§ [THIRD NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [23rd May], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
And which Amendment was,
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 again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed,1618
§ MR. PARNELL
I hope the House will permit me very briefly to refer, in the first place, to an impression of an unfavorable character, which appears to have been created among many Members on both sides of the House by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) yesterday. I am bound to say that I think the impression which has been created, and the inferences that the Prime Minister drew in his speech from the remarks of my hon. Friend, were not warranted by the speech itself; although I think it is exceedingly natural that both the Prime Minister and the House generally should have drawn the inferences they did from many passages of that speech, and from its general nature and context. I can only say that the impression which, I am informed, my hon. Friend has created in the House, and the impression evidently created on the Prime Minister, was not the impression created by my hon. Friend upon the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly) and myself when we were his Colleagues in Kilmainham Prison. I should not have touched on a delicate matter of this kind were it not that a letter of mine, conveying this impression, has since become public property. What was the impression which the hon. Member appears to have conveyed to the House yesterday? In the best report I can find of his speech he is made to say—That if the Government should announce in the House their intention to have done with coercion, and at the same time to pass a measure similar in character to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond), he believed such a condition of things would then be brought about in Ireland is would give them every reason to hope that they could conduct the agrarian movement within the land to a satisfactory conclusion without violence, without discord of any kind. He never for one moment, either in private or in public, and, as far as he was aware, none of his friends, had ever represented that the passing of an Arrears Bill would be a settlement of the Land Question. What he did say was that the Bill introduced by the Irish Members, prominent in which was a clause dealing with arrears together with a binding announcement on the part of the Government (and this was essential) that they would definitely abandon the policy of coercion, would place them in a position in which they could confidently say that in a few months their country would return to peace, and that outrage would entirely disappear.And then my hon. Friend, after some passages in his speech which I shall not 1619 weary the House by quoting, went on to defend the practice of "Boycotting," and, taking these passages, and the subsequent passages of the speech together, the Prime Minister appears to have supposed that my hon. Friend meant that while exertions would be used to prevent outrages, intimidation would be persevered in until the Land Question was permanently settled. Now, Sir, knowing as I do the feelings and sentiments of my hon. Friend, I am bound to say that I do not think he intended to convey any such impression. I do not think he intended to convey the impression that our exertions to prevent outrages would be dependent on the passage of the Arrears Bill or that any illegal course in the shape of intimidation would be either entered into or persevered in pending the final settlement of the Land Question. Our views in prison since the marked increase of outrages had been that it was most desirable that the country should be tranquillized and the movement kept within the bounds of moderation; and we held during these months many anxious consultations as to how we were to contribute towards those ends. In addition, we did what little we were able to do in our position to tranquillize the country and moderate the excitement of the people; and this was months before our release was thought of, or any certainty had appeared of the settlement of the Arrears Question. But subsequently, when a settlement of the Arrears Question appeared likely, I did not deem it my duty to conceal from my Friends that, in our judgment, this settlement, with a fair prospect of remedial legislation of a practical character afterwards, would enormously contribute to the pacification of the country. And why, Sir, did we think this? Because we hoped that the settlement of the Arrears Question, which has been proposed by the Prime Minister, would have a material effect in stopping unjust evictions for a while; and that the permanent legislation we then hoped for, and still hope for, would, to a certain extent, lead to a gradual transfer by purchase, on fair and equitable terms, of the soil of Ireland to her people; and that evictions would in this way be permanently put an end to. I know of nobody connected with the Land Question who expects that the tenants of Ireland can obtain the owner- 1620 ship of their farms otherwise than by fair purchase. That was the original object of the Land League movement. Our efforts were to be directed—firstly, to putting an end so rack-renting, eviction, and landlord extermination; and, secondly, to enabling the tenant farmers to purchase their holdings upon fair and equitable terms. Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary, nor Mr. Davit, expects that the tenants of Ireland can obtain their holdings upon any other terms than by buying them. Now, Sir, perhaps I may be permitted to refer to a speech which I delivered at the commencement of this movement in Ennis in the autumn of 1880, which has been often quoted. I then recommended for the first time what has been roughly described as the practice of "Boycotting." In that speech I recommended that persons who took farms from which other tenants had been unjustly evicted—I believe there was some difference between the Government and myself as to whether I used the word "unjustly" or not; but whether I used it or not I intended to have used it, and I used it in subsequent speeches—that persons who took farms from which other tenants had been unjustly evicted should be isolated and placed in a species of moral "Coventry," and I used the expression that they should be left "severely alone." I desire, Mr. Speaker, to admit to the fullest extent that the practice of "Boycotting," which grew up subsequently to that speech, has been very much abused. It has been used not only against persons who robbed their neighbors by taking their holdings from them after they had been unjustly evicted—robbed them of their tenant right, which had not then been conferred by law, but which has since been recognized and conferred by law—but it has been used against persons who refused to join the Land League, who refused to illuminate their houses, and who refused to subscribe to various popular movements. It has been used in a variety of other ways which merit the severest, the most stringent condemnation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary that what I then recommended in that speech at Ennis would not have been legitimate in a country where the law protected the interests of the poor as well as those of the rich. It would not have been permissible to have recommended it in a 1621 self-governed country. But the House must reflect what were the circumstances which then existed in Ireland, and what was the position in which the tenant farmers were placed. They had just passed through three seasons of extraordinary and exceptional severity, when many thousands of them—probably 100,000 of the tenant farmers of Ireland—were only kept from actual starvation by the charity of the world. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and this House had, in the Session of 1880, which was then over, made an ineffectual attempt to protect those men from extermination. That attempt had been frustrated by the action of the House of Lords. Were we to stand by and do nothing—to allow these people to be evicted in their thousands, as they undoubtedly would have been if we had not done something? Our method was, perhaps, a rough one; but it was necessary that rough measures should, under the circumstances, be employed. The Irish Land Question is a rough and thorny question, no matter which end you lay hold of. But I freely admit that means which were recommended then would not be permissible or allowable if the immediate object at which the Land League aimed—namely, the protection of tenants from rack-renting, eviction, and landlord extermination, could have been arrived at by the ordinary process of law. We are now in this position. We are promised an Arrears Bill, which, if it be carried as it has been printed and read a second time, will undoubtedly temporarily protect the small tenants of Ireland from unjust evictions. I should have looked upon that step as an enormous advance, an enormous safeguard. It would have given time for the further consideration by the Government of what steps could be taken for the development of the Act of last Session for its speedier bringing into effect, for the more speedy protection of the tenants under its operation. It would have given all parties in the contest a breathing time—a breathing time which, I venture to say, and which both my hon. Friends who were with me in Kilmainham concurred in believing, was very much wanted at that moment by all parties. The situation has been changed—I shall explain a little further on how much changed—by the introduction of the Coercion Bill by the Government; and 1622 I cannot help thinking that very much of the tenor and character of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary was due to the despair he feels in his heart at the prospect that is before Ireland and her people under the provisions of this Prevention of Crime Bill. It illustrates strangely the anomaly of the position of Ireland in this House that we are told that when that speech is made one of the results is that 30 or 40 fair-minded Englishmen who intended to assist us in modifying this Bill, in mitigating its harshness, and I would almost say its brutality, have been driven away from our side. ["No!"] That is what I am told. I myself do not wish to believe that that is the case; but I would ask the House to make some little allowance for the exigencies of Ireland, and for the position of her Members, and to remember that, after all, it is exceedingly difficult for English Members to understand the exact position of any Irish question; and if they do err, let them take care that their error be on the side of justice and mercy rather on the side of excessive coercion and harshness. If the Arrears Question had been settled, I should have advised that the movement should have been conducted strictly within the laws applicable to England and to Ireland. I am now referring to the question of "Boycotting." I do not object, Mr. Speaker, to the enforcement of any law against intimidation or incitement to intimidation; but I object to the construction of a fresh offence of intimidation unknown to your law, and which would practically make any legal or open combination impossible. I claim for the Irish tenants as much right to combine, as much right to combination, as is allowable to English workmen, and no more; and I am perfectly willing that suitable definitions in accordance with the nature of the case—in addition to the definitions of the Conspiracy Act of 1875—should be inserted in the present Bill to carry out this object. I think the Premier made an unfair deduction with reference to another passage in the speech of my hon. Friend. The passage is as follows:—He (Mr. Dillon) had never denounced outrage, and never would until Parliament denounced evictions. But he had endeavored to point out to the people that their own interests, both as regarded their good name before the 1623 world, which had now been sadly blotted by their enemies, and the protection of their rights and the future welfare of their country, distinctly lay in putting a stop to outrage, and he had endeavored to point out to them that a weapon lay near their hands which could take the place of outrage.I have had no communication with my hon. Friend; but I am quite sure that he referred to "unjust" evictions. The Prime Minister went on to say that—Eviction is the exercise of an undoubted legal right, which may be to the prejudice of your neighbor, which may involve the very highest moral responsibility, nay, even deep moral guilt upon the person exercising it. There may be outrages, all things considered—the persons and the facts—that may be less guilty in the sight of God than evictions. That I do not deny; but there may be evictions which are the last, the extreme, the inevitable remedy for the establishment of those legal rights on which the existence of society depends—against the man who deliberately and insolently and willfully denies them, the man who audaciously refuses to fulfill his contract—the most equitable contract in the world—a contract under the judicial rents recently established, with money in his pocket, perhaps loaded with benefits from the man whom he defies. And in the case where the possessor of property, after exhausting every means of conciliation, is driven to make use of the powers of the law for the establishment of legal right, and perhaps to support himself and family, that man is placed by the deliberate declaration of the hon. Gentleman upon the footing of a perpetrator of outrage, and we are called upon to denounce evictions with the same sense, and even with the same unlimited scope, as we are allowed to denounce outrage.I do not think that was the intention of my hon. Friend; and I feel certain he would regret any outrage which was committed with reference to a case of eviction where the tenant was able to pay his rent, and where the rent was a rent which was, under the circumstances of the case, fair. We have been very much blamed by various critics in consequence of the number of outrages which have happened in connection with the land agitation; but I think, when the passions of the day have passed away, it will be admitted by history that no movement of the same magnitude, involving the same extensive results, and connected, as it is, with the means of living of such a large portion of the population of the country, has ever been freer from outrage and crime than has the Land League movement. The facilities which are now given by the penny Press and by the electric telegraph for the speedy dissemination of news, the careful way 1624 in which the English newspapers dish up everything of the kind that happens in Ireland for their English readers, and a great deal that has never happened at all, brings every crime or offence connected with the Land League movement into a prominence which it never could have obtained 30 or 40 years ago. I wish the House would permit me to compare the crime which attended the movement of 1833, when the interests involved were not one-fifth of those involved in the Land League movement. The movement of 1833 was to get rid of the Tithe-rent charge—a payment amounting to about £1,000,000—and, roughly speaking, this agitation is to get rid of the payment of some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a-year—the difference between what the Irish tenants consider a fair rent and what the landlords consider a fair rent. The Chief Secretary gave us the other day a list of the murders which had been committed in Ireland during the last year. He said that in the year 1881 there were 17 murders. Now, in the year 1833 there were 172 murders.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
The list I gave was of agrarian murders. I think the hon. Gentleman should draw a distinction, though I know it is almost impossible to do so.
