§ MR. SEXTON
said, he begged to move for leave to bring in this Bill. The situation in Ireland was shifting and varying, not merely from month to month, but from day to day, and before the time came when, in the ordinary course the second reading of the measure would be taken, the Government might find themselves enabled to release the "suspects" in prison, and be able to report to the House that the condition of Ireland 343 had become safe and quiet. He insisted upon his claim to his right—his unquestioned right—to introduce the Bill, and have it read a first time. The Government had a majority at their back, and might, and no doubt would, defeat it on the second reading; but he claimed his chance of having an opportunity at a later period of discussing the condition of Ireland on the second reading of the Bill. The figures quoted by the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. W. E. Forster) at an earlier period of the evening were a sufficient reason for the introduction of the measure. They showed that the class of offences known in Ireland as "agrarian outrages" had not diminished under the Coercion Act; but that, on the contrary, the more serious of this class of outrages and crimes had largely increased within the past few months. The presumption inevitably was that the wrong persons had been arrested, and that if the persons who committed the outrages had been imprisoned under the Warrants of the right hon. Gentleman, outrages would have diminished in Ireland. A skeleton of a case—and surely nothing more was wanted—had been made out for the introduction and first reading of this Repeal Bill. Every Government, at all times, had allowed private Members unquestionable facilities for at least introducing measures; and unless this courtesy was extended to him, he should be obliged to use the Forms of the House to assert his right against what he might call a rank, unwarrantable, aimless, and silly discourtesy of the Government.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal an Act of the last Session of Parliament, entitled 'An Act for the better protection of Person and Property in Ireland,' and commonly known as 'the Irish Coercion Act.'"—(Mr. Sexton.)
MR. W. E. FOESTEE
I, Sir, must oppose the introduction of this Bill. The hon. Member is quite inaccurate in stating that the Government has ever encouraged the House to give up its right to refuse the introduction of a Bill. Generally speaking, the Government assents to a first reading especially for the sake of allowing the Bill to be printed and thoroughly understood by Members; but it cannot be argued in the present instance that it is necessary to have the Bill printed in order to understand its 344 object. I do not wish to detain the House by going into the reasons why I cannot consent to the introduction of this Bill. I will not repeat what I have said already. I am anxious that coercion should come to an end as soon as possible; but to consent to the first reading of this Bill would cause the conduct of the Government to be open to a grave misconception in Ireland, and might produce effects for which we would not care to be responsible. Without detaining the House any further, I move that the Bill be not brought in.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he was sorry the Government opposed the introduction of the Bill. He almost always made a point of voting for the first reading of a measure quite irrespective of its purpose. If the practice that the Government now initiated were followed to any extent, they would have to make a new Rule, requiring Bills to be printed before the first reading; otherwise there might be no chance of understanding them. There had only been one Bill stopped at this stage by the late Government, and that was one for Triennial Parliaments, brought forward by Dr. Kenealy; and in their action on that occasion he believed the late Government had been mistaken. A great deal of trouble was occasioned by the stopping of that measure; and no doubt, if the Government stopped the present Bill, they would cause a block, and would bring about a continued obstruction of Bills in the House. They would be laying themselves open to a charge of Obstruction that would, no doubt, be used against them with force when the House came to discuss their New Rules for Parliamentary Procedure.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that if the Government were blocking this Bill out of friendship for him, because a Bill of his had been blocked, he could set their mind at ease, and, perhaps, induce them to abandon their opposition by informing them that his name was on the back of this Coercion Act Repeal Bill. If the Government were not actuated by the motive he had pointed out, then he would point out that nothing could be more monstrous than for a Government that was always complaining of the Obstruction of the Irish Members to deliberately obstruct a Bill brought forward by one of those Gentlemen. On all previous occasions when Coercion Bills had been passed they had been limited to within 345 a few weeks of the next Session; but the present Protection Act was to continue until the end of the Session succeeding that upon which it was passed. All that the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) now asked was that his Bill might be read a first time, so that the House might have an opportunity of hearing whether cause could be shown why the Coercion Act should still exist, or why it should be repealed. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) said he was anxious that coercion should come to an end—then what objection could he have to the first reading of this Bill? Passing the first reading of the Bill meant simply allowing it to be printed. The discussion on it would take place on the second reading. He could quite understand that the right hon. Gentlemen would oppose the second reading, and would be able to throw it out; but surely it was desirable that at some time during the Session there should be a specific discussion as to whether the Coercion Act should continue or cease.
