§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir William Harcourt.)
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, he had given Notice of an Amendment to the second reading of the Bill; but as it was the general desire of the House that that stage should be disposed of last week, he had not moved it. But he purposed to do so now. He had made a slight alteration in the Amendment; but it affected more its wording than its meaning. The mixed feeling of impatience and hopelessness with which the House entered upon the discussion of a fresh Irish Coercion Bill—the 50th in 80 years—was but natural. It was reasonable, too, that the wrath and horror excited by the tragedy in Phœnix Park should colour the discussion. The character of the victims, and the circum- 1449 stances of the crime, combined to concentrate attention. But there had been murders as detestable and as dastardly, if not as daring, that had excited small comment and provoked little protest. Painful though these assassinations were, they did not constitute the most disturbing element of the situation. They were but the outward and visible signs of the existence of an irritating virus. The Government expected that the Bill before the House would bring a temporary relief. He did not share that opinion. He thought its effect would be the very opposite. But of this they might be sure—that until the social suppuration was drained off, there would be a constant recurrence of these eruptions. Few things in human history were more visibly related—as cause and effect—than Irish misery and Irish outrage. The one was the outcome of the other. Average Englishmen treated Irish politics as a pest, Irish grievances as a nuisance, and Irish history as a myth; but if they were to grasp the troubles that caused them such ceaseless disturbance, they would have to probe the evil to the bottom. Irish customs were not singularities to be stared at, or extravagances to be ridiculed; but were living and active forces, which had deeply and continuously affected national life. If the perennial discontent was to be appeased, these customs would have to be studied, and the drift of them understood. It was impossible to conceive that any number of men would deliberately run the risk of being hanged for the sole purpose of gratifying personal dislike. To argue in support of such an opinion was to suppose the existence of a diabolism in Irish character inconsistent with human nature. There must be a cause for these troubles. What was that cause? It originated partly in the injustice of the past, and partly in the suffering of the present. According to old Irish law, the land belonged, not to the individual, but the tribe. The Chiefs held their position as much by choice as by inheritance. Every Irish peasant had a share—it might be a small share, but he had a share—in the land he tilled. That right was inviolate and indefeasible. It was recognized by law and acted upon by custom. We overturned the clan system and established the landlord system. We drove the Irish Chiefs into beggary and exile, 1450 and the Irish peasants into the bogs and mountains. They were not sufficiently numerous to rebel; they were not sufficiently influential to make their voice heard in the Legislature; but they were powerful enough to combine, and they did so. They formed agrarian associations, after the model and according to the principles of English trades unions. The English workmen were accustomed at one time to cut the driving bands and bellows of black-legs. Irish peasants, in like manner, injured the property and attacked the lives of the landlords, or of tenants who refused to comply with their trade combinations. The Rapparees, the Levellers, the Whiteboys, and the Peep o' Day Boys of past times in the South of Ireland; the Hearts of Oak and the Hearts of Steel in the North; and the Ribbonmen and Moonlighters of modern days had all a common origin. The idea that animated them was identical. The purpose they sought to serve was the same. They were the trade societies of the peasantry. The excesses that they committed did not originate in depravity of disposition, or in mere Celtic restiveness. They were wild and unregulated protests against personal injustice and public grievances. Hon. Gentlemen talked as if the present state of Ireland was new. Unfortunately, there was no novelty in it. It was the normal condition of the country. Agitations and offences of the kind complained of were—he was going to say—as old as their round towers; certainly, they were as old as the Conquest and the Confiscations. The poet Spenser, and Payne, two of the adventurers planted in Munster after the Elizabethan settlement, described the state of Ireland in their day. If hon. Members would take the trouble to refer to the works of Spenser or Payne they would find the condition existing then was the exact counterpart of what existed now. If they took a chapter from Spenser's book, and altered the dates and names, it could be read as a description of the South and West of Ireland to-day. Nothing had changed. There was the same bitter feeling between landlord and tenant, the same cause of complaint, the same disorder, and the same class of outrages. Sir William Petty—the founder of the House of Lansdowne, and one who was largely concerned in the Cromwellian settlement—Mr. Wake- 1451 field, Mr. Plowden, and Arthur Young also described Ireland at different periods, and the descriptions they gave tallied with those that were now being given from day to day. Even Mr. Thackeray, writing at a still more recent date, and with no special leaning towards the Irish people, accounted for the disturbances in the same way that the other writers referred to had done. There was no difference of opinion amongst persons who had examined the subject amply and dispassionately. Suffering produced the discontent, and the discontent the crime. The evictions which were now being carried out upon such an extended scale fed the disorder. Evictions, indeed, were but spawning-grounds for it; but a more striking circumstance was this—that there was no country in Europe, whose people were mainly dependent on agriculture, where like troubles had not arisen. The peasant war in Germany, the conflict in France previous to the Revolution, the farmers' struggles in Denmark and in Hungary, were but reproductions of the state of things that existed in Ireland. The people were divorced from the soil, ground down by their landlords, and engaged in a perpetual struggle between starvation and pauperism. They resorted to the same remedies to better their position. The same class of crimes existed there that they found in Ireland—injuring the landlords' property, burning the produce of recalcitrant tenants, and the maiming of their cattle. In Russia, at the present moment, a like state of affairs prevailed. A few days ago the Continental papers contained a long account of a struggle going forward in the South-East of Russia, which was, in character and design, exactly the same as that going on in the South-West corner of Ireland. The Russian peasants were shooting at their landlords, burning their dwellings, and injuring their cattle, just as Irish peasants, unfortunately, were doing. He was not citing these facts as a justification, or a palliation, of what took place in Ireland. But he was desirous that the House should understand that similar conditions of social life produced like results. In other countries in the West of Europe a beneficent change had taken place. The demands of the peasants had been complied with. There were now no struggles in France, Germany, Denmark, and 1452 Switzerland. The most turbulent populations, through a wise alteration in agrarian laws, had become the most conservative and law-abiding, and the most poverty-stricken had become the most prosperous. A like result would come when they applied to Ireland the same remedies that had been applied in France and Germany. Ireland was suffering from a severe agricultural depression, extending almost to famine. The effect of that distress should be removed, and permanent security in their holdings, as well as reasonable encouragement to labour, should be given to tenants. With these conditions a change like that which had taken place on the Continent would be experienced in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen said there had been no troubles of this kind in England. That was true; but England was an exception. The people had been dissevered from the soil; but they had had other and profitable outlets for their energy. They had mining, manufacturing, and shipping industries to fly to. But if we had not possessed these outlets, we should have had troubles equivalent to those that existed in Ireland. The Government might rest assured that their coercion measures would be utterly ineffectual in dealing with these grievances. If crime was to be prevented, the cause of the crime must first be removed. They would learn, as other statesmen had learnt before them, that prosperity alone would banish crime, and that contentment was the best policeman. But there were other disturbing elements in Ireland besides agrarian injustice. There were political differences which were more difficult to deal with than the social differences. However unpleasant it might be to Englishmen, they would have to face the question, and the sooner they faced it manfully the better it would be. Experience had shown how impossible it was to force laws from without upon another people while we ignored the customs or traditions of that people. Let them look at the mode in which they treated the different sections of the United Kingdom, and learn from that one of the causes of the chronic disaffection in Ireland. We conquered Wales. We subjugated the inhabitants by sheer force of arms. We overturned their independent system of Government, and we planted in their midst our own. But, having done so, we endeavoured, with 1453 fair success, to remove from amongst them everything that could revive or recall the recollection of our invasion and their conquest; and we succeeded. Wales was, and had been now for centuries, as legitimately a part of England as Northumberland. We dealt differently with Scotland. There we made a bargain, and the bargain was not brought about by fraud or force, but was deliberately entered into, and freely and fairly discussed and settled. The Scotch people consented to surrender a certain measure of national independence in consideration of their getting specified material advantages. They retained to themselves their Church, their Law Courts, their educational system, their local institutions—everything, in fact, which did not distinctly conflict with the Union. Scotch affairs were administered according to Scotch ideas, Scotch principles, and Scotch prejudices. After the Union the direction of affairs in Scotland was really more controlled by Scotchmen than immediately preceding it. And what had been the result? Scotland was one of the most loyal, contented, and prosperous sections of the British Empire. How had we acted in Ireland? We had neither fully conquered the country, nor had we really united it with us. We had established a nominal union of the Government; but we had got no genuine union of the people. We had set up a sort of artificial uniformity, and we called that unity; but it was hollow and unreal. We had thrust upon the Irish people an alien Church, a hateful system of land tenure, and a mode of law that was opposed to their traditions and conflicted with their interests. We governed Ireland by Euglishmen, in accordance with English ideas; and we had as much discontent there as we had had content in Scotland. Every 10 years there was either an insurrection or an agitation broadening to the dimensions of an insurrection. The Government of Ireland resembled one of the fair cities on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. It was a tenant at will to the volcano beneath. He did not question the good intentions of English statesmen. No one could be interested in Irish disorder. But he did question the wisdom of English policy. Conservatives had tried to govern Ireland according to Conservative principles; the Liberals had tried to govern her according to 1454 Liberal principles. Neither of them had succeeded, and for this simple reason—that the Irish people wanted to be governed according to their own principles. Their desire was to rule themselves, and it was natural. It was a commonplace in politics that men would submit to inconveniences inflicted by men of their own race and creed that they would not tolerate if forced upon them by strangers. Englishmen had a high idea of their own institutions; but they should recollect that all the world did not share in their estimate of things English. Take the present Government. No one would question their good intentions. He would make an even stronger statement than that. He believed the Prime Minister and his Colleagues were eagerly and ardently anxious to better the condition of Ireland, and, with restrictions, to assimilate the institutions to popular aspirations. He accorded to them all the credit for this desire that their most enthusiastic friends could claim for them. But what had they done quite recently? There had been four highly important Offices in the Irish Administration vacant—the Viceroyalty, the Chief Secretaryship, the Under Secretaryship, and the Head of the Constabulary. Every one of these places was filled up by Englishmen; and two, if not three, of the men appointed had never been in Ireland, and none of them had any knowledge of Irish life and customs derived from living in the country. The Government, as a consequence, was vested in the hands of men who were something more than strangers. Why was that? No one could say that there were not Irishmen qualified to fill these posts. For their numbers, the Irish race had produced more distinguished men than any other country in Europe. There was no nation of such limited extent that could count among its sons men so notable in arms, arts, literature, and administration. In every walk of life they had forced themselves into prominence. A few years ago, five of the English Colonies were governed by Irishmen, and four out of these five were rebels who had been driven out of the country for their political opinions. The idea, therefore, that there were not capable Irishmen for filling these four situations could not be entertained. Why, then, were they not selected? The fact—the damaging and dishonouring 1455 fact—ought to be stated broadly and plainly. Irishmen were not selected for these posts, because Liberal Irishmen could not be trusted to hold high political offices in their own country. They might grumble at such, an unpleasant statement, but it was true. The Conservative Irishmen could be trusted, because they belonged to the garrison; but Liberal Irishmen, by their very liberality, were kept out of office in their own land by Liberal Englishmen. He would ask Liberal Members sitting near him what they would have said, thought, or done, if they had been treated as they had treated Ireland? Let them reverse the positions. Let them conceive England being the minor island and Ireland the major. What mode of speech would they have held if four Catholic Irishmen had been sent over from Dublin to rule Protestant Englishmen from the Horse Guards or from Scotland Yard? It required no stretch of imagination to conjure up the energetic protests that would have been made against such a proceeding. There were no Members of the House who voted with so much alacrity and seeming relish for every measure of repression for Ireland as the Scotch Members did. They never allowed an opportunity to pass without giving both voice and vote in favour of coercion. They were proud of their national history and expatiated on their achievements; but they had small sympathy for their struggling neighbours. How would they like to have Presbyterian Scotland governed by four Irish Catholics? Take the Bill before the House. It proposed to abolish trial by jury, to put down public meetings, to gag the Press, and to establish a wholesale system of police surveillance and intimidations. It vested the lives, property, and liberty of the Irish people virtually in one man and his myrmidons. That Bill had been drawn by a Government in which there was not a single Irishman except the Law Officers, whose position was Executive and not