§ MR. PARNELL,
in rising to call attention to the maladministration of the Criminal Law in Ireland, and more es- 1065 pecially certain provisions of the Crimes Prevention Act during the Viceroyalty of Earl Spencer, whereby persons have in some cases been condemned to death and executed, and in others sentenced to penal servitude for life or for long terms of years, which sentences are now in operation; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to institute strict inquiry into the evidence and convictions in the Maamtrasna, Barbavilla, Crossmaglen, and Castleisland cases, the case of the brothers Delahunty, and, generally, all cases in which witnesses examined in the trials now declare that they committed perjury, or in which proof of the innocence of the accused is tendered by credible persons, and that such inquiries, with a view to the full discovery of truth and the relief of innocent persons, should be held in the manner most favourable to the reception of all available evidence,said: In my judgment, if the ordinary practice of the Home Office in England had been followed by the Viceroy in Ireland, this Motion would not have been necessary, and all the persons whose innocence we assert would have been long since released without the necessity of resorting to the very unusual and difficult course of bringing matters connected with the administration of justice before the attention of such an Assembly as the House of Commons. The late Home Secretary, in a speech shortly before his Government left Office, stated that it was the practice of his Department, whenever a prima, facie case had been made out for inquiry, whenever there was reason to suppose that it might be possible that any person had been unjustly convicted, to institute an inquiry into the matter on the spot. If we could have had such an inquiry into the cases mentioned in my Motion, I am convinced there would have been no necessity whatever for the Motion. I believe that oven the Irish officials, prejudiced as they are, if they had been compelled to hold an open and fair inquiry into these cases, would have been forced by public opinion both in Ireland and England to release the prisoners of whose innocence I think I shall make out at least a prima facie case. This, however, has not been the course that has been pursued in Ireland. For supposed reasons connected with the administration of what is termed "law and order" in that country, for the sake, as I contend, of upholding Earl Spencer as a sort of Pope who can do no wrong, the late Administration refused 1066 an inquiry, although, I think, in the judgment of the great majority of this House, not only a prima facte case, but a strong absolute case was made out with regard to the innocence of several persons convicted in the Maamtrasna case. Now that there is a change of Government, there is some hope—I believe good hope—that justice will be done in this matter, and that such an inquiry will be granted as the result of this debate as will insure that the prison doors shall be opened to those unfortunate men who are now suffering for crimes of which they had absolutely no knowledge. Even if it had been possible for me, within the limits which I can fairly claim, to go particularly and thoroughly into any of these cases, it is obvious that the House of Commons is not a tribunal for the purpose of deciding the innocence or guilt of convicted persons. All the House of Commons is asked to do upon this occasion is to listen to what I believe I shall show to be more than a strong prima facie case in the direction of doubt in regard to the guilt of certain poisons now suffering imprisonment in Ireland, and other persons who have died upon the scaffold. If the House of Commons considers that I have made out that case upon the very partial examination of it which I shall be able to give, then, I think, the House should remit the matter, in default of a Court of Appeal, which we, unfortunately, do not possess in criminal administration, to an inquiry by some person of authority to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant or by the Executive in Ireland. In the only case in which we have succeeded in obtaining such an inquiry from the Lord Lieutenant—an inquiry carried out on the spot by an eminent counsel appointed by Earl Spencer in the case of Kilmartin, who had been sentenced to penal servitude for life for attempt to murder—the result was that new evidence having turned up, the Legal Commissioner reported to the Lord Lieutenant in such a way that Kilmartin received a free pardon. I think that precedent should have encouraged the then Irish Executive to go further; and I think it should encourage the present Irish Executive to go further in the way of inquiries in reference to these doubtful cases for which we are obliged and shall be obliged to continue to ask attention. I 1067 shall devote the bulk of my attention to an examination of the Maamtrasna trials; but before proceeding to that I shall explain generally the nature of our case with regard to the Barbavilla trial in Westmeath. In the winter of 1881–2 a very cruel murder was committed. An attempt was made to assassinate a local gentleman, a landlord, when he was returning from church. The assassin missed his aim; but a lady sitting near him was unfortunately and most lamentably murdered. After the lapse of a year or so a number of persons in the district were arrested. They were not, however, put upon their trial for the murder of Mrs. Smythe, the lady in question, but were put upon trial for conspiracy to murder Mr. Smythe, whose life it was supposed with good reason had been sought, and a conviction was obtained, after repeated trials, in almost every case. The prisoners were tried in two batches, and convictions were obtained with the aid of three informers, two of whom I should term the original informers, and the third informer, named Patrick Cole, was a very respectable man, a Poor Law Guardian and large farmer, who was arrested and accused of the offence, and who on the eve of one of the trials turned Queen's evidence in order to save himself. The original informers were notoriously men of very bad character, and it was felt that their evidence could not be relied upon without the evidence of this more respectable informer, who only came in at the very last moment, and with whose help the conviction was obtained. The prisoners were sentenced to long terms of penal servitude, with the exception of one, who was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, owing to the extenuating circumstance that during the time of the No-Pent Manifesto he had paid his rent. Some time after the trials in September, 1884, a week was set aside for special devotions by the Roman Catholics in the district, and when these devotions were over Mrs. Cole, the wife of the Poor Law Guardian whom I have described, came to the priest who was conducting the special devotions and also to another clergyman. She threw herself, or endeavoured to throw herself, on her knees before them, and acknowledged that she knew her husband's evidence was concocted, and that she induced and 1068 helped him to concoct it; and that, feeling miserable at the result in the sentence of penal servitude upon so many innocent persons, she could not rest till she told her guilt. She signed a written declaration to that effect, and subsequently Patrick Cole himself also signed a declaration to the effect that he had been induced to give his evidence by the police, and that his evidence at the trial was untrue, except that part of it which had reference to his past connection with Fenianism. Father Currey forwarded those declarations to the Lord Lieutenant, and asked for an inquiry; but the Lord Lieutenant in two replies positively declined to make any inquiry, or to re-open the case in any way whatever. I now pass from this case to the far more important case of the Maamtrasna trials. The general circumstances in connection with this terrible event are familiar to the House, seeing that we have had an opportunity of discussing the question in full within the past five or six weeks. It will be remembered that on the night of the 17th of August, 1882, a party of men broke into a house in the village of Maamtrasna occupied by John Joyce. They attacked this man and his family, and murdered him and his mother, wife, and young daughter, and inflicted upon his two sons such serious injuries that in the one case they were fatal, and in the other case the young boy only recovered after a long illness. Two days after the murders were committed, two brothers, named Anthony and John Joyce, came forward with a most extraordinary statement in regard to their having tracked 10 persons, whom they accused of the murders, for a long distance over the hills on the very dark night in question. They positively identified and swore to these 10 persons as having boon the persons who committed the murders. These 10 men were arrested, and the Crimes Act being in force at the time, the venue was changed, and the prisoners, none of whom could speak English, were brought away a distance from their homes and from everybody who knew their characters and the circumstances of the locality, and they were tried in Dublin by a packed jury of Dublin shopkeepers, who were mostly dependent upon the patronage of the Castle for their means of living. That was the time when excitement in regard 1069 to the Land League ran very high, and when an attack had been made upon jurors in Dublin by the Invincible Society. Every Protestant juryman in the country considered his life was in danger, and the result was that it was perfectly impossible for the class from whom these jurors were chosen to approach the consideration of a case like this with any sort of impartiality or judicial freedom of mind. The prisoners then were tried before a special jury. The Crown largely exercised its right of challenge, with the result that an almost exclusively Protestant jury were empannelled. Just a week or 10 days before the trial came on an informer named Philbin, who absolutely knew nothing of the circumstances of the murders, but was one of those who had been sworn against by the two original so-called independent witnesses, came forward in order to save his own life, and by the inducement of the notorious George Bolton, who had the conduct of these trials, and who has been since superseded by the late Government in the working of the Crimes Act, he offered to corroborate the testimony of the original witnesses. The day before the trials came on another informer named Casey, who admits his own guilt, came forward and likewise offered to corroborate their evidence. His first story was not accepted by George Bolton, because, being guilty, he told the truth and he gave information which did not tally with the case sought to be proved by the Government. He was now compelled to make a second statement which tallied with the evidence of the two original witnesses, which he had heard six times over, and which also tallied in most respects— though differing in some important points—with the evidence of his brother informer, Philbin. An application on the part of the prisoners' counsel for a postponement of the trial in order that some fuller investigation might be made into the local circumstances, and also an application for a jury who would go over the ground traversed by the alleged assassins, were both refused. The first man, Patrick Joyce, whose guilt we admit, was tried and condemned to death after eight minutes' deliberation by the jury. Patrick Casey, another guilty man, was also put on trial and was found guilty after a few minutes' deliberation. The Judge, in sentencing Casey, ex- 1070 pressed his satisfaction with the verdict, and added that upon the evidence, which there was no ground for disbelieving, no other verdict than one of guilty could be returned. These words were spoken in open Court and in the presence of many of the jurors who