said, he was afraid the hon. Member (Mr. Labouchere) would induce the Government to persevere in their opposition to the first reading, because he (Mr. Gorst) did not think the Government would be sorry if they could irritate the Irish Members and drive them into Obstruction, and so give them an argument in favour of their New Rules. It was impossible at that hour—1.20 A.M.—for the House to enter into the very long discussion which would be necessary for it to give a rational opinion as to whether the Bill could be proceeded with that night. He had voted in favour of every Bill on which a division had been taken, and he had done so because they were on subjects of such gravity that the House ought formally to pronounce an opinion on them. Well, could there be a subject of greater gravity than the question whether the Coercion Act should or should not remain in force? So far as he knew the facts of the ease, he thought that if he were called upon to give an opinion on the subject, he should feel it his duty to support Her Majesty's Government; but he did not think that he should be called upon to give that opinion in common with the rest of the House before Gentlemen who represented Irish constituencies had had the fullest and fairest opportunity of stating their views 346 to the House. To ask them, however, to make out their case at this hour of the morning was really a denial to them of that fair opportunity which they ought to have. If the matter went to a divison he should vote for the introduction of the Bill, not because he wished in any way to interfere with the Executive Government, not because he should not have been prepared to support the Executive Government after a fair discussion, but because it must be apparent to every candid Member of the House that this was a subject of such gravity and importance that an opportunity for full and fair discussion should be given.
§ MR. CARBUTT
said, that as a supporter of the Government, and as one of those who, unfortunately, voted for the Coercion Act, he would also appeal to the Government to allow the first reading of the Bill. His impression was that many hon. Members sitting below the Gangway on that (the Ministerial) side of the House would be glad to hear how the Act worked. They had been told that the government of Ireland could not be carried on without the Act, and its repressive powers had, therefore, been conferred upon the Executive. It was said that its effect would be to lock up the mauvais sujets, the dissolute ruffians, and the village tyrants; but as they had had Members of Parliament and gentlemen of position locked up, they should have some chance of discussing the subject. Sitting there as a Liberal, he appealed to the Government in all earnestness to agree to the first reading of the Bill.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, this was an extraordinary device on the part of the Chief Secretary for delaying the Business of the House. It used to be the custom for first readings to be allowed as a matter of course; but now they saw a first reading opposed by the Government. There was no necessity for this, as Her Majesty's Executive could show their antipathy to the measure easily enough on the second reading. He feared that by their present course the Government would breed an angry and hot controversy on almost every Bill.
§ MR. DICKSON, as a supporter of the Government, thought the Chief Secretary was making a great mistake in opposing the Bill at this stage. He 347 should vote for the first reading as he should support the first reading of any other Bill.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he could not agree with the principle laid down by almost everyone who had spoken, that no Bill should be opposed on the first reading. For his own part, he acted on the principle of opposing at all times every measure that seemed to him radically bad. At the same time, he must point out that Her Majesty's Government had hitherto laid down the principle that opposition was not to be offered to the introduction of Bills.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, that the Chief Secretary, after his magnificent oration of two hours and a-half that night, had failed to convince his Colleagues of the necessity of continuing the Coercion Act. This was surely the beginning of the end, the right hon. Gentleman's own Party being staggered by the fables he had offered them. He (Mr. Dawson) congratulated the Irish Members that the usual course in regard to this Bill had not been followed, for if it had they would not have heard these notes of welcome—they would not have seen that the English Liberals were beginning to appreciate the mistakes of the Government.
SIR HENRY FLETCHER
said, he hoped the Government would not allow the Bill to be read a first time. He spoke as a Conservative Member who had visited Ireland, and who had seen the disturbed districts, and was of opinion that the Protection of Person and Property Act should be continued in the most stringent form possible.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he should be exceedingly sorry if there were even the appearance of unfairness shown in connection with the stoppage of this Bill; and as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had stated that it was his intention to oppose the passage of the measure he appealed to Her Majesty's Government to allow its introduction as a mere formality.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would persist in their opposition to the introduction of this Bill, which would create a very bad impression in Ireland, inasmuch as it suggested a doubt whether the power of coercion should remain while the necessity for it continued.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. E. Stanhope). The measure proposed to be introduced by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) was intended to repeal the Act passed last Session for the better Protection of Person and Property in Ireland, and which expired at the end of September of this year. That the introduction of such a Bill would have no effect upon the condition of affairs in Ireland could not be admitted by Her Majesty's Government. The Act sought to be repealed did not stand upon the same footing as measures of a permanent character, inasmuch as it now had only a few months to run; and the mere introduction of a Repealing Bill would raise expectations which could not possibly be satisfied, and could only end in disappointment and mischief. The Government could not sanction the introduction of the Bill.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, that coercion was said to be only a hateful incident with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite in dealing with Irish affairs. But the real state of the case was clear from the conduct of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant that evening, which showed that the Act of last year was so darling a piece of business that he wished to cling to it as long as he could. The pretended reluctance of the Liberal Government to have recourse to coercion reminded one of the affected unwillingness with which a confirmed toper allowed himself to be prevailed upon to take a glass of whisky. He could not assent to the position taken up by the Chief Secretary, when he refused to consent to the introduction of this Bill, on the ground that it would create a bad effect in Ireland, inasmuch as he believed it would tend in a contrary direction. Why should the Bill not have a good effect? If the Government were willing that it should be discussed, the result, so far as the people of Ireland were concerned, would, he thought, be good; while there could be no doubt that a bad effect would be produced by their refusing to consider the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was not in very good odour in Ireland, and his position in the estimation of the people would certainly not be improved by the course he was adopting. 