Administrative. It had been adopted, or would be adopted, by a House of Commons in which Irish Members were in an insignificant minority. It would be interpreted by English officials and enforced by English soldiers. He would ask hon. Members, dispassionately and calmly, to inquire of themselves what they would have said if such legislation had been initiated and carried into effect 1456 in their countries in a like manner? It needed no eloquence, no argument. It simply required a plain statement of these facts to revive all the race antipathies in the minds of the Irish peasants. The procedure of the Government over this Bill was more than sufficient to justify everything that was said about Ireland being a conquered country and being ruled as such, rather than as an integral part of the United Kingdom. A cardinal defect in our government of Ireland had been the transitory and incomplete character of our system of administration. The present Ministry had followed a Penelope policy. They had unwoven one month what they had woven the previous month. They came last Session to Parliament, and they said—"Ireland is suffering, and in consequence of suffering she is disturbed. Give us powers to crush the disturbance and cure the suffering." They got both. They got their Coercion Bill and their Land Bill, although those measures confronted the policy, principle, and prejudices of an important section of the House. What had they done with the powers? They promised us a great deal. During the first three months of 1881 there were 769 agrarian offences, and during the first three months of 1882 there were 1,417. During the first three months of 1881 there were 350 families containing 1,732 persons evicted. During the same period of 1882 there were 1,317 families evicted, containing 7,020 persons. Or, to put these figures in a sentence, there had been double as many agrarian offences with the Coercion Act as there were without it; and there had been nearly six times as many people evicted with the Land Act as without it. He did not wish to attach undue importance to statistics. He knew they were capable of varied interpretations; but, if the figures quoted did not condemn the combined policy of coercion and concession that the Ministry had pursued, he knew not what would. If those figures told them anything, they told them that coercion should be abandoned, and that the Land Act should be amended. There had been other political movements in Ireland of almost equal strength to the one now convulsing the country; but the present movement had features that none other possessed. It had resources that none of them had. It had behind it not only the Irish 1457 people at home, but the whole of the Irish race. The Irish in America and in the Colonies were as deeply interested and as largely concerned in the agitation now going forward as Irishmen in Connemara. The strength of this new factor in Irish agitation had not been gauged. It was an uncertain quantity, and it was a disturbing one. And this the English people would discover. After a painful period of suffering and emigration—when thousands of Irish peasants sailed for America—it was said by a writer of influence that they had left with a vengeance. That was true in a double sense. The peasants departed in large numbers, and they went with an envenomed bitterness in their hearts. They had done for themselves, for their country, and their race, a noble work in a new world. They had got political power, civic equality, and social influence; and the contrast between their improved position and the misery they had left only heightened their detestation of the injustice they had endured, and the destitution in which they had lived. They had resolved—and every honour to them for it—that their countrymen should not continue to oscillate between the poorhouse and starvation. They aided them to start a rebellion 15 or 16 years ago, and it failed. They had now aided them to initiate a revolution, and it bid fair to be successful. One of the objects of this new Bill was to stop intercourse between the Irish in America and the Irish in Ireland. The Government might as well try to stop the Gulf Stream. Irish politicians had had contact with other people before—with France and with Spain. But the intercourse there had been that of allies, and not of relatives. The Irish abroad were bound to those at home by the treble ties of kinship, and interest, and affection, and these were strong enough to break any prison bars. The influences were both subtle and potent, and they would override and defy any Coercion Bill, however deftly drawn. The Irish in America and in the Colonies had made up their minds upon two things—first, that their countrymen should be lifted out of that pinching poverty in which they had for generations subsisted; second, that the greatest disqualification for a man to take Office in the Government of his country should no longer be because he was a Liberal 1458 Irishman. Until these two points were conceded, the connection between the Irish in America and the Irish in Ireland would not be curtailed by any Coercion Bill that either this Government or any other Government could pass. Ministers would not take warning by their past failures. They were now entering upon the same course of procedure that they followed last year. Their mixture of repression and concession was condemned then by a small section of the House. Again and again they were told that the benefits of the Land Act—whatever benefits they were—would be more than neutralized by the irritation and exasperation engendered by the Coercion Act. But they would not listen. It was a satisfaction to him, to his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Durham (Mr. T. C. Thompson), and one or two others, that they had pertinaciously, determinedly, and bitterly opposed the Coercion Bill of last year. He had never—at any time when that measure had been before the House—either directly or indirectly, given a vote in its favour, or in favour of any of its collateral provisions. The late Chief Secretary scowled at them and scolded them; but they held on their course, uninfluenced by either the protests or the sneers of Ministers or their supporters. And what had been the result? The despised minority had turned out to be right. The late Chief Secretary admitted that his Coercion Bill had failed. The Government admitted it so completely that they had abandoned it. But they were going to repeat the old error. They were attempting a fresh Land Bill, and they were sending along with it a Coercion Bill of another character. He would have them to remember that the same men who told them last year that their Coercion Bill would fail were telling them with equal persistency that their present Coercion Bill would fail. It was in every way likely that 12 months hence the Government would be lamenting the failure of their new Bill, just as this year they were lamenting the failure of their last one. There were two points he had always insisted on against the Coercion Bill—first, that its administration would not be left, as the Government promised it should be, to the responsible officers of the Administration in Dublin or in London, but that it 1459 would drift into the hands of presumptuous Jacks in office, who would use its powers vindictively, and with a view of gratifying feelings of personal resentment and revenge. Certainly, the result had justified that contention. They had had scores of instances before the House to prove the correctness of that statement. He need only cite the case of Inspector Smith. That notorious constable had issued a Circular ordering those under his command to shoot men on suspicion, and that Circular was six weeks in force before the late Chief Secretary knew of its existence. There had been another case, too, that he had some personal knowledge of. He cited it as showing the utter inability of the Chief Secretary—or of his responsible assistants in Dublin—to grasp all the administration of a Coercion Act. It was impossible to conceive that one man, or half-a-dozen men, could familiarize themselves with all the circumstances that justified the arrest of 1,000 persons on suspicion. The case he wished to mention was this. There was a gentleman connected with the borough he represented—a man of education, character, and of the highest respectability—who was in Ireland during the latter months of last year. His name was Michael James Kelly. The Government wished to arrest a gentleman they called J. J. Kelly. Both the Mr. Kellys happened to belong to, or be connected with, Newry. The warrant was issued for the arrest of Mr. J. J. Kelly, but he succeeded in leaving the country. The officers, however, took Mr. Michael J. Kelly instead, put him in Armagh Gaol, and kept him there several months. Now, he would ask some of the ardent Liberal Coercionists behind him, how they would like to have been lodged in prison and kept there four or five months by mistake? And that was only one of scores, or rather hundreds, of instances that could be mentioned as to how the last Coercion Act was administered, and how the present one would be administered. Acts of cruelty of this kind were actually essential to the operation of such a measure. The brothers Lloyd—the Irish Haynaus—what had they not done? He would undertake to say that if these gentlemen had made a tenth portion of the assaults upon personal liberty in the North of England that they had made in Ireland there would have been an insur- 1460 rection. And yet they were permitted to pursue their high-handed, intolerant, and overbearing course, not only without check, but with absolute encouragement. These had been the results of the old Coercion Act. The action of the new one would be equally reprehensible, and it would be equally out of the reach of the influence and control of the responsible Irish Ministers. The second objection to the measure of last year was that it destroyed legitimate political agitation, and led to the establishment of secret societies. Indeed, the Irish Viceroy candidly acknowledged that this had been done. Earl Cowper affirmed that although they had not put down agitation, they had driven it under the surface. He had always understood that physicians strove to bring diseases to the surface; because when they had them upon the skin they could measure them and master them much better than they could when beneath it. What applied to physical science applied to Government. But the late Irish Viceroy seemed to think differently. The present Bill would operate in this direction even worse than the last. No doubt, the speeches of his hon. Friends the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), or the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), were inconvenient and sometimes troublesome; but they had infinitely better have these two Gentlemen speaking openly in the committee-room in Sackville Street—with a reporter at their elbows and a telegraph wire at the door, by whose instrumentality every word they said could be flashed to the farthest corners of the Kingdom in a few minutes—than have secret societies overrunning the country. The Government seemed to think differently. They had abolished open discussion in the Land League committee-rooms, and they had got in its place assassination in Phœnix Park. He scarcely thought, upon consideration, that even Ministers would admit that that was a change for the better. The Government was composed of men of ability, of political experience, and of knowledge; and yet, in spite of that, they undertook the fruitless task of putting down secret societies and assassinations by Coercion Bills. He could scarcely have believed it possible that there could have been serious politicians who would at this time of day have embarked in so hopeless an under- 1461 taking. History was time-teaching by example; but history gave them no hope for such an enterprize. There was great distress in this country immediately succeeding the war with France, and, as a result of the distress, there was great disorder. Drastic legislation was attempted to restrain it. Parliament passed, amongst other measures, the odious Six Acts. And what did they lead to? They culminated in the Cato Street Conspiracy. A similarly disastrous result might follow from the Act that the Government were now going to put in force in Ireland. There was no country in the world so beset with secret associations as Russia. Society there was honeycombed by them. The Czar had unlimited power. He could make a Coercion Bill every day—two, if he liked—and yet what was his position? He was a prisoner in his own Palace. His life was a burden to him. His Coronation, which ought to have taken place months ago, was to be delayed indefinitely, because he was afraid that wherever it was held the building would be undermined and blown into the air. Did the Government believe, after recent events, that they would be better able than the Emperor of Russia was to avoid assassinations and conspiracy by such a measure as that before the House? It would put down political agitation—that was clear enough. It would destroy the liberty of the Press, take away the right of public meeting, and create political silence throughout the South and West of Ireland. All that it would certainly do. But did they seriously think that was a desirable end to accomplish? Would it terrify assassins—men like those who, taking their lives in their hands, committed the terrible deed which took place a fortnight ago in Phœnix Park? Was it conceivable that the Government imagined any measure they could pass would intimidate men of that character? The lessons of history seemed to have very little effect upon Ministers. The Bourbons, the Bonapartes, and the Haps-burgs had carried out this policy of repression far more effectually than ever an English Ministry dared attempt to do. And with what result? They had sat upon the safety valve, and had been blown to pieces. The last exemplar of the class had had a tragic experience in his efforts to put down public opinion. 1462 He gagged the Press and shut up public meetings. He had at his command, not 30,000 troops, but 300,000. He had a Senate crammed with servile place-men, and a House of Deputies equally subservient. He had power almost superhuman, and it was backed by craft rivalling the power. Yet the outraged rights of human liberty laughed them all to scorn. A sharp, clear stroke of popular indignation smote the keystone of the arch of European despotism and shattered it to fragments. And our Government, and all Governments, might rest assured that their attempts to repress the legitimate and necessary expression of public opinion would end in equal disaster. They could win the Irish people's hearts by just laws, by equitable administration; but they never could win them—never deserved to win them—by measures as hateful and as odious as that under consideration. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the following Resolution:—That while this House is desirous of aiding Her Majesty's Government in any measures which they can show to be necessary to adopt for preventing, detecting, and punishing crime, it disapproves of restrictions being imposed on the free expression of public opinion in Ireland.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