were to try the remaining cases. I must say that I consider it most injudicious and unjudicial—I suppose I cannot say more— of a Judge to express when sentencing one prisoner a strong opinion as to the truthfulness of the evidence given against that prisoner when exactly the same evidence is to be adduced against other prisoners to be immediately arraigned. Such conduct, however innocent the prisoners might be—and it turned out that five of the remaining seven were absolutely innocent—rendered a fair trial impossible. Myles Joyce, one of the innocent men, was the next person on the list, and, with the words of the Judge in the previous case ringing in their ears, the jury convicted him after six minutes' deliberation. Of course, the remaining prisoners had to consider what they should do. Six now remained to be tried, and of these five were innocent; Michael Casey, now suffering penal servitude in Mountjoy Gaol, was alone guilty. This man offered to plead guilty; but the five innocent prisoners declined to plead guilty, and spoke out against it. The plea of guilty by Michael Casey was brought before George Bolton, but Bolton declined to receive that plea unless it was accompanied by the plea of guilty by the five innocent men. I am making a statement of facts, all of which we can prove. I can prove the statement I have just made out of the mouths of the solicitor and legal advisers of the six men. A statement of Michael Casey with regard to the main circumstances of this matter, exonerating the five innocent men who had still to undergo their trial, admitting his own guilt and the guilt of two of the three who had already been sentenced, and alleging the innocence of Myles Joyce, whose execution was to take place in few days, was put before George Bolton, and lie refused to accept Michael Casey's plea of guilty; and he insisted with this knowledge—which was known to nobody but himself and the legal advisers of the prisoners—he insisted upon forcing these five innocent men to stand their trial unless they pleaded guilty and accepted the ignominy 1071 of a conviction for murder and the penalty of penal servitude for life. Speaking as coolly as I can in reference to this matter, I believe if ever a murderer deserved to be put upon his trial and sentenced to death that man is George Bolton. What were these poor men to do? They were at a distance from their homes and their friends, and they were strongly urged by their priest to plead guilty. The priest in question has been very much criticized for his action, but he explains his reasons for advising these innocent men to plead guilty very fairly. The House must bear in mind that the Judge who tried the preceding three prisoners, who had been already convicted, had expressed publicly an absolute belief in the correctness of the verdict, and in the truth of the evidence, and that the remaining five men were to he tried on absolutely the same evidence. What hope had they of anything but death in these circumstances. They had the same Judge, they had, practically speaking, the same jurors, at all events jurors chosen in exactly the same way, and from the same class of men—jurors who had been listening to the evidence in the preceding cases, and who had undoubtedly formed their opinion on it, and who had been listening to the declaration of the Judge. Remember, the prisoners had wives and large families depending upon them at home for their means of subsistence. They were ignorant, and could not speak a word of English, and they had to consider that while there was life there was hope. I do not think any of us ought to condemn either the men themselves, who, being innocent, pleaded guilty, or the priest who advised them to plead guilty, without, so far as we can, putting ourselves absolutely in their place; and I must say he would be a bold man who would stand up and say that, if you or I had been in their place, we would not have done exactly as they did. The priest says—I argued with myself thus—if the men are guilty, their plea of guilty would do them no harm; if they are innocent, the truth will leak out. I was by no means a believer in their guilt; on the contrary, I rather believed they were innocent.That was a candid statement; and although, no doubt, the priest will be found fault with by Members of the 1072 late Government for the course he took, as he was found fault with on the previous occasion, yet I should believe that the disposition to attack this clergyman is rather due to the fact that some chance of disclosing the truth and vindicating justice in reference to this matter has resulted from his action. Well, the prisoners pleaded guilty—one guilty man and four innocent men—and were sentenced to penal servitude for life. The execution of the two guilty men previously convicted, and of the innocent man, Miles Joyce, came on. An extraordinary scene took place at these executions, which first directed public attention to the probabilities of this case. Before describing that scene, I should like to say that the two guilty men lying under sentence of death, and awaiting execution with no hope before them, on the advice of their priest, sent for a magistrate a couple of days before their execution, and made dying declarations, which we have never been able to obtain. We know the nature of these declarations; but no thanks to the late Government. They used all the resources of subtlety which lay at their command in their replies to the Questions which were put by my hon. Friends in regard to this matter. They attempted to drag a red herring across the path, and throw dust in our eyes. Fortunately they have not succeeded, and we now know, as a matter of fact—although the present Government have followed the wretched and evil example of their Predecessors, and have refused to produce the declarations—that the dying declarations of these two guilty men contained an admission of their own guilt, and an avowal of the innocence of Myles Joyce, who was executed. Not only so, but they contained an admission of the guilt of all the men whose guilt we acknowledge, and an avowal of the innocence of all the men whose innocence we assert. That you deny; but you can only deny it at the cost of producing the declarations. We have thu3 considerable corroboration; but we have more—we have Miles Joyce's corroboration of his own innocence while being led to execution, and while on the verge of death. We have the fact that the two guilty men who were executed walked firmly to the scaffold without a murmur, acknowledging tacitly the justice of their sentence; while Miles 1073 Joyce, on the other hand, constantly protested his innocence during the short and last walk which he made upon earth from his prison cell to the scaffold. The scene—which has been described in striking language by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington)—of the execution was a painful and shocking one. Myles Joyce turned to the gaol officials as he passed to the scaffold, and, with the fiery vehemence of the Celt, declared he was innocent, but feared not to die. He called upon God to witness that he knew no more of the murder than the child unborn. The case so far is a strong one; but there is a great deal more strength yet. It would be unprofitable for me to weary the House with a detailed examination of the evidence given at the trial. Such an examination could only be made by a Commission, or some person or persons appointed under the authority of the Government; but there are certain broad and salient facts which I may fairly bring out- In the first place, we have the fact that some months after the execution, during religious observances which were being held by the Archbishop of Tuam, one of the informers, Casey, who corroborated the so-called independent testimony, came forward before the Archbishop and before some thousands of people who were assembled at their devotions in the church, and admitted not only his guilt of the murder itself, but also his guilt of having sworn away the lives of innocent men in order to save his own. His Grace, to say the least of it, is not an advanced politician—he is not the same as Dr. Croke or Dr. M'Nulty. He has a very high opinion of the rights of the British Government in Ireland, and of how much they ought to be allowed to do for the purpose of maintaining law and order; but he could not go as far as Lord Spencer wanted to hurry him. He was, however, very much struck with the circumstances of the confession of the informer Casey, and he wrote to the Lord Lieutenant informing him of the circumstances, asking the Lord Lieutenant to order an inquiry into the matter. Lord Spencer refused the inquiry; and although the Archbishop of Tuam reiterated his request, Lord Spencer finally and definitely refused to re-open the case in any way whatever. If hon. Members care to examine 1074 the pamphlet written by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath in this case, they will find that the character of the story of the so-called independent witnesses was a most extraordinary and impossible one. If it were possible for them to go down and traverse the ground which those two witnesses alleged they traversed, it would be found that the facts as deposed to by them at the trials could not possibly have occurred. That matter is subsidiary; but it is a matter of some importance which will have to be investigated hereafter whenever this inquiry is granted. Then, again, an important fact connected with those trials was that the Crown alleged no motive against the 10 accused persons for the murder. This is a most unusual circumstance in a criminal case of the gravity of murder. But if the Crown were unable to supply a motive, we are able to supply abundant motives to influence the persons whom we accuse, and who have also been accused by the informer Casey, and by the guilty prisoner Michael Casey, who is suffering penal servitude, and who acknowledged his own guilt. Not only are we able to show motives for the commission of murder against the persons whom we charge, but we are also able to show motives against the two independent witnesses which, from our knowledge of Irish life, we think reasonably might have induced them to, and did induce them to, accuse innocent persons, who happened to be private enemies of their own, of the offence in question. We are able to show that the two independent witnesses who originated the accusation against the 10 prisoners lived in a state of constant war and in constant litigation with most of the prisoners whom they accused, and especially those of the accused who turned out to be innocent. For instance, Myles Joyce lived within 200 yards of Anthony Joyce, one of the independent witnesses, while Patrick Joyce and his son Thomas, both at present suffering penal servitude, and who are also innocent, lived still nearer to the house of the independent witnesses. Hon. Members who are familiar with the situation of Ireland in regard to mountain holdings will readily follow what I say when I explain that their little holdings are mixed up amongst each other in a state of inextricable confusion, that 1075 there are hardly any fences between the holdings, and the fences where they do exist are mostly tumble-down, and that there are constant disputes going on in regard to the trespass of stock and so forth. The chief cause of dispute between these different families was the trespassing of stock upon the common or undivided mountain pasture. We know there have been many murders committed in Ireland by reason of family disputes arising from such trespass. There were disputes between the families of the deceased and the families of what were called the independent witnesses. There had been prosecutions from time to time between them, and a short time before the murders at Maamtrasna there had been a pitched battle between Pat Joyce and Anthony Joyce, and Pat Joyce got six months' imprisonment at Galway Assizes. Anthony Joyce also got one month's