349 The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to make out a good case from a volume of Papers—policemen's reports, reports to sub-inspectors coming from spies and informers, and from the un-examined and unverified tales which poured into the Castle in Dublin. He had brought forward his dish of horrors; but it was clear upon the face of them from what sources those stories were derived. Hundreds of such tales were thrown into the post daily to be sent to Dublin. How, he asked, could informers earn their pay unless day by day they sent forward some tales of what was about to happen, but which, from their great firmness and vigilance, as the right hon. Gentleman had told the House, had been happily avoided? He and his hon. Friends wanted only a fair opportunity of dealing with the question of coercion, in order to show whether the Act was, or was not, doing good in Ireland. They undertook to prove unmistakably that the effect of coercion there had not been to diminish outrage, nor to produce peace and contentment amongst the people, but that its result had been to exasperate and drive them to desperation. It was not creditable to the Government to shirk such a fair challenge as this. As had been justly stated in the course of the debate, the discussion upon the Bill was not likely to come on to-morrow—weeks and months would elapse before that took place. Why, then, not allow the first reading of the Bill to go on in the ordinary way? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War objected to this Bill on the ground that the Act of last year would expire at the end of September next. That represented, according to him, a very brief period indeed, and the time would, no doubt, pass very lightly over the head of the right hon. Gentleman; but how, he asked, would it pass over the heads of those who were in gaol, and who were losing everything they possessed in this world except their honour? As a positive fact, every day of their confinement was ruining the health of those men, and incapacitating many for future work. To his own knowledge, the eyesight of one man had been destroyed by this imprisonment. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had to undergo such incarceration until the end of next September, he would probably think the 350 time a good deal too long. For his own part, he did not hesitate to say to the occupants of the Treasury Bench that those who were responsible for this state of things deserved Kilmainham more than the men they had imprisoned. If the Government wanted to tranquillize Ireland, let them put the men now in prison into Dublin Castle, and let them send the men in command at the Castle to Kilmainham. The House had been told that nobody had been incarcerated under the provisions of the Coercion Act without the most solemn trial. The words of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister were "a most solemn trial before God and man;" but he (Mr. Sullivan) believed that as fair a trial was given by the Ribbon Lodges in Ireland as was given in these cases under the Coercion Act in Dublin Castle. The House had now a clear view of the Obstruction which was initiated by the Government in opposing the introduction of the Bill of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). The Government having chosen that course, let not the Chief Secretary for Ireland complain if Irish Members hereafter paid them back in their own coin; which they would certainly do to the best of their ability.
§ MR. R. T. REID
trusted that the Government were not inexorable in their opposition to the introduction of the Bill of the hon. Member for Sligo. He could not, however, agree with everything—indeed, he agreed with hardly anything—which had been stated by the hon. Member who had just sat down, because he most heartily sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the extreme difficulty in which he was placed. He asked hon. Members near him to support him in his appeal to the Government to allow the Bill to be read a first time. It was noticeable that those who supported the Government on the present occasion were three hon. Members sitting on the Conservative side of the House; whilst every speaker who had risen from the Liberal Benches had expressed a hope that the Government would assent to the first reading of the Bill. When it was read a second time he should certainly vote against it, because he did not believe that it was possible, under existing circumstances, to repeal the Act of last year; but the discussion of the question was of the 351 deepest importance to Ireland, and to England also, inasmuch as it was of the greatest moment to the true interest of both countries. For those reasons, and in the most friendly sense, he expressed a hope that the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the Bill being read the first time.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he hoped the Government would remain firm in their opposition to the Bill. If at some future time it were necessary to go back upon the discussion of this question, that discussion would be raised if Her Majesty's Government were unfortunately obliged to bring in a Bill to continue the present Coercion Act.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he viewed with a great deal of suspicion the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to the ground of his opposition to the introduction of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had, on the previous evening, availed himself of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule to oppose the introduction of another Bill, which recommended itself to many hon. Members, with reference to the Viceroy of Ireland. The Government had availed themselves of that almost defunct Rule. According to the opinion in Ireland, the police had been let loose in Dublin last October, under circumstances that constituted a provocation to slaughter; and the Chief Secretary had used that method for the purpose of irritating Irish Members into a course of Obstruction which would not be agreeable to the House, so as to give his Party some excuse for the introduction of the clôture. Would the right hon. Gentleman offer the same opposition to the Bill which immediately followed upon the Paper? From the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, it would seem as if he did not wish Members on the Liberal side of the House to claim before their constituents the credit of allowing this Bill to be read the first time; and he sincerely hoped that he would not afford an opportunity to the sham Radicals in that House to whitewash themselves with their Irish constituents.