, in seconding the Amendment, attributed all their troubles in Ireland to misgovernment, for in the course of a long succession of years they had violated all the principles of government which had contributed so much to the greatness and glory of England. There was a grand old proverb on the Tyne, "that nothing is so queer as folk;" and, but for the facts before them, it would be difficult to imagine that they in that House of Commons should at that moment be resisting, and with little probability of success, a measure which struck at the rights of the people throughout this Empire. And those were the rights of free assemblage and free speech. It bad been often observed, in the course of these discussions, that it was the first duty of a Government to maintain law and order. He would venture to differ from that proposition. He would venture to say that it was the first duty of a Government to maintain the security of its people on the firm basis of established law. Now, what was the established law? What did they find it rested 1463 upon? It might be said to rest on four mighty pillars, which had become part of the great fabric of the nation. The first was the sanctity of their home, which was everyone's castle; the next, freedom from arbitrary arrest and the personal liberty of the subject; the third, liberty of the Press; and, broader and stronger than the others, trial by jury. He was sure that the greatness of England was owing to her laws, built up by the Constitution on those great principles, and that whenever any effort had been made to break through them it had always been accompanied by evil and disaster. These were known, and were the Common Law of England—all, except, of course, the freedom of the Press—in this country before the arrival of the bastard William, with his legions of Normans. He tried to break them down, but failed, because they were too deeply rooted in the minds of the Saxon people. Other nations considered themselves our equals in civilization, and refinement, and progress; but if any trouble or emergency befell them they invariably looked, to us for an example, and tried to imitate the popular institutions of England. But no nation had ever achieved such power as we had. We governed, far from our home, mighty peoples. We enjoyed at home unbridled freedom—freedom such as was never known elsewhere; but, by some strange idiosyncracy of our nature, in governing those dependent on us, we seemed always at first to break away from those grand principles which we had established for ourselves. That these great principles were no invention of to-day all our history proved. Thus, when Lord Mansfield spoke of the emancipation of the slave, he put forth no new opinion of his own, but declared only that which was and had ever been the principle of our Constitution. So, when Mr. Fox brought in his great Bill, and declared that libel was a question for the jury, and not for the Judge, he laid claim to nothing more than to declare what was a principle of our institutions. And so, when Lord Halifax tossed up his hat in the Court of King's Bench as soon as he heard the verdict of not guilty in the trial of the seven Bishops, it was not because a new principle of our Constitution was put forth; but because he found in that verdict a new proof of the reliance of our people on 1464 trial by jury. The present plan of the Government had often been tried before; but the result had always been unfortunate. We tried it with the Colonies of America, and with what result? Those Colonies were lost to us for ever. We tried it in Canada, and with what result? Many in that House remembered when Canada was on the verge of rebellion. But the moment we gave Canada the same institutions as our own, it became most loyal, and there was no people now more faithful to the English connection. Only the other day intimation was given that municipal institutions and efforts in the direction of self-government were to be extended to India; and it might, perhaps, be the strongest claim of our great Minister for the admiration of those who came after us that he first laid the foundation of true freedom in that splendid appanage of the Crown. For who did not feel that if we gave the people of India the same privileges as we enjoyed there would be no one, from the Himalayas to Ceylon, who would be hostile to our rule? But we had nearer home one of the most beautiful and magnificent countries that Providence had ever given to man to rule over, but which had been a curse instead of a blessing to us. From the time of Henry II. the connection had been most unfortunate to both peoples. Although it had given us great wealth and added largely to our power, our conduct to it had made it the same source of misery and wretchedness to us that slavery was to the United States of America, wounding our very consciences day by day. What reason had we to make Ireland discontented? It was inhabited by a race as noble as any on earth; by women peerless in beauty and purity; by men brave and skilful in arms and arts, and as cognizant of the laws and blessings of civilization as any nation in the whole world. It was a sad and pitiful thing to reflect upon, that instead of law and order, and all the blessings of freedom, we had during the whole 700 years of our rule denied them most of the rights of free men. We had always governed Ireland by the most shameless corruption, and never by her own independent men. No nation ever prospered that did not govern itself. They must, if they wanted to make Ireland contented and happy, give her in- 1465 stitutions exactly like those institutions which we possessed ourselves, and administered, not by us, but by Irishmen. It was impossible to change that which had been laid down from the very beginning of history. We saw the same thing in Italy and in other countries, where foreigners administered the law kindly and well; yet the countries which they ruled never prospered or became contented. It might be asked how Ireland could be governed by Irishmen; and he would answer that in that House there were 100 Members from that country, who were capable of fulfilling those duties if called upon to do so. Why should not those 100 Members be formed into a Committee, sitting permanently in Dublin, working at the legislation, which might afterwards receive the assent of that House, and administering there far better than we here could administer the affairs of their own country. Surely no men were more eloquent in pleading the wrongs of their country than those hon. Members, nor were there any more capable of administering her affairs. In that House men would be found to administer the affairs of Ireland as well as the affairs of England had ever been administered. Was there anything in Ireland to which Englishmen could point with approbation? The Head of the present Government—he was not going to say anything against the Government itself, because every individual Member of it deserved well of his country—had asserted when he came into Office that Ireland was then in a more peaceful condition than shehadbeen for years. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Oh, no.] Well, he (Mr. Thompson) understood that was so. He understood that Ireland was so orderly then that the Government were able to do without those repressive measures which up to that time were considered so necessary for the government of the country. It was true that Lord Beaconsfield said, in his celebrated letter, that he conceived that Ireland was on the verge of rebellion; but it was a peculiarity of Lord Bea-consfield's character that he looked with dread on all secret societies. No doubt, there were Fenians, and Ribbonmen, and Whiteboys; but they differed in most respects from what we meant by secret societies. Still, he (Mr. Thompson) believed that the existence of those societies had impressed Lord Beacons- 1466 field with the same sort of dread which he entertained for the celebrated secret associations of Italy. In his (Mr. Thompson's) opinion, the secret societies of Ireland were the result of the misgovernment of England and the poverty of the country. When the present Liberal Government came into Office there was every appearance that Ireland was in as peaceful a condition as ever she was in before; but it must not be forgotten that in 1879 that country suffered from a most terrible famine, and in 1880 there were signs of fearful distress coming on. The Government saw the evil; but, unfortunately, they ceased to press on those steps which would restrain the power of eviction. They all knew the fate of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. In these days it had become the custom to throw obloquy on the late Chief Secretary (Mr. W. E. Forster); but although there were many who thought the right hon. Gentleman went too far in what he said concerning the rejection of that measure by the House of Lords, yet there were not a few now who thought that he did not go far enough in denunciation of that act. The Liberal Government found that, by the rejection of that measure, it was impossible to carry out its own measures. It seemed to him that on that occasion the Government showed very considerable weakness by not insisting on the Bill they had passed through the House of Commons. During the whole autumn of 1880 and 1881 the prospect of famine increased in Ireland; and then, instead of governing the country on Liberal principles, the Government introduced stern measures of repression. The evils which followed this repressive policy were predicted. They came in fearful force from men on both sides. Sad and terrible as were the assassinations in Dublin, not less sad and terrible was the slaughter of innocent children by the police at Ballina. Those little children, rejoicing in the escape of those whom they were taught to believe were the friends of their country, went out blowing their little trumpets in the streets, and then and there were mercilessly attacked and fired upon by the police. He could hardly conceive anything more terrible than that. It was the sad, perhaps the inevitable result, from measures which put down freedom. It was believed then that 1467 the policy of repression was about to be abandoned, and that the era of peace and quietness was about to be ushered in. But in answer to that came forth a measure by which the Press of Ireland was to be put down. He hoped that such a measure would not be passed by that House. If it was, more evil might be expected; but if the people of Ireland were treated kindly, and subjected to the same method of administration which prevailed in England, they would in a short time see that unhappy country peaceful and contented.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "while this House is desirous of aiding Her Majesty's Government in any measures which they can show to be necessary to adopt for preventing, detecting, and punishing crime, it disapproves of restrictions being imposed on the free expression of public opinion in Ireland,"—(Mr. Joseph Cowen,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he did not propose to discuss all the interesting topics dwelt upon by the two hon. Members who had preceded him, but would address himself more strictly to the question before the House. He was as anxious as any Member to relieve his nation from the reproach of crime, and to assist by all right, necessary, and thorough means the putting down of crime. But, he felt bound to ask, would this Bill repress crime? Would it tranquillize the country? Would it, when it had ceased to operate, leave the country in a better position than it was in now? Would it leave the people in greater sympathy with the law and imbued with greater abhorrence of crime? If the answer were, it would do these things, then, even if it were a straining of law, if it were a divergence from the Constitutional path, he would say that it should be made. But if they believed, as he believed, that this Bill would not repress crime, that it would not tranquillize the country, that it might, indeed, drive the symptoms of crime and disaffection beneath the surface, without touching their cause, and that it would leave the country in a state probably of greater irritation and disaffection, then they were bound, as he had done, to 1468 vote against this Bill. Just and proper allusion had been made to the fact that after the recent terrible tragedy in Phœnix Park the country assumed a patient and judicial attitude, not yielding precipitately to feelings of impatience; but simply desiring that the law should be asserted. But between that crime and the policy of coercion there was not the least justifying connection. The commission of that grave crime afforded no reason and no justification for a departure from the policy of conciliation and of remedial legislation upon which it had been hoped the Government had finally entered. The crime was, in truth, a vile and shocking protest against that very policy of conciliation; it was disconnected with the other crimes which had unhappily disgraced Ireland, and was traceable to different sources. It was with shame and regret he recognized the fact that there had been shocking crimes which lowered and implied a serious change in the national character. They were either acts of wild vengeance for long-endured wrongs, or in later days, perhaps to a greater extent, they were acts intended to be a protective terrorism on behalf of the persons who were in dread of eviction, which was practically ruin, and which, indeed, had been described by the Prime Minister as tantamount, in many cases, to a sentence of death. The feeling of impatience which possessed Englishmen with respect to Ireland was not without some plausible justification. They said—"How impossible it is to deal with Ireland and with Irishmen. Here has the Imperial Parliament been for two entire Sessions occupied with legislation for them, to the neglect of Scotch, Welsh, and English Business. Here have English Members submitted to give up their time to the affairs of Ireland. A great Land Act has been passed, which has conferred upon them benefits which are not enjoyed by the people of any other part of the United Kingdom. Everything that can be done has been done for them, and yet Ireland is no better affected than before; crime is prevailing, so that men throw up their hands in despair and say—'What can be done with such a people, and with such crime?'" Articulated, that was the feeling which prevailed among Englishmen; but, as political memories were short, he would remind the House of what had taken place since the acces- 1469 sion of the present Government to Office. In 1878–9 Ireland had been reduced to a state of famine. She was obliged, practically, to become a mendicant to the world for alms. Bad season had succeeded bad season; and under a system of rack-renting, which was now generally admitted, the people were reduced to the direst distress. In that condition of things it was thought necessary that some protection should be interposed between the excessive power of the landlords and the suffering tenantry, and that protection was formulated in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which was thrown out by the House of Lords and not persisted in by the Government. After that ineffectual effort on the part of the Government, Parliament broke up; and the starving people were left to face the autumn and the winter, exposed to the unrestricted exercise of their right by the landlords in the eviction of tenants for the non-payment of unjust rent. [Mr. BULWER: Very few.] He affirmed, he believed with greater knowledge than that of the hon. and learned Member, that these powers of the landlords were exercised in many cases in which the rent was very unjust. What was the result? Far be it from him to defend the criminal means adopted by the tenants to protect themselves; but he could not shut his eyes to the causes; he could not ignore the passions which actuated human nature, and influences of self-interest and self-protection; and, deplorable and criminal as might have been the acts of the tenants left without the shield which the Government attempted to give them, he could only recognize in those terrible deeds the protective agency of secret associations and of grave criminal acts, to which they resorted to save themselves. It was true that many of the acts done were criminal; but was it astonishing that they were committed? Up to the rejection of the Bill by the Lords there had not been a great average of crime; but it increased greatly during the autumn and the winter. The following year the Government brought in the Land Bill—he gave them every credit for it—and carried it in the face of very great difficulties, not the least of which was the dislike shown to it by very many of their own followers. It was a marvellous effort on the part of the Prime Minister; 1470 but what proportion of the Irish people did it affect? As yet only a very small proportion of the Irish people had benefited by it. He was not pointing to the fact that there were large classes outside its provisions, such as the leaseholders, who, in accepting such leases, were in many cases under as much constraint as yearly tenants; but there were large masses of people deeply involved in arrears from bad seasons, who found no protection, and who could derive no benefit from the measure, so long as the Arrears Question was not thoroughly dealt with. What advantage was it to tell them that in a few years' time the Commissioners under the Act might reach their district and reduce their rent, but only prospectively? It might be