imprisonment for an attack on Myles Joyce. Between Pat Joyce and Anthony Joyce there were perpetual disputes about trespass and assaults, which were heard at almost every Petty Sessions. On one occasion while returning home at night Pat Joyce was severely beaten by men alleged to have been employed by Anthony Joyce for the purpose. There was also a dispute with regard to a mare in foal belonging to John Joyce. In fact, the state of affairs was such as to render it exceedingly probable that either of the independent witnesses, as they were called, would have been inclined to take away the lives of any of the innocent persons whom they caused to be sent to prison and the scaffold. In addition there were the promised rewards. The Irish Executive had been in the habit of offering large rewards for the conviction of murderers in agrarian crimes. Until the time of the cases of the Joyces that precedent had never been broken. They had, therefore, every inducement to look forward to receiving a large sum as blood-money to be paid to them in this case. I now come to the most important part of this matter. The case for the Crown depended entirely upon the alleged fact that the 10 men who had been followed by the two independent witnesses on the night of the murder across a country several miles in extent, a very difficult country to traverse, wore no disguise, and were attired in their ordinary 1076 apparel, without blackening their faces or otherwise attempting to conceal their identity. I can show that there was overwhelming evidence then—which, however, the Crown suppressed — as there is evidence now, to the effect that the seven men who committed the murder had their faces blackened and wore the disguise which was very much in vogue amongst peasants in Ireland about to engage in some unlawful en-terprize—white jackets. In other words, they were disguised as "White Boys." I will quote one of the passages from the evidence of the two independent witnesses who alleged that these men were not disguised. One of them, Anthony Joyce, said—He had gone to bed and was awakened by his dogs barking. He went to the door and saw these men. He did not know them at first. He then went round to the back of his house, and then observed these men going to the house of Michael Casey. They went into Casey's house, the number of men at this time being ten, and ho named the other four men and identified them fully. They wore no disguise.Now, to identify them on the night when the moon was only in her fourth day in such a place would have been utterly impossible. Then, further on, he says in reference to this question of the absence of disguise, when asked as to the dress of one them—"They all wove dark clothes." Now, we can prove that they were all disgused in white jackets, and the Government will not attempt to deny it. Now, Sir, I have spoken of the absence of motive on the part of the prisoners. I have shown that the "independent witnesses," so called, had very strong motive—a motive which at all times has been found sufficient in Irish history to embitter ignorant peasants against each other; and now I come to the motive of the persons whom we accuse of having actually committed the murder. The case for the Crown was that 10 men committed the murder, and our case is that seven men committed the murder. That of the 10 men accused of committing this murder and convicted by the Crown four of them were numbered amongst this set of originally accused persons; four were guilty, and that the remaining six were innocent; that one of the seven men, John Casey, called "big John Casey," who was the leader and originator of the murder in question, had a motive 1077 which I shall show by-and-bye, and is at present at large in the district of Maamtrasna—not only at large, but absolutely under the protection of the police; that John Casey, junior, another of the seven men, is also at large; and that another murderer named Pat Ley-den is in England, and that the Government can lay their hands on him at once. And now for the motive which influenced the seven murderers. This is an account of an interview which took place between Casey, the repentant informer, who confessed his double guilt to the Archbishop of Tuam and the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington), who took a great deal of interest in this particular case—And when you all met to arrange this murder the motive was that of stealing of sheep? —One of the motives was that Joyce, the murdered man, was in the habit of stealing sheep. He was a notorious sheep-stealer, and used to steal the sheep of his neighbour.And was there any other motive except sheep-stealing?—Big John Casey and Joyce, the murdered man, had a quarrel about sheep, and were at law with one another. He had also threatened about ten times to shoot him. Pat Joyce was in the society of which Casey was the treasurer. I do not know much about it, as I was only three months home from England. This society has no connection with any society in Ireland.It is notorious that the remnants of the old Ribbon societies in Ireland are directed and organized from England, and Pat Joyce has said so. John Casey said that if Pat Joyce attempted his life he would hand over their names to the police as members of the society. Joyce was constantly in the habit of stealing sheep; and not only so, but he belonged to the local Ribbon society, of which Casey was treasurer, and whose funds Joyce had appropriated for his own purposes. His appropriating money of that association, and threatening the life of big John Casey, who was also a member of that society, was, of course, amply sufficient motive in this ignorant part of Ireland. Well, Sir, I now come to the question of blackened faces. I have read to you extracts from the evidence of the two independent witnesses to show that practically the case for the Crown, so far as it was obtained, rested on the evidence of the independent witnesses, which could not be supported had it been known that the murderers had their faces blackened, and were disguised in white jackets. Now, I will first take the 1078 statement of the informer Casey, made to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath on this point of the blackened faces. The man was asked why, as he was the greatest stranger, he did not go himself. He answered—"Surely we wore all strangers, sir." They were all "strangers," for they had blackened faces. The local meaning of the term "stranger" is that the person is disguised. He continued—I had no disguise hut a soft hat tied down over my face. It was young John Casey blackened their faces in his father's house. Some of them had 'bawneens,' which mean white jackets, on them. Pat Joyce had his hat tied down over both his cheeks to cover his beard. Five men went into the house. Big John Casey held the light while the other four men were killing them. I asked that nothing should be done to the women or children, and big John Casey said it would not be safe to spare them if they were only the size of a 'topcoat button.'This was the sort of a man who was under the protection of the Constabulary. This man is well off, and lends money to the neighbours. Well, Sir, we have proof of another kind that the faces of the seven men were blackened and that they were disguised in white. We have proved it from the statement of the informer Casey, which I have just read to you. You may say—"I refuse to believe that informer now." If you refuse to believe the informer Casey, we have abundant indirect or secondary evidence which could not technically have been brought forward in the Court at the trial. In addition to that secondary evidence we also have further direct evidence in the dying declarations of the two boys, which declarations were suppressed by the Crown at the trial, and also in the depositions which were made at the inquest, and which were not brought under the notice of the prisoners' defenders, or to the knowledge of the Judge at the trial. This conversation took place between one of the constables of the district and the hon. Member for Westmeath some time after the murder was committed—You are aware, I presume, constable, who it was that Casey says planned and paid for the murder? —Indeed I am, sir, it is no secret. I know it for a long time.Do you think that this man was in it?—I know well he was in it, sir, and so does Sergeant Johnston.This was the same Sergeant Johnston 1079 who gave evidence against the 10 men who were convicted, most of them unjustly, and Sergeant Johnston, at the time he was getting up this false evidence, knew of the matters of fact which I am now going to relate. Big John Casey was the first man arrested, because he know that big John Casey had a motive for killing them. The hon. Member for Westmeath further asked—Is it not strange that these men went to commit the murder without having any disguise?—Indeed, they were disguised. They all had blackened faces, for the little boy that was alive after the murder told Sergeant Johnston and the police when they went to the house in the morning. He said that the people that killed his father and mother, and heat himself had blackened faces.This is secondary evidence—that is, it could not have been produced at the trial. It should, however, have had influence with George Bolton, who must have known the facts, and have caused the Crown to stay their hands from committing a judicial murder. Father M'Hugh was called in to these boys, and one of them made his statement to him that the men's faces were blackened, and that they wore bawneens, or white jackets. John Collins, the first of the villagers who found the murdered family at 6 o'clock in the morning, and who was examined at the trial, said that Michael Joyce told him that he did not know the men who came into the house, as they had their faces dirty. In addition to this evidence, which was only indirect, and which was not available for the prisoners' advisers, we have direct evidence of a most important character in a copy of the Crown brief held by the Crown Prosecutor, which came into the hands of his hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath. In that brief appeared the name of George Bolton, and it appeared that that brief was prepared by him as Crown Solicitor. "Within it was absolutely irrefutable internal evidence that George Bolton knew of the blackened faces and disguise. No less than four depositions in the brief, prepared by Mr. George Bolton, state that the actual assassins had blackened faces, and no copies of these depositions were furnished to counsel for the prisoners, who remained in absolute ignorance of this most important item of information. Here was a copy of one of the depositions made within the house by 1080 the deceased John Joyce, and by Collins, at the inquest. The following was a passage in the evidence of Collins:—I then returned to the house of the deceased, John Joyce, and we then found John Joyce, Margaret Joyce, senior, Margaret Joyce, junior, and Bridget Joyce all quite dead. We then saw Pat Joyce and Michael Joyce. They were in bed. We spoke to them; we asked them what had happened them. Michael Joyce then told us he saw three men in the house. We then asked Michael Joyce if he knew the men. He said he did not know them, as they had their faces dirty. I did not speak to Pat Joyce.Constable Johnston was also examined, and he made depositions at the preliminary investigation. His depositions were also withheld by the Crown. He says in his evidence at the magisterial investigation—I went into the house. I asked Michael Joyce, through Sub-constable Lenihan, who spoke Irish, what happened last night. Michael Joyce said, in reply, that two or three men came into the room and shot him in bed. I asked him how many men did he see, and if he knew them. He said no, that their faces were black, and that there were three or four men. I then asked Pat Joyce did he know them, and he said no, that their faces were black. I asked him if they