§ MR. WOODALL
remarked, that in the three recent divisions he had voted in favour of giving Members the opportunity of explaining the provisions of their measures; but the measure sought to be repealed had occupied a large share of last Session, it would expire 352 in the course of a few months, and at a future time there would be ample opportunity of considering whether it should be extended or not. If the Government thought it right to resist the proposal of the hon. Member for Sligo, he should certainly follow them into the Lobby; but, at the present stage, he thought it better to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Woodall.)
MR. W. E. FOESTER
I shall make no objection to the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke; but I must inform him that I shall put on the Table of the House a Notice to oppose the Bill.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
asked on what understanding the right hon. Gentleman agreed to the adjournment of the House?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
On the understanding that my Motion would be left on, which would, in fact, be a blocking Motion after half-past 12.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, the right hon. Gentleman unblushingly used an obstructive Rule to defeat this Bill. That was scarcely creditable to a Government who had put before the House a proposal that the half-past 12 o'clock Rule should not apply in such cases.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
pointed out that it would be of no advantage to the Government to adjourn, if the block system was to be continued. He hoped the House would not agree to the adjournment, as several hon. Members had Notices of Bills upon the Paper which they wished to introduce.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the offer of the right hon. Gentleman had not reached his ear, and he inquired what he had said? He had not spoken on the question.
§ MR. BARRY
said, he thought they had that night received indications of reviving conscience in English Radicals. When hon. Gentlemen opposite, who voted for coercion, were adversely criti- 353 cizing the policy of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland, he could not help having some sympathy for them. They must have felt, when the right hon. Gentleman unfolded his long and doleful explanation, that it was very inadequate, when they considered the policy of the Government in Ireland during the last few months. With reference to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), was it to be supposed for one moment that Irish Members, who had dear and intimate friends in prison, would permit month after month to go by without making some effort to obtain the release of their friends? Did the right hon. Gentleman really think they would allow his system of government in Ireland to go on unchallenged? If he did he would be disappointed, for they meant to challenge it upon every occasion that presented itself. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say the Act was passed and terminated in September, and, therefore, there ought to be nothing more said about it; but when he reminded hon. Gentlemen that there were gentlemen lying in prison to-night of as high character, of as blameless lives, and of as spotless reputation as any Member of the House, men against whom there could not be the slightest suspicion of crime advanced, they would agree with him that it was most unpardonable for the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the affairs of Ireland to have assumed his present attitude towards Irish Members. The right hon. Gentleman had been appealed to in forcible terms by Members of his own Party; but he had not deigned to listen to the appeals. If one thing more than another could establish the fact that the tone and temper of mind of the right hon. Gentleman was such as to unfit him to deal with the state of affairs prevailing in Ireland at the present moment, it was the little incident they were witnessing that night.
§ MR. MONK
trusted the hon. Member (Mr. Woodall) would not persist in his Motion, because it was rather hard that some 60 hon. Members, who had stayed in the House until 2 o'clock in the morning in the hope of bringing in their Bills and having them read a first time, should be prevented from doing so in consequence of the adoption of such a Motion as that now before the House.
