clock.