§ MR. PARNELL
Of course, it is very difficult to draw a distinction; but, so far as I can gather, murders in 1833 were committed in connection with the Tithe movement, just as the 17 agrarian murders last year were supposed to have been committed in connection with the Land League. In Queen's County alone there were in 1833, 60 murders; and in Kilkenny there were 32 murders or attempts at murder, 32 burnings of houses, 519 burglaries, 36 houghings of cattle, and 178 assaults of such a nature as to be accompanied with loss of life. The catalogue of Irish crime during that year contained 172 homicides, 455 houghings of cattle, 2,000 illegal notices, 425 illegal meetings, 796 malicious injuries to property, 763 attacks on houses, 280 arsons, and 3,256 serious assaults. The aggregate of crime during these 12 months amounted to 9,000. Yet when Parliament met it was not asked to sanction so stringent a Coercion Bill as that now before the House. In those days the state of Ireland was not so vividly brought home to the minds of 1625 the English people; and there was not the same disposition to make political capital out of such events. I admit to the fullest extent the difficulties in the way of Ministers; but I do not admit that there is any justification whatever in the present rapidly-improving state of Ireland which entitles the Government to turn aside from remedial measures, and to enter on this course of fresh coercion. The Prime Minister is losing a very great chance indeed—a chance which may not, which I fear cannot, ever come back to him, and which, perhaps, never will come to any English Statesman occupying the position of the right hon. Gentleman—certainly to no one so well qualified by his ability and grasp of mind to bring the Irish Land Question to a satisfactory termination. I believe that from the date of the Phoenix Park murders every class in Ireland—landlords, tenants, labourers—were disposed for a settlement of the question on as moderate lines as could be hoped for. I feel convinced no section of political thought in Ireland—not even the most extreme section—were desirous that the present state of turmoil and agitation should continue and be perpetual; and if the Prime Minister had been able to proceed with his Arrears Bill without loss of time, and after that to have considered on what conditions he ought to amend the Land Act of 1880, I believe it would have been possible for him to propose such a measure as would have restored peace and quiet to the country, and in a few years to have brought about a permanent settlement of the Irish Question. We have now before us a prospect of coercion; and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider in what position moderate men in Ireland are placed by coercion. Last year the passage of a Coercion Act threw the Land League movement into the hands of its most extreme members. This year I cannot see any other hope than that the passage of this Coercion Bill will throw everything in Ireland into the hands of secret societies. Between the secret societies on the one side, and Her Majesty's Government on the other, it will be practically impossible for any Irish politician to continue in existence. Although the Prime Minister has said that the Government, having proposed this measure, would not deserve to remain 1626 in Office a single week if they were now to draw back from it, I would entreat him to re-consider the situation. The Return of outrages in Ireland last week showed a diminution of 100—a very large proportion of these crimes being threatening letters and notices; and I trust and pray that this month may show a similar diminution, so as to strengthen the hands of those English Members in the House, and those Members of the Cabinet who may be supposed to be engaged in the attempt to strengthen the hands of the Government against those who are demanding vindictive and fresh coercive measures against Ireland. At all events, let the effect of the Arrears Bill be tried. There is, surely, no urgency about this Coercion Bill. You have power to imprison and keep in prison without trial that you suspect in Ireland. You admit that many thousands of families are threatened with eviction. The passage of this Coercion Bill must be attended with a considerable loss of time, no matter how much we may desire to refrain from Obstructive opposition. I would in treat the Government not to play into the hands of the men who committed the Phoenix Park murders by persistence in their present course. The extermination of the secret societies of a country by any Code has been proved to be impossible. Russia has sufficiently drastic laws and immense power; and yet we see what happens in that country. Do not, then, shut the door in the face of those among the Irish people—the vast majority of the Irish people—who desire to see Her Majesty's Government return to Constitutional usage, and to accept any measure which may promise to be a lasting and final settlement of this much-vexed Irish Land Question.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, the very remarkable speech which had been delivered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would have been best replied to by a statesman of considerable experience. It was a speech surely, in all senses, remarkable, and it had been received, as it well deserved to be, with the profoundest attention by the House; and he hoped the hon. Member would allow him to say that he heard the speech with a feeling of thankfulness, for it seemed to him to be substantially, though it might not be in intention, a public act of reparation for the errors of the 1627 past. ["No!"] He did not anticipate that that remark would meet with the acquiescence of all hon. Members sitting opposite; but, nevertheless, he thought it substantially true that in the present utterances of the hon. Member, they could see the dawning of a better mind. But although the hon. Member's speech deserved the sympathetic attention which it received, it made no more change in his mind with regard to the Bill before the House than the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) did yesterday. The speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary was listened to with breathless attention by the House; but it seemed to excite an amount of horror and astonishment which were entirely unwarranted. One of the hon. Member's most valuable qualities was that absolute transparency of thought and action which enabled them to see with the utmost clearness what were his ideas and intentions; and his speech yesterday was only a clearer and more emphatic statement than the House had yet heard of the views and intentions which none of them had reason to think were absent from his mind. The Prime Minister yesterday spoke of the "steeled" feelings of the hon. Member. He did not know that the hon. Member's feelings were more "steeled" than those of his Colleagues; but his utterance was more startling and outspoken. There was one part of the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork to which he felt bound to take exception. The hon. Member said the horrors of the Phoenix Park tragedy, the shadow of which still rested upon them all, were repudiated by every section of the Irish people. He was thankful to think that was as a general rule, and in a large sense, true; but there was a certain section, at any rate, in the City of Dublin, at the moment of the occurrence, who did not share in those feelings of horror, but manifested feelings of delight, and it was with that section that the Bill now before them proposed to deal. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He was one of those who had studied the Irish Question with profound sympathy, and who more particularly sympathized, with Irish aspirations for a reasonable amount of self-government. Why, then, did he and others find themselves in implacable hostility to hon. Gentlemen opposite? 1628 Because the objects for which Irishmen were striving had been, for the last two years, sought through the agency of desperate crime. He was thankful to be able to repeat in that House what he had stated outside, that the English Liberals did not desire to charge any responsibility of the tragedy of Phoenix Park on any section of the Irish people, and least of all upon their accepted Leaders; but they must remember that responsibility for acts of that kind was not always direct and conscious. It was very often the natural growth and outcome of the teachings which, they could only believe and hope, were scattered abroad with very different objects. It seemed to him that a heavy share of responsibility rested upon any accepted Leader of the Irish people who abstained from denouncing everywhere and without conditions such crimes as those they all deplored. Surely something of the criminality rested upon those who first taught that a man must be personally punished if he would not obey the political or agrarian requirements of his neighbor; and they could not forget who first proposed that damnable doctrine that whoever did not conform to the conduct of the Land League must first be "Boycotted" and then ruined. A distinction had been drawn between agrarian and non-agrarian murders by the Leaders of the agitation; but, in England, they stood upon the doctrine that murder was equally murder and equally detestable whether it was inflicted upon a harmless official of the State or upon an evicting landlord. It was that abhorrence of the crime of murder and agitation likely to lead up to it which led Liberals to the determination to support the Bill now before the House. The prevalence of crime in Ireland engaged the attention of the House last year, when the ill-fated and ill-omened Coercion Bill was brought forward; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) gave his assurance that the Bill was aimed at criminals upon whom the Government could lay their hands. Experience had proved that the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken. The Bill failed to bring about the arrest of the perpetrators of crime, though, no doubt, it had done great good in asserting the supremacy of the Government, and in rendering it impossible for any hon. Member to say 1629 that the League had "knocked the law of the land into a cocked hat." That Coercion Bill was now dying or dead, and they had in its place the present measure, which, to his mind, although more stringent, was less fundamentally contrary to the principles of personal liberty. To arrest a man on suspicion and keep him untried for two years was a proceeding as much opposed to the principles of liberty, and he might almost say of justice, as any he could conceive. The present Bill provided only for the speedy trial of prisoners, and, therefore, it seemed to him to be exactly what the present circumstances of Ireland required. He should be extremely glad if Her Majesty's Government could see their way to clear the Bill of even any suspicion that it was directed against political offences and political agitation, and if it could be made plainer that it was aimed only at murder and crimes akin to murder. He would like, therefore, to see some amendment made in the clauses relating to treason, except so far as that crime was connected with murder, and also in those which imposed restrictions on public speaking. As to the Press, he would give full liberty for papers written and printed in Ireland to be read by Irishmen; but the heaviest penalties should attach to the abominations from America. He found that there was no consensus of opinion in the recommendations of the Bill put forward by several hon. Members, as without such general support it would have no chance of success. It was clear the Coercion Act of last Session had completely broken down in the effort to cope with agrarian crime. It was therefore necessary that some machinery should be adopted which might prove more effective in that direction; and hence the constitution of the new tribunal now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. He should be sorry, however, to think that that provision had not been introduced into the Bill until after the murder in the Phoenix Park, as he thought the previous horrors which were so cruel had already made it clear to the Government that such a tribunal was absolutely necessary. As regards the impartiality of the-Irish Judges, he had to say that if they could not impartially try the cases likely to be brought before them under the provisions of this mea- 1630 sure, they were wholly unfit to discharge any judicial functions whatever. It was needless for him to say that with that part of the Bill he entirely agreed. A second point which met with his entire approval was the proposal to levy a fine upon any district in which a crime might be committed. Anyone who had studied Irish crime must have seen that a new character had been introduced into it, and that it had become more mercenary in its aims and its methods. If that were so, it might very appropriately lead to some thing like a mercenary punishment. Then, as to the right of search, it should be remembered that they were coping with secret societies; and the only chance of dealing with them effectually was the power to enter at unexpected times into unexpected places where men might meet for the planning of crime, and thus bring them more speedily to justice. He thought that Her Majesty's Government ought to remove from the Bill the provisions with regard to appeal in capital cases, for, in his view, promptness of punishment would be much more efficacious than severity. In those three main provisions which related to the suspension of trial by jury, the imposition of a fine on districts where crime had been committed, and the right of search, the Bill strongly commended itself to his acceptance. They seemed to him absolutely necessary in order to place the well-intentioned, but, for the purpose contemplated by this Bill, ineffectual Coercion Act at present in force. If Her Majesty's Government could not see their way to conceding all the modifications he desired, he would still vote for the Bill in its integrity rather than, in circumstances like the present, give it a half-hearted support. Such were the considerations which weighed with him; but the strongest justification of the Bill lay in the conviction that all means were lawful to a Government bent on stamping out a system of secret and abominable crime.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he was quite sure there was no foundation for the imputation that the Government desired to suppress the opinions of the Representatives of large constituencies in England. The idea doubtless arose from the fact that, up to that moment, no hon. Member on his side of the House representing a large constituency had had an opportunity of taking part 1631 in the debate. But while those who had grown grey in studying Constitutional politics, and who, in and out of the House, had actively supported the policy of the Prime Minister, had had no opportunity of stating their opinions, they had been obliged to submit to be lectured by young gentlemen from the West of England upon their duty in regard to this measure. He regretted that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen) was so vague in its terms that, in connection with this Bill, its meaning could be hardly understood. Had it been as explicit in its references to the Press as the speeches of the hon. Member who had just down, and the Member for Southwark (Mr. Cohen), he should have felt not the slightest difficulty in giving it his support. Moreover, it was not directed to any specific part or clause of the measure; and in the speech in which it was introduced his hon. Friend gave the House no clue which enabled them to elucidate its meaning. But he did not regret that it had been moved, because it had led to a useful discussion of the Bill; and when the second reading of so important a measure had been agreed to within 24 hours, he was inclined to think that sufficient respect was not paid either to Constitutional policy, or to the people of Ireland. In reference to the expiring Act, the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) said—and it was the courageous utterance of a courageous man—he hoped the time had gone by for ever when a Bill of such a character could be passed quickly through that House. With great pleasure he had heard the announcement of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, when he spoke of "the new Government of Ireland;" and he was sure he expressed the feelings of every Member of the House when he said that the right hon. Gentleman, during the short period in which he had held Office, had made a continually-increasing impression upon the House by his courtesy and ability. The right hon. Gentleman had made them regret that he lacked the one other qualification, which, no doubt he would be delighted to possess, of being an Irishman; and he had said he himself regretted that an Irishman did not hold his position. Unhappily, at this moment, it was perhaps impossible that an Irishman should hold that position; but 1632 they might be certain that every Member of the Government earnestly desired that the time might come when it should be the established policy of the country, that high offices of command in Ireland should be occupied by Irishmen. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) strangely forgot himself the other night when he made light of a matter of so much gravity. At this point of new departure by a new Government in Ireland, it was not unimportant that they should bear in mind a few circumstances which had led up to the present situation. They were called upon—and this had been to some extent forgotten or overlooked—not to take action as the result of a dreadful crime, but to take part in the obsequies of the Act of 1881, and to give the Government new powers. There had been an extraordinary divergence of opinion as to the character of the Bill now submitted to the House; but he agreed with the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), that it gave the Executive less drastic powers than the Act of last year. He was astonished when his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford expressed the opinion that this was the most severe and most stringent coercive Bill that had ever been submitted to Parliament. It seemed to him hardly to deserve the name of a Coercion Bill, because it lacked that element which they had always considered to be the key-note of a Coercion Bill—namely, the power of arbitrary arrest, and of placing a person in prison without any hope of meeting his accuser. They must remember, in their criticism of this Bill, that although the Cabinet had lost the valuable services of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, it remained a Cabinet of the most extraordinary authority in regard to the affairs of Ireland. He alluded to the fact that it included two Lords Lieutenant and two ex-Chief Secretaries of Ireland—a circumstance almost unprecedented in the government of the country. With regard to the main principle of the Bill, the suspension of trial by jury, there was one point of great importance which had not received any answer from the Government. The Solicitor General for Ireland alluded the other night, in justification of the employment of the Irish Judges upon this new work, to the fact that before the 1633 Lords' Committee of last Session some eminent Judges gave an opinion not quite favourable to the present position of jury trials in Ireland. But that was not so important as the fact that the Committee of the House of Lords divided upon a clause which was almost identical with the proposals in this Bill; and the minority who objected to the suspension of trial by jury on that occasion was composed of the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford), Lord Monck, and Lord Emly. Those four noble Lords were opposed last year to the proposals now brought forward by the Government; and he wished to hear what were the reasons which had led them to change their opinions upon so important a subject. He agreed with the Solicitor General for Ireland that they should not attach too great importance to the Judges' memorial. It was an important matter, no doubt; but the Judges were the servants of the Executive Government and of the country, and he was quite certain that if the Legislature and the Government placed upon them that important duty the memorial would practically disappear. The important question was, whether the Legislature and the Government should confer this power upon the Judges. With regard to what had been said about political offences, whilst the Government might find it impossible to withdraw from their position, he wished them to understand that it would be most repugnant to the feelings of the people to see trials for treason and treason-felony going on, conducted solely by officials of the State. The Government had made, through the Solicitor General for Ireland, considerable proposals for the modification of the Bill in regard to the suspension of trial by jury, and in other respects, which led him to hope that when the House went into Committee they would consent to further modifications of an important character. He did not hesitate to congratulate the Government that they had in this measure abandoned—he hoped for ever—the exasperating and crime-producing policy of the Act of 1881. Whilst the late Chief Secretary for Ireland sat in Dublin he exercised powers more despotic than those that belonged to any power in Europe. In other countries such authority was tempered by the fear of revolution. He hoped 1634 the day would never arrive when in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions there could be any chance of successful rebellion against the authority of the Crown. There were provisions in this Bill to which he objected; but, taking it as a whole, it was mild compared with the arbitrary measure passed last year. He had carefully examined the clause with regard to aliens, and he had read the debate which had been referred to by the hon. and learned Member for the County Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power); but he had failed to detect the results which that hon. and learned Member had discovered. In that debate many hon. Members had their part, all of whom were entitled to respect, and many of whom possessed the veneration of the House; but he had not seen in the arguments then brought forward one that would have a precise application to the case now under consideration. What had been at that time feared in regard to aliens was not exactly the case at present; and with reference to the important clause dealing with aliens, he begged Irishmen to remember that if it should receive the assent of Parliament it would include a great resignation on the part of the people of this country of the right of asylum in Great Britain as well as in Ireland, for it was provided that an alien whom it was desired to pursue should not be able to find a resting place in Great Britain. For his own part, he would be very glad if, in view of the powers of immediate trial which the Government proposed to take under this Act, they could find themselves able to agree to a modification of this clause; but if this should not be the case, he recognized in the state of political relations between England and the United States the possibility of some value which should not be overlooked attaching to the clause. Such language as had been used not long ago by General Grant pointed in this direction; and although he was most anxious to preserve inviolate free resort to the United Kingdom, yet he was quite certain that the men who opposed the Alien Bill in 1848 would not have desired that there should be imported into this country the followers of Mr. O'Donovan Rossa from the other side of the Atlantic. While care would be taken to exclude persons of that kind, he was quite sure that the 1635 suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Dawson) on the previous day, that it would be necessary to adopt the passport system for the United Kingdom, was an utterly baseless apprehension. A possible advantage from this clause was that it might relieve this country from a difficulty with the Government of the United States. In some particulars this Bill, he thought, ought to have been the measure submitted to that House at the beginning of last year in place of the Bill which had been recently denounced, by the First Minister of the Crown himself, as invidious and offensive. There were portions of the present measure which, he believed, would be materially effective for the prevention of crime in Ireland. He had expressed a contrary opinion with respect to the Bill of last year when it was under discussion. He had occupied a position of, to himself, somewhat painful prominence in regard to that measure. In January, 1881, he had said that the Bill—Would so infuriate and exasperate the Irish people that they might expect not open but secret crimes, and crimes of the most malignant and cruel character.