had a light, and he said yes, a piece of bog deal.Well, now, it might be fairly said that the evidence of Constable Johnston and the evidence of John Collins, being only evidence of what they heard, could not have been used by the prisoners' counsel at the trial, and that therefore it would have been useless to supply copies of these depositions to the defendants; but it would have given very important information to the prisoners' defenders, and which Mr. George Bolton, counsel for the Crown, must have known was important and actually vital—namely, the fact that the murderers had their faces blackened and were disguised. We have also evidence which was in the hands of the Crown at the time of the trial. They had the two dying declarations of the little boys. One of them was more than a little boy, for he was 17 years of age. They were made before Mr. Brady, P.M. Michael Joyce said-—There were two or three men came in. They had black on their faces.This was sworn before Mr. Brady. The younger of the two boys, Patrick Joyce, survived his injuries, and the Crown paraded him in the witness chair at the 1081 trial. Through the interpreter he said that he did not know his catechism, and that he was not aware what would happen to him if he told a lie. Under these circumstances the Crown did not examine him. This boy, however, had been in the hands of the Crown officials for three months, and it would have been very easy in that time to have instructed him with regard to the existence of a Deity and the nature of an oath. When it was discovered that the declarations as to the disguise of the men would not fit in with the case of the Crown, they wore suppressed and carefully kept from the knowledge of the prisoners' defenders, and the judicial murders were thereby committed by this suppression. In the brief which came into the possession of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmeath there is this sentence, printed in italics, under Patrick- Joyce's declaration—"Patrick Joyce has recovered, but his evidence is worthless." So said George Bolton. The evidence was worthless, no doubt, for the purpose of convicting innocent men; but it would not have been worthless for the purpose of convicting the murderers. The dying declarations entirely acquitted the persons who, I submit, were innocent. I assert that it is open to the Government to obtain from Michael Casey, now in Mountjoy Prison, a statement to the same effect; but Mr. George Bolton has refused to accept it. Well. Sir, I have shown the absence of motive as regards the persons charged by the Crown with a terrible crime of which they were convicted; I have shown the motives of the murderers; I have shown that the jury was packed; I have shown that Casey, the chief informer, and also Philbin have confessed their guilt. I have shown that, although the case for the prosecution could not be maintained for a single moment, so far as regarded the testimony of two independent witnesses, there was abundant evidence, both secondary and direct, in the possession of the Crown, which they deliberately kept back, to show that the murderers had their faces blackened and were disguised. I will say, therefore, that if this be not a case for inquiry, and more than a case for inquiry—absolute liberation, then never in the history of the criminal judicature of this or any country has there been an innocent man convicted; never was there 1082 a case which called more loudly for immediate and searching investigation by the Government of the day. The late Government had their own reasons for denying justice. I do not wish to throw water on a drowned rat. I do not wish to speak too harshly or too unkindly of the present occupants of the Front Opposition Bench; but if it be to take upon themselves guilt for the crime of others, if it be possible, by denial of justice and by screening the offenders to share in the responsibility in reference to crimes and offences committed by others, then I say that some of the guilt for the judicial murder of Myles Joyce and for the imprisonment of four other innocent men rests with the present occupants of the Front Opposition Bench. We brought this case forward and appealed for inquiry while they were in Office; but I suppose that they considered that as they had done so much to outrage public feeling and public opinion in Ireland, they might do a little more. I am thankful for the turn of events, and what I believe to be retributive justice, and I am now able to appeal to another tribunal against the offences of the late Government against justice in Ireland. It may be possible for the Irish people to forgive the conduct of Lord Spencer; but I feel sure that they never will forget it. We have, however, now to appeal to a different body of men who are not soiled with the injustice attaching to their Predecessors for the conviction unjustly of Myles Joyce. Certainly they have had nothing of the ignominy with which the late Government must always be regarded in Ireland. I have considerable confidence in appealing to them and appealing to a House of Commons constituted under their direction. I have some feeling that I am appealing to a better, as undoubtedly it is, in many respects, a different tribunal, and one having more claims to equity and justice than their Predecessors. We have had considerable experience of the present Government in the last Parliament. The present Home Secretary was then Home Secretary, and we always found that he listened with attention and examined carefully into the representations which we had to make in regard to matters of this description. In 1877, when the right hon. Gentleman held the high Office which he now worthily holds, he 1083 signed orders for the release of Michael Davitt, of O'Brien, of Sergeant M'Carthy, and of several others, whose release had been refused by the Liberal Government. We had nothing to complain of on the part of the Government to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs with regard to the personal treatment of prisoners and their release. I cannot but look upon that treatment as a hopeful augury for the future. I have also something further to go upon. In the debate of last year, the hon. and learned Gentleman who is now Solicitor General (Mr. Gorst) said that he could not understand why the Government should refuse inquiry altogether, and he desired most earnestly to impress on the Government that the administration of justice in Ireland should be above suspicion. Ho further suggested that some independent person, such as Lord Bramwell, should conduct an inquiry. And the noble Lord the present Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) said that, after an impartial examination of the evidence, the conclusion he had come to was that the officials charged with the vindication of the law had hardly shrunk from any process to obtain convictions in respect of the guilt or innocence of the prisoners. The noble Lord also said-—This was a case for an Imperial investigation of the administration of the late Government, and that he had come to the conclusion that in this case an inquiry was necessary. Such a step would give the Irish people increased confidence in the administration of the law. Any considerations like those which weighed with the Government were fatal to the interests of good government in that country.These are great and noble words, and I look to this circumstance as giving me good hope and encouragement that Irish Members will be met by the present Government in a fair spirit, and that the result of the debate and of the inquiry which I hope will follow will be that in the cases of many suffering unfair imprisonment in Ireland, the prison doors will be opened, and in the case of those who have suffered the extreme penalties of the scaffold, their memories may be vindicated. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. W. J. CORBET
said, that in seconding the Motion of the hon. Gen- 1084 tlemen the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), he wished to enter his protest against the abominable system by which so-called "law and order" had been maintained in Ireland, and to make an observation or two with respect to the way in which the Coercion Act had been enforced in the county with which he was connected. There was, perhaps, no county in Ireland which had more reason to complain on that head than the county of Wicklow. That county had been proclaimed at a time when profound peace and tranquillity prevailed within it. He brought the proclamation of the county under the notice of the late Chief Secretary, and the very extraordinary reason which that right hon. Gentleman gave for what had been done was, not because crime and outrage prevailed in the county, but because of its geographical position. That reason, he thought, would hardly commend itself to the minds of hon. Members. To show how the Government had acted in carrying out the Crimes Act, he would refer to the Return of crime and outrage in Wicklow. For 1880, 1881, and the five months ending the 31st of May of the year following, murders were nil; homicide, nil; assaults on the police, nil; incendiary fires, four; injury to property, seven; intimidation by threatening letters, 74. However, it was quite enough for any person to have the name of a Nationalist, who was accused, to draw down upon his head the vengeance of the Government, and to put in motion against him all those tricks and stratagems of the police and unscrupulous Crown Prosecutors, bent upon obtaining convictions at all hazards—such officials as French and Bolton, those arch-miscreants, whose names had been rendered infamous in connection with Castle rule in Ireland. On the other hand, anyone who had anti-National sympathies was screened from the consequences of his crimes. Why was it that the late Government did not grant an inquiry into the Maamtrasna case? Because the inquiry would result in their own discomfiture and disgrace. He hoped the present Government would take a lesson from the fate of the late Government, who were turned out of Office by the vote of the Irish Party, and not attempt, by official tergiversation, to prove that black was white,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to institute strict inquiry into the evidence and convictions in the Maamtraena, Barhavilla, Crossmaglen, and Castle-island cases, the case of the brothers Delahunty, and, generally, all cases in which witnesses examined in the trials now declare that they committed perjury, or in which proof of the innocence of the accused is tendered by credible persons, and that such inquiries, with a view to the full discovery of truth and the relief of innocent persons, should be held in the manner most favourable to the reception of all available evidence,"—(Mr. Parnell,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH)