§ MR. DALY
protested against the manner in which it was now attempted to defeat the object of his hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton). He perfectly remembered the passing of the measure which was now sought to be repealed, and during the progress of the Bill he heard, over and over again, from the Gentlemen below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House, regret that they should be compelled to consent to a measure which involved the liberties of a large number of the people of the United Kingdom. They, however, gave their support to the Bill on the ground that they could put trust in the administration of the Irish Executive under the care of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. This was a question which greatly involved the lives and liberties of his countrymen; and he held it was unworthy of the Chief of the Irish Executive to resist the possible chance of the measure of his hon. Friend being considered. It might be a matter of little importance to the Chief Secretary; but it was a matter of great moment to the men now languishing in prison—to these 500 subjects of Her Majesty who had an equal claim to Constitutional right as any person living in the United Kingdom. The chances of the Bill of the hon. Member for Sligo passing a second reading were very slight indeed. Since his entrance to Parliament he had never witnessed so systematic Obstruction as that which had been offered to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman by the Chief Secretary. In a spirit of fairness and justice to the inhabitants of the country to which he belonged, the Motion should be allowed to pass unquestioned. It was meaner than resistance for the Chief Secretary to consent to this adjournment. When the question came to be viewed in the fair light of day by the Radical and Liberal Members on the other side of the House, they would agree with him that the Motion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland was inopportune, and only calculated to damage the interests of the Liberal Party in England. He appreciated the difficulties of the English Government in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had had a most arduous task, and he had always given him credit for good intentions. He was, however, one of those who believed in the right hon. Gentleman's utter inca- 355 pacity to govern Ireland; he believed that if the Chief Secretary had a more decided will, coupled with the good intentions he gave him credit for, he would have done more good. Nothing had tended to decrease his estimation of the right hon. Gentleman than the position he had taken up that night. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to consider the matter fairly, and asked him not by a side wind or an indirect vote to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Sligo. The adjournment of the House would not decide the question one way or the other. The Chief Secretary had opposed the Motion on the ground that the consideration of the repeal of the Coercion Act of last Session would disturb Ireland. Now, he (Mr. Daly) claimed to have as great an anxiety to see Ireland pacified and prosperous as any man in that House; he was connected with trade, and trade was languishing owing to the present condition of Ireland. In his opinion, there would be no greater measure of defiance to Ireland than the last Motion to which the Chief Secretary had assented, because it was a method of shirking the question in which Ireland took the deepest interest. The hon. Member for Sligo desired to give the House an opportunity of calmly considering whether, under the circumstances, they were not misled, when they voted for the Coercion Act last Session, by the statements made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in introducing the Bill.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he believed that the course the Government had now taken was entirely worthy of them, and of the right hon. Gentleman who had acted as their spokesman in this matter. The Chief Secretary's conduct since he took the reins of power in Ireland had been at once silly and inconsistent. Tonight he had posed as the Representative of Obstruction, although he was a Member of the Cabinet which was about to propose a fundamental alteration of the Rules of the House to put down Obstruction. The object of the hon. Member for Sligo, in asking leave to introduce his Bill, was not that a discussion should take place on the administration of the Coercion Act at an early date. Such a discussion would take place within the next few days, and for the present the matter would be threshed out and thoroughly investigated. If the Bill 356 was introduced now, the second reading could not come on for two or three months, and it was absolutely essential that the whole question of coercion in Ireland should be re-considered before the end of the Session. Did not the coercion Act provide that every three months the case of each "suspect" was to be considered on its merits? Surely, if that were so, it was equally right that the whole subject of coercion should be discussed in the House of Commons at least every three months. This was a matter of great importance—it was a matter which touched him and every one of his hon. Friends, for there was not one of them who had not a dear friend—aye, and perhaps a relative—now deprived of his liberty under the Coercion Act. There was not one of them on these Benches at this moment, whilst they heard hon. Members talking glibly about a few months passing and then this Coercion Act would cease—there was not one of them who did not know that before the few months had passed some of those who were near and dear to them might have suffered materially in health. There was not one of them who did not believe the Coercion Act was administered in a cruel, imbecile, and brutal manner. There was not one of them who did not believe that its powers had been stretched unfairly; that they had been used to gratify private malice, and that the pledges which were given in the House of Commons by Ministers as safeguards——
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member attributes private malice to the Members of the Government in the execution of the Coercion Act, he is strictly out of Order. I am quite sure he never intended to do that.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, if he was out of Order in attributing private malice to the right hon. Gentleman, he would withdraw his words; but he would say that the Irish Executive were administering the Act in a spirit of private malice. The Chief Secretary for Ireland made pledges in the House upon the subject. He said, amongst other things, that theChoice of the prisons to which the men arrested under the Act would be sent would be guided by considerations for their convenience; that no unnecessary hardship or pain would be inflicted on the prisoners by the choice of prisons which were not absolutely essential for their safe custody.357 What had the right hon. Gentleman done? He had taken men from the remotest South of Ireland and sent them up into the North; he had taken men from the North and had sent them to the extreme South. In every case of recent date he had sent men as far as he possibly could away from their homes, so that there would be no possibility of their receiving visits from their friends. Many of the men who were arrested were men of high position and character, as of high position and as of high character as the right hon. Gentleman himself; but there were many who sprang from a poor and humble class, men who were almost forgotten in the prisons in the remote parts of the country, far away from