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had made many predictions. He was a man who had the courage of his opinions; but he had made no prediction, he (Mr. Arthur Arnold) believed, with reference to the affairs of Ireland which had come so faithfully true, he grieved to say, as that which he (Mr. Arthur Arnold) had then made. He was certainly in favour of considerable amendment in the present Bill; but he would not apply the same prophecy to it if it were passed even in very nearly its present shape. The right hon. Member for Bradford, they knew, made memoranda of conversations. He wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman had made a memorandum of some remarks he himself had uttered before the passage of last year's Coercion Act? Firing into dwelling-houses, he had then said, indicated some inefficiency on the part of the police. His right hon. Friend asked him what he himself would do for Ireland, and he had replied—"I would have special magistrates, and an efficient police, and my police should be sometimes on the scene of outrage." Some months afterwards there were 1636 feeble and ineffective attempts to place special magistrates in Ireland. But the greatest mistake that could be made with reference to the appointment of special magistrates was to appoint five or six, and to make them a mark for the public opinion of the country. There had been of late some greater activity among the police; but there had not been throughout that great increase in their number, and that support, which they might have had from a large increase in the detective force, which, he believed, would have prevented the sad event that had placed them all in mourning. Since January last year he had not addressed the House on this subject; but he had watched the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford staggering along as Chief Secretary for Ireland, with a temper which won his sympathy and respect. He could not forget one remark of that right hon. Gentleman, which laid bare the root of Irish difficulty—namely, that the worst difficulty in Ireland arose from the fact that throughout, from the Lord Lieutenant down to the humblest policeman, the whole Governing Body was accustomed to rely too much on British power. Mr. Disraeli, whose political genius he had always admired, had said in that House 40 years ago—"You have in Ireland the weakest Executive in the world—that is the Irish Question." That was the Irish Question at the present moment. The Bill now before the House gave to the Government of Ireland only factitious and temporary support. How was that Executive to be strengthened? Only by founding it upon the assent of the Irish people. He could not adequately express his admiration for the efforts which Her Majesty's Government had shown to rest the Executive Government in Ireland more largely upon the Irish people themselves; and he was sure the true way to settle what was really the Irish Question was by making the Executive Government of Ireland, instead of the weakest in the world, one of the strongest in the affection and the hearts of the Irish people.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, it was quite true that the Irish Executive was the weakest in the world, and it would continue to be weak so long as the present policy was carried out. An Executive must be weak that was not in harmony with the 1637 opinions of the people, that was in direct antagonism to the sentiments of the people, and that was supported by the bayonets of troops in Ireland. This measure would exasperate the people and leave the Executive weaker than before. Coercion accompanying conciliation destroyed the confidence of the people in the good faith of the Government. The hon. Member who had just sat down said it was not possible to trust the Executive of Ireland in the hands of any Irishman. That might be true, perhaps, of Liberal Governments; but the Conservatives were not afraid to intrust the administration of Ireland to Irishmen who were "garrison" men. Unless the Prime Minister, with his earnest views, adopted some policy other than that contained in the present Bill, he would leave the Irish Administration weaker than he found it, and he would be discredited, not in Ireland only, but all over the Empire. With regard to the proposed abolition of the jury system, he might observe that this was not the first time Ireland had been treated in that manner. Under the Insurrection Act a Commission used to be appointed, which was presided over by a distinguished counsel, either a Serjeant or a Queen's Counsel, who, with the magistrates, tried the cases. They had the power of empannelling a jury; but they never exercised it. What was the result of that system under the Insurrection Act, which terminated in 1825? He would trouble the House with the figures, in order to show that no good could come of the provisions of this Bill in the way of preventing or punishing crime. The statistics of acquittals and convictions in Ireland during a period of 10 years under the Insurrection Act and under the ordinary law were as follows:—Under the Insurrection Act there were 1,597 committals, 1,340 acquittals, and 256 convictions; while, under the ordinary law, there were 305 committals, 170 acquittals, and 135 convictions. Consequently, the Government secured three times more convictions under the ordinary law than they did under the Insurrection Act. Did the Government expect to get as many convictions under this Bill as they did at the Cork Winter Assizes? If they did, they never were more mistaken in their lives. He considered that the protest of the Irish Judges ought to be at- 1638 tended to. If, after the protest they had made, a decision were come to contrary to the opinion of the neighbourhood and the country, was it likely that the suitors would have the same confidence in them as before? If they made mistakes they would render a Court of Justice in Ireland intolerable. The Solicitor General for Ireland had referred to the Election Judges as an analogy. But that was only apparent. The questions before Election Judges were mixed questions of law and fact; and even in that case an Irish Judge sent a member to that House in the Galway case who had only 500 votes out of 6,000. The Solicitor General for Ireland said that this Bill was milder than many previous ones, and he referred to the Act of 1833. But that Act established martial law, and the opinion of eminent men in Ireland was certainly not favourable either to that Bill or to the present one. This Bill might not inaptly be termed an Omnibus Bill. The Government had dipped into every previous one, and taken the most objectionable parts of them, in order to construct the Bill then before the House. So far from being the mildest, it was the most drastic that had ever been introduced. If, however, it prevented crime he should be glad, indeed; but, in his opinion, it would have no such effect. The Solicitor General for Ireland said the law required changing, not so much because they could not get verdicts, but because they were unable to get evidence. But how would that Bill enable them to get evidence? There were two causes of the absence of evidence—first, the sympathy of the witness with the crimes; and, secondly, the fear of injury to himself. The first would be more active in trials before Judges than in the trials before juries. The second would be equally powerful in both cases, so that this Bill, instead of getting more evidence, would get less. He must say that, unless the Bill were modified considerably, it could not receive the support of Irish Members. Turning to the subject of the Irish Press, he denied that Mr. O'Donovan Rossa's organ was an exponent of Irish opinion. Surely the Irish Press might be left to the control of the ordinary law, instead of being placed under the despotic sway of the Lord Lieutenant. He protested against the abolition of the right of public meeting in Ireland. The Solici- 1639 tor General for Ireland had said that the Bill would do no harm to any law-abiding Irish citizen; but would it do no harm to any man to suspend his liberty? The most precious gift a man had was his liberty, and if it were taken away from him, the result would be that the people would become rebels instead of loyal subjects. Hitherto, when a fine was placed upon a district in Ireland in which an outrage had occurred, its amount had been assessed by the Grand Juries; but now the power of assessment was to be transferred to the Lord Lieutenant. The truth was that, instead of the Government having availed themselves of the resources of civilization, they had fallen back upon pure barbarism; and, in his opinion, if the Irish Members could not substantially change the character of this measure in Committee, they should give it their most strenuous opposition.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that on the night when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford announced his resignation of Office there stood upon the Paper in his (Sir John Hay's) name a Notice of Motion which, he believed, would have been useful, inasmuch as it condemned the action of the Government in keeping 500 persons in gaol without trial. He, however, had no idea, when he placed that Notice of Motion upon the Paper, that there would have been so speedy a gaol delivery without any prisoner being called upon to clear his character in open Court. The condition of Ireland was, doubtless, such that it was impossible to submit charges against persons suspected of being implicated in outrages in that country to the decision of Irish juries. He welcomed this measure as one that would do substantial justice, and would do away with the great evil which, he thought, was incident to the Protection of Person and Property Bill, prolonged imprisonment without trial; and he hoped that Act would be repealed when this Bill became law. He should, therefore, give it his cordial support, and he hoped that it would become law as soon as possible. He did so, not because he had any peculiar confidence in Her Majesty's Government, or in their ability to restore peace and order in Ireland, because he thought that no measure but emigration would insure the peace and prosperity of Ireland; but it might 1640 restore respect for the law in that country. He should have desired to amend the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen), by omitting the latter part of it, and adding to it words to the effect that the House disapproved of placing the responsibility of enforcing the law in Ireland upon the Lord Lieutenant, instead of upon the Home Secretary, as the Representative of Her Majesty's Government. He would allude to two points in which the Bill deserved attention. In his opinion, it had been clearly shown that there was a necessity for suspending trial by jury in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House asked whether in Scotland they should like to have jury trial suspended? The condition of Scotland, he was happy to say, was not exactly the same as that of Ireland, although in 1745 the condition of Scotland was very much like the condition of Ireland now. The proposal to suspend jury trial in Ireland was fully justified by the Report of the Committee presided over by Lord Lansdowne. He believed that the appointment of a Committee of three Judges who must be unanimous was an infinitely better process for obtaining conviction, if conviction were desired, and, at any rate, for giving confidence to the country and just decisions, than a court martial could be under the circumstances. He spoke with some degree of authority on this point, as he had sat on many courts martial. He was well aware that no Court could more truly and fully investigate matters brought before them than a court martial. Their honour was beyond dispute; but with the officers who would be called upon to investigate as to political offences things were altogether different. He believed the civil law would give most satisfaction to the country. There was also another point to which he thought it desirable to refer, as showing that it would not be prudent that courts martial should be used for civil trials. They knew the difficulties that existed in that House for establishing martial law. They remembered the unfortunate circumstances which occurred not so long ago in Jamaica, where arbitrary law was enforced in a manner repugnant to the whole public opinion of this country. It was better, as far as possible, except in time of war, to confine courts martial to discipline in 1641 the Army and Navy. He should be exceedingly sorry, in the interests of the Service, if martial law were introduced into Ireland. He was of opinion that it would be unwise to place the whole power given under this Bill in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, although he believed no better appointment than that of Earl Spencer could be made, under all the circumstances of the case. But he thought it was most unfortunate that power of this kind should be placed in the hands of any one man. The power ought to be administered from the Home Office. An Amendment to that effect had been placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), and if it came to a vote he should certainly support it. He was one of those who had long held the opinion that the Office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland ought to be abolished, and he was justified in that opinion by what occurred in that House 32 years ago. At that time Lord John Russell, who was the Prime Minister of the country, introduced a Bill for the abolition of the Office of Lord Lieutenant, and he was supported by Sir Robert Peel and Lord Naas; and, on looking over the Division List, he found that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister voted for the Bill. The Duke of Wellington, speaking on the subject, said the Lord Lieutenant ought to be the servant of the Home Office. Lord Naas said he should rejoice at the change. Lord Lansdowne said great evils arose from the divided nature of the authority of the Lord Lieutenant and the Home Office. The fact was, if the affairs of Ireland were directed as the affairs of Scotland were directed, they would, he believed, have no trouble at all. It might be necessary to have great emigration, which, in common with the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ramsay), he would strongly urge. The management of Irish Business, if conducted through the Home Office, would give a uniform system of law and order, and there would be no complaint that one country was treated differently from another. For these reasons, if the hon. Member for Dungarvan proceeded with his Motion, he should vote for it; and he should be glad to see the Lord Lieutenant return to this country, and all the Papers and documents removed from Dublin Castle to the Irish Office in London, It was also 1642 an unfortunate thing that the affairs of Ireland could not be managed by Irishmen. He should like to know what would be said in Scotland if the Lord High Commissioner, who had just gone down to take his place in Edinburgh, were an Englishman or an Irishman? Or if the noble Earl who represented Scotland at the Home Office were an Englishman or an Irishman? Why, he was bound to say that there would not be a rebellion in Scotland, but that they would treat such a matter with so unanimous a feeling that the 60 Scottish Members would unite in forcing any Government to change anything so entirely distasteful to the people of Scotland as that its business was conducted by anyone but Scotchmen; and he should like to see the affairs of Ireland conducted by Irishmen. It was true that in the Cabinet there was one Irishman; but there was no Irishman of Cabinet rank in the House of Commons. He was also bound to say that, looking to the condition of Ireland, he thought it was a great misfortune that in the whole Cabinet, for the first time in history, there was not a single soldier to advise the Cabinet upon matters on which he might give authoritative expression. He had given Notice of an Amendment himself, on Clause 12 of the Bill, on which he would beg to say a few words.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that to discuss an Amendment of which he has given Notice is a function for the Committee.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that he was not going to discuss the Amendment, but merely, in passing, to say that the Alien Clause should, in his opinion, be extended to the whole country. He would only add, in conclusion, that he intended to vote against the Amendment, and to give the Bill a general support.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, he must congratulate the House on the altered tone of the discussion in comparison with that of the previous day. He thought great injustice had been done to the Liberal Party in reference to the Bill, and that something was due to English and Scotch constituencies, who, during the last two years, had allowed their most pressing Business to remain at a standstill. If any good resulted from it for unfortunate Ireland, they would not regret the sacrifice. He could not un- 1643 derstand why the Bill should be called a Coercion Bill. There was no ground for so describing it, for everyone who might be arrested under its powers must be brought to a speedy trial. After the attempt to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh, in 1868, the free Colony of New South Wales, with its Democratic Assemblies, enacted a measure more stringent in many of its provisions than the present Bill, and, as a consequence, freed itself of the presence of secret societies. By the 8th section of that Act quite as extensive powers of search for arms and papers were given as in the proposed Act. By the 9th section it was provided that if anyone used any disrespectful language to the Queen, or factiously avowed a determination to refuse to join in any loyal toast, or by word or deed expressed sympathy with the crime of any person convicted of treason-felony, or even suspected of it, such person should be guilty of a misdemeanour, and be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for two years, and might be apprehended by any person without any warrant. By Section 10 any person writing or publishing any of the matters declared criminal in Section 9 became liable to imprisonment with hard labour for three years. If a free Colony could pass such an Act, why should not the Imperial Parliament agree to a measure for the protection in Ireland of persons who could not protect themselves? If any other part of the United Kingdom were in the same position as that in which Ireland was, a measure somewhat similar to that before the House would undoubtedly be passed to meet the emergency. If you allowed people to think the law was powerless for protection you would find they would never do their duty as jurors or as witnesses; but if you satisfied them that the law could protect them from intimidation you might rely upon their doing their duty in every state of life. He thought the provisions for dispensing with a jury were very valuable. He had never felt a superstition for trial by jury. The object of a trial was to convict guilty persons. Often in times of great excitement, or when people could not carry on their ordinary business by reason of terror, juries would not do their duty. They would go to one extreme or the other. They would either convict everybody or they would acquit everybody. 