I think it will be for the convenience of the House if I at once state the views and intentions of the Government with reference to the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and I shall make the loss apology for doing so now because trie remarks I have to make will be very brief. The speech of the hon. Member appears to me to be divided into two parts. Most of it was devoted to an endeavour to establish the merits of the case which he presented to the House, and to criticism of the action of the late Government and their officers. A very much smaller part was devoted to the precise nature of the inquiry which the hon. Member asked the House to institute. I have nothing to say to the House upon the merits of the case which has been presented by the hon. Member, because, as I shall presently show, it would in my judgment be quite premature for me to enter upon that subject; neither is it for me in any way to defend, if it be in need of defence, the action of the late Government or their officials. Not only are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite perfectly competent to defend themselves; but I must say very frankly that there is much in the Irish policy of the late Government which, though in the absence of complete information I do not condemn, I should be very sorry to make myself responsible for. There is one observation that I should like to make with reference to speeches which I have heard more than 1086 once in the debates upon Irish matters. During the last three years statements have been made in that quarter of the House in which the hon. Member for the City of Cork sits as to the personal character rather than the political action of Lord Spencer, which I have very deeply regretted to hoar, and which, in my judgment, have disfigured our debates. Lord Spencer is not solely responsible for the Irish policy of the late Government, and I believe him absolutely to be incapable of such conduct as has been imputed to him, not, I am glad to say, by the hon. Member for the City of Cork to-day, but by hon. Members who have spoken on similar subjects on previous occasions. I believe Lord Spencer to be an honourable gentleman. He undertook at a very grave crisis with great courage and self-sacrifice a difficult and dangerous task. In my opinion, Lord Spencer and his Colleagues have made many mistakes; but I am convinced that in all he did he acted according to what he believed to be his bounden duty, and for all his actions the whole of his Colleagues are equally responsible, even that right hon. Gentleman who is absent to-day, but who did not wait to be out of Office before he denounced what he called the absurd and irritating anachronism of Castle government in Dublin and the whole system in which he had quietly and comfortably acquiesced, while Lord Spencer was incurring the odium and running the danger. That is all I wish to say with reference to the action of the late Government. I am not about to express an opinion as to whether their action in this particular matter which the hon. Member for the City of Cork has brought before the House was right or wrong. My reason for expressing no such opinion is that it is impossible for the present Government in such a matter to shelter themselves behind the action of their Predecessors. I hold that it would be Constitutionally wrong for us to take any such course, and I make that observation as a general proposition, and not merely with reference to the particular cases which have been brought before the House. It is a simple fact that every prisoner in Ireland, whoever he be, has the right of appealing to the Lord Lieutenant of the day for reconsideration or remission of his sentence, and no 1087 Lord Lieutenant could do his duty who closed the door to any such appeal, or endeavoured to relieve himself of the responsibility of making the most careful and searching inquiry into it in deference to the decision or opinion of his Predecessors. The present Lord Lieutenant is the last man, I will venture to say, who would endeavour in such a way to shield himself from his Constitutional responsibility, and he has authorized me to state that if Memorials should be presented or statements made to him on behalf of those persons who are referred to in this Motion, they will be considered by him with the same personal attention which he would feel bound to give to all cases, whether great or small, ordinary or exceptional, coming before him, with an earnest desire to ascertain and carry into effect the requirements of justice. That is the statement I have to make on this subject. I think I may say that there is no man in political life who would be more certain to discharge such a duty conscientiously and with greater freedom from prejudice than my noble Friend who is now Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In its discharge he would be able to obtain, and he would naturally seek, the advice and assistance of legal authorities and others, and for the adequate discharge of such a duty he and his Colleagues would be responsible to Parliament. The hon. Member for the City of Cork asks that we should institute an inquiry of a nature which I do not quite understand, but which appears to be an inquiry which would not be undertaken by the Lord Lieutenant, who is Constitutionally responsible for such matters, but by some person or other to whom his authority should be relegated. It appears to me that such a proposal is in absolute derogation of the Constitutional powers and duties of the Lord Lieutenant, and it is one to which I am unable to accede. I would ask the support of the House in resisting it, not by any means as inviting hon. Members to express approval of anything that we have done, but in order to retain to the Executive Government its responsibilty in this case, which is stated, and I think rightly, to be of grave importance, in the full assurance that after the matter has been considered, and after those responsibilities have been discharged to the best of our power, we shall be pre- 1088 pared to account for our actions in the House of Commons.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that he entirely concurred with the right hon. Gentleman in the practical conclusion to which he had come that this Motion could not be accepted by the House. The subject which had been brought before them was no new one; it had at a former time been discussed for four days, and it could hardly be alleged that one single now fact or suggestion had been brought forward since the matter was argued and determined by the House of Commons in the month of November or December last. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, now said that he had not been able to make up his mind upon this case. How was it that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen with whom he acted last November did not find the same difficulty? He said he wanted time before he would undertake to defend the Judiciary of Ireland. But it was his (Sir William Harcourt's) duty, at all events, not to allow the Judges and juries of Ireland to be thrown overboard by the responsible Government of the Queen. They were not speaking, nor did the Motion speak, of the conduct of the Executive in Ireland. Those who were attacked and who were abandoned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were the juries and Judges of Ireland. For them there was not a word of defence. A Member of the existing Government, who in November last sat upon the Opposition Bench and who was now in "another place"-—-he meant the Lord Chancellor of Ireland—was the Adviser of the Lord Lieutenant. He had no difficulty in making up his mind last November on the case. But he expressed his opinion in the House. Had the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who had to advise on this case, no opinion on it now? To say that Her Majesty's Government had no knowledge of the case, and had not had time to inquire into it, was a proposition which was absolutely absurd. He did not think it right that the juries of Ireland who had done their duty should be thrown overboard by the responsible Government. "What was the charge, upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not a word to say, made by the hon. Member for the City of Cork against the juries? He said that those men were found guilty by packed juries. 1089 At the time when those juries had done their duty in Ireland an opinion on the subject was expressed by a Prelate who the hon. Member for the City of Cork said was not a person of advanced opinions. But he should imagine that the editor of United Ireland might be described as a person of advanced opinion; and what did he say about these packed juries? He said, on the trial of the first prisoner charged—We may venture for once to point out that there were at least five Roman Catholics on the jury, and we believe these Catholic jurors did their duty no less fearlessly, and their verdict will he approved and scrupulously respected.That was what the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien) said when the jury had just found their vordict; and now hon. Gentlemen from Ireland turned round and said that it was a packed jury. And yet the responsible Minister of the Crown had not a word to say in defence of this packed jury, who had done their duty to society in Ireland. The three trials wont on, and when the rest of the prisoners pleaded guilty the same paper said—The Maamtrasna trials are over, and such of the miserable creatures as did not turn approvers have been sentenced to be hanged. We believe the public are satisfied that a disgraceful butchery has been avenged upon convincing evidence by juries comparatively fairly chosen.And yet hon. Gentlemen from Ireland turned round and said these were packed juries. That was the manner in which this case was now presented to the House. Last November, so impossible was it to pretend that these juries were packed that the points wore abandoned entirely in the course of the arguments; and yet now, some seven months afterwards, this charge was reproduced. He would now come to the Judges who had been attacked that day, and who had not been defended by the Government of the Queen. What did the hon. Member for the City of Cork say about these Judges? He denounced the Judge who presided at the second trial. [Mr. PAR-NELL: I denounced his speech to the jury.] That was what he was going to refer to, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork said it was not only an injudicious, but an unjudicial speech. Now, everybody knew that a Judge who presided at a trial on an important criminal matter, when he himself was 1090 perfectly satisfied with the evidence, gave the jury his support, and ought to do so. The observations of the Judge were most proper observations, and were such as were made on almost all occasions in important criminal trials. Then, again, the men in the second trial and in the first were guilty. Then, why should not the Judge say the jury had done their duty upon conclusive evidence in convicting guilty men? And yet it was charged against the Judge that ho had unfairly and improperly prejudiced the jury against the prisoners. Such a proposition was monstrous. He declared, therefore, that this attack upon the Judges of Ireland, as well as upon the juries of Ireland, was one totally unfounded, and which ought not to have been made. He would not go over in detail the whole of the case of the Maamtrasna murders. They entered upon that in very great detail last November. The speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was exactly the same as that of last November, and his arguments they had also heard before. But as the hon. Member had laid the whole stress of his argument on the Maamtrasna case, and had referred very lightly to the others, ho would just very briefly note the points to which he had referred. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the Colleagues of Lord Spencer were responsible for his actions. Yes, they were responsible for them, and were proud of it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had hoped that some decency had been restored to the proceedings of that House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