their friends and from the reach of consolation which they would receive from friendly visits. A few weeks ago he (Mr. Redmond) went to a prison in the North of Ireland and inquired whether there were any prisoner under the Coercion Act who was so far away from home that he had been unable to receive a visit, and he was told there were three men in the prison who had been there for months, and who had never received a visit. He saw the men, and asked why they had been left there without the consolation of the visit of a single friend; and he was told it was because they were removed hundreds of miles from their homes, and their relatives were too poor to travel so far to see them. Did that show nothing of private malice? Did it not display a spirit of revenge, of vindictiveness, which the right hon. Gentleman told them so repeatedly was not to be exhibited in the administration of the Act? They were told it was to be preventive, and not vindictive. He could quote—and he would do so before the matter was disposed of—hundreds of cases of the working of private malice and of petty, contemptible individual feeling. He spoke strongly on the matter because he felt strongly; and he was quite convinced there were many English Members of the House who would not think it unreasonable in him to say that every Irish Member would insist, as far as they could, that months should not pass away without the subject of coercion and its administration being discussed again. They were to have a discussion on it for the next few days. Were they, then, to hear nothing more of 358 It until they were told whether the Act had to be renewed or not? They wanted to insure that in two or three months' time the whole subject should be re-considered. The Chief Secretary, in his speech a few hours ago, said he hoped that as the season advanced disturbance would be diminished, and that a possibility of going back to the ordinary state of the law might appear on the surface. But if there was any possibility of such a result, it was very necessary they should give the Chief Secretary an opportunity of carrying out his benevolent intentions, and of not allowing the Coercion Act to run its course. For all those reasons he thought they were justified in protesting against the Obstruction which the Government had offered to the introduction of this Bill. He never took part in the deliberations of the House without feeling how useless, how humiliating it was for Irishmen who had national aspirations to come to the House and to take part in its proceedings at all. He was one of those who believed that day by day the English Government were lessening the confidence the Irish people had in Parliamentary government, that day by day they were destroying the belief in Constitutional agitation which, up to the present, the Irish Party had endeavoured to keep alive. He believed that by his course of action to-night the Chief Secretary was simply following up what he had done in the past; and he believed that what the right hon. Gentleman had done in the past had materially lessened the confidence of the people in Constitutional action, and had prompted many a man who had moderate views to entertain extreme ones. He was convinced of this—that the man who was sent to prison a Constitutional political agitator would come out a rebel; and he was also certain that those who were left outside—perhaps without the means of obtaining bread to keep them alive, owing to the arrest of the head of the family—would have their feelings of disaffection intensified. He was not ashamed to say that he was one of those who were not sorry that the whole course and action of Her Majesty's Government had been what it had, because he was one of those who believed that as long as English rule existed in Ireland peace in Ireland would mean dishonour; and if the Irish people were 359 unable to obtain equal laws and equal rights with England—if, instead of giving them conciliation, England gave them hate, they would be prepared to pay back that hate with hatred, and the feelings of hatred against alien rule now felt by the people of Ireland would only be intensified by the action of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government which he represented. In the future history of Ireland the name of the right hon. Gentleman would be classed with names which were never uttered without a curse in Ireland—the names of Cromwell and of Castlereagh.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, it was impossible not to feel some sympathy with those hon. Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies who had spoken with so much warmth of feeling upon this question; but while he lamented, as everyone in that House must lament, the sad necessity for imprisonment of persons, some of whom were the near and dear relations of hon. Members, he could not accept the language which had been employed. It was with great reluctance that he rose to take part in the debate; but he felt it his duty to say one word in vindication of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant from the aspersions which had been so unjustly and so unfairly thrown upon him. He must say he thought the insinuation that the right hon. Gentleman had been guided in his action by private malice met with the very smallest response from the Members of that House generally; it would meet with no response at all from the people of the country, and it would simply recoil upon the heads of those who made it. Although they had had this great burst of indignation from hon. Members below the Gangway, he would ask them to consider what it had all been about. They had heard a great deal that night of novel precedents, and they were told that it was a course of procedure without example to refuse to allow a Bill to be introduced and read a first time. Now, on the contrary, he was disposed to say that the innovation consisted rather in the fact that within the last few years the practice had been introduced, as a general rule, of accepting the first reading of a Bill without opposition. In former days the rule was quite the contrary. No novel precedent had been established by the right hon. 360 Gentleman, and it was an entire and complete fallacy on the part of hon. Members to suggest it. He would not detain the House longer; but he had felt that he could not refrain from asserting his entire disbelief in the aspersions which had been cast upon the Chief Secretary by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond). After the discussion which had taken place, and the great warmth which had been displayed, he hoped the House would proceed to dispose of the Motion before it.
§ MR. WOODALL
remarked, that the discussion had shown the impossibility of treating the introduction of this Bill as a mere matter of form; but after the appeal which had been made to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) and other Members who desired to see their Bills introduced, he would withdraw the Motion he had made.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he thought that hon. Gentlemen were mistaken as to the practice of the House in regard to the introduction of Bills. In the last Parliament only one Bill was opposed on the Motion for Leave to introduce it. He thought, therefore, that for the Government to attempt now to revive the old practice was to invite future blocking and future Obstruction; and if hereafter the Irish Members were charged with obstructing the introduction of Government Bills, the Government themselves would have to confess that they had been the first to introduce the system. He hoped the Irish Members would be supported in the effort they were making to get the Bill printed.