that in the remote future benefit would be derived; but that was not the result of the present operation of the Act—only a very small proportion of the country and a mere handful of the people were deriving from it any present benefit. These were considerations which every honest man should entertain in allaying impatience at the conduct of the Irish people. And, like all other remedial legislation, the Land Act did not go single-handed, but it was accompanied by coercive legislation. There was no instance in the history of Ireland for the last 80 years in which three, four, or five years of remedial legislation had been allowed to tell its quieting tale and make its effect felt on the people, but such legislation had always been accompanied by coercive measures, which had robbed the remedial legislation of half its grace and half its efficacy. He now came to the provisions of this measure, and was bound to say that he had the strongest possible objection to the supersession of trial by jury. He had heard with regret and surprise the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce), in which his hon. and learned Friend observed that it was almost a species of pedantry to speak of juries as if they were a real and an important part of judicial administration in these days. That was not his opinion. The institution of juries had not merely given justice to the countries in which it existed, but it had conveyed to the minds of the people the belief that justice was, in fact, done. As regarded the supersession of juries, he began by conceding that, in his opinion, there had been 1471 cases in Ireland in which juries, according to our view of the evidence, ought to have convicted when they had not convicted. Therein there seemed to have been in several cases a failure of justice. But this was not the real difficulty in regard to the detection or punishment of crime. Granting that several such cases existed, what proportion did they bear to the undetected crime? The real difficulty consisted in procuring evidence of sufficient cogency to warrant them in convicting. Did hon. Members suppose that the people would have greater confidence in the proposed new tribunal than they had in the preceding tribunal? Did they imagine that evidence would be more readily forthcoming because the people had less confidence in the tribunal? He desired to put his opposition to this Bill on its real ground. He did not join in the wholesale condemnation and abuse of the Irish Judges which he had heard from the Benches opposite. He believed them to be men of the highest honour and integrity, and it was not because he believed any innocent men would suffer under this Bill that he objected to it. He did not even believe, however, that under the new tribunal a larger number of convictions would be obtained. It had been alleged by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that the fact of there being no certainty of conviction kept the people from giving evidence; but he had never heard one syllable of proof in support of that proposition. Was there, then, any clear ground of disadvantage from this new tribunal? In the first place, after the declaration of the Irish Judges, it would be a self-discredited tribunal. In the face of the decision which the Judges had, by a large majority, if not unanimously arrived at, could it be alleged that this tribunal would be accepted with anything like confidence or satisfaction by the Irish people? He would now refer to two classes of offences—those in connection with newspapers and public meetings, proposed to be dealt with by the Bill. He had heard that one newspaper circulating in Ireland from America contained most pernicious and treasonable trash; and he did not hesitate to say that he should not have the least objection to see the importation and dissemina- 1472 tion of such literature peremptorily stopped by the Government. Nevertheless, he had still to be satisfied that the existing law was not adequate to put down anything that was wrong in the utterances of the Irish Press. He desired that persons publishing matter that was treasonable, seditious, or calculated to disturb the peace should be punished by Constitutional means, and that these exceptional measures should not be resorted to. There was no proof that in this regard the ordinary law had failed. As to public meetings, they would be told with sincerity and truth that the only object of the clause was to prevent meetings which were treasonable or seditious, or openly hostile to the peace. Such professions might be made in perfect good faith, as they had been on previous occasions; but he feared the Press and Public Meeting Clauses would be so applied as to put down the free expression of public opinion in Ireland, and the people of Ireland would believe them to be directed to that object. Even though the expression of that opinion should be irregular, riotous, and bordering on sedition, he maintained it was much better that that should be allowed than that there should be a repression and keeping down of anything like honest opinion and outspoken criticism. To use a trite illustration, it was very much like sitting on the safety-valve of a steam engine to prevent an explosion. As regarded the clauses relating to search, to aliens, and to the prevention of nocturnal meetings, he went heart and soul with the Government. Under fair safeguards, even if those clauses should involve individual discomfort, that was a price which every man ought to be willing to pay for the purpose of putting down that pest and bane of Irish life—the secret societies. But he did not wish too high a price to be paid even for that; and, therefore, he desired to have the clauses properly safeguarded. He next came to the question of summary jurisdiction. In the abstract he was in favour of it. There was one fault in the Irish Statutes, and that was the enormous penalties for certain crimes, which led to the delay arising from the fact that such cases had to go to the higher tribunals. He desired to point out that this clause proposed to create a new class of offences; and it gave to two Resident Magistrates, 1473 exclusive of any other authority, and of the ordinary magistrates, the power of dealing summarily with those offences—and that without appeal—and the power of inflicting six months' imprisonment with hard labour. Now, who were the Resident Magistrates? [Home Rule Cheer.] He feared he should disappoint hon. Members opposite, for he was going to mention no names; he had never uttered a syllable against individuals. But the Resident Magistrates, when sent to a district, saw the Country Inspectors and the Sub-Inspectors, asked if crime was rife, reproached them if they had failed to detect the criminals, and urged them to greater vigilance. The Inspectors, accordingly, became more alert, and did or did not, as the case might be, catch the offenders. But what he wished to impress upon the House was that these Resident Magistrates first assumed the executive power of the law and then exercised judicial functions. That was a monstrous system, which did not exist in any country but Ireland. It was all the more monstrous in Ireland, because there the great want was to create a sympathy with and confidence in the law. The stipendiary magistrates in this country were trained lawyers; but those of Ireland were at once policemen and Judges. They were, for the most part, ex-Sub-Inspectors, or military men who had gained their experience of Constitutional Law in Burmah or in India. Those were the men who were sent to stand indifferently and dispassionately between the Crown and the subject. That system erected by the Bill was, in his humble opinion, utterly indefensible. At least, those Resident Magistrates should be trained lawyers; their duties should be judicial only, and not executive and judicial, and there should be associated with them the local magistracy of the district; and there ought to be an appeal to Quarter Sessions. He himself intended to move an Amendment to that effect; and unless some such Amendment was passed, the result would, he (Mr. Russell) feared, be disastrous. The result of the present system was to encourage men in high position in the country to throw off all responsibility on to the shoulders of Resident Magistrates. It was, in a word, the system which was known as "Dublin Castle." He was anxious to help the Government as far 1474 he could to put down crime and secret organizations. But there was little in the Bill which would effect that purpose; much that would tend to produce results of a very different character. No Government had ever been able to cope with secret societies by legislation. The root of the disorder was not to be removed by measures of repression. Lord Cowper was reported to have said that the Coercion Bill had driven discontent beneath the surface. But the history of every Coercion Bill showed that the repression of public opinion produced far greater evils than it was intended to prevent. What Coercion Bill had ever proved a success. In 1833, in the Administration of Lord Grey, in which Lord Wellesley was Lord Lieutenant, a Coercion Bill drastic and severe, but not more so than the present, was introduced. It was in operation two years, and Lord Wellesley was compelled to acknowledge, "The law is powerless, for it is safer to disobey it." Lord Melbourne's Administration came in, and Lord Norman by became Lord Lieutenant, with Lord Morpeth as Chief Secretary and Thomas Drummond as Under Secretary. Notwithstanding the warnings which were addressed to them, the Government of that day relaxed the law, and introduced a very mild measure for the protection of life and property. In consequence, there was a lull in the commission of agrarian offences, and such offences largely diminished. Mr. Sharman Crawford made a speech on that Bill, which would form an admirable argument against the present. They all knew what had been the experience of the Coercion Act of 1881; and the fact of the professions made by the Government when that measure was passing through Parliament showed how little they could put any trust in such professions. Under that Act crime had existed and flourished, and a criminal spirit had eaten into the very vitals of the people. The true cure for the evils of Ireland lay in remedial measures, not in coercion; and he was sorry the Government had not had the courage to bring forward their remedial legislation without introducing a Coercion Bill. He believed that would be found more effective than repressive measures, besides saving the country the present expense of the military and police forces. Either the Government 1475 of Ireland must be a Constitutional one or not—it must either be representative or not. A representative Government was, as he understood it, one in which opinions were represented. He did not mean to say that all opinions in Ireland should be accepted as true and just; but opinions generally must not be disregarded. They could not expect the people to have confidence in the rule of the Government while their voice and that of their Representatives was unheard. But what was the state of things to this day? The Irish Government was, as he had often before said, one of the most centralized systems in the world, and a most unnational Government. With the exception of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal, and his right hon. and hon. Friends the Attorney and Solicitor General for Ireland, there was not an Irishman in the Government of that country. As regarded his right hon. Friend the newly-appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, he thought he deserved to be treated with every consideration in the exceedingly difficult and onerous task he had undertaken, and to receive the assistance of all sides of the House in the effort he was making to bring about a just administration of the affairs of Ireland, and a vindication of the authority of the law. He apologized for detaining the House so long. He had spoken exactly as he felt upon the question, and he would not oppose the Bill if he believed that its main effect would be to repress crime; but he believed it would be productive of crime, that it would irritate the people instead of tranquillizing them, and that it would leave the country in a worse condition at the end of its proposed three years' operation than it was at present.
§ MR. PLUNKET
Sir, I had no intention whatever of taking part in the debate, for certainly it is the last feeling in my mind to wish in any way to impede the progress of Business, for the sake of which the House has already made great sacrifices; but so far as the debate has gone it has proceeded very much in a spirit hostile to the measure which has been submitted to the House by the Government, and as no Member of the Government has yet spoken, nor any of their supporters, in their defence of the measure, I venture to offer some observations in support of the Bill. I do so 1476 with the deepest regret. There is no Irishman in any quarter of the House who detests or regrets coercive measures more than I do. ["Oh!"] I think it was the hon. Member for Cavan who made that exclamation. [Mr. BIGGAR: Hear, hear!] I challenge him to point to a sentence I have ever uttered unfriendly to any interest or any liberty of my country. It is a most agreeable recollection of my public life that I took part officially under the late Government in reducing one of the strongest coercive Bills to the mildest that has ever passed this House; and, from the bottom of my heart, I say that if I rise to support a strong coercive measure now it is only because the necessity for it has been forced upon my mind by circumstances and events of the most terrible character to which I cannot shut my eyes. I wish to make some reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen). It was eloquent and impassioned in the extreme, and, giving vent to generous sentiments, it was naturally applauded by very many persons in this House; but I venture to think it was not quite as practical in its character, or quite as much pointed to the particular matter of his Amendment, or the measure before the House, as his speeches usually are. I went very much with him as he referred to the old history of misgovernment in Ireland. I have no more pleasure in going back to those times than the hon. Gentleman himself. But why always recall these miserable recollections? Why always, like a ghoul, dig up the corpses of the past, and rake amongst the graves and dark places of history for topics which can do nothing but inflame the feelings of those who live in the present, and thus make the task of government in Ireland more heavy? As I listened to his eloquent periods, I could not help thinking that he might as well have been telling us about Titans, or the story of "Jack the Giant-Killer," as relating these old events. It has been the effort of both the great Parties in the State for many years, though not always agreeing in the means, yet always strenuously striving, with the same purpose, to efface, as far as possible, the disagreeable records of the past, and to remove the causes of discontent; and I think the hon. Member might very well have left those ancient memories alone. When 1477 the hon. Member came to the present time, what had he really to complain of? He prefaced his complaints by saying that Irishmen would rather be badly governed by Irishmen than well governed by Englishmen. This sentiment gave the tone to the whole of his speech. While it undoubtedly was all in the direction of separation, it was not, I think, very practical in its application to the present time. He said much about the four English officials who govern Ireland. I do not wish to defend the present Government for their appointments; but it is all nonsense to say there is any difference between the honest intention of Irishmen and Englishmen to govern uprightly when they go to Ireland. Of course, I do not deny that there may be some difference in their knowledge of the country; but I must say, so far as we have had the opportunity of judging of my right hon. Friend who has lately been appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, that he has already secured for himself, at all events, a favourable hearing and favourable attention for his efforts to fill the place which, I say, was so bravely, gallantly, and ably filled, though pursuing in so many respects a policy from which I