1644 The Bill proposed that cases should go before a Commission of three Judges. He could not believe that any honourable man who had seriously thought upon the matter would in calm moments make an attack upon the Irish Judges. He had always heard them spoken of in terms of the highest praise. The Judges before whom these cases were tried would deliver judgments; their decision would not be that of a secret tribunal in a private room. They would deliver judgments according to the rules of evidence and of law. He thought that was of the very essence of the matter. Every accused person would be surrounded by the safeguards of the rules of law and of evidence. What everyone wanted was a fair decision according to law. What innocent man, if he were offered the choice of being tried on a charge before a jury or a Commission of three Judges, would, if he was in his senses, hesitate for a moment to be tried by three Judges? The Bill provided another safeguard—the right of appeal. But the power of appeal, he thought, was too extensive. To his mind there should only be an appeal where the Court thought there ought to be an appeal. Judges exercised their discretional powers very satisfactorily in this respect. The Solicitor General for Ireland said the other night that Her Majesty's Government proposed that power should be given to change the venue from one part of Ireland to another. He thought it would be desirable to have such a power, and that the Bill was capable of such an amendment. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would succeed in passing the Bill substantially in its present shape. He believed the people of the United Kingdom, who were most anxious that Ireland should be brought into quietude, so that remedial measures might have an opportunity of working, would not be satisfied with much less.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he did not know whether the Government were quite satisfied with the performance of their last advocate. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down told the House—and he agreed with him—that the great object of government was the security of peace and order. It had been generally thought that one of the most important means of securing peace and order in 1645 this country was the time-honoured institution of trial by jury. But the hon. and learned Member had been at some pains to explain to the House that trial by jury was a complete mistake. He wondered the hon. and learned Gentleman did not go so far as to suggest that trial by jury should be immediately abolished in this country. Juries, said the hon. and learned Gentleman, were subject to panics, and in times of panic invariably went to extremes—they either acquitted or convicted everybody. It was well known that the Act passed by the Legislature of New South Wales, to which the hon. and learned Member had referred, was passed in a panic, and was so absurd that it was only laughed at, and was never put in force. It appeared to him (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that the House of Commons was suffering at the present moment from panic. This Bill bore the characteristic, from beginning to end, of panic legislation; and that was the reason why he had put down an Amendment, to the effect that the House should go into Committee upon it that day six months. He was perfectly convinced that, in a state of calm, the House would shrink from enacting the provisions of this Bill. He was prepared to admit, with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, that the object of the Government was to secure peace and order. If the Representatives of Ireland were a Parliament in Dublin, it would be their duty to take measures for the prevention, suppression, and punishment of crime; and he thought they would know their duty a great deal better than the House of Commons. They would proceed in a way very different from that now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. They would be prepared to admit that Ireland was like a patient suffering from blood-poisoning; and they would endeavour, as far as possible, to remove the causes of disease. They would have very little difficulty in doing that. They would never think of proposing such remedies as the present Ministers proposed. Consider, for a moment, the powers which were to be intrusted to one man, who was not a native of Ireland, nor, as far as he knew, connected with that country. He was to be allowed to set aside trial by jury whenever he thought fit, to prohibit any public meeting, to imprison the printer or publisher 1646 of a newspaper, and to seize any copy of that newspaper. Lord Macaulay declared his conviction that liberty of the Press was the safeguard of all other liberties, and, in so doing, only echoed a sentiment of Milton. Such despotic powers as were given by this Bill to the Lord Lieutenant had never before been intrusted to one man by any Legislative Assembly. The subordinate despotisms were even more revolting than the powers given to the higher authorities. The offences of intimidation, of assaulting a constable, and of being found out-of-doors one hour after sunset or before sunrise, placed in the hands of the police coercive powers of tyrannizing despotism, which it was impossible to exaggerate. The Act was to be in force for three years. He wondered that any limit had been placed upon it, for it appeared to be the intention of the Government permanently to govern Ireland by coercion. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had, he believed, supported more Coercion Bills than any living statesman; and his experience should have taught him that coercion, as it had always done, would prove a failure. He admitted now that the Coercion Bill of last year was a failure; but he was responsible for it, and it was impossible for him to shuffle out of it by making a scapegoat of his former Chief Secretary for Ireland. Between the Prime Minister and the Government, on the one hand, and the right hon. Member for Bradford on the other, what dignity existed was entirely on the side of the right hon. Member for Bradford. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford knew what his principles were and stuck to them, and was consistent. He understood that, having adopted the policy of coercion, and being forced to admit that it was a failure, the only decent and proper thing for him to do was to retire; but the Government and the Prime Minister preferred to keep their places, although their policy was admitted to be a failure. Irish Members had been invited to cooperate with the Government in promoting Liberal principles. The first duty of the Government was to protect the interests committed to its care, and it was part of that duty to put down treason wherever it might be found. The first Law Officer of the Crown had told the House that some hon. Members 1647 sitting on that side of the House were "steeped to the lips in treason." The Ministry heard the declaration in silence; it was quoted over and over again, and the Ministry never repudiated the sentiment of their Colleague, and, by their silence, they must be taken to have admitted it. If hon. Members sitting around him were "steeped to the lips in treason," it was the duty of the Government not only to have nothing to do with them, but to prosecute them, and do what they could to bring them to justice. Any Government, with a proper sense of duty, would feel it incumbent upon them to do that much. But the present Government had not thought it unworthy of themselves to let the impression go abroad that they were perfectly willing to secure for their Liberal principles the support of hon. Members on that side of the House if they could buy it. The Government owed it to its own reputation that such an idea should not get abroad. He believed its object was to discredit the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell); but if so, the object had failed. The political character of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was beyond the reach even of Ministerial assailment, and the affection his fellow-countrymen felt towards him stood as high as ever. This Bill would not effect the objects it had in view; it would not produce peace or order, neither would it succeed in repressing secret societies; it would rather increase them. Such being the character of this Bill, the position of the Irish Members was very plain. It was their duty to oppose, not only the Bill itself, but also the Government that had introduced it. Every Irish vote that could be obtained should show the resentment felt by Irishmen for the treatment of their fellow-countrymen. But it was the duty of a critic, not only to criticize, but also to suggest a remedy. In order to range the people on the side of order, they should be made to feel that they had the law on their side. They should be treated as the English people were treated; they should be taught to feel that the Government was, as Lord Erskine said, an emanation from their own strength, and that it was their interest to support the Government. If the Government in Ireland was an emanation of the will of the people of Ireland, there would be no occasion for 1648 coercion. Englishmen were ruled by laws of their own making, and were, therefore, contented. When Irishmen had a Parliament of their own, coercion might be dispensed with. With regard to the proposal to abolish trial by jury, the detection and punishment of crime were not more successful in England than in Ireland—for instance, in the year 1879–80, out of 131 murders, only 61 persons were brought to trial, and out of these there were only 28 convictions. In the same year there had been 70 attempted murders, 40 persons brought to trial, and only 21 convicted. Then, out of 664 cases of cutting, stabbing, and wounding, only 123 were brought to trial, and of these there were only 85 convictions. So that it was mere rubbish, in the face of those official figures, to pretend that there was in Ireland any stronger reason that did not exist in England for the abolition of trial by jury. During the lifetime of the Prime Minister there had been 51 Coercion Acts for Ireland—in fact, they had been permanent. Coercion was the constant attendant of alien rule. So long as Ireland was ruled by foreigners there must be coercion. Alien rule meant coercion; it meant despotism; it meant the paralysis of all the energies of the people. This Bill was the natural outcome of alien rule. It was, as he had stated on a former occasion, "an epitome of blundering despotism," and he would add that it was an illustration of political imbecility. But what were they to expect so long as they were governed by foreigners?
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he he was always anxious to avoid offending against the Rules of the House. He looked upon a breach of Order as a serious offence and a mistake. He would, therefore, withdraw the word. He need only add that the Irish people would keep cool, and would not subject themselves to the operation of the inhuman provisions of this Bill. Their only reply to the Bill would be to redouble their efforts on behalf of Home 1649 Rule, and the time would come when they would be able to point to a succession of Coercion Acts as the means by which they had attained their wishes.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he was astonished to hear the hon. Member say that the Prime Minister had been connected with the passing of more Coercion Bills for Ireland than any other man, without adding that the right hon. Gentleman had also introduced more remedial measures for Ireland than any three Ministers who ever sat upon the Treasury Bench. Speaking for himself, ever since he had been in Parliament, with the exception of 1867, when the country was in a state of semi-rebellion, he had opposed Coercion Bills for Ireland. Last year he told the Government that this system of incarcerating individuals without an opportunity of trial would make those people martyrs in the eyes of the people, and would serve no good State purpose. The truth of the statement had been abundantly proved. At the same time, he suggested an extension of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, and the portion of this Bill dealing with the subject was almost the only part of it to which he felt prepared to give his assent. He had full confidence in the Irish Judges, whether Whig, Tory, or Liberal; and he was surprised that attacks had been made upon a class of honourable men, who were respected and reverenced by the Irish people, alike for their legal acumen, their intelligence, and their honesty of purpose. There was no man in Ireland who was worth his salt, who had not, at some period or another, been connected with either one or other of the great political Parties; and he was amused at observing hon. Members opposite, who always affirmed that everything that was politically good came out of America, objecting to political Judges; whilst in America the mass of the Judges were appointed by popular election; and it was said—he did not undertake to say with what truth—that an individual in that country could procure a Judge for his own private purpose. He should object to emasculated Judges, who had never taken a part in politics, being placed upon the Bench in Ireland. Still, he believed that the creation of the judicial tribunal under this Bill without the intervention of a jury would tend to weaken public con- 1650 fidence in the Judges, especially after the resolution which they themselves had adopted, stating that they were not competent to deal with the cases that would come before them, and which rendered them a self-discredited tribunal. He objected, too, to the Compensation Clauses. He had already ocular demonstration of the unfairness caused to innocent men under the Compensation Clauses of the Act of 1871. The Viceroy, in dealing with these cases, must of necessity depend, in a great measure, upon information supplied to him from sources scattered throughout the country, and could not act alone on his own. With respect to holding public meetings in Ireland, Parliament should not, beyond what was unmistakeably necessary for the maintenance of law and order, attempt to suppress them. The prohibition of public meetings would be considered a grievance. It might be said that if these meetings were permitted some nonsense of a most dangerous character might be spoken to the people. In order to meet the case, he suggested that liberty should only be involved where men knowingly, and with a wicked intention, not on the impulse which often distinguished Irish orators, were talking in a manner likely to cause damage to the State and injury to society. In such cases they might be dealt with summarily, while, at the same time, the cry that the Government were oppressing the people by gagging and muzzling them would be entirely obviated. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) said that eviction had been the mother of all the mischief in Ireland during the last two years. He believed the direct cause of two out of every three of the evictions during the last six months was the "no rent" manifesto. ["No!"] In some cases the process of eviction was issued at the instance of the defaulting tenant, to give him an excuse to pay that rent which he would willingly have paid if left alone. The "no rent" manifesto was issued by the pursebearer of the Land League in Paris; and any man who disobeyed that manifesto was declared a traitor by him from his place of safety in Paris. What created evictions? The non-payment of rent. What created the non-payment of rent in too many 1651 instances? The "no rent" manifesto. He recognized with gladness that that manifesto was no longer defended in the House, and was delighted that the Irreconcilables were at last reconciled. Those hon. Members, it might be well for their friends in Ireland to know, were now receiving more attention from the Government Bench than he had during his long service in Parliament. Looking to the state of the country, he thought the question respecting the Press was one on which Members coming from Ireland had a right to express an opinion. His opinion was that The Irish World, which was contributed to by members of the Land League, was an atrocious journal. As a Roman Catholic, he suggested it should be placed on an Irish Index Expurgatorius. As regarded O'Donovan Rossa, he regarded his paper as the production of a maniac; but no one would say that Mr. Ford's paper in New York was the paper of a maniac. Nor could it be denied that Mr. Thomas Brennan, the former Secretary to the Land League, was one of the principal contributors to that journal. In the present state of society he should prefer coercing the Press in Ireland to coercing the people. Injustice could not be done in Ireland so long as opportunity was afforded for discussing grievances in the House of Commons. And now he came to the question of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen), which was the question immediately before the Chair. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) agreed with him in the accuracy of his recital of all the brutal deeds committed in Ireland during a long and bitter past; but what good purpose was served by the continuous recital of bygone atrocities? The hon. Member had repeated in superb language a thrice-told tale. What he said was, no doubt, historically true; but they were not considering history. The hon. Member might as well have alluded to the misdeeds of the Phœnicians against the people whom the ancestors of modern Irishmen turned out of their country. They were endeavouring to meet a present evil, and deal with it practically. He (Sir Patrick O'Brien) feared that Milesians like himself, in the more remote past, did not possess a clear record regarding their treatment of those who preceded them in Ireland. However 1652 that might be, he would say for himself that, had he lived in the "'98" times, he should have been an "United Irishman;" but the history of the last 60 years was the history of attempts, more or less successful, to remedy the admitted and cruel wrongs of his country. His countrymen had been emancipated politically and religiously. They had received municipal institutions. They had got the franchise, and the humblest man among them, if he met injustice, possessed a tribunal at which his wrongs could be righted. The tithes had been removed from the people; their Land Code had been amended in a very large degree; and the Church of the minority had been abolished as a State Institution; and when he recollected all that, he could not forget how much, as Irishmen and Catholics, they owed to that great Party, who for so long, in maintenance of their then unpopular principles, had remained out of Office for years rather than abandon cherished convictions. As a boy he could recollect the name of Charles Fox on Catholic lips as frequently as those of Burke or of Grattan. Was he to forget all these benefits, because a few uneducated men, making more money in America than they could in their own country, sent it over to Ireland in the honest belief that they were doing the greatest good to the people, although those funds were actually leading, in many cases, to outrage? To the Liberal Party the Irish people were under a great obligation. The reason why moderate Liberal opinions were not more widely entertained in Ireland was because as soon as they were adopted skilled Party managers raised the cry that those who differed from them were Orangemen. The people were thus forced to one extreme or to the other. At the same time, looking to the fact that, no matter by whom promoted or how arising, a state of terror existed in many parts of Ireland, he could not discharge his duty to his conscience or the State by voting at that critical time against the measure. He would not vote; but he would endeavour to give effect to the Amendments placed on the Paper when the Bill was in Committee.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had discoursed on every subject under the sun except the Bill before them. The hon. Baronet's conclusion that he would not 1653 vote for the Bill and would not vote against it was quite in keeping with his speech, a large portion of which seemed in favour of coercion, while a large portion also was against it. He could not perceive, however, why the hon. Baronet dragged the "no rent" manifesto into his harangue. [Sir PATRICK O'BRIEN explained that it was to account for evictions.] If there were any justification for the Arrears Bill, it was that people were evicted in Ireland, not because they had not paid their rent, but because they could not pay it. The Irish Members had been twitted with having refrained from denouncing the "no rent" manifesto; but the "no rent" manifesto was never the policy of the Land League. They had been told that coercion was not the policy of the Liberal Party, that it was a hateful incident. The "no rent" manifesto was a hateful incident in the policy of the Land League. It was a weapon taken up by the Land League when all other weapons had been struck out of their hands, and when the Irish Leaders were released it was no longer necessary to continue it. The hon. Baronet seemed to regard the Irish Judges with the more favour because they had climbed to their present positions as Party men. No doubt, since they had reached the Bench their connection with Party, openly at least, had ceased. But the fact remained that the Judges climbed to the Bench by their alliance with Party, and by advocating measures which they abhorred in their soul. The hon. Baronet said he never aspired to that position, and certainly it was a position he had never attained. The hon. Baronet denounced certain American journals that made their way into Ireland. It was no part of his (Mr. Redmond's) duty to defend them; but there were newspapers of a blasphemous, immoral, and rebellious character published and circulated in England far worse than any issued in America; and if the circulation in Ireland of The Irish World was a justification of the Press Clauses, then the circulation of the papers to which he alluded was a justification of similar provisions in the law of England. The Prime Minister yesterday spoke of the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) as a heart-breaking one. No doubt it was so to men like him, who believed that by this inconsistent and irrational policy of concession 1654 and repression they would ever be able to govern Ireland. It was also a heartbreaking speech to those who believed that Ireland could ever be peaceable, contented, or prosperous without Irish genius being supreme in the government of her destinies. He thought the Prime Minister, in many points, had been unjust to the hon. Member for Tipperary. Allusion had been made over and over again to "Boycotting" as leading to crime and outrage. In itself "Boycotting," or exclusive dealing, had been acknowledged by Gentlemen on the Government Bench to be perfectly legal; it was only when it led to outrage, crime, and intimidation that it was denounced by the Prime Minister. But so long as the Land League was allowed to exercise its influence, and the Leaders to guide the people and control their passions, the outrages which resulted from "Boycotting" were few. ["No!"] He thought he knew as much about Ireland as the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), who contradicted him, with all that hon. Gentleman's large experience of the passing of Coercion Bills in that House. It was a remarkable fact that nine-tenths of the speeches delivered by English as well as Irish Members were directed against the Bill and its main provisions. It was disheartening to Irishmen to hear English Members denounce a measure and then end by saying they would support it. The hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) said yesterday that he would vote for the Bill, though he disapproved of all its main provisions, because he had trust in the Ministry. That was the fatal delusion upon which English Members acted last year with respect to the Coercion Bill now expiring. He often heard surprise expressed by English Members, and recently by the Prime Minister, that there was no respect for law among the Irish people. It was impossible that the right hon. Gentleman, when he said that, could have forgotten what the law had been to Irishmen in the past. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the men who were leading the Irish people did not confine themselves to legal methods, and that, having set the engine of "Boycotting" in motion, they were responsible for the excesses that had been committed. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman denounced the people and their Leaders. They ought to remember what law had 1655 meant for the Irish people in the past, and the feelings of those 200,000 or 300,000 tenant farmers who were in arrears with their rents, and who saw nothing in the law but an engine for their destruction. Last year those men were told that the Land Act was a message of peace, but to-day, when they were without resources, they were denounced for not confining themselves strictly to legal methods. Those were the men from whose desperate condition crime had flowed, and the justification of the Arrears Bill lay in the necessity for removing the cause of outrage. But, in that case, how could the Coercion Bill be justified? The Arrears Bill was only part of the necessary remedial process; and now, at that period of the Session, it seemed impossible to enter into any scheme for the extension of the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act. Even if it fulfilled the most sanguine expectations of its authors, the Arrears Bill would not settle the Irish land difficulty. It was argued that the Coercion Bill was necessary in order that the Government might cope with the secret societies; but if that was so, why not strike at them more directly, instead of beginning with the suppression of the right of public meeting? No one was more anxious than he was that the Government should grapple successfully with the secret societies; but was it possible to crush them by depriving the people of one of their ordinary rights? That step was clearly unnecessary and ineffectual. He knew nothing of secret societies, but was convinced that if the Bill applied only to Ireland, it would not reach their heart, which was undoubtedly to be found elsewhere. Now, as to the suspension of trial by jury, he should like to learn the grounds on which the Government rested this provision of the Bill. Either the Prime Minister or one of his Colleagues had said—"There are some things so notorious as to require no proof at all." He wished to know in how many cases trial by jury had failed, and whether the figures did not show that the percentage of failure was nearly as great in England and Scotland as in Ireland? That there had been failuresevery one knew; but they had not been so numerous as to warrant the provision made against them in this Bill, and juries had certainly not failed to do their duty in trials for 1656 treason-felony, for the simple reason that there had been no such cases tried for the last 10 years. Why, then, include them in the Bill? He was sorry that political offences were to be tried by a Commission of three Judges, but not because he was afraid of the Court that was thus to be constituted, but because he believed that such a Commission would be useless against persons charged with murder. Judges would be very chary of convicting and hanging a man without a jury. He was convinced a murderer would have a better chance of escape before these Judges than before a jury? Again, the question of the responsibility of the magistrates was a matter into which he would not enter; but he was surprised that the Government had not the courage to invest all the magistrates alike with the power of summary arrest. Hostile as the magistrates usually were to the Irish people, it would be better that all of them should have the power than that it should be intrusted to individuals who had been brought from Zululand and British Burmah to terrorize the people of Ireland. He appealed to the English Members to support his endeavours to obtain a modification of the Bill. It was not fair to the Irish Members, nor just to the Irish people, to hold the threat over their heads that by prolonging the passage of this Bill they delayed the Arrears Bill. Conciliation for the Irish people must do more than give them an Arrears Bill or the release of the Leaders of the Irish people. It must release the innocent men who were at present confined in prison. So long as those men were kept in prison, and the provisions of 34 Edward III. tyrannically enforced in Ireland, so long their conciliation sounded like a mockery in the ears of the Irish people. As the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had said, the situation was heart-breaking; but he was not one of those who entirely despaired. If freedom of speech was suppressed in Ireland there would be all the greater necessity for an honest representation of the people in Parliament. The Bill would fail, as every other Coercion Bill had failed, to remove the determination of the Irish people to rest satisfied with anything short of legislative independence. They had only to exhibit the same self-restraint as had been preached to them by their Leaders, the same deter- 1657 mination, steadfastness to principle, and loyalty to each other, in order to make every fresh instance of the incapacity of this Legislature to govern their country tend to bring about Ireland's emancipation.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he would first allude to the Intimidation Clause of the Bill. That clause, which included any word spoken or act done which was calculated to intimidate, was to be put in the hands of the weakest Executive in the world, and yet his hon. Friends hoped that the Irish people would not be infuriated. It was an extraordinary thing that every Liberal Member who had criticized this Bill had, nevertheless, expressed his intention to vote for it. That was a phrase of Liberalism he had yet to become accustomed to. He believed that this was a very grave—perhaps, the most grave—crisis in the history of Liberal dealing with Irish affairs. There was no one who did not wish to put down crime with most merciless severity; but the question was, would that measure put it down, or was it likely to do so? In his opinion, it was not. Eighteen months ago the position was almost exactly similar. They were then told the same things, so that he could almost fancy that he had in the last few days been listening to the speeches he then heard. But everyone knew that the Coercion Act which was then passed was attended with the same failure as its predecessors, and that it left Ireland worse than it found it. Evictions had immensely increased; crime had almost doubled; the people had become demoralized, and the respect for the law still more weakened; and, what was worse, the hatred for English rule intensified. It seemed too sad to think that the Government were working into the hands of the Phoenix Park assassins. When, a fortnight ago, it was announced that there was to be a new departure in the policy of governing Ireland, the Liberal Party became hopeful; but here was the Government stumbling twice over the same stone in introducing this, another measure of coercion, to accompany the remedial measure, which latter was to be left to the caprice of the House of Lords. That was not Liberalism, nor anything approaching to it. The position of the Government was a strange one. They had come down to the House with an admission 1658 that coercion had failed; and yet, with that fatality which attended English rule in Ireland, they coupled with that admission a demand for more coercion. Ireland was being treated as suspected lunatics used to be. They were first loaded with chains, and, when such cruel torture produced madness, that madness was appealed to as a justification of the treatment. When he listened to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary he was carried back 50 or 60 years, and he could with difficulty believe that it was the statement of a Liberal Minister in regard to the government of Ireland. In his opinion, the people of this country were heartily sick and tired of coercion, and they would soon let it be known that they were so. As regarded what was known as the "prowling" clause, he believed it was open to the most serious abuse. The Bill, in short, seemed to contain little bits—and those the most objectionable—of every Act that had gone before. If people were suspected of being able to produce evidence of crime, and did not do so, they were to be taken up and imprisoned. Public meetings were not to be allowed which the Lord Lieutenant thought dangerous. Those were, in other words, what the police thought dangerous. That meant, in fact, an absolute denial of free speech in Ireland. If a public meeting were to be held at Ballina to protest against the shooting of children, those who took part in it might be sent to gaol upon the charge that they had used language calculated to offend the Government. But they must remember that if they denied free speech upon the platform they would find it in the byways and secret places of the country. The public Press, too, was to be gagged, and every phase of social life was to be interfered with. They were told that the administration of the Act would be the safeguard. But did anyone mean to say that the Lord Lieutenant would not have to rely on subordinates for his information? And if he did rely upon subordinates, of course he must depend upon the evidence of informers and the police, who had deceived every Chief Secretary who had been sent to Ireland. Those officials were out of sympathy with the wishes of the rulers, and altogether out of sympathy with the people ruled. Eighteen months of coercion had 1659 demoralized them; they were the real governors of a people demoralized, and in some cases brutalized, from the same cause. Parliament should put its own safeguards on the measure, and not leave it to the administrators; but there seemed to be a distrust in the power of Liberal principles to govern Ireland. He believed that there was no necessity for such a measure. Doubtless, the Bill was aimed against crime; but that was not the question. The question was, whom would it strike? In his opinion, it would strike at the Irish people, who were the most law-abiding people in Europe—["Oh, oh!"]—except as regarded agrarian offences, and there was no doubt of the fact that they were the largest rent-payers in Europe. Was there any hope that any clause in the Bill would stop secret murder or find and reveal the murderers? They might imprison or hang the agitators; but their power would only remain the greater. There was only one way of destroying their influence, and that was to trace Irish discontent to its cause. It had been said that the hon. Member for Tipperary and Mr. Davitt were responsible for a good deal of the present agitation. They were rather the outcome of the state of affairs than its cause. It was very well known in what state the people of Ireland were. They had been told long ago in that House what evictions meant. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary said that it meant, in many cases, sentence of death. People were evicted for the non-payment of rent which they could no more pay than they could pay off the National Debt. The number of evictions had doubled under the recent Coercion Act, and he had no doubt they would still increase. During the first two years no less than 35,000 had been evicted. During the first three months of this year 7,000 were turned out, and during the present month a much larger number in proportion. If the law gave no protection to these poor people, how was it possible to secure obedience? Why did not the Government strike at the cause of the evil, and thus render the passing of such Bills as that then under consideration totally unnecessary? It had been said that they did not want the responsibility of the Home Rule Members; on the contrary, he affirmed that they did want the responsibility of all the Members of the 1660 House. If the Home Secretary spoke that evening he hoped that he would not quote further from The Irish World, or the mad talk of men not responsible for their language, as that could only serve to inflame public feeling. He felt ashamed to be urging the mere alphabet of Liberal policy. Last year he recommended the Government to put their faith in remedial measures; instead of that, they took from the armoury of the absolutists the worst weapon they could find, and it had pierced their hand, as it was to be feared this would also do.
SIR HENRY FLETCHER
said, he supported the Bill, and did so the more strongly because of the fact that no one sitting on his side of the House had risen to do so after the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), who had commenced his observations by alluding to the Intimidation Clauses of the Bill, which he condemned; but he (Sir Henry Fletcher) had had the opportunity of experiencing, within the past few weeks, what was the intimidation carried out in England by a certain section of a Party at the Northampton Election. At that election intimidation was carried out, and he went down to support a candidate who advanced moral and religious principles. The intimidation that was carried out there was to such an extent that he and other speakers were almost prevented from making any speeches, and having that fairness extended to them which every speaker at an election was entitled to. He was told that the intimidation came from a certain section at Birmingham. The hon. Member for Ipswich said that he had no Irish constituents; but he thought the hon. Member's speech that night had been an endeavour to get the Irish vote in the various constituencies over which he held a certain sway and authority. He could not but look with horror upon the utterances of the hon. Member for Tipperary in holding up the system of "Boycotting." The hon. Member seemed to make light of it; but certainly no Englishman who had been in Ireland and seen that dreadful system carried out to its utmost among the unfortunate people could fail to be indignant. He asked the Government to be firm in their effort to put down this system, which had driven many loyal men to be members of the Land League. If the Government 1661 gave way, it would be better that Ireland should cease to be under English rule, and when it did it would be a sad day for that country.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, he could not deny that the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) had imposed some serious difficulties in the way of those who wished to advocate a conciliatory treatment of Ireland in the present crisis, but thought the danger of the speech lay less in what the hon. Member actually said than in the construction which might be put upon the speech, for none of them could believe that the hon. Member was in favour of outrage or murder. But neither that speech nor half-a-dozen of the same character could possibly alter facts, or change the experience the House had now had of coercive policy. The exploits of the Liberal Party in that direction had not been so successful that they could enter upon a new but similar path without the gravest misgiving and the most serious reflection. Such support as he had given to the Bill of last year was given reluctantly; but he did not wish to pose as one who was wise after the event, and he accepted the responsibility of the support which he then gave in common with the people of Scotland, Wales, and England, and the solid vote of the Conservative Party. When that policy was proposed last year, the Liberal Members had no alternative but to support it, actually by vote, or tacitly by silence, or range themselves with the Irish Party opposite, who, by the extremity of their course of action and the violence of their Parliamentary conduct, had alienated all who desired to follow legitimate Parliamentary methods. He thought the House had been told often enough that the Coercion Bill of last year was a failure, to this extent at least—that they had had to release the men who were put in prison under its operation; and it was further alleged, even with some sort of truth, that an understanding had been come to with some of those "suspects." If any understanding or agreement had been made with those hon. Gentlemen, by which they were converted from the enemies of order to the advocates of peace and quiet government, he considered it a most masterly and commendable piece of statesmanship, and he hoped the hon. Members with whom it was made would honourably stick to their bargain. The 1662 Government declared that this new Coercion Bill was framed before the dreadful catastrophe of the 6th instant. In that case, it could have no connection whatever with that dreadful crime, and if it had no relation to that crime; he asked the House to consider what it could have relation to. It certainly had no relation to increased outrage in Ireland, as was evidenced from the fact that outrage had declined. Surely, then, it must not be said of this country and of this House that they were acting in a vindictive manner in relation to that crime. They must try to dissociate themselves entirely from that terrible act, which he was sure was one of individuals and not of Party, and he did not believe appertained to the Irish race in any degree whatever. Was there any reason to suppose that the step the Government were embarking upon with so much peril would take them one jot in the direction of conciliating the Irish people? It was alleged that the measure was absolutely necessary, and that the government of Ireland could not be conducted without it; but he had failed to hear in any one of the speeches that had been delivered a single assurance that it was likely to succeed. Experience of all countries where coercion had been adopted must lead them to apprehend that the measure, which he could only characterize as extreme, would fail in the objects for which it was intended. He objected to the whole plan of the Bill, and would like to see it withdrawn till the Arrears Bill had been passed and its effect fairly ascertained. He questioned its necessity at the present crisis, and just at this moment. When a better light was dawning on Ireland, when there was a possibility of drawing the people into better courses, it seemed to him a most dangerous step to apply a treatment that would greatly irritate, not only the persons it was intended to strike at, but every man, woman, and child in the whole country. His main objection to the Bill was that it affected not only the criminal class, but that it placed the whole population of the country under police and criminal surveillance. He was told that no innocent person could possibly suffer injustice under the Bill. He did not suppose that any influential Englishman who went over to Ireland would be likely to Suffer injustice under the Act; 1663 but that would not be so in regard to the majority of the Irish people. The magistrates would be more on the alert to notice any tendency on the part of the Irish people to land agitation. He did not see a single clause in the Bill which would greatly facilitate the arrest of the criminal class, while it would utterly fail to enlist the Irish people on the side of law and order. He objected most strongly to the loose definition of intimidation contained in the Bill, for it would include acts of almost any description, and nothing could be more unequal than the clauses with regard to rioting, &c. For that offence six months' incarceration with hard labour was provided, and a little further down the same penalty was fixed for prowling about at night—in itself a most innocent occupation. There was no tourist who could not be summarily arrested under the clause with regard to the arrest of strangers. He did not recognize in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) any recantation of his past policy; but he did recognize in it a desire to promote, by legitimate means, the cause of peace and order; and the Government would be ill-advised not to co-operate cordially with the hon. Gentleman. The Government, he hoped, if they would not withdraw the Bill, would take the sting out of it, and make it a Bill for the arrest of criminals, and not a measure which was an aggravation and an injustice to the people of Ireland.