§ MR. INDERWICK
said, that as several hon. Members opposite had discussed at some length the provisions of a Bill which was supposed to be one they desired to introduce, there were probably other hon. Members who wished to take part in the discussion. As this was the only day in the Session in which independent Members could hope to introduce Bills, and seeing that a considerable amount of Business still remained to be transacted before the House adjourned, he begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he supposed that the hon. Gentleman referred to Public Bills. He did not think it would be quite fair to the hon. Member in charge of the Bill under discussion either to adjourn the House or the debate, because he would then lose the place he had obtained in the ballot for precedence, and other hon. Members would have precedence over him. It would certainly be prejudicial to the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) if the present Bill were blocked by the Government, and the Bills of other hon. Members were permitted to be read a first time. Therefore, as there had already been considerable discussion, he thought the Government should take a division and show themselves before the public as the real Obstructives, who were availing themselves of a Rule which they proposed next week to sweep away. The Government ought to have the full responsibility of rejecting the Bill upon the Motion for introducing it.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
wished to remind the House that the Bill could have no chance of coming on until June, or even later, as all the previous days were occupied. Therefore, the House would not lose much if they decided to reject the Bill altogether. He had risen to take part in the discussion in consequence of the remarks which had been made by the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin) in regard to the conduct of the Government and of the Chief Secretary. He (Mr. R. N. Fowler) was as much opposed to the conduct of the Government as any man in that House. [Cries of "Agreed!"] He believed he was perfectly in Order in expressing that view. All he wished to add was that if ever there was a man who sat on the Treasury Bench with a single desire to do his duty to his country, that man was his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had no wish to defend the views of his right hon. Friend; but he was certainly of opinion that his right hon. Friend had been actuated by a sincere desire to do the best he could for the country.
§ Motion, by leave withdrawn362
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Inderwick.)
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, the object of the Motion to adjourn the debate was to burke this question, and to save the damaged reputation of the Chief Secretary for Ireland from further investigation. The object of the Motion to adjourn the debate was to further the policy of secret inquisition, of arbitrary government, or Cossackism and Bashi-Bazoukism, which was represented by the quondam liberators of Bulgaria. There was one thing which the proceedings that night had exhibited—namely, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, nominally a Liberal, was the head of the most Obstructive Party in Ireland. English Liberals, if any such remained, could see that the view of their Liberal Chief Secretary was to say "Amen" to the Orange Lodges. Since the Chief Secretary went over to Ireland—and he knew the discussion of this Bill would reveal the fact—he had been in the hands of the old Orange clique of Dublin Castle. Every statement he made to that House was put into his hands by the established Orange clique in Dublin Castle. As to a knowledge of the state of Ireland from any independent source—even from his own observation as an original source of information with regard to Ireland—the Chief Secretary was of precisely the same value as a piece of paper. The right hon. Gentleman was the funnel through which the calumnies of the Orange clique in Ireland were poured into the ears of a docile majority.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was opposing the adjournment, because a Motion for adjournment was calculated to prevent the exposure of the true relations between the Chief Secretary and the hereditary oppressors of the Irish people in Ireland. While the English people imagined that the Chief Secretary was the agent of a Liberal policy, if the Irish Members had an opportunity of investigating his conduct and showing how he had exercised his powers under the Coercion Acts, they could prove that he had not been the agent of a Liberal 363 policy in Ireland, but the agent of the crow-bar brigade; that he had been the confederate of all who had sown ill-will in the past between England and Ireland, and were really responsible for the continuance of disaffection in Ireland. No one imagined that the Government, in giving their consent—their formal consent—to the introduction of this Bill, would at all pledge themselves to open the prison gates and set the captives free. All that would be understood from their action in consenting to the introduction of the Bill was that at the end of a considerable space of time—in two or three, or, perhaps, four months—they would have the courage to submit their conduct to investigation. That was all that would be understood. If this Bill was introduced for the repeal of the Coercion Acts passed last Session, the Irish Members would be able to prove that those Acts were wrung from the House by utterly false utterances. They were now in a position to investigate and test the statistics, which were not given to the House until the House had been pledged to the policy of coercion. They were now in a position to prove that those Acts were not wanted for one particular reason, for the Coercion Acts were not even used for months after they were passed. The conduct of the Government could, if an opportunity were given, be shown to prove that the Acts which they insisted upon forcing on the House were not wanted against intimidation or disaffection, but were put into operation in order to force the acceptance of the Land Act on the people. It could be proved that the