differed, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford. But, Sir, I want to say a word or two on this subject to the hon. Member for Newcastle. There is another view to be taken of the employment of Englishmen in Ireland in high Offices. The hon. Member for Newcastle himself referred to the fact that at one time there were four Irishmen filling high places in the Colonies who had before been rebels in Ireland. There have been multitudes of Irishmen in English administration, not only those who had rebellious sympathies in their youth, but loyal men, who have filled high places in all the great Colonies of the Crown. I know not those whom the hon. Member had particularly in his mind when he was speaking; but I remember the names of Mayo and Dufferin, and many another. Not only that, but many of them have filled the high places of the Army of England. I shall not now review the beadroll of glory, still glittering at this day with such names as those of Garnet Wolseley and Frederick Roberts. What are the names associated with the great history of our rule in India? Why, Irish 1478 soldiers and Catholics who have followed Irishmen, whose names are most glorious in the records of the conquest and maintenance of the Indian Empire. I say, when you talk about the accident that at the present time there are Englishmen administering high places in Ireland, you must set off against it the numbers of Irishmen who administer high Offices throughout this Empire. I protest against this spirit of taking a separatist view of the interests of the two countries. Only a short time ago the English Bench itself was adorned by three Irishmen at one time—two of whom were Irish Catholics. My hon. and learned Friend who spoke last, is in himself a signal instance of the opportunities which Irishmen are afforded—generously afforded—in England, and all through the Empire, of achieving success and distinction, and winning high places; and I must say they liberally avail themselves of their opportunities. Well, Sir, the next thing complained of was a rather singular grievance. He says the Irish Members in this House are an insignificant minority. Well, of course, Irishmen area minority in this House; but to call them, in whatever part of the House they sit, an insignificant minority is, I think, a mistake. It will be a difficult impression to produce on the minds of Englishmen. As a matter of fact, I believe Ireland enjoys a larger representation, relatively to her share of the population of the Three Kingdoms, than either England or Scotland. Whether that is so or not, Irish Members contrive to occupy a great deal of the time of this House; and I have an idea myself that one of the most sad consequences in connection with any measure of Home Rule would be, that after my countrymen on both sides of the House had left this Assembly, it might be more business-like, but I venture to think it would be far less interesting. Do not the Irish Members take up all your time with their grievances, their humour, and their eloquence? They are really the spoilt children of this House. I am afraid I must admit that I am myself obnoxious to this criticism. But on this occasion, at all events, I promise not to delay the House longer than I can help. I think, perhaps, if there was a little less legislation for Ireland, and a little more government of Ireland, it might be for 1479 the advantage of the country. Well, then, the next grievance of the hon. Member, so far as I make out, was that there had been a policy adopted by the present Government of combined conciliation and repression. Well, I am not going to defend a policy of combined conciliation and repression. I have ventured pretty often to criticize it strongly; and in presence of the awful events of the present time, I should find it difficult to speak calmly on that subject—but I am not desirous of introducing any polemical matter into this debate. I would, however, remind the hon. Member for Newcastle that the present Government, at all events, began their policy by a very strong act of conciliation—namely, the dropping of the Arms Act; and it is rather a pertinent observation to make with reference to the measure which is now under consideration, that the consequence was that the Home Secretary had to come back to this House a year afterwards, and say that they had tried a generous experiment, but that the experiment had failed. Now, passing smaller matters, there was a very important point mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle. He called attention to something the seriousness of which the House, perhaps, has not fully realized—the influence now exercised in Ireland by the Irishmen who have gone abroad to America and elsewhere. I do believe if it were not for that influence, the difficulties with which you have to deal to-day would be small and trifling by comparison. When I was a young man, Ireland was advancing not only in prosperity, but in peace. That process was going on, blending Irish interests with those of the Empire, even as Scotch interests were formerly united. But this unfortunate Irish-American influence was brought to bear on the Irish vote. The hon. Member described the feelings of affection and sympathy between the Irish at home and the Irish abroad, and I concur in the truth of all that he said on the subject. There is nothing nobler or grander that I know in modern history than the kindness which has been shown by Irishmen who have gone abroad to those who remain at home, binding them together by countless threads of sympathy. And every mail that crosses the Atlantic and carries letters backwards and forwards plies like the shuttle in the loom—drawing toge- 1480 ther those threads, making their web strong and difficult to break. But if it be true that the love of the Irish abroad for the Irish at home is strong as death, their jealousy of England is cruel as the grave. It is to the interests of certain persons in America and elsewhere to stir up all the fiercest passions of the Irish abroad, to draw from them their money, to make a great going concern for the purpose of spreading disloyalty among the Irish at home, setting them against their English brethren and against the English Government. It is with this tremendous influence, founded on great and high and noble feelings, but built up into a foul conspiracy for the purpose of outrage, and crime, and treason in Ireland, that you have to contend with in future; and I venture to warn the House that, although it be a new influence, it is a strong and growing influence, and will prepare for you in the future great difficulties and great dangers. It is not the moderate Leaders of the Irish race in America who will prevail. It is those who bid highest for popular favour, and who have most tempting and exciting plans, that will prevail We have seen how quickly the feeling was turned away from those who showed shame for what happened in the Phœnix Park, and how quickly the mastery was obtained by those who preach most inhuman sentiments. If you do not take care and govern Ireland by the Imperial power of these Three Kingdoms, it will be governed for you, and in spite of you, by men but little less violent than O'Donovan Rossa. I have no wish to trespass long upon the attention of the House, and therefore I shall not follow my hon. and learned Friend the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) in his criticisms on the various clauses of the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend spoke generously and favourably of the Irish Judges; and we all know that the Irish Judges are men of the highest character and honour, as well as of great ability. As to the stipendiary magistrates, I may point out that they are all Irishmen with, I believe, a single exception. Many of them are Catholics and Liberals, and have no more antipathy to the Irish people among whom they live than my hon. and learned Friend himself. These charges against the Castle, the magistrates, and the constabulary are in- 1481 stigated by one feeling—a deadly hatred of everything which supports the authority of this Imperial Parliament in Ireland. It is right that someone should say a word in support of the effort now at last vigorously made to support law and order in Ireland. While, as I said before, I deeply regret the necessity of such a measure, its necessity cannot be denied; and I do trust, now that the Government have made up their minds as to what is best, they will not suffer themselves to be shifted from the ground they have taken up by such representations as we have heard tonight. It is a painful thing to have to use coercion at all; but to use it with an uncertain hand, as if you had not the courage or had not the strength to impose it, is the most cruel and fatal policy of all.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
Sir, I do not complain of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket). As no Representative from Ireland has volunteered to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government, he has thought it right, out of the abundance of his charity, that he should administer some consolation to the Prime Minister and his Colleagues. It is, however, due to the position of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I should notice some of the observations which have fallen from him in the course of his speech. The right hon. and learned Gentleman commented with some severity upon the historical character of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen); and he asked why my hon. Friend had endeavoured to raise up the embers of historical strife in order to illuminate the argument he wished to advance. But it was necessary that my hon. Friend should revert to the past in his desire to deal effectively with the question of Irish grievances; and, therefore, he gave a sketch of the overthrow of the ancient Irish land system, and the substitution of English landlordism in its place. We have not made such enormous progress from that bloody and bitter past that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should ask us to congratulate each other on the happiness of the present time. Whatever may be said about the present of Ireland, in comparison with the past, it must be acknowledged that the pre- 1482 sent condition of Ireland is such that the most liberal of English Governments dare not trust the administration of that country into Irish hands. Do not talk to me about the recollections of the past. It is not the past, but the present, that we have to deal with; and there is quite enough in the present condition of Ireland, and the utter nullity of Irish opinion in the government of that country, to account for all the discontent and disaffection which has covered the land. The right hon. and learned Gentleman touched another very practical question in reference to Irish administration. He said it was true—and he seemed to think it was by accident—that Englishmen administer the affairs of Ireland; "but," he added, "Did not Lord Dufferin go to Canada? Was not Lord Mayo Governor General of India?" I have heard that observation made very often. I am told to be content with the government of Ireland by aliens, because distinguished Irishmen have been selected to govern distant Colonies. But I have this answer to make. When Her Majesty's Government send an Irishman out as Governor General of Canada, they know very well that the Governor General of that Province can only act in accordance with the advice of the Canadian Ministers, and those Ministers are responsible to the prevailing opinion of the Canadian Parliament elected by the Canadian people. The Governor General who goes out to Canada does not go there to carry out the policy of a Party, but as the unfettered Representative of the Sovereign to govern the people of Canada Constitutionally, according to Canadian opinion, and guided by the advice of the Canadian Ministers. The reference of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to India was not in point at all, from the simple circumstance that India does not possess a Constitutional Government. I decline, therefore, to accept the analogy which the right hon. and learned Gentleman seeks to draw in the case of India. In order to justify his argument, the Government of Ireland must be shaped in accordance with Indian precedents. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) as a proof of the opportunities afforded to Irishmen in this country; and he commended not more warmly than I am 1483 prepared to endorse the hospitality which Englishmen extend to Irishmen of talent. But this is only the outcome of civilization. If Englishmen go to the United States or Canada, if they settle in Prance or Germany, the same hospitality is extended to them; and I presume that, whatever position my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has won for himself in this country, he has won it by the exercise of his own talent, by his own Irish ability, Irish courage, and Irish pluck; and I think that those who have extended English hospitality to him, for the time being, have had no reason to be dissatisfied with the result. I have ventured to trespass on the indulgence of the House to-night for the simple reason that I have been an attentive listener during the whole of the debate which has taken place on this important Bill. I have read that Bill several times very carefully, and I am not ashamed to confess to the House that I have yet but a very imperfect idea of the probable effect of some of its most important provisions. An appeal has been made to the House, in the progress of the debate upon the Bill, to consider it rapidly in the interest of the dispatch of Public Business. I am sure that that appeal will have due weight with all sections of Members in this House; but I must take leave to say here and now that, having regard to the portentous and revolutionary character of the measure, it would be nothing less than a grave public scandal if Parliament assented to it without carefully scrutinizing its leading provisions, and trying to ascertain how far they are calculated to carry out the professed, object of the Bill. At an earlier stage information was asked from Her Majesty's Government which, in my judgment, is material to the consideration of, perhaps, the most important clause of this Bill. That information has not yet been forthcoming. We are asked in the very first page of the Bill, in the very first clause of it, to consent to the abolition of trial by jury in six different classes of offences. The Government were called upon a few days ago to produce statistics which would enable the House to form an estimate as to how far the system of trial by jury had proved a failure in respect of the trial of persons prosecuted for these various offences. 1484 Now, no attempt has been made by the Government to give that information; and I submit that it is not only necessary that the House should possess that information, but I should hope that Her Majesty's Government themselves did not commit themselves to this grave proposal to abolish trial by jury until they had themselves gone carefully over the statistics and satisfied themselves that the proposal was absolutely necessary. A question was asked of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. W. M. Johnson) in reference to trial by jury for the offences of treason and treason-felony. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) inquired in how many cases, during the last 10 or 15 years, persons who had been indicted for treason or treason-felony had not been convicted when the weight of evidence was in favour of conviction? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland stated that it would occupy at least two months to give a satisfactory answer to that question. Now, I think I can give a satisfactory answer to it at once, and I will give it in the form of a challenge to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. My challenge is this. I challenge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to produce one single instance, during the last 15 years, where a person in Ireland was indicted for treason or treason-felony and the jury gave a verdict against the weight of evidence? I challenge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to produce a single instance. I recollect the history of the last trials for treason and treason-felony in Ireland, when O'Donovan Rossa, Michael Davitt, and other gentlemen were tried. My recollection is that certainly nineteen-twentieths of the persons who were then put upon their trial for these offences were found guilty on the weight of evidence. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Davitt was tried in England.] Mr. Davitt was, no doubt, tried in England; but surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary is not so forgetful of history as to suppose that the only persons who were convicted were tried here. Mr. Davitt and two or three others were tried here; but I am speaking of the great bulk of those who were tried. I might go back to 1848, when the offence of treason-felony was first created, and I think it will be found 1485 that if juries returned a verdict against the weight of evidence, they were not verdicts that were favourable to the prisoners who were arraigned before them. We have asked the Government for information upon these two points, and that information has not been supplied. I will put a question, then, to Her Majesty's Government, and I will put it seriously, also, to independent Liberal Members on the other side of the House who have already made the grave mistake of committing themselves to the policy of this Bill. I will ask them to tell me when, if ever, since Constitutional liberty was first established in this country, it was proposed by any Government, in any period of public excitement, to abolish trial by jury for political offences? Was anything of the kind done during the Reign of Terror in 1793? Was anything of the kind done during the period of the Rebellion in Ireland in 1798? Was anything of the kind done at the time of Emmet's abortive insurrectionary attempt in 1803? Was any step taken in the direction of abolishing trial by jury in 1848, in 1865, or in 1866? At what period in the Constitutional history of the country was a proposal ever made before by Her Majesty s Government to abolish trial by jury? I do not underrate the gravity of the present situation; but will anyone tell me that, grave as the situation is, that it bears any comparison with the revolutionary periods I have quoted, and in the very fervour of which the sacred institution of trial by jury was preserved as the Ark of the Covenant of the British Constitution? Then, I say, that before we consent to its abolition we have a right to challenge Her Majesty's Government to produce the evidence which, in their opinion, justifies so extreme a measure. If this Bill is not the result of a wild and reckless panic, Her Majesty's Government must have some other ground for having agreed among themselves upon the proposal to abolish trial by jury, which they have not yet communicated to the House. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has properly directed attention to the exceedingly grave effect the Bill will have upon the Irish Judges, who are called upon, under the Bill, to act as Judges in these six different classes of offences. They have, I believe, unanimously protested against 1486 the proposal to lay this burden upon them. I confess that I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that it is difficult to imagine how a proposal of this kind can be carried out in the face of that protest; and I trust that it is not yet too late for Her Majesty's Government to seriously re-consider the whole matter; and, having got an expression of Irish opinion, which does not bear in any degree the taint of political partizanship—namely, an expression of opinion from the Irish Judges—we shall wait to see if that of itself will make any impression upon their councils. While I have voted against the second reading of the Bill, and intend to give it, in its general aspects, a determined opposition, I am bound to acknowledge that the measure contains some provisions which, in view of the present unhappy condition of Ireland, I am not prepared to say are altogether unnecessary. I notice that Clause 4 is an attempt to put down intimidation. Well, now, I believe that Her Majesty's Government are perfectly sincere in their desire to put down, the system of intimidation which has, in too many instances, been carried out in Ireland during the last two years; and I must say that I heartily sympathize with them in the desire they have expressed to put down that intimidation. I have said before, and I hope I shall be excused if I repeat it again, that I am equally opposed to coercion on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and to the intimidation which has been practised by certain sections and branches of the Land League. I have no desire to make the whole organization of the Land League responsible for what has been done; but I repudiate and defy intimidation in every form. That is the attitude which I have always taken, and it is the attitude which I intend to maintain. During recent days we have had the expression of the just feeling of the Irish people in reference to many of the serious crimes which have been committed in the country. We have heard the feeling of horror with which they regard these crimes; but there are other crimes, which, although they may not lead directly to the spilling of innocent blood, are in themselves reprehensible and worthy of the strongest condemnation. Take the doctrine of "Boycotting" in Ireland, which has 1487 been alluded to. I denounce it as brutal and immoral. I do not recognize that any political organization, whether composed of 10 men or 10,000,000 men, has the right to coerce any man in the free exercise of his judgment, and of the rights which he conceives he possesses as a member of a civilized community. Clause 4 of this Bill proposes to deal with that offence; and, as far as it proposes to deal with intimidation of that character, I say that I am in favour of the provision. But, then, it is not necessary, if your object is to put down intimidation of the character I have described—intimidation which isolates a man from his fellow-men, which marks him out as a person scarcely fit to live in society; which, in some instances, deprives him of the means of obtaining the necessaries of life for himself and his family—if you only propose to put down that hellish system, then I am in favour of your proposal. But let me have a definition of what intimidation is? Do not tell me that it includes every suggestion or every nod which A may make to B, with the supposed object of influencing B to do something which he may not wish to do, or to refrain from doing something which he wishes to do. The definition contained in the clause is far too sweeping; and I trust that, in Committee, an attempt will be made to bring the language of the Bill more in accordance with the professed object you have in view—namely, to put down intimidation in Ireland. Clause 5 declares that every person who takes part in any riot or unlawful assembly commits an offence under the Act; and, by reference to the Bill, hon. Members will see that by Clause 19, any two Resident Magistrates, who may themselves have taken part in instigating a riot by their blundering and incapacity, are empowered to try the very persons they may have implicated in such disturbance. They have not only to try them, but to sentence them, if they think proper, to imprisonment with hard labour for six months. The right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) stated, at a former stage of the discussion, that it was absolutely necessary, when you consented to pass a Bill of this description, that you should be very careful about its administration. His argument went rather 1488 to show that it was necessary to have a firm administration; and the right hon. Gentleman used words, which I readily endorse, when he said that the administration was half the battle. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would extend that maxim a little further, because, if he were speaking of the whole of the government of Ireland, he might say that administration was not only half the battle, but the whole battle, as far as securing the peace and tranquillity of the country is concerned. In another sense I say, then, that the success, or want of success, which may attend this measure, must in a great degree depend on the manner in which it is administered. I want to know whether such gentlemen as Sub-Inspector Ball, who has been evicted from Ballina, and other persons in a similar character, are to be sent to other parts of the country to administer this Bill, and are to receive orders from the Resident Magistrates in reference to riots and unlawful assemblies? Are persons like County Inspector Smith, magistrates like Major Trail, to be intrusted with the administration of this measure? If they are, it will be impossible to carry out the professed objects of the Bill under their administration. We are told, in the Preamble of the measure, that its object is to put down secret societies and unlawful combinations for illegal purposes, and, by some extraordinary process of reasoning, we are expected to convince ourselves that the best way to put down secret societies and secret action is to suppress public meetings. We are even invited to go further in the direction of suppressing public sentiment, and are asked to attack the Press. I am ready to endorse, in the strongest manner, the strong terms which the right hon. Gentlemen the Chief Secretary for Ireland applied to some of the doctrines propounded by the Irish-American newspapers; but I would ask the hon. Gentleman are there no newspapers published in England, from week to week and from day to day, which give expression to doctrines subversive of society? I am afraid there are; and I am afraid that it is impossible, in any free country, to suppress entirely the expression of opinions and doctrines which are not in accordance with the expression of the opinion of civilized communities. But I do not think that is a sufficient reason 1489 for suppressing newspapers in the summary manner proposed in this Bill. On the contrary, I regard the Press of Ireland as the safety-valve of popular passion, as the indicator of the grievances which call loudest for redress; and if you shut up these avenues of public opinion in so summary a manner, and decline to carry on the government of Ireland in accordance with public opinion, the whole matter reduces itself to this—that you are determined henceforth, or during the next three years, at any rate, to regard Ireland as a conquered country, or a country remaining to be conquered, in which public opinion is to be stifled at its source lest it should seem to conflict with your aspirations of government in that country. We are asked, also, in this Bill to sanction the power of unlimited search, at any time, by day or night, and we are told that the object of this unlimited power of search is to enable the Government to discover what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) very forcibly described as the "apparatus of murder." If that be the object of this clause, I want to know what advantage you gain by making a search of that kind in the middle of the night? It is not likely, if persons have arms and documents concealed, that they will be found changing them from one place to another in the middle of the night, because, if it were so, it would not be nenessary to search the houses at all. You would only have to wait on the high road, and you would soon come into possession of the apparatus of murder. I can understand night-searching, if the object be to search for persons; but if the object be to search for arms and documents, I can see no reason whatever why we should not consent to limit or prevent these searches being carried out after sunset, at night, and before sunrise in the morning. There is one important part of the Bill which seems to have escaped attention in every quarter of the House. I refer to that part of it which proposes to revive the Alien Act. Now, I regard this portion of the Bill as something which is likely to be attended with the very gravest consequences, and for this reason. I feel with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), and other hon. Members who have spoken in the course of the debate, 1490 that the position of the Irish population in America is, undoubtedly, the greatest danger to the maintenance of English power in Ireland at the present time; and I can conceive that, in the future history of the Anglo-Irish struggle, the danger is to be anticipated from the other side of the Atlantic. I noticed at the great Irish meeting held in New York, some six or seven weeks ago, for the purpose of calling on the American Government to demand the release of certain American citizens imprisoned in Irish gaols, that messages and telegrams were read at the meeting from all the leading responsible politicians of the United States—Senators, Members of Congress, Governors of States, ex-Secretaries of State, and people of the highest note in the land were called upon to give expression to their opinion. I will mention the name of one particular individual, because it is a name that is more familiar to the people of England, probably, than any other I could mention—I mean General Grant. General Grant was received in this country, not long ago, with princely honour and hospitality by the British people. He was handed round the country, and the people were led to believe that the mission of the great General was to propagate love, and peace, and good-fellowship. Well, General Grant wrote to the meeting I refer to, saying—If I were President of the United States, I would demand the release of our citizens in Ireland or insist on their being immediately brought to trial.I will not pause to inquire whether General Grant may have been indulging in a little electoral fireworks or not. General Grant, if he were President of the United States, might possibly think that he was not called on, either as a General or as President, to adopt a hostile attitude towards England; but I look to his words as an acknowledgment of the power which elicited the expression of that opinion; and if I find every prominent man in the United States, without distinction of political Party—not merely the democrats who hope to get into power on the strength of the Irish vote, but Republicans of every shade of opinion—sending messages of sympathy to this meeting, then I am justified in regarding the position of the Irish race in America as a position which England has to recognize if she wishes to make 1491 peace with the Irish people at home. Well, what do you propose to do? You propose to revive an Act, the earliest effect of which would be not merely to to emphasize the hostility of irresponsible politicians in America, but to alienate the sympathies of the American Government itself. What is the history of this Alien Act? I am afraid there are very few hon. Members in this House who have studied the proposals of the Bill. There is hardly a step you can take which will not strike you with the fact that you are called on to do something hitherto recognized as most repugnant to the spirit of the British Constitution. What is the history of this odious Alien Act? In all the troubles and struggles of this country with aspirants to the Throne; in its contests with the Pope and his emissaries; in all the desperate periods of its past history, we never heard of the Alien Act until the 17th of September, 1793, when, during the Reign of Terror in France, the very security and independence of the United Kingdom were threatened, it was introduced by a Conservative Government and opposed by the Leaders of the Liberal Party; and, although it was in operation, more or less, for 33 years subsequently, during the whole of that time it was opposed by every man of eminence in the Liberal Party in both Houses of Parliament, and it was regarded as so odious in itself that it had to be renewed from year to year, like the Mutiny Bill. It was never passed for a longer period than one year, and during the 33 years it subsequently occupied a place on the Statute Book it was opposed by every prominent Member of the Liberal Party. I should like to mention the names of some of the distinguished statesmen who were conspicuous for their opposition to the Alien Act. Among those who opposed it in 1793 were Lord Lansdowne, Lord Grey, and Mr. Pox, and subsequently by Mr. Abercromby and Mr. Whitbread. In 1816 it was opposed by Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Homer, Mr. J. P. Grant, Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. C. Wynne, Lord Milton, Lord Althorpe, Mr. Baring, Mr. Lamb (afterwards Lord Melbourne), and Mr. Brougham; subsequently by Lord Auckland, the Duke of Sussex, Lord King, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Grey, and Lord Holland; and in later years 1492 by Lord Durham. In 1824, Lord John Russell and Mr. Denman were Tellers against the measure; and in 1848, when, after an interval, it was again proposed, I find that the Division List against it contains the names of Hume, Molesworth, Cobden, and Bright. I am glad that this has brought us to the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), because I wish the House to allow me to quote a very short extract from a speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered on the third reading of the Alien Bill, when it was introduced in 1848. I venture to give the quotation for this additional reason—that what the right hon. Gentleman then said as to the policy of the Alien Act most vitally applies to the whole policy of the present Bill introduced by Her Majesty's Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a Member. Addressing the House on the third reading of the Alien Bill in 1848, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said—With respect to the measure more immediately under consideration, he would take occasion to observe that, from the hour it was first introduced to the present moment, when it was about to receive its third reading, he had never heard an argument in its favour. To say that it ought to be passed"—I wish the House to mark this passage—"To say that it ought to be passed, simply because the House had confidence in the Ministry, was to talk in the silliest and most childish strain imaginable. To assign such a reason for assenting to such a Bill was really amongst the most preposterous of all conceivable things. Why, on the same plea, the House ought to support the Government if they were to bring forward ten times as oppressive a measure for our own people as this Bill of pains and penalties was for foreigners."