§ MR. GIVAN
said, he wished to state the reason which had led him, up to the present time, to support the Bill. If he could believe, with the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon), or with the hon. Member who had spoken below the Gangway on that side of the House, that the Bill ought to be called a Bill for the promotion of crime rather than for its prevention, or if he could believe that the Bill was intended to restrict full and free liberty of the subject, he should be inclined to vote against it, and oppose it in the most strenuous manner. After carefully perusing the Bill, he had supported it in its various stages, because it was directed entirely against the criminal classes, against secret societies, and against outrages. He believed he was expressing the unanimous feeling of hon. Members from the North of Ireland, who sat on that side of the House, and 1664 also of many Members below the Gangway, who had taken no part in the debate, when he said that in declining to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen) they were not actuated by any feeling opposed to the principle enunciated in that Amendment; but to be asked at the present moment to give their assent to it was, in his opinion, inopportune, and tended to obstruct the Bill, and to prevent it going into Committee. Another reason why he and his Friends objected to support the Amendment was because in doing so they might appear to identify themselves with statements and arguments in its favour which were opposed to all good government and every principle of liberty. It was, to his mind, a matter of regret that the condition of Ireland as to crime had been so minimized by some Representatives of English constituencies. Not only that, but they had exaggerated the objectionable provisions of the Bill by special pleading. It had been called by speakers and writers in this country and in Ireland a Coercion Bill; but he asserted that, to any unprejudiced mind, it was in no sense deserving of this stigma. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members might laugh; but it would be equally true to describe any Bill directed against any offence in the Criminal Code as a Coercion Bill. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) had referred to the failure of the Bill of last Session. He opposed that Bill; but the fact that it was a failure was the reason why the Government found it necessary to bring in the present Bill. The present Bill was based upon different principles. It was intended to grapple with the demon of disaffection, violence, and outrage, which was blasting the hopes of Ireland at the present moment, and especially against unlawful secret societies. If he and his hon. Friends around him believed that it was intended to have any other effect in its operation or administration, they would give it the most strenuous opposition in their power. Surely any man in Ireland who loved law and order and wished to be left in possession of his property would support a measure intended to put down that terrorism which was blackening the face of the whole country. He knew how secret societies were permeating the country; and, therefore, he had no 1665 hesitation in saying from his own knowledge that the information upon which the hon. Members for Manchester and Ipswich relied was wholly erroneous. Hon. Members opposite below the Gangway knew in their souls that this Bill was necessary. ["No!"] He had the utmost confidence in Earl Spencer, who never had done anything harsh; and, as to the Chief Secretary, he had already inspired them with confidence. He hoped this Bill would be pressed, and carried successfully to the end. He objected to many things in the Bill. He did not think the duty should be imposed on the Lord Lieutenant to select the particular Judges for the tribunal under this Bill, but considered there should be a rota, selected from time to time by the Lord Chancellor. The power of prohibiting public meetings should not be exercised except upon the written and sworn information of some responsible person in authority, stating that the meeting would incite to crime. Such information should be under the control of this House. The abominable crime of "Boycotting" was the offspring of the Land League, and he believed it had caused more outrages than all the evictions. It was a conspiracy against human life and property, and, unless speedily checked, must involve yet further loss of life. He believed there was a healthy public opinion in Ireland, notwithstanding statements made in this House, and the Government was bound to protect and strengthen it. As to the proclamation of districts, he thought care should be taken. He was aware that under the present Act districts in his own county and in County Wicklow had been proclaimed that were almost entirely free from crime. He believed the powers proposed to be conferred on Lord Spencer would be exercised with moderation and caution, and the Executive would receive the support of all law-abiding people. He thought the Government were now making the same mistake that had been made last year, in postponing a remedial to a repressive measure. He held and had frequently expressed a strong opinion that the Arrears Bill and the Prevention of Crime Bill should be taken pari passu, or that precedence should be given to the former; but, in any case, that the Royal Assent should not be given to the Prevention of Crime Bill until the Arrears Bill had passed.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Sir, the debate to-night was resumed by a speech from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), which, speaking without any desire to be ironical, I venture to call a most remarkable speech. The hon. Member explained his position with a frankness which interested the House, and did not altogether make an unfavourable impression upon it. The hon. Member stated that in his early days he had approved of "Boycotting" as a means of protecting the tenants against being robbed of their tenant-right, but that he did not approve of "Boycotting" being employed against a person who refused to subscribe to the Land League or to illuminate his house at a Land League triumph. The first lesson which I draw from the speech of the hon. Member is that it is impossible to prescribe limits when illegal and illicit means of action are once set in motion. The hon. Member, who is an Irishman and who sympathizes very strongly with what he regards as the wrongs of the Irish people, draws distinctions which the Government cannot draw. The Government represents the law. They are intrusted with the interests of order; they are bound to enforce the law, even where it is burdensome and grievous, and to preserve order, even where that order is disturbed by men who are excited by a sense of wrong. The Government, however, are now entering upon the task of supporting law and order with the knowledge that the grievances of which complaint has been made have been very largely removed, and when the Irish tenants, by the Land Act, have been very generally placed in possession of tenant-right—[Ironical cheers from the Home Rule Members]—yes; or will be very generally placed in the possession of tenant-right as soon as the Land Courts shall have completed their work, and when, in the interval, they are endeavouring to protect the tenant from being deprived of its possession through the non-payment of arrears which he cannot pay. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell), with much feeling, has urged the Government not to engage in a course of exceptional legislation. He has compared the present with the immediate past; and he has told us that the outrages which are now existing in Ireland, although unusually large, are 1667 not general and are diminishing. I am afraid that that statement is open to question. In the first four months of 1881 there were 1,177 outrages, while in the first four months of the present year they amounted to 1879. The hon. Member spoke also of his hopes of a rapid diminution, and said that the number fell off by 70 last month, and he believed there would be a greater reduction this month. It is true that last mouth there was a fall; but, judging from the portion of the present month already elapsed, if the outrages should continue at the present rate, they will equal in number those of last month. The hon. Member made a comparison with the year 1832; and, rightly observing that it was, that it is, impossible to eliminate the agrarian from the ordinary outrages in that year, he gave the House a most appalling account of outrages, and showed that, even if a very liberal deduction be made for ordinary outrages, the sum of agrarian crimes was a terrible one. But, on a consideration of the differences between the years 1832 and 1881, the outrages of the latter year appear to have been almost equally appalling. In the first place, in 1832 the ordinary legal machinery was very defective, for there was really no operative system of Crown prosecution at Assizes, and no really operative system of prosecution for minor offences at Quarter Sessions. In the next place, in 1832, the Police Force was very weak, there being only 5,700 badly-organized constables, as against 12,500 better-organized men at the present day. But, if outrages have diminished in number since those times, the material and field for them have diminished likewise; because, instead of the 8,000,000 which the Irish population numbered then, it numbers now, roughly speaking, only 5,000,000. ["Hear, hear!" from the Home Rule Members.] I am sure that hon. Members will understand the object with which that remark was made. I was obliged to make it for the sake of the argument I am about to adduce. If you compare the outrages—the aggregate outrages of any sort—calculated on the basis of population, the results you will arrive at are these:—The average of 1832, 1833, and 1834 of homicides of all classes was 246; in 1881 they were 95, but, calculated according to population, they 1668 should have been 152. Of the crime of firing at the person the number this year has been 144; and the number, if calculated according to population, would have been 166 in 1832. Of serious assaults there were in those days 1207; but, on the same principle, the number should have been 1,118. Of the assaults on the police, the number now would be somewhat larger than then; but, of course, there are a great many more police to assault. Corresponding results are obtained in the case of the very terrible crime of firing into dwellings. Instead of 106, they would have numbered 142, calculated on the basis of population; and the number of incendiary fires would have been 1,035, against 529. I do not want to press this argument too far; but it is a consideration which should be taken into account when you compare the outrages of 1881 with the outrages committed in 1832. I cannot continue my speech any longer without saying a word about the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) made a speech which has never been exceeded, I think, in the manly and loyal support—I use the word loyal in its strict sense—which it gave to the Government of this country. And I am bound to say that I do not think the effect of that speech has been diminished by the very different spirit manifested in the speech delivered by a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) at Stratford yesterday. The noble Marquess, after a very long engagement, went down to attend a political meeting, and to make a Party speech—and everyone on both sides of the House knows that you cannot break with a Party engagement lightly; and, if you keep it, get through an hour, in the midst of eager partizans, without saying something uncomplimentary of your political opponents. Under these circumstances, I take the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite as representing the real attitude of the Conservative Party. The Government recognize that attitude as leaving nothing to complain of, and nothing to supply; and, as patriots and as Englishmen, we shall be glad of the support of the right hon. Gentleman. And for the very best reason—I do not use the word in an offensive sense—for this reason—that my hon. Friend the Member for 1669 Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Joseph Cowen) has brought a very serious indictment against England for her treatment of Ireland. The speech of the hon. Member was very powerful; but it was not quite new, although from the mouth of my hon. Friend the subject acquired new charms. But, whether new or not, his statement was very true and very painful, although in regard to it I am bound to say that the present Government feel their withers unwrung. My hon. Friend asked how we have treated Irishmen? He said that we have neglected to study their wishes. Now, I should like to know if that is the sort of charge which, during the last fortnight, has been brought, on the Benches opposite, against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? The hon. Member told us that we had forced on Ireland an alien Church and a hated land system. How much of the responsibility for the existence of that Church, and what the hon. Member for Newcastle considers the more disagreeable features of the Irish land system, rests with my right hon. Friend? I imagine, very little. But my hon. Friend has brought a charge against the Government, after the manner of the sages of old, in the shape of an historical parallel. He drew a parallel between the condition of Ireland under the present Administration and that of France under Louis Napoleon. France, he said, under Napoleon, was crammed with servile statesmen, a servile House of Deputies, and a servile Legislative Assembly. Napoleon had also 300,000 soldiers instead of 30,000, and yet he fell. I could not help thinking that no great advantage was to be gained by entering into an historical parallel between Ireland and France under Louis Napoleon, or that any public good is to be got out of the highly-coloured picture which the hon. Member has set before the popular imagination. What is the real likeness between Ireland and France under Louis Napoleon? There was not a newspaper in Paris the editor of which did not know that ruin was impending over him if he penned a line that was hostile or displeasing to Louis Napoleon. In whatever shape the Press Clauses in this Bill are passed, there will not be an editor in Ireland who will not know that he may write exactly what he likes, if he will only abstain from putting in the 1670 advertisements of "Captain Moonlight," or invitations to private murder. And since I became Chief Secretary for Ireland, I have read carefully a great many of the leading papers published in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland, and I do not think, for a single moment, that editors in Ireland can have anything to be uneasy about. [Mr. HEALY: They are all in gaol.] In France there was a certain appearance of freedom in the Senate, but the Government so coerced and manipulated the constituencies that there was no freedom of popular election. So far as this Government are concerned, I do not think the Members of it are at all unwilling to get at a real expression of popular opinion. Only on Tuesday night we sat up over an Irish Bill, and a very interesting night it was. We got through the Business in a style which even the Scotch Members might have envied. And what was the Business? It was a Bill brought in for introducing the ballot into the election of Guardians of the Poor, in order that the right of choice on the part of the people might be fairly exercised without any interference, or fear, or supervision on the part of other persons. And what was the action of the Government in regard to that Bill? The Government warmly supported it, for they were only too glad to obtain, in any way, a fresh and further expression of the real feeling of the people of Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) also spoke of what he called the mistaken policy of the Government in sending out, at the same time, a message of conciliation and a message of coercion. The Government are sending a message of conciliation and a message of coercion; but they are not sending them to the same address. The message of conciliation, which is—whatever the hon. Member may think about the method of it—a very well-meant message, is being sent to the hard-working and struggling farmers of Ireland; but the message of coercion is being sent to a much smaller—I hope a very small class—class of men who are the worst enemies these Irish farmers can have. I must say that I deprecate all this talk about England's oppression of Ireland. In whose defence is it that we are passing this Bill? Is it in the defence of Englishmen? Do you think that Lord Spencer and myself are not content with the 1671 soldiers and police we have to protect us? It is for the defence of the poor Irish farmer. An hon. Member who spoke with so much fervour—the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson)—laid down four Constitutional rules, and what was the first of them? Why, that the sanctity of the home should not be violated. There are homes in Ireland in which the chimney-corner is within range of the window, and the tenant has no servant whom he can send to open the door, outside which the midnight assassin too frequently lurks; and one great reason why this Bill has been introduced is, that the sanctity of the poor man's home should not be violated. As to the method of the coercion which we propose, the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell) has made a most searching and interesting speech. He argued with much ability that the impunity of crime is largely due to the difficulty of procuring evidence, and that a considerable number of the failures of justice had been brought about, not from the weakness of the tribunals, but from the breaking down of the efforts for the detection of crime. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), who always finds something interesting to say, praised the late Mr. Drummond. I happen to number among my friends a lady who largely enjoyed the favour and esteem of Mr. Drummond. She is one of my best and oldest friends, and I rejoice that she is still alive to hear what the hon. Member has said of Mr. Drummond. She, who understood the nature of her husband's work, as a true wife always does, will be pleased to hear that the Government have taken a leaf out of his book. In Mr. Drummond's day, crime arose almost exclusively from the Tithe agitation, and by the Act of 1838 that question may be said to have been finally disposed of. Crime in our day is closely connected with the question of arrears; and the present Government have, at this moment, a Bill upon the Table which will in many cases abolish arrears. Mr. Drummond, in order to check crime, laboured to institute and organize the Constabulary system on a local basis. I wonder whether my hon. Friend who praised Mr. Drummond knew this fact—that Mr. Drummond did more than any single man to create the existing system of 1672 Constabulary; that he based his system upon local officers charged with the care of particular districts, the main object being to pay especial attention to the prevention of crime. Now, Mr. Drummond died while still labouring in the Public Service at a very early age; and in order that we may not overtask any man's strength by making impossible calls upon it, we have appointed a Special Assistant Secretary, who will keep in his hands the threads of the police system, and who will devote his undivided energy and attention to the business of detecting and repressing crime. We have also appointed a number of highly-qualified local officials, who will decentralize the system on which the police operations of the Irish Government are at this moment being worked. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), whom I take to represent the great body of enlightened Irish opinion, said, in the course of his speech—As regards 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 the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk complains of the want of evidence. "The real difficulty," he says, "consists in procuring satisfactory evidence." But, in the opinion of the Government, the Search Clause will be most important in the way of securing evidence; and the 13th clause, which allows an independent inquiry, even where no individual has been arrested, will do a great deal to aid in the detection of crime. I challenge any denial that this clause is unconstitutional. It is an inquiry in the nature of a Coroner's jury in England, and an inquiry of a nature well known and frequently practised in the law of Scotland. My hon. and learned Friend says—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?I cannot help thinking that my hon. and learned Friend confuses two things that are not always the same—namely, liking 1673 and confidence. My own impression is, that the main reason why evidence is not forthcoming is that the people know that it would be useless. No witness would care to incur the odium and the ill-will of giving evidence when he knew that his evidence, when given, would not produce conviction, and when he knew, also, that in many cases he would become a marked man, and that if any outrage was inflicted on him—of a character too often inflicted now-a-days—the criminal would escape punishment, because the case would be tried in its turn before an untrustworthy tribunal; and so the whole chain of impunity goes on dragging its weary length along. It is by instituting a new tribunal which would convict the guilty man that you will produce in witnesses that confidence which will induce them to come forward and give evidence. As to that tribunal, I have listened very carefully to the speeches which have been delivered in the course of this debate, and I gather from them that some hon. Members would not be satisfied with any effective tribunal at all. One of the proposals of the Government is to try crime by means of a Commission of Judges. Against these Judges there have been accusations that they are partizan and political Judges—charges, I must own, that I do not think will be generally accepted by hon. Members who have sat on the same Benches behind or opposite the distinguished men who, during the past 20 years, have been transferred from this House to the Irish Bench. It is proposed by the Solicitor General for Ireland to provide clauses for amalgamating the Town and County panels, an arrangement which, if we may judge from the experience of the Winter Assize in the County Cork, might obviate the necessity for a Special Commission of Judges at all. But here I heard from one of the Benches in this House a cry of "Packed juries!" And the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) has expressed a strong preference for a Commission of Judges, rather than a jury, in a certain part of the country. The only proposal against which I have heard nothing from hon. Members opposite is the jury system, as it is at present constituted; and that system is one under which 30 successive agrarian murders have been committed with impunity.