What were the facts of the Maamtrasna case? A horrible murder, which everybody knew too well, took place, and three men came forward and said that they saw 10 men go to the house. The evidence and the character of those three persons had never been impugned, and he did not know that there was any reason why they should. There was 1091 nothing in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork which he thought more terrible than the part in which he described the motives for the crime to be the stealing of sheep belonging to a Ribbon Society. These three men, whose evidence had not been and, in his opinion, could not he impugned, came forward and said that they saw the 10 men, and that they knew them. As to Myles Joyce, they could not be mistaken, as he lived close to them, and was a relative of their own. Two of the men identified all the 10 prisoners, and the third, Patrick Joyce, identified all except Philbin, who afterwards admitted his guilt. That in itself was certainly very strong evidence. Three men who had the means of knowing swore to the fact of the prisoners going to the house. He pointed out last November that this was not a case where you had approvers only, and wanted corroboration; but they had three independent witnesses, and the approvers were only corroborators of them. Neither was it a case in which one jury might have gone wrong; but there were three separate trials by three separate juries. Three independent witnesses were corroborated by two approvers; three men were convicted, and five pleaded guilty. In all, nine out of the 10 men admitted their guilt; and if they were guilty, the allegation of Myles Joyce's innocence fell to the ground. The hon. Member for the City of Cork admitted that four of the men were guilty; but he said that the other men were innocent. This assertion was based on the statements of the informer Casey; but why should reliance be placed on the statements of a man who asserted that he perjured himself? It was also a remarkable fact that if the six men were innocent not one of them could prove an alibi, or attempted to prove an alibi.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he thought that was an idle remark, because wives were not the only witnesses who knew where persons were. The men had children and friends who might have proved that some of the prisoners were elsewhere at the time that the murders were committed. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had made a great point of the dying declaration. of one of the boys not having been pro- 1092 duced; but the solicitor to the prisoners knew of the depositions, and obtained copies of the depositions in which the dying boy's statement as to the blackened faces was set out.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, it was idle to go into all these charges again, which had all been already disposed of. The hon. Member for the City of Cork accepted the present statement of Casey as true, that six of the prisoners whom he swore were of the murderous party were not of the party. But what foundation was there for such an hypothesis? Why should Casey's present story be believed in opposition to the statement of the three Joyces, especially when he had stuck to his first story for 18 months? The trial at which it was alleged the informer was coerced by Mr. Bolton was not the only occasion when the informers made their statement. Casey and Philbin returned to the Maamtrasna district, and received police protection there, and in the course of an investigation, when they were examined on May 20, adhered on oath to their statements; and on a later occasion, July 28, Casey stated that Myles Joyce was of the party. Then, 18 months later, he turned round and said the whole story was untrue—that it was another set of men. What ground had they for believing him against the evidence of other witnesses, and the opinion of Judge and jury? Were they to upset the verdict of three juries on the mere statement of a man who was admittedly a murderer, and who, according to his present statement, was also a perjurer? No doubt, the whole case was one that ought to be inquired into; but Lord Spencer did inquire into it fully, and with just such legal assistance as Lord Carnarvon would now have to rely on. It was idle to say that Lord Spencer refused an inquiry. He made all the inquiry it was possible for him to make. If the extraordinary accumulation of evidence, such as he had never known in any criminal case, with several approvers themselves admitting their guilt, were to be set aside by allegations, the most improbable he had ever heard set up by a man who for months had sworn to a totally different story, and now set up an entirely different theory 1093 on the subject, he ventured to say that no conviction could ever stand in England or Ireland. If they chose to treat the Judges and the juries, and if they chose to treat the evidence in the way which was proposed now in the face of a case which he thought as overwhelming as any which had been laid before him, then, indeed, the experiment which the Government professed they were going to make to try and enforce the ordinary law was doomed beforehand to certain failure, because when the experiment of trying to govern Ireland by the ordinary law was begun by a covert attack, or rather an open attack covertly supported, on the juries and the Judges of Ireland, they might depend upon it that the experiment of governing Ireland by the ordinary law was an experiment which had failed. He wished to know how they were going to administer the ordinary law except through those juries which were first denounced as being packed, and which were subsequently admitted to be fair, and by means of those Judges who had been denounced for carrying out their duty in executing the law? The attack had been principally against the Judges and the juries who came to this conclusion and found this verdict. If they were packed juries and unjust Judges, what right had they to exercise or administer the law by such machinery? It was not the business of a Government to re-try a case. It was the business of the Government, in dealing with these painful criminal cases, to see whether there were circumstances which had subsequently arisen to throw so much doubt upon the sentence passed by the Judge and the verdict given by the jury as would justify the intervention of the mercy of the Crown. He hoped it would never be established in this country what the hon. Member for the City of Cork openly avowed was his expectation—he did not see the Chancellor of the Exchequer much discountenance the notion—that a change of Government was to open the prison doors. He could say honestly that if this had not been an Irish case but an English case coming before him for consideration he should have come unhesitatingly to the same conclusion as he had done—that it was not a case in which there were any circumstances of sufficient gravity or sufficient force to 1094 overcome the evidence of the witnesses whether independent, whether they were informers, or whether the confession of the parties themselves, to justify an interference with the verdict or the sentence. The hon. Member for the City of Cork had condemned the manner in which the prosecution had been conducted. No man would more strongly condemn than he would the withholding of anything, direct or indirect, from the prisoners in circumstances which could tell in their favour. If he thought that any of the documents had been kept away from the prisoners or from the defence which they ought to have had he should have condemned it; but he was bound to say that he believed the solicitor for the defence had all the knowledge available. ["No, no!"] He had the documents from which the hon. Member for the City of Cork read —the depositions of Collins and Johnston. Having had an opportunity of considering the case and the consequences of the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, he could not say that his view of the matter was in the least degree altered. It seemed to him that the verdict of the jury was a right one on the evidence; and that the sentence of the Judge was a right one, no one, he thought, would dispute. The only material fact that he could see in the case was the statement of the informer Casey. He was bound, however, to say that after the consideration he had given to the statement it seemed to him to be entirely unworthy of credence. There was another point in the alleged confessions of the men themselves. According to his experience this was very unreliable evidence. They might be guided to a right conclusion by the dying declaration of a prisoner; but they might also be greatly misled, and it required the most careful consideration to arrive at a right judgment. He had come to the conclusion that any statement of that kind was not sufficient to overcome what he must call the overwhelming evidence which led to the conviction of these unhappy men. It was not true that the Executive Government had refused inquiry. They made all the inquiry that could be made. They did it upon their own responsibility. As long as a man remained under sentence he had a right to appeal to the Executive to reconsider his case. He had 1095 never refused that consideration himself; he had considered cases several times over. So far as that Motion was intended to cast blame on the Judiciary or on the late Executive Government of Ireland he thought it was an unfounded censure, and one that would not be ratified by the vote of the House.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down had commenced his remarks in the same tone as he has concluded them there would have been very little for me to comment upon. But I own that I think that the tone in which he began his observations on this most difficult and anxious question is one which the House cannot too strongly deprecate. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), whether he was right or wrong in the case which he has laid before the House, at any rate has introduced the subject with perfect calmness of demeanour and argument; and he was followed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech of equal calmness, and which was animated by all the dignity acquired by a sense of heavy responsibility. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite bounded to his feet and commenced his speech in tones of the greatest excitement, flinging the wildest and most unjustifiable charges at my right hon. Friend—charges which were not supported by a single sentence that fell from him, and which displayed his perfect incapacity to arrive at a judgment on this case. We are informed that if the late Government had remained in Office the right hon. Gentleman, it was generally supposed, would have been exalted to the high dignity of the Woolsack. All I can say is that if the judicial qualities which he has exhibited to-night would have marked his administration of the highest Office of the law, then the fall of the late Government is not quite so great a calamity as perhaps he supposes. The right hon. Gentleman set himself up as the defender of the Irish Judges, and he attacked the hon. Member for the City of Cork; he also attacked my right hon. Friend, and charged my right hon. Friend with almost being an accomplice with the hon. Member for the City of Cork in an attack upon the Irish Judges. The charge is a ridiculous and absurd 1096 one on the face of it. But with what grace does it come from the right hon. Gentleman? I recollect that when the right hon. Gentleman filled the Office of Home Secretary he made what was felt to be the strongest and by some to be the wildest attack upon the old English Judiciary. It was when the conduct of certain trials were called in question. And what did the right hon. Gentleman say of the English Judges, of whom he should have been the principal defender? Ho said that hon. Members seemed to think that cases of improper conviction were so rare that he should be easily able to recall the circumstances; that, on the contrary, they occurred every week, and that he had them constantly before him.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Will the noble Lord allow me for one moment? I did not say so, but it was said at the time I made the observation, and I explained and said that I had said nothing of the kind, but that appeals were occurring every week. But I did not specifically state that wrongous convictions took place every day.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