Government used the Coercion Acts in order to interfere with the course of ordinary legislation, to interfere with the beneficial legislation of this House, to prevent the people of Ireland from making use of the Land Act according to the needs of the people of Ireland. When an Act was passed in this House it was the right of every subject of Her Majesty to make every possible use of that Act with or without legal advice. The Government found the people of Ireland advised by those who loved them well to make use of the Land Act in a certain way, and the Government made use of coercion in order to put down the popular agitation. The Irish Members only asked for an opportunity of proving that, and the 364 right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary made use of the obstructive power which undoubtedly he possessed in order to prevent their having that opportunity. It was believed that the Government intended very soon still further to limit opportunities of discussion in this House; and for that reason it was, in the highest degree, indecorous for them to prevent the use of the last few remaining opportunities there were for criticizing their conduct with fairness or freedom. He had one more observation to make, and that was that, from all he had been able to see, he was obliged conscientiously to confirm all that had been said by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) as to the effect of the conduct of the Government in promoting disaffection, and in preventing the growth of confidence in the justice of Parliament, and in discouraging Constitutional agitation. He believed that all the efforts of all the Fenian conspirators, if given five years' free play to spread their agitation, would not do as much to dig an abyss between the affections of Ireland and the English Crown as had been effected by this sole officer of the English Crown, the Chief Secretary, in teaching, by every disregard of Irish feeling, the Irish people to detest the very name of Constitutional agitation.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
also rose to oppose the Motion for adjourning the debate. The Chief Secretary, he said, had stated that, when the time came, he and the Government would re-consider the question whether the Coercion Act ought to be allowed to expire or be re-enacted. That was the old story of "Leave it to me." Some time ago there was in Ireland one of those very efficient officers who, when consulted in Dublin Castle about a probable difficulty with regard to certain juries in Ireland, said to the gentleman who consulted him—''Leave it to me, and I will settle all about it," and then went down to that part of the country which was concerned, and so managed the juries that he got what he wanted. "Leave it to me" was the cry of the Chief Secretary in this matter; but if they (the Irish Members) could help it, they would not leave it to the Chief Secretary. They had had sufficient experience of him to know what to expect from him. They knew that he was primed by other 365 men, and that the word of his pet, Mr. Clifford Lloyd, would go far with him, and would outweigh the words of all the Representatives of Ireland, who knew something of the country, of which he could know nothing. Mr. Clifford Lloyd was the Chief Secretary's pet, and he boasted that Mr. Clifford Lloyd was likely to make peace in Clare. Mr. Clifford Lloyd had just made a raid on the people in one town in that neighbourhood, and had arrested a number of honest men. That was his way of making peace; it was the same system of making peace that had been carried out in Warsaw. No doubt, by arresting all the people, or shooting them down, Mr. Clifford Lloyd could make peace; but out of that so-called peace would come trouble yet. These men would give trouble, their friends would give trouble, their children would give trouble. They would not submit to be dragooned in that manner, to be arrested, without warrant, on the pretext of reasonable suspicion. There was not a police barracks in Ireland that day in connection with which there were not some corrupt wretches, paid by the Treasury, whose livelihood depended on bringing stories to the police and the Turkish Pashas who had been placed there by Dublin Castle; and upon such stories Irishmen had to endure prolonged imprisonment and the loss of their health. Mr. O'Brien, who was now in Kilmainham Gaol, was a most respectable and honourable gentleman, a man of talent and ability, although, no doubt, a foe to the rule of England in Ireland—as what Irishman was not? He (Mr. Sullivan) had small regard for the spirit of any man who was not opposed to British rule in Ireland. Mr. O'Brien was notoriously in delicate health, and not long ago he had to make a long journey to the East on the advice of his doctors. In addition to the lung disease with which he was afflicted, his eyes had always been weak, and he was now losing his sight in the dungeons of Kilmainham. He was arrested on reasonable suspicion. But no opportunity was given in that House to consider whether this atrocious Act was to be continued; it was to be left to the Chief Secretary and the nest of conspirators around him in Dublin Castle. But the voices of the Irish Members should reach the Irish people, and they should know that their 366 Representatives were resisting this rule here to the best of their ability, as they had resisted it in their own country.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, he was not very much surprised at the course taken by the Chief Secretary, nor was he much surprised at the course taken by his followers below the Gangway. Those were the Gentlemen who had been so much taken up with the Coercion Acts. The right hon. Gentleman had given another proof to the Irish people of the liberal spirit in which he had resolved to carry on the government in Ireland; and he (Mr. Leamy) had only to say that he joined in what the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) had said. He believed that the Chief Secretary had succeeded, in two years, in doing much to completely undo anything that the Prime Minister had succeeded in doing in Ireland.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Three o'clock.