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I am not asserting that under the present system the criminals have been brought to trial, or that evidence against them was obtained. I never said that the cases were tried; but I wish to point out that coincident with this system 30 agrarian murders have taken place, in regard to which the criminals have not been brought to justice. No doubt, hon. Members reprehend them as strongly as I do. If the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk maintains that such a tribunal will have the confidence of witnesses, I must say that, speaking as an Englishman to an Irishman, and as a layman to a lawyer, I think he is mistaken. Then as regards Clause 19—the clause giving summary jurisdiction to the magistrates—the Government believe that it is an essential part of the Bill. Hon. Members have expressed great apprehension at such powers being committed to Major Bond and Mr. Clifford Lloyd. In the first place, I may say at once that Major Bond's term of appointment expires on the 3rd of July. It is a temporary appointment, and it will not be renewed. I think, when they hear the whole case, hon. Members will find that Major Bond has not been thrown over. As regards Mr. Clifford Lloyd, his policy, when acting as a magistrate, is worthy of some remark. He has sat as a magistrate at Kilfinane, Kilmallock, and Charleville—two out of the three being centres of disturbed districts. The notion on which Mr. Clifford Lloyd acted was, that the surest way to support the law when the law was in danger was to inflict slight but certain punishment. His sentences, speaking of this particular period, were light fines, or in place of a fine he bound the accused persons over to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. In nine months, in these disturbed districts, he only inflicted 11 sentences of imprisonment, amounting to 14 days, and in most of the cases the charge was assaulting the police. These sentences were light, but they were certain sentences, and they were immediate. For six months past he has never set in Petty Sessions except in two or three trifling cases of vagrancy and drunkenness, and in the well-known cases of bail connected with the question of the 1675 huts. I may here state that Lord Spencer in all cases of interference with the erection of huts, raised ostensibly for the shelter of evicted persons, has ordered that they shall be submitted to his own eyes before any action is taken in the matter by the police. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Opposition Benches.] If the Lord Lieutenant is to be responsible under this Bill, he must, in some instances, be allowed to choose his own responsibility. Whatever may be the labour imposed on himself, he thinks, and rightly thinks, that a matter of such extreme delicacy as this is not to be initiated, or any action taken in regard to it, except on his own judgment and on his own responsibility. In saying this, he derogates nothing from his confidence in his subordinates, and nothing from the sense he entertains of the high feeling of duty and of patriotism which has always actuated Mr. Clifford Lloyd. But Mr. Clifford will not sit in any Court under this Bill—not because he is Mr. Clifford Lloyd—for that would be a reason which, standing here, I should be ashamed to give, but because he belongs to the class of special Resident Magistrates. On this point I will read a passage from the letter of Lord Spencer—In any case, he should never give the powers of that Act to the selected Resident Magistrates. Those who are engaged in repressing disturbance and outrage, and in detecting crime, should not he those who tried offences. Those who track the criminals should not be the persons to judge them. I think it desirable, as far as possible, to separate the judicial and executive duties, so that no Resident Magistrate under the Act shall sit as a magistrate in any case where he has been engaged in his executive character.That is a very important decision of the Lord Lieutenant. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) expresses great uneasiness about the power of stopping public meetings. I can only repeat what I said in my speech on the second reading of the Bill, that we shall only stop meetings when such meetings are part of the machinery, voluntary or involuntary, of violence and disorder. At this hour of the night I will not quote statistics; but I could easily quote them to prove that, when there is an excited state in a particular part of the country, meetings may be held which are more or less excited, and speeches may be made by people who do not intend to provoke outrages, but 1676 which, nevertheless, tend to swell the amount of outrages in the district. Lord Spencer and the Irish Government desire to have this power; but they will certainly exercise it very carefully. My hon. Friend says we shall drive Irish opinion below the surface. We desire to drive nothing below the surface or out of the country except crime. Opinions, aspirations, enthusiasms, however they may be opposed to the Government, they have, and will have, free and unbridled play, both in print, in the Press, and on the platform. There is one point on which the Government cannot yield, and that is in regard to the duration of the Bill. Anything less than three years would not belong enough to give them any confidence in being able to restore tranquillity to Ireland. The evil is so deep that the cure must be steady and gradual. If it is to be quick and hurried, it cannot be permanent, and it would be dangerous to make it too sharp and too drastic. Again, it is most vital for Ireland that there should be no uncertainty about the mode of criminal procedure in agrarian crimes, and it is important that in a question affecting law and order there should not be frequent debates. Having made these observations, which I know cannot be pleasant in one part of the House, but which I have made with as little exaggeration of language as I could, I will endeavour to give them a practical character by asking the House to reject the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), and proceed with the Bill in Committee with all possible dispatch.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
Sir, I do not wish to stand between the House and the division for more than a very few moments; but I think that if ever there was a time when a person ought to speak out he ought to speak out now, and he ought to speak out unflinchingly and without the smallest hesitation, so that there should be no uncertainty of sound, and so that everybody may know exactly what he means, what the House means, and what it does not mean. In my opinion, the present crisis of Ireland is a matter beyond all Party questions; and all Parties, I think, ought to unite for the purpose of restoring order and seeing that there is security for life, for property, and for personal individual liberty in that country. I have said that 1677 it is no time for any Party divisions; but I want to make a further observation, which, I am sorry to say, is necessary at the present moment, and it is this—that it is a time when no individual Member of any Party ought, by his speech in Parliament, to show that he wishes to "run with the hare and to hunt with the hounds." It is the bounden and absolute duty of every individual Member, just as it is of every Party, to speak his own mind plainly, and in such a way that his meaning cannot be mistaken by the country; and, to my mind, any Member who, from any reason, makes a speech in favour of law and order, and then makes a number of reservations, either at the end or at the beginning of his speech, is practically a traitor to his country. Let there be no mistake at all about it. It is not a question of Party advantage or of individual advantage. If any man thinks that by making a speech in a particular way he can gain a certain number of votes among his constituents he is absolutely, in my opinion, committing a crime in making that speech; for I think that if ever there was a time when every man ought to speak his mind without the slightest reservation, it is this. Now, there are certain things we are all agreed upon, and on which we ought to insist, and that is that, throughout the whole of the country, whether England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, there ought to be the greatest possible amount of personal individual liberty of action that can, consistently with the welfare of the State, be established. We ought to do everything to respect the sanctity of the home, and to take care that every man shall, if he likes, do what he likes. [A laugh.] The hon. Member who laughs is rather premature. What I mean is this, and nobody will deny it—that everyone who wishes to do that which he has a right to do by the law of the land should be allowed to do it free from any molestation on the part of anybody. I will go further than that. People have been interfered with. We have to deal with cases where persons, bound to do certain things by their own solemn covenant and agreement, have not been allowed to perform that which they promised faithfully to do; while other persons, on the other hand, have been compelled to do things against the law which they did not wish to do. Again, others have been com- 1678 pelled to do things against the law which nothing would ever have induced them to do if they had not been subjected to such terrorism that they were bound, under the influence of that terror, to do them. I say that, under these circumstances, we are all bound to give the heartiest support to the Government of the day—I do not care what Government it is—in order to provide that this state of things shall cease, and that the country may know, from one end to the other, that we are determined it shall cease. The hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Dillon) made a speech yesterday, which I regret I wan not privileged to hear, owing to other engagements, but which I have attentively read from the best reports I could get; and I think, if anything was wanting to convince hon. Members of the truth of what I am saying, that speech showed plainly that there are persons connected with Ireland—and I am sorry to say that the hon. Member for Tipperary is one of them—who, in my opinion, hold out doctrines to the Irish people which are subversive of all law and order, and of all government. I did hear and I attended very carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) to-day, and I am bound to say that that speech surprised me. I was surprised the hon. Member should say that, without any consultation with the person who delivered the speech yesterday, to which I have referred, he was going to present to the House his own construction of that speech, and of the sentences which he quoted from it, and should declare that that was the light in which it would be looked at in the country, when everybody in the House, except the hon. Member for the City of Cork himself, knew that that was not the construction the hon. Member for Tipperary put upon it. The hon. Member for the City of Cork repeated sentence after sentence from the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary, and put upon it a construction which nobody who heard it could put upon it, and which no man in Ireland would put upon it. Then, I say, we are bound to take the speech of the hon. Member for Tipperary, in spite of the interpretation sought to be put upon it by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, as expressing the real views of the persons in Ireland, with whom, I am sorry to say, 1679 we have to cope. Then, what is our duty to-night? I should not have risen to address the House, but for certain observations which have been made by some of my hon. Friends behind me, but which, I think, have been entirely answered by my right hon. Friend who sits near me. I will not quote his words, but I reiterate the spirit and letter of every word which fell from my right hon. Friend in answer to the speeches which have been made. Having said that, and having assured the Government of every support we can give them in that which we believe to be absolutely necessary for the well-governing of the country, I am bound to say that there are one or two observations which I am called upon to make, and I make them with regret. Although the provisions of the present Bill are very severe—and I feel bound to support them for the reason I have given—I am myself strongly of opinion that if the action of the Government a year and a-half ago had been totally different, you would never have wanted those severe measures which have now become necessary. We have now, I am sorry to say, seen, without the smallest doubt—for there cannot be the smallest doubt—the revival of the secret societies in Ireland. Everybody had hoped that those societies had gone. ["Oh!"] I can only give my opinion, and I feel bound to give it, painful though it may be. My attention has been called to the subject, and I desire to say that, in my opinion, it is through the action of Her Majesty's Government that these secret societies have been revived again; and it is because in consequence of that action on the part of Her Majesty's Government these secret societies have been revived again, that we are bound now to support them in this very stringent measure for the purpose of putting such societies down. I have only to make one request to the Government in return for the support we most willingly and ungrudgingly give them, and that is, that if these enormous powers are granted to them we shall have some positive assurance that they will be acted upon; that when they have these enormous powers—and enormous they are—they will not flinch from exercising them, as far as it is necessary to do so, for the purpose of maintaining law and order and good government. Unless we 1680 have an assurance to that effect, I think we ought to hesitate before we consent to grant the powers they ask; and it is only on the clear understanding that they will use them, as we mean them to use them, for the purposes of law and order, and no further, that we consent to give them. There is another question on which I think I am entitled to make an observation. The Government, after mature deliberation, have placed this Bill in its present shape upon the Table of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir William Harcourt) assured us, as I understood the other day, when he introduced this Bill, that its main provisions had been determined on by the Government long ago. The Bill, therefore, is presented to us in the form in which the Government intended to present it long before the terrible outrage we all so deeply deplore occurred; and it had long been the deliberate policy of the Government to present the Bill in its present form. I am not, I think, misrepresenting the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement. All I can say, if that is so, is that the Irish Party have been somewhat ill-used by Her Majesty's Government, who have kept this measure back, intending to come down on them with these terrible clauses, after disposing of the rest of their Bills. But having presented the Bill, and having determined, after calm deliberation, upon its provisions, as those which the necessities of the case require, we have a right to demand that, in regard to the material points, when we get into Committee they will not flinch from the Bill they have placed upon the Table. I do not think that that is an unreasonable demand to make, because, if, after the most mature deliberation, they do come to ask for such excessive powers, I am quite sure no Government would ask for them unless they had most deliberately considered the whole question; and if they flinch from the exercise of the powers they have asked for, they will have to give the strongest reasons for having put them in the Bill. We shall watch with all vigilance to see that they do not recede from the steps they have taken. Otherwise, we shall have to ask whether they really are in earnest, after all, as to the course they invite the House to take? I do not 1681 think, having said that, that I ought to detain the House further. But I think the Government are bound—and these are the last words I shall say, and they are identical with the words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—I think the Government are bound to enforce the existing law; I think they are bound to preserve order, life, liberty, and property. If they do so, they will have our support; but do not think, because I say that, that we are not also in favour of remedial measures. I am sorry we differ, and we do differ very essentially, from the remedial measures the Government have proposed. We say that they are utterly inadequate to meet the emergency of the case, and that in the course of time, instead of diminishing, they will aggravate the evil. We say that the proper course, as far as remedial measures are concerned, lies in a totally different direction. It is impossible, under existing circumstances, that the population of Ireland can exist on the soil and continue to flourish. We say, in many cases, that it would be wise and proper that the tenants of Ireland should be able to purchase the holdings they enjoy, provided they can show that when they have purchased them they will be in a condition to flourish and exist; but we are also of opinion that it will not be of the smallest use to enable the poor cottier tenants in the West to purchase their holdings if, when they have got them, and with no rent to pay upon them, they found themselves unable to exist upon them. In my judgment, it would do more harm than good to permanently fix a tenant upon a holding too small to support himself and his family. But, although the Conservative Party may differ entirely from the remedial measures the Government have proposed, Her Majesty's Ministers may entirely rely upon our thorough and hearty support in those measures for the preservavation of law and order which it is the primary duty of any Government to enforce.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he only intended to say a few words upon the Bill now before the House. He did not know whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland was to be congratulated on the speech to which they had just listened. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to the English Members—he was careful 1682 to say so—to help Her Majesty's Government in passing this Bill, and he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the cordial support which was offered to him by the English Tories against the liberties of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had given some indication of the manner in which they were to expect a Bill of this kind to be worked. He described any hon. Member who made a speech which in any way contained a reservation in regard to the Bill as a traitor to his country. He should like to know what treatment the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke), who sat behind, the right hon. Gentleman, and what treatment the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie), would get if the definition of treason accepted in Ireland were the definition of the right hon. Gentleman? But the House would not forget this, that one of the charges left to the Judges under the Bill was the charge of treason, and that charges of treason would be investigated by gentlemen of the same large political toleration as the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross). The right hon. Gentleman stated that secret societies had largely increased within the last six months or the last year, and urged that that was an argument in favour of this new Coercion Bill. That was to say, that because one Coercion Bill had increased secret societies, they should therefore introduce another Coercion Bill in order to put down secret societies. This reasoning was about on a par with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when he spoke in terms of disparagement of the present jury system in Ireland, when the right hon. Gentleman came to give the facts and reasons for his sweeping condemnation of the jury system. And what were those facts and reasons? The right hon. Gentleman said there had been 30 murders in Ireland which had gone unpunished. That was to say, that the juries of Ireland were to be condemned because they did not find men guilty of murder who were never brought before them. Then, again, with regard to the Press Clause. Arguing in favour of that clause, the right hon. Gentleman said everybody would be at liberty in Ireland to write whatever he liked in a newspaper, provided 1683 that he did not incite to violence and murder. But that was not the meaning of the language of the clause in the Bill. The words of the clause were not, that a man was at liberty to write anything he liked, but anything he liked which happened to be pleasing to the Lord Lieutenant for the time being. The words of the clause were as clear and distinct as words could be—Where after the passing of this Act any newspaper wherever printed is circulated or attempted to be circulated in Ireland, and any copy of such newspaper appears to the Lord Lieutenant to contain matter," &c.Or, in other words, the Lord Lieutenant, like the Czar of Russia, or General Ignatieff, was to be the arbiter of what was incitement to crime or violence in Ireland. In the same way, public meetings were to be held, if the Lord Lieutenant liked. In a similar manner, anybody was at liberty to walk out into the country or in the street at any hour of the day or night, if the policemen would allow him. There was not a single act of individual liberty, or of political association, which was not permissible under the Bill, if the Lord Lieutenant would permit it. But surely it was a new and strange doctrine to be preached in that Assembly, which, with a momentary forgetfulness of that recollection for which he was so remarkable, the Prime Minister called "the Temple of Liberty." What was the chief article of the Liberal Creed—[An hon. MEMBER: Coercion!]—of which he was a follower, as well as the right hon. Gentleman? The chief article of the Liberal Creed was that they should not leave the liberties of the people to the discretion of any Executive, however much they might be prepared to confide in it. The Chief Secretary for Ireland came there and gave the House an assurance of his good intentions, and the good intentions of Lord Spencer. He had not the smallest doubt of their good intentions. He spoke with respect of the right hon. Gentleman, because he felt it; he spoke with respect of Lord Spencer for prudential reasons. The moment this Bill passed, every word he might speak, every article he might write, every agitation he might engage in, must subject him to the good-will and pleasure of Lord Spencer. Therefore, he spoke of the noble Lord with the deepest reverence and respect. There was one 1684 point which appeared to him not to have been brought out in any of the numerous eloquent speeches which had been delivered against this Bill—namely, the completeness of the measure. Hon. Members had pointed out many points on which the Bill was open to objection; but it was not to the Bill in detail, so much as to the Bill taken as a whole, that he objected. Taken as a whole, he was prepared to say that there was not a single act of individual life in Ireland that was not menaced by it. Supposing his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), who was a romancer by profession, were to visit the town which he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) represented (Galway), and, in the search of some picturesque description, or some scene in which the newest hero or heroine of his latest novel was to figure, were to take a walk in order to see the sun rising over Galway Bay, he could be put in prison under this Bill by the first policeman he happened to meet; or supposing his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) were, after sunset, to take a walk under the stars—he would not say whether alone, or otherwise—his hon. Friend would be liable to be sent to prison, alone or in company, by the first police-constable he met who happened to be prowling about the road side. But, seriously speaking, he put it to the House—to that "Temple of Liberty" of the Liberal Party—whether they were going to pass a Bill which thus placed the liberty of every man in Ireland at the disposal of every police-constable in the country? It had been argued in the course of the debate that the Bill was only meant for the wrongdoer; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) asked why any honest man should object to the Bill, seeing that it was directed only against wrong-doers? That was a very strange doctrine. Ten thousand people were to have their liberties violated, their homes outraged—as they could be under this Bill—the freedom of their Press destroyed, the liberty of association taken away, the right of public meeting—the first and primary right of every citizen of the British Crown—gone; 10,000 people might have their rights taken away, in order that the authorities might make a search for one criminal whom they would not succeed in catching. 1685 Let them take the clause in the Bill with regard to intimidation. They had had legislation in this country on the subject of intimidation, and very properly; but let them compare the clauses in regard to intimidation in this Bill with the clauses in regard to intimidation in the Trades Union Act. In the Trades Union Act, intimidation was made illegal; but they were told what intimidation was. The Act went into particulars as to every species of offence that constituted intimidation, and any man could easily tell them what intimidation was. There was also a subsection which told them what intimidation was not; and under that subsection, if he were not mistaken, "picketing" in a modified form was allowed to be legal and was actually practised, he would not say whether justly or unjustly, in this country. But in the present Bill intimidation included any word spoken or act done "calculated" to put any person in fear or to injure him in his business; and in the judgment of such a man as Mr. Clifford Lloyd, upon whom he was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland pronounce a warm eulogium, the word "intimidation" would assume a very serious aspect indeed. Intimidation, then, was to include any word spoken or act done calculated to intimidate a neighbour or injure him in his business. And where was that clause taken from? It was taken from the Whiteboy Act—the infamous, cruel, and wicked Whiteboy Act—which condemned a man to penal servitude for an offence of the most trivial character. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite wrote to his tailor and complained of the last suit of clothes he received from him, that would be injuring the tailor's business, because the custom of a Gentleman so highly placed as the right hon. Gentleman would be valuable to the tailor; and if the right hon. Gentleman caused a loss to the tailor's business he would come under the provisions of the Bill, if a man like Mr. Clifford Lloyd or some other official of the same stamp had the interpretation of them. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might cry of "Oh!" but he would put it to them whether acts even more extravagant were not done under the Coercion Act administered by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief 1686 Secretary (Mr. W. E. Forster)? He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) refused, as far as he was personally concerned, to leave the liberties of Ireland even at the discretion of Lord Spencer and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan). He thought he was justified in repeating what other hon. Members had said, that this was the most stringent Coercion Bill ever passed in their time. It was as stringent a Coercion Bill as General Ignatieff could have devised—a far more stringent Coercion Bill than Napoleon III. ever obtained; and to such a Coercion Bill it was the duty of every Irishman to give a relentless opposition.
§ MR. STOREY
said, the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary had just applied an epithet to Gentlemen on that side of the House. He did not know to whom he particularly alluded when he spoke of Gentlemen who "ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds," but he presumed reference was made to some Members on that side of the House and others on his own side who devoted half of their speeches to saying that they would vote for the Bill, and the other half to condemning it. He confessed that a good many Gentlemen on that side who rose to support the Government had reversed the conduct of Baalam, the prophet, who was called upon to curse Israel, and instead blessed them altogether, for these Gentlemen rose to bless the Government, and ended by cursing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had applied the term "traitor" to these Gentlemen, and insinuated that, probably, their purpose was to win a certain number of votes. Without wishing to offend the right hon. Gentleman, he said he was not afraid of being called a traitor by him or anyone, nor should he be afraid of the imputation being put upon him that he wanted to catch votes, because he was aware that the present heated state of public feeling would not last long. A man who, like himself, represented a constituency of 17,000 electors, 700 of whom were Irishmen, and who, under present circumstances, voted against this Bill, who had always had the votes of these 700 Irishmen, would lose two or three times as many as he gained by taking up a different position; and, therefore, he repeated, that he cared not for the imputation of the late Home Secretary. He could tell the right hon. 1687 Gentleman who were the real traitors to their country. Charles James Fox, a statesman whose words would carry weight with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and whose name was honoured on that side of the House, and he believed was now also honoured on the opposite Benches, said in 1782—Had the opportunity offered for gratifying the reasonable requests of Ireland some years ago been seized, had her petition been complied with when she came to the Bar of the House of Commons submissive and obedient, standing on the justice of her claims rather than on her power, this country would have acted a wise course, and would have graciously granted those boons which have been since, as it were, torn from her in a manner exceedingly disgraceful to Great Britain.They were now in the year 1882, and had not yet learned, nor had the right hon. Gentleman learned, that men like himself, having the influence of a great Party behind him, and having had chances year after year, in quiet times, of meeting the reasonable wishes of Irishmen, were the real traitors to the highest interests of their country. They allowed things to reach a climax; their Successors, more wise and enlightened, tried to carry out a policy of conciliation. And what did the right hon. Gentleman opposite do? Why, he said to the Government—"We will support you as long as you put in the front of battle the policy of Coercion; but you must not flinch. If you flinch, we will not give you further support." He would just say one word about the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), which had been strangely forgotten. Although he was sensible of the kindly way in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of his hon. Friend, he would say that he had not spoken of him so strongly as many men in the North of England thought of him, and his hon. Friend's Amendment was one which he could support with his whole heart, for this reason. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce), who, he was afraid, was one of the Gentlemen who fell under the censure of the late Home Secretary, said that he would support this Bill. Now, what the hon. Member for Newcastle and others contended was that the Bill contained two principles. There was the principle which was worked out in the clauses directed against crime, and there was the principle worked out in the 1688 clauses directed against the legitimate expression of public opinion. To the first of these they had no objection; but with regard to the second their objections extended even to voting against the Ministry. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant said there was no intention of interfering with the expression of opinion; but he would put a case to the right hon. Gentleman. At the present moment a great number of evictions were being carried out in Ireland, which, almost without exception, were unjust evictions. ["No!"] Hon. Members said "No!" but his authority for that statement was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who had stated in his place that all the men who could pay their rent had done so, and that those who were now being evicted were men who could not pay. Now, supposing that these tenants called a meeting to consider the conduct of the landlords in evicting their tenants, would they be allowed to hold this meeting? And if the meeting was held, would they be liable to imprisonment, as provided in the Bill? Again, supposing these tenants re-took possession of their holdings—as was done last winter—it was not a very great offence, and yet, under the Bill as it stood, any two magistrates could commit these poor cottiers to gaol for six months without any option or appeal. So far from thinking this Bill was easier than the Act of last year, he thought it was much harder. Under the Act of last year, it was true that men could be imprisoned without trial; but under the present Bill they were brought before persons who were sure to put them in prison. Now, for his part, he could not see what difference there was between being put in prison without trial and being sent before magistrates who were sure to commit to prison after trial. He would not detain the House longer, for he knew that no Member who occupied even 10 minutes in placing his views before the House at such a juncture, could expect to be received with favour; but he besought the House to understand that he and his hon. Friends were extremely sorry that the Ministry had adopted the policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, by putting coercion before remedy, and that they should feel it their duty to endeavour to minimize the Bill, even though they were called traitors for so doing.
§ MR. HEALY
said, in reference to the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that in Ireland a man had as much liberty as he liked, so long as he did not excite to outrage and intimidation, that the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. W. E. Forster) had arrested 14 men connected with United Ireland, the editor of The Leinster Leader, the editor of The Roscommon Messenger, the editor of The Boyle Herald, the editor of The Tipperary Independent, the editor of Tipperary, and two correspondents and a reporter of The Wexford People. He desired to remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland of the pledges given by the late Chief Secretary, and which were broken; and to remind him of the pledges he himself had now given, and which, no doubt, would be equally broken.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he thought it desirable, in view of the adjournment of the House for the Whitsuntide Holidays, that the attention of the Irish constituencies should be directed to the votes of the Irish Members, and to the absence of some Irish Representatives from this debate. He held that the absence of Irish Members from the division to-night was—and their absence from the divisions in the course of the Committee still more would be—more cowardly and more reprehensible than the votes of Members oven hostile to them. It was desirable that the Irish people should know what Members voted against their interests, what Members were untrue to the trust reposed in them, and what Party had broken their pledges with respect to legislation for Ireland. Living, as he did, on the borders of Ulster, he thought it desirable that the attention of the Catholics of that Province should be directed to the votes given by their Representatives, and taking a sketch of the Division List on the second reading of this Bill—["Question!"]—the question was how Irish Members in an especial manner should vote upon this Bill? This was a Bill especially affecting the Catholics of Ulster. There had been cries for Conservatives and cries for Liberals, but he recognized no difference between Parties if they voted for this Bill; and it was a strange thing to find that both the Members for the Catholic county of Monaghan—which contained probably more Catholics than all the non-Catholic counties put together 1690 —had voted for the second reading of this Bill. Would they, to-night, have the courage of their convictions? Would they vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), or in his favour? Would they, instead of having the courage of their convictions, and voting as they did for the second reading, walk out of the House? Then, again, there was the Catholic constituency of Donegal, unfortunately represented by an Englishman and a Dissenting clergyman.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that, in view of this abrogation of Irish liberty, in view of the onslaught contained in this Bill upon trial by jury, and in view of the enormous power to be given to summary jurisdiction, he had to ask whether the Members for the Province of Ulster, representing one of the most ancient portions of Ireland, and one of the most independent, would, by their action upon this Motion, decide that the Irish Catholics should be deprived of the privileges of the British Constitution, and that the Catholics whom they represented should be deprived of the inalienable right of a British subject to be tried by a jury? Would they by their votes to-night put the liberties of the constituencies at the mercy of the alien anti-Catholic magistrates? He thought this was a very fair question to raise pending the adjournment of the House; for he held that any Member of Parliament who voted for the abrogation of trial by jury, who voted for prohibiting the right of public meeting and suppressing the Irish Press, who voted for giving this inordinate power to the Resident Magistrates, and who voted for the suppression of Irish liberties, should have the attention of his constituency directed to him individually. While a few of the Ulster Conservatives had been remarkable for their abstinence from voting on some of these occasions—and a few had voted in favour of the second reading—the so-called Ulster Liberals had supported the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is confining himself to lecturing certain Members of this House. I have invited him to address himself to the Bill before the House, but, instead of attending to my invitation, he is repeating that course.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he would, as he had always done, unreservedly bow to the direction of Mr. Speaker. What he wished to direct attention to was that, whilst the Conservative Members from Ireland had adopted one policy, the so-called Liberals had adopted another policy. In Ulster the provisions of this Bill were more objectionable than in any other part of Ireland, for in that Province there was no deterring influence over the Resident Magistrates. There were no local Catholic gentry in Ulster who would exercise any deterring influence in regard to the objectionable portions of this Bill, and, therefore, he had directed his attention to that district. Last year the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had pledged himself that the powers then intrusted to him would be exorcised with fairness and discretion; but what was the fact in regard to his county (Louth)? Although those powers were intrusted to the right hon. Gentleman in March of last year, he never exercised them in that county until last December, and then he proclaimed the county under the Arms Act. But at the first meeting of the magistrates of the county, the Resident Magistrate said he had lived in the county for 10 years, and did not know a more peaceful district in Europe; and he was at a loss to know why it had been proclaimed. If the late Chief Secretary for Ireland—the conscientious Chief Secretary—used his powers so unfairly, so injudiciously, and so irritatingly, might not the present Chief Secretary do the same? But he had more confidence in the present Chief Secretary than he ever had in the late Chief Secretary, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman would conscientiously exercise his powers; but were those powers to be given to him? He was a young man, and young men were easily led astray. The old veteran, who helped to turn the late Government out of Office, exercised those powers so injudiciously and so injuriously that he did not believe any Irish Member would be able to give to any other man the same powers, and, therefore, he objected to the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 344; Noes 47: Majority 297.—(Div. List, No. 101.)1692
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee; Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.