I am quoting from the report of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. Whether the report is strictly accurate or not I cannot say, after what has fallen from him. But being in the House at the time, and knowing also the effect of his statement on the minds of those among my Colleagues who heard them, I do insist that the right hon. Gentleman at that time said that there were constant miscarriages of justice at English trials. Then I say that it does not lie with the right hon. Gentleman, having himself cast such a slur on the English Judicial Bench in a Ministerial position, to bring charges against my right hon. Friend for not having defended the Irish Judges. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted in reference to this case the opinion of my noble and learned Friend Lord Ashbourne, who, he said, if he had been in this House still, would have taken a different line, and would have had no difficulty whatever in making up his mind on this particular case. Well, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in that statement, as in most of his statements, he is perfectly wrong. I remember well what took place in the former debate on this 1097 case; and in talking over the matter with, my noble and learned Friend I recollect that he thought it was a case of very great difficulty, and although he decided to vote for the then Government in the line which they took up, he made a most calm, moderate, and impartial speech. And if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that Lord Ashbourne, in arriving at that conclusion, arrived at it with great consideration and great difficulty, he is making a grievous mistake. And as to the action of any Member of the then Opposition at that time in the matter, it should be remembered that we had not then full official information before us. We have not got it even now. The time has not yet arrived when the full official information on this case has been before all the Members of the Government. But, certainly, when the previous debate took place, we were not in possession of the sources of information and opinion which guided Earl Spencer's action on this question. There was a whole heap of information that we had not at that time, and the absence of which might lead to a wrong conclusion on the matter. I do not say for a moment that the Members of the late Government then came to a wrong conclusion upon it. Upon that I pronounce no opinion. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Judge and the jury were thrown overboard by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is an entire delusion. My right hon. Friend never alluded for a moment to the Judge or the jury. My right hon. Friend, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland for three years under Lord Beaconsfield's Government, knows that Lord Justice Barry, who presided at this trial, is the last man in the world who would be guided in the conduct of a criminal trial by any other consideration than a desire to use all his great ability to arrive at a just conclusion. But assume for a moment that circumstances were to turn up in regard to any case under the Crimes Act, and where sentence had been passed, in which information came to light that went to throw doubts upon the conviction, would the right hon. Gentleman assert that the Judge and the jury in that particular case would be thrown overboard if the Lord Lieutenant were to advise the exercise of the prerogative 1098 of mercy or the grant of a free pardon by the Crown? Why, then, should the right hon. Gentleman bring that charge against my right hon. Friend? Even if he had pronounced an opinion on this particular case, the charge of throwing overboard the Judge and jury could not be sustained. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the responsibility of the late Government for all the actions of Lord Spencer; and that was quite right. But more than that, the right hon. Gentleman was chivalrous and noble to the last degree. He said —"Wo were proud of the administration of Lord Spencer." I should like the right hon. Gentleman kindly to tell us whom he includes in the particle "we." The right hon. Gentleman made a speech some years ago, by which he electrified the country, and in which he claimed Royal descent. We know it is the prerogative of Royalty to speak in the plural number. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to understand that ho used the "we" in that exalted character, or did he mean to convey to the House that the whole of the late Government, as a body, are very proud of the administration of Lord Spencer? And does he think that the Division List of to-night will show that his expression of the pride of the late Government in Lord Spencer's administration was warranted or correct? That is a matter which the Division List will decide. Theright hon. Gentleman said that our experiment of governing Ireland by the ordinary law is foredoomed to failure if we so much as hint at the idea that our mind on this Maamtrasna case is not as absolutely and conclusively made up as is his own. I will tell you how the present Government will be foredoomed to failure. They will be foredoomed to failure if they go out of their way unnecessarily to assume one jot or tittle of the responsibility for the acts of the late Administration. It is only by divesting ourselves of all responsibility for the action of the late Government and by taking the full responsibility for our own action that we can hope to arrive at a successful issue in the task on which we have entered. The right hon. Gentleman also went on to say that the Judges were attacked and were undefended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would point out that if my right hon. Friend had chosen, 1099 as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think he ought to have done, to declare in the strongest terms that every circumstance connected with this particular trial was perfectly correct and as infallible as possible, what, I ask, would be the value of any inquiry into it that might subsequently be opened? My right hon. Friend has said that it is the duty of the Lord Lieutenant, on a Memorial being presented, to inquire carefully and impartially into the case of every prisoner who so memorializes. "What, then, would be the value of that inquiry? What weight would it have with the Members of this House or in Ireland if my right hon. Friend had taken up the extraordinary attitude which the right hon. Gentleman suggests? We pronounce now no opinion on this case. It is not before the Irish Government. When any Memorial comes before the Lord Lieutenant in the ordinary course with regard to this case or any other case he will, I am certain, make inquiry into the circumstances of that Memorial. Now, I might be asked why I voted in the year 1884 for the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, which asked for fall and public inquiry, and why I do not support the Motion to-night, which asks for a strict inquiry. This is the reason. I voted in 1884 with the hon. Member for the City of Cork because I had no confidence in the administration of Lord Spencer. I shall vote against the hon. Member for the City of Cork to-night, in case he should take a division, because I have full confidence in the administration of Lord Carnarvon. [Cries of "Oh !"] I know that that is a ridiculous proposition for a Member of the Government to make in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. A part of the Party opposite never possesses confidence in the other part, or in their own Government. The right hon. Member for Birmingham has no confidence in the noble Lord who sits with him, and the noble Lord has no confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. This is not the policy of the Tory Government; we do not proceed on these lines. The inquiry instituted by Lord Spencer, which I had no confidence in, must be judged by the whole course of his administration in Ireland. That administration gave me no confidence whatever that the inquiry would in any degree bind the Members of the House of 1100 Commons. But with my knowledge of the character of Lord Carnarvon, of his high sense of justice and honour, of his cultured intellect, and of the determination which he has formed, so far as in him lies, to do justice in the administration of Ireland, I feel convinced that if by any chance there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case—and on that I will pronounce no opinion whatever—I say I feel convinced that that miscarriage will be brought to light, and that justice, so far as may be, will be done. That being so, I would put it to the hon. Member for the City of Cork whether he would be altogether wise or fair in proceeding with his Motion. If he means by his Motion to ask for an inquiry into this case which a prisoner by the Constitution has a right to demand, that he will get if Memorials are presented in the proper manner. If he means, on the other hand, a special inquiry carried on by some other persons unconnected with the Irish Government, then he is asking us to vote a special, distinct, and unmistakable want of confidence in the personal acts of Lord Carnarvon. That, of course, is a proceeding which we cannot for a moment contemplate. The Motion of the hon. Member, if carried, would limit, to a great extent, the action of the Irish Government. I do not imagine that the proceedings which took place under the Crimes Act will be exempt from any investigation, except only the proceedings he mentioned. All convicts in Ireland who may think themselves unjustly convicted have a right to appeal for a consideration of their cases, and they will be considered by a Nobleman who approaches the investigation without bias and with a desire to ascertain the truth. I should like to point out that there never was a more difficult question than this which the late Home Secretary has disposed of so cavalierly. I decline to pronounce a single opinion upon the question; but to show the House and the public how difficult a one the case is I will say this—that it occupied the attention of the House for four consecutive nights. In the debate which took place upon it all Parties took part. Some of the best lawyers in the House, including the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell), who has a legal reputation at least as high as the right hon. Gentleman the late 1101 Home Secretary, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke), and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Mr. Gorst) took part in the debate, and arrived at an opinion on the case rather different from that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. For four nights the House debated the question, and in the middle of the debate a Cabinet Council was held. Not until the last night of the debate was it known which way the Government would go. It is a notorious and well-known fact that the Cabinet Council was held on this question in the middle of this de-bate. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT was understood to say that that statement was not correct.] I am surprised that the late Home Secretary should have contradicted that statement. It is a notorious fact, though it may not be known to the right hon. Gentleman. It is notorious that not until the last night of the debate, when the Prime Minister spoke, was it known which way he would vote. That is one of the cases which, according to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, presents no difficulty at all, and one on which, he says, wo ought not to have the smallest difficulty in making up our minds. I do not regret the tone which the late Home Secretary has adopted in this matter. He has shown what was the spirit and animus which regulated the policy of the late Administration in a manner than which the House can desire no brighter example. He has taken upon himself to prejudge the acts of the Government without the slightest foundation. I congratulate him upon the success which he has scored for the policy of the late Administration; and, differing altogether from him and at the same time declining to pronounce any opinion upon the case before the House, I shall still record a vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork.