—[3 Hansard, xcviii. 867.]Yes; and I say to the English Members of this House—If you consent to vote for such a measure as that now before you, for the purpose of restricting the freedom of the Irish people, or, as you would express it, for carrying on the government of Ireland, because you have confidence in Her Majesty's Government—if that Government were to come forward and propose a similar measure; or, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman, if they were to bring forward ten times as strong a measure for oppressing the people of England, you would be equally justified in recording your votes in favour of that proposal. I might go further, and show how far the spirit of 1493 this Alien Act is opposed to the genius and spirit of the British Constitution, in addition to the practical reasons I gave a short time ago in my reference to the state of the Irish nation in America, which is so great a political Power. But I do not wish to trespass unduly upon the time of the House by too minutely critizing special clauses in the Bill. I should, however, like for a moment or two to refer to a subject which has occupied a prominent place in our minds throughout all the stages of this discussion. I refer to the Phœnix Park atrocity. I am glad to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the ex-Attorney General for Ireland and the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) in his place, because I have to complain that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he spoke upon this subject a few evenings ago, was the very first, as far as I know in this country, at any rate the first public man, and certainly the first man in this House, to venture upon casting any imputation upon the masses of the people of Ireland in connection with that terrible tragedy. What did the right hon. and learned Gentleman say? He said—"It is all very well to pass resolutions expressive of your horror at the terrible deed; but it must be borne in mind that the deed was carried out in daylight, that there must have been many witnesses, and, nevertheless, the assassins are still at large." Now, I will put this simple question. If an imputation is to rest on the character of the people of Dublin or the people of Ireland in connection with that barbarous crime, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to ask me where were the eyes of the people, I ask him where were the eyes of the police organized under the system of coercion he was so ready last year to recommend for the adoption of the House, and which has been carried out by his Friend the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster)? "Where were the eyes of the police?" I ask, when you put the question, "Where were the eyes of the people?" I look upon the circumstances attending the perpetration of that crime as something which simply illustrates the chances of war. [Cries of "Oh!"] I certainly look upon it in that light. The failure to discover it is unaccountable, I admit, on any other supposition; but, if it be unaccountable—and the right 1494 hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with me that it is unaccountable—then he is not entitled to account for it by any secret sympathy with the assassins on the part of the Irish people. The Irish people of all classes have reprobated that crime. [Cries of "No!"] They have reprobated it, I think, in language which ought to bring home to every fair English mind a conviction of their sincerity; and I do not think it is fair for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to cast the imputation upon them which was indicated in his reference. As far as the people of Ireland are concerned they had every reason to expect that the administration which the late Lord Frederick Cavendish went to Ireland to carry out would be one calculated to promote the peace and the prosperity of that country; and I am sure that those among the Irish Members who knew the noble Lord in this House would have felt that, although they might be able to discover, at some time or other, in his policy an opponent, they would have found a generous opponent—a man with whom it would have been an honour to be associated even under the conditions of Party warfare. I do not know whether it is of any use appealing to the House to pause before assenting to the proposals contained in this Bill, by any reference to the consequences which have followed similar legislation in other countries. I think it is not necessary, because reference has already been made to it in the course of the debate; but I am sure the state of Russia at the present time, where measures of repression and coercion and despotic power in all its guises and forms are rampant, give no assurance whatever that similar legislation for Ireland will be productive of different consequences. I object then, Sir, to this Bill, because I think it is far in excess of what the situation in Ireland requires. There are many grave proposals contained in the measure, any one of which, if it stood alone, would excite considerable opposition. There is in this Bill such a catalogue of extraordinary and despotic powers, as I undertake to say were never before presented to the House at any period of English history, and such as I believe have seldom, if ever, been proposed to any Parliament at any time in the history of the world. Let me simply enumerate what these powers are before I 1495 sit down. First of all, you are asked to give to one man the power to abolish, trial by jury in six different classes of offences; you are asked to give power to enter and search dwelling-houses at any hour by night and day; to give power to arrest any person out before sunrise or after sunset; power to try a person summarily and send them to prison for six months with hard labour, and without the right of appeal; power to arrest aliens and imprison them forthwith, if they refuse or are unable to give security for their good behaviour; power to expel aliens; power to suppress public meetings; power to suppress newspapers; power to summon witnesses before anyone who has been acccused; and power to levy compensation for injuries, and to levy a tax for the maintenance of extra police on a whole district—thus involving the innocent with the guilty in a common punishment. These, and many other powers too numerous to mention, are included within the four corners of this Bill. I say, therefore, that it is a revolutionary measure; that it is a measure which. no precedent in English history can be quoted to justify; that, grave as the situation is in Ireland, the difficulties can be mastered without this drastic Bill; and I denounce it as an invasion of the rights of the Irish people, and a weak and humiliating and a shameful confession in the eyes of Europe that English administration in Ireland today, as in the past, is a disgraceful failure.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. PORTER)
Sir, I feel myself bound to notice some of the more important arguments advanced by the hon. and learned Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), and also those which have been so ably urged by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell). In one observation of my hon. and learned Friend I entirely concur—that this Bill, if it be not a Bill aimed against crime, and in so far as it is not calculated to repress and put down crime, is not a Bill that ought to commend itself to the judgment of this House. But I trust the House will come to the conclusion that in one and all of its important clauses and provisions it is not only a Bill aimed against crime, but one calculated to accomplish its object. My hon. and learned Friend 1496 the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has conceded that no amount of severity, or apparent severity, in the provisions of the Bill would disentitle it to the countenance of the House if it be really calculated to achieve that end; and really that argument needs no elaboration. In the present circumstances of the country, it is obvious that either the law must now assert its supremacy, or disorder must get the upper hand over law. Now, this measure has been described, and described with truth, as being a measure of coercion. In one sense it is a measure of coercion. It is a measure to coerce crime and compel the wrong-doer to obey the law; but it is not a measure of coercion in the sense of compelling the loyal, the well-disposed, and the law-abiding to do anything, or to make any sacrifice, which reasonable and honourable citizens ought not to be willing to do or to make in the circumstances of the country in which they live. One of the changes which this Bill introduces, and one which is merely of a temporary character, has been referred to both by the hon. and learned Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) and by those who have preceded him in this debate—namely, the important clause which proposes to give the Judges the jurisdiction of trying both law and fact in certain criminal cases. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has argued, in reference to this matter, that the opinion which has been expressed by the Judges ought to have great weight with the Legislature, and ought to be of importance in determining the decision, inasmuch as they have raised an objection to the proposal of the Government, not on the ground of personal inconvenience, but upon public grounds. Of course, Her Majesty's Government, and those whose duty it is to advise the Government, must give the greatest weight to the opinions and representations of these learned persons. I most thoroughly concur in what has been said on both sides of the House as to the ability, the uprightness, the intelligence, and the fearlessness of the Irish Bench; and I know well that when the Legislature imposes on them the duty of determining the matters which this Bill confides to them, they will discharge that duty to the best of their ability, without fear, favour, or affection. 1497 At the same time, while admitting that their opinion is entitled to the greatest weight, yet Her Majesty's Government would not be justified in allowing that opinion to outweigh the best judgment they themselves have been able to form, if that judgment be in accordance with the opinion of the Legislature of the country. With reference to the unwillingness of the Irish Judges to undertake the work formerly discharged by jurors, it is important to observe that on a previous occasion the Judges entertained similar misgivings; but it turned out that their misgivings, were not justified by the result. I refer to the transference of the trial of Election Petitions to the Judges. At that time the Legislature transferred to the Judges the duty of deciding upon very important and delicate questions involving matters concerning Party politics—matters of the very utmost nicety. They shrunk at first from undertaking the duty. I can well understand their reluctance. It was precisely similar to the reluctance expressed now by some of the members of the Irish Judicial Bench with reference to the functions which this Bill proposes to impose upon them. But what has been the result? I do not think this House would be willing to take away from the Judges the duty which has been imposed on them, in regard to Election Petitions, against their will; and I believe the Judges themselves find, after all, that the honest and fearless discharge of public duties not only insures justice, but commands the confidence of the public; and I feel perfectly certain that when it is recognized by the public that this—which I admit to be an odious duty—is cast on the Judges by the Legislature, and is accepted by them, in obedience to the voice of the nation, and as a trust imposed on them, the public confidence in their integrity and justice will be in no degree shaken. Now, what is the necessity for this step? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) has invited statistics in reference to the failure of juries to find a verdict of guilty when proper evidence has been given before them. I need not remind the House that it is utterly impossible that any such statistics can be given, because statistics are a mere matter of figures, whereas verdicts are a mere matter of evidence. And, although perfectly well 1498 known, as it is known in many cases—indeed, in most cases—of an agrarian character, that juries do not, as a matter of fact, discharge their duty, yet, while that is so, it is impossible to count up, in so many cases, at such an Assize, that juries went wrong, while in others they went right. The balance of evidence must, to a certain extent, remain as a matter of opinion; but, while it is a matter of opinion, it is a matter of opinion of the highest weight. Let anyone read the evidence given before the Committee of the House of Lords. The learned Judges examined before that Committee did not arrive at a conclusion from general and vague statements as to the failure in a particular class of cases; but they found the cases illustrated by examples and facts, and all resulting in the statement, on the part of those learned persons, that in agrarian offences, in a great part of the country, it is impossible to obtain a conviction. It is perfectly fair to point out that that failure of justice has, in many cases, resulted, not from any unwillingness on the part of juries to discharge their duty, but from the absence of evidence before the jury. I quite concede that that has been the case in some, and, indeed, in many instances, and that it will account for many of the failures of justice which have occurred. But, while that is so, it needs but little knowledge of human nature, and but very little knowledge of the Irish character, to corroborate the statement advanced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) the other evening—that the Irish peasant will not come forward to give evidence in a case when he knows perfectly well that the man against whom he is required to testify is to be tried by his friends and neighbours, or by persons under whose terrorism the crime has been brought about, who, they know, will acquit the prisoner, whose ill-will they would be liable to subsequently. But if you once insure a perfectly fearless tribunal, justice will be done on the evidence presented to it, and evidence will be forthcoming in cases where otherwise it would not. Under these circumstances, having regard to these facts, and the terrible failures of justice which have taken place at every Assize, with the single exception of the Cork Winter Assize, which, let it be re- 1499 membered, was so severely criticized in this House—under these circumstances, I say, we look forward to the operation of the tribunal to be constituted under this Bill as hopeful of the best results; and I, for one, cordially agree with what has been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), that, having such a tribunal as this, there was absolutely no fear of any innocent man being convicted. Everyone acquainted with the character of the men of which the Irish Bench is constituted, well know that they would not be less careful of individual liberty than juries. Therefore, Sir, I regard, this clause of the Bill as being one of the very greatest importance. But there is another clause, not now in the Bill, which will be introduced as a Government Amendment before it passes this House. I refer to the clause indicated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, which, I hope, as an auxiliary to the ordinary exercise of the Common Law, will prove an efficient and useful instrument. It is to the effect that power shall be given to have cases tried in districts different from those in which crimes have been committed, by special juries, or by juries of superior intelligence, who will not be likely to be influenced by causes which terrorize or intimidate persons in a humbler and less defensible position. I look upon this Amendment as not unimportant. It will be placed on the Paper, I understand, immediately, and I believe it will do much to lighten the work of the tribunal. Another portion of the Bill has been criticized with great fairness by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk, and by other speakers also. I refer to the summary jurisdiction which this Bill proposes to refer on Resident Magistrates. Now, my hon. and learned Friend has mentioned that many of the laws upon our Statute Book impose very severe maximum penalties for offences which might well be dealt with by smaller punishment. Many cases tried at the Assizes, which might well be dealt with in a summary manner, are now necessarily kept over for a considerable time, to the inconvenience of persons accused if they happen to be innocent, in a manner that sometimes amounts to a public scandal. It has, therefore, been deemed necessary to extend summary 1500 jurisdiction to many of these offences, but in a way which would not leave it in the power of the magistrates to whom it was intrusted to inflict the severe maximum penalties in our Statute Book. In point of fact, it is much more important that crime should be dealt with speedily and with reasonable certainty, and be tried free from the apprehension of violence and intimidation, than that it should be disposed of in a way that would insure heavier penalties at the cost of delay. Well, Sir, a Court of Resident Magistrates is naturally the one to which such offences will go. If it were proposed in this Bill that the trial of the class of offences to be referred to the Resident Magistrates should be intrusted to a Court composed of the country gentry and the landlord class, I need not say we should have had an outcry in this House with reference to the proposal that men engaged in agrarian occupations should be tried by their own landlords in relation to crimes connected with land. The arguments used against the Resident Magistracy would have been raised with more force if the proposal were that these offences should be tried by the local gentry. At the same time, it is obvious that there would be, under certain circumstances, great risk of inconvenience, and possibly even of injustice being done, if the magistrate who was engaged most in the course of his magisterial duties in investigating a crime, were afterwards to be the person to deal with it in the judicial capacity. That point has been fairly entered upon by my hon. and learned Friend; it is one to which the attention of the Government must necessarily be turned; and I am in a position to state that it is intended by the executive to make such arrangements in reference to these tribunals as will absolutely separate what I may call the Executive from the judicial functions of the magistrates, and that these judicial functions will be intrusted to magistrates who will have nothing to do but to decide in Court upon cases brought before them. That is a matter which I think ought to go far to relieve anxiety in any fair mind with reference to the constitution of these tribunals, and with reference to the exercise of their jurisdiction. Sir, this is a matter which has presented itself to the notice of the Government from within and not from without, and I will add that attention 1501 has been directed to it for a considerable time. Another matter has been mentioned this evening, which I am in a position also to state has already received the serious and earnest consideration of Her Majesty's Government. This Bill, it is true, contains no clause providing for appeal in cases of summary jurisdiction. But, in reference to that, although I am not in a position to say the matter is decided upon, I can assure the House that the question of the propriety of giving appeal in these cases—the same as is given in ordinary cases of jurisdiction—is one which is engaging the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government; and I believe that if it can be shown that the ends of justice will be served thereby, the proposal to give appeal will be adopted by them. And now, with regard to this most important portion of the Bill, which deals with the tribunals to be established in the place of juries, I may say, on the subject of summary jurisdiction, that I think the House need be under no apprehension that there is any desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to do more than is necessary, or more than that which is acknowledged by all to be the object of the Bill—namely, the repression and punishment of crime and guilt where it exists, with some guarantee that no innocent man shall suffer, and that jusce shall be done and nothing but justice. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk said that he regretted some of the other provisions of the Bill, amongst them that relating to the Press. Sir, I am unwilling to recall to the memory of the House what are the circumstances under which some clause of this kind has become absolutely imperative; but I will say that from one end of Ireland to the other, those connected with the administration of the law have arrived at the conclusion that unless something is done to put a stop to the dissemination of the pernicious matter daily circulated there, the country will never be at peace. I need not particularize these publications. We have had them under the notice of the House, and they continue to circulate now. In one paper we read of five dollars being offered for the assassination of a landlord; in another we have directions given as to the manufacture of dynamite for the destruction of public buildings and persons named. [An hon. MEM- 1502 BER: In Irish, papers?] I did not say in Irish papers. We find also offers of rewards to persons to go to America, whose expenses will be paid, and who will be taught the use of dynamite, and then sent back to use it. We find these things in The United Irishman, and we find them with scarcely less openly avowed murderous intention in other papers which circulate throughout the length and breadth of the land, or did so until the Government so far put a stop to them. I do not refer specially to Irish papers, although in this House there has been evidence given from Irish papers themselves of the publication of matter scarcely less mischievous than that to which I have alluded. As regards these newspapers, therefore, it is is quite necessary that they should be dealt with. "Deal with them by the ordinary law," say some of our friends—that is to say, by trial by jury, which has failed in the manner I have described in connection with every other kind of agrarian offence. Now, I ask, under these circumstances, what would be the use of these prosecutions? Their effect would be simply to give a stimulus to the circulation of particular papers, and to give them greater publicity and notoriety. And here it should be borne in mind that we are not proposing a perpetual law, but a law to meet a temporary necessity. We are acting in this matter purely on the defensive; we are acting for the rights and liberties of the nation; we are not attempting to gag or stifle any free discussion; we are aiming simply and strictly at crime alone. Are we, then, to wait until it is decided whether the publications I have alluded to are criminal or not? Are we to wait until the whole thing is done, and then institute a prosecution which will lead, perhaps, to a verdict of triumphant acquittal? This matter must be dealt with by someone. Should it be left to the magistrates? I can well understand the objections to that course. I think the liberties of the Press are better protected by the exercise of a discretion which must rest with the Chief of the Executive, and I believe there can be no better guarantee given than is afforded in the present case. The same difficulty presents itself in connection with public meetings, as I have indicated in the case of certain publications, and if these 1503 are to be stopped at all they must be stopped beforehand. There must, therefore, be some tribunal other than the ordinary tribunals established to deal with them, and the decisions in these matters is accordingly left to the Chief of the Executive. It is repugnant to everyone connected with the administration of the law to have anything to do with interference either as regards the publication of the Press or public meetings. But, at the same time, while there are publications of the Press and public meetings which the public interest demands should be permitted to go on, there are others which the public interest also imperatively demands should be put down. Therefore, it seems to me that in the case of public meetings also, no better guarantee can be given than that proposed in the Bill. I say, again, this is not a Bill which is to last for ever. It is a Bill to continue in operation for a certain time to meet a temporary necessity. Sir, I do not intend to enter at any considerable length upon a discussion of the other clauses of this measure, which are admitted by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk to be, in principle, perfectly legitimate. I refer especially to the powers of search, and the powers conferred by the revival of the Alien Act, which will enable the country to deal with crime for the purpose of prevention. Some such provisions as these are necessary; and everyone who knows the country is aware that at this moment there are numbers of emissaries from the United States in certain Irish towns, many of whom are known to be organizing some work against the law. It is obvious, therefore, that there should be the power of making such persons give an account of themselves, and, in the event of their not doing so, of compelling them to go to a place where they have some legitimate business. It is the right of a community to defend itself in this way, and it cannot be suggested of the power in question that it will lead to the slightest harm or detriment to any law-abiding person. It is impossible to say that it will not cause personal discomfort; but that can only occur in very rare cases, and such discomfort, I am satisfied, any loyal subject of the Grown will be ready to suffer, in order that the community, of which he is a member, may be saved. With regard to the clause re- 1504 lating to the summoning of witnesses, to which the hon. Member for Mayo so strongly objects, I am bound to say that the force of his objection is not apparent to me. There is power in the Bill to enable magistrates to summon witnesses to give evidence even when no person is charged. I cannot see that there is any hardship in asking a person to give evidence in that manner. If a crime has occurred, and a person knows about it, he is bound to state what he knows; on the other hand, if he knows nothing, be will say so. The summoning of witnesses in this way is of every-day occurrence in the case of Coroners' inquests, where it is to the interest of the public that a full investigation should take place; and I feel satisfied that if this power had been in existence some time ago, we might have been able to unearth some of those connected with the most desperate assassinations in the country. That is my conviction when I recollect the murder of the two persons at Lough Mask, whose bodies were put into a boat, taken out into the lake, and sunk in the presence of persons who must have seen what was going on; and I think it is a scandal to our power to say that there is nothing to compel them to come forward and say they saw it. Therefore, it seems to me there can be no valid objection to such a clause as that to which I have referred. With regard to the provisions which impose pecuniary fines on districts in which murder, injury, or maiming have occurred, no doubt there is a primâ facie objection here, just as there is in the case of the cost of additional police; but after all, while that is so, there is nothing in the clause which is repugnant to the principles of the law under which we have lived in England. It is but the old Common Law of England, under which the Hundreds were responsible for one another; and it is the same as the law in Ireland with reference to malicious injury to property, which gives power to recover compensation for injury, to be assessed by the Grand Jury. Here we have not thought proper to throw on the Grand Jury the powers of this Act, but have thought it better, in order that the investigation may be prompt, that this jurisdiction should be conferred on persons not connected with the districts. Surely, if it be right, when a house is burned without evidence of combination—a thing that may be ex- 1505 ceptional—that it should be left to the decision of the jury to mulct the district for an unknown amount, there is no unfairness in attempting to achieve two objects—one to compensate the family of the victim; and the other to convince the people of the neighbourhood that it is their own pecuniary interest to protect themselves and their neighbours, and to combine to put down crime and outrage. I have great faith in that argument, and I know no class of persons with whom it has greater weight than Irish Members. In many cases the fear of pecuniary results has prevented agrarian crime. I believe, therefore, that this Bill, in one and all its provisions—I do not say in reference to one and all its details—but in all its features this Bill deserves the support of the House as being an honest effort to protect the community against crime and outrage. It has been described as the most severe measure ever passed for Ireland; but anyone who makes that statement cannot have carefully read Lord Grey's Act of 1833, the provisions of which infinitely transcend this Bill in stringency. As regards the provisions of this Bill, the functions cast on the police will be, as far as possible, minimized in severity. Whilst houses are to be searched for apparatus of crime, that search is only to be conducted on the individual and personal responsibility of an officer present on the occasion, and shall not be left to be exercised by constables or by persons against whom charges might subsequently be made that they were acting beyond their powers. The Bill seems to me one which eminently deserves the support of this House. We are at present discussing an Amendment to go into Committee. Many of the topics presented to the House seem to me more suitable for the second reading than for Committee; but as these matters have been brought before the House, it was necessary to satisfy the House, as I have endeavoured to do, that however this Bill may be in some respects amended, in the main it is a Bill calculated to attain its object, and that in the administration of it will lie the best hope for the peace and prosperity of the country; and that, although some of its provisions may look strict and severe, yet in their strictness lies the greatest mercy for the community.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Dillon.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.