§ MR. PARNELL
I desire to ask the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion; and in doing so I may, perhaps, be permitted to explain why I make this request. The suggestion made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a very reasonable one. The fact that the present Government has only just come into Office, and that the proper and usual course is to memorialize the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with regard to the case of these prisoners, ought to be considered. 1102 The late Lord Lieutenant was memorialized before I brought my last Motion on in this House An opportunity for doing so was not afforded in the present case; and I think under the circumstances, and in answer to the appeal of the noble Lord, that it would not be prudent for me to go to a division after the two speeches which the House has heard from the Government. I have every confidence that Lord Carnarvon, the present very able administrator and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, will hold a fair and impartial inquiry into the matter, and that the result will be that justice will be done.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he hoped the Motion would not be allowed to be withdrawn by the Government. The speeches made from the Government Bench were, to his mind, calculated to break the whole continuity of the administration of law and justice in Ireland. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India had in the strongest manner expressed the absolute want of confidence which he entertained in the policy of the late Government, which, at its inception, the whole of the Treasury Bench heartily approved of, and which, had they accepted Office at the time Lord Spencer did, they would have been forced to carry out. He (Mr. Brodrick) had not been one of those who during Lord Spencer's period of Office went about abusing him for truckling to rebellion, nor was he going to be one of those who now jeered at him as the foiled advocate of coercion. He confessed ho felt it impossible to understand the purely negative position which the Government had taken up in this matter of the Maamtrasna massacres. But, interpreted as it would be by their statements on Lord Spencer's policy, it would have a very damaging effect. The expressions of opinion from the Ministerial Bench might, in fact, stand side by side with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham as to the absurd and irritating system of Castle government in Ireland: for if they meant anything, they meant an imputation, not only on Lord Spencer, but on all the officials who advised and assisted him in the carrying out of his policy; and with that imputation upon them how could anyone expect them to gain the confidence of the Irish people? This was not a matter in which landlord 1103 and tenant were concerned, and in which Lord Spencer might have been influenced by class interests; nor was it a political murder; but it was one in which, peasants only were concerned. There could, therefore, be no question of Lord Spencer's impartiality. Under these circumstances, he appealed to the Government to say whether they believed that those convictions could be obtained without change of venue, and the prior inquisition, the use of which was so severely deprecated by the Secretary for India (Lord Randolph Churchill). He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to say "whether they did not regard the conduct of the Government to-night as a practical overthrow of all those safeguards which had existed in Ireland; and he appealed to the House of Commons whether they were not asked to condemn the administration of justice in Ireland? The decision arrived at by Lord Spencer ought either to be reconsidered by a direct inquiry, or to be deemed sufficient. He did not deny that there were very serious matters of doubt. He could not but admit that the special points brought forward to-night by the hon. Member for the City of Cork—he meant the depositions of the two boys not handed to the counsel, and the depositions of the two men with regard to Myles Joyce's innocence—deserved consideration. But all these points were tried by the House of Commons nine months ago. How, then, when no new facts had been brought forward to-night, were they to re-open the question by a public investigation? In this matter, at all events, the late Government were of one mind, or, if they were not, it was the only instance in which the one dissenting Member had not gone down to the country, explained his vote, and abused his Colleagues. He would ask this one question—Were they to consider that this Government absolutely declined to accept any responsibility for the actions of the late Government under an Act which they had so heartily approved? If they took that position, a considerable triumph would be obtained by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would have so manipulated the matter that by pitting one Party in the House against another they had become masters of the whole. While the Irish Members had made the re-introduction of the Crimes Act almost a physical impossibility, it had been 1104 reserved for Her Majesty's Government to make it morally impossible by the stigma they had passed upon their Predecessors. He did not himself believe in perpetual government by coercion; but he believed there were certain safeguards without which Her Majesty's Government could not expect to rule Ireland successfully, unless by the favour of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. He did not mean that any corrupt arrangement had been entered into between the Government and the hon. Member for the City of Cork. He regretted the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) the other night, when he seemed to insinuate something of the kind. He could not forget that in October, 1880, when the whole country was crying out for coercion, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was the only person who on that side stood up to declare that ho rejoiced the Government were going to adopt all the means which the law of the land gave them before asking Parliament for extraordinary powers. He believed the right hon. Gentleman was honestly carrying out the policy which he then foreshadowed. But he could not but remember the results which followed the adoption of that policy. Considering the events which convulsed Ireland during the winter of 1880, the defiance of the law, and the utter disruption of society which followed, he could not but ask the right hon. Gentleman was he wise in trusting his Government to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and allowing the policy which had alone saved Ireland from complete anarchy to be denounced by the Secretary of State for India? Ho hoped the Government would be successful in their policy of conciliation; but it would be by showing that, the continuity of policy having been broken, the continuity of purpose remained the same. If the hon. Member for the City of Cork, after the triumph that had been won, should see that his advantage lay in preserving order, well and good; but if he should decide to exercise his power by again showing the impotence of juries, and again setting on foot the practice of "Boycotting" and intimidation— —if he should, even in the approaching election, make it his duty to "Boycott" candidates who were offensive to the National Party, and those who attended 1105 their meetings, all the powers of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary would not be able to stem the torrent of agitation; and the right hon. Gentleman might wish that he had not so hastily discarded safeguards which had only been adopted after a winter in which the assizes had resulted in acquittal in every case of agrarian crime. The present position of the Government seemed anomalous and inconsistent. They were taking a part of the responsibility where they ought, undoubtedly, to assume the whole. They ought either to give a full inquiry, or to take the responsibility of refusing it. If his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry should move his Amendment, in which he condemned the inquiry as to verdicts returned by properly constituted juries, he would support him, becaused he believed that any other course would only perpetuate evils which had been time after time denounced by the present Ministers, and lead to mischievous results, which had been clearly foreseen.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, he wished to put the House in possession of some facts which had not been mentioned. If he were rightly informed, the inconsistency with which the hon. Member who had just sat down had charged others might be charged against himself, for, on the last occasion, he had voted in favour of an inquiry. One might almost fancy, judging from the speech of the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, that there were no difficulties connected with this extraordinary case. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill), in a speech which did him infinite credit, and which would do a great deal to win for him the sympathy and generous support of a largo section of the people of Ireland, pointed out that even the Members of the late Government themselves were in the greatest doubt as to the course they ought to take when the question was before the House at the commencement of last Session. The late Secretary of State for the Home Department would lead the House to suppose that the case before the jury was perfectly clear, and that nothing had since arisen to cast the slightest doubt upon it. But the fact was that not a single newspaper 1106 or person in or out of the House who had investigated the matter would agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman said that the case rested upon three independent witnesses; but, practically, the three independent witnesses were reduced to one. Much stress had been laid on the fact that, at one time or another, nine out of the 10 men charged with the murder had pleaded guilt}'. Their confessions, however, were worth nothing, because they were the result of the pressure brought to bear upon them by the officials; and it should be borne in mind that the men with regard to whom an inquiry was demanded protested that they were innocent as they were being hurried out of Court. It appeared from the depositions of Thomas Casey that there were constant feuds between the people with respect to sheep-stealing and the trespass of cattle, and that was shown by a statement of Casey to the effect that—"I did not go to the wake or the funeral." He would point out that that statement had been underlined by the counsel, and that the following marginal note in the handwriting of Sergeant O'Brien was made:—"Suspect got him murdered." He (Mr. Harrington) maintained that in these facts they had the clearest and most undoubted truth of the veracity of the statement of Thomas Casey, clearly attested in the handwriting of the counsel. He would next point out that the route taken by the murderers was different from that stated by the independent witnesses, from which it clearly resulted that, if that statement was true, the murderers would not have passed within a mile of the house occupied by the independent witnesses; and, therefore, their statements were absolutely without foundation. If a fair inquiry were granted, he should be perfectly willing to ground the whole issue of the case upon the single point whether the story told by the approver Casey as to the interviews with Mr. George Bolton was not better borne out than the Memorandum of Sir Robert Hamilton. Then, again, there were the depositions of the two boys with reference to the fact that the alleged murderers had their faces blackened, whereas the priest had sworn that the men's faces were white. There were also some new and startling facts which had not been made public. On the 1107 day of the conviction of Myles Joyce, at a conference of counsel and solicitors, it was promised that if the others pleaded guilty their lives would be saved. Four men refused, saying they were innocent. Michael Casey said he was the only guilty man, and Joyce was innocent; but three men at large were implicated. The solicitor made an entry of that at the time. The three men were those who had been named by others, and against whom all the facts seemed to point. The gravest complaint against the Grown was the suppression of evidence; this evidence was in the brief of the counsel of the prosecution, but it was withheld from the counsel for the defence. It was a whole sheaf of evidence that was kept back. Ordinarily, it was the practice to communicate all material facts to the counsel for the defence of a man charged with murder, and it was only in those prosecutions that the practice was abandoned. The former depositions of witnesses were also kept back; but if the defending counsel had been provided with them, they could have shaken the evidence of material witnesses. Another remarkable fact was that the information made by Casey before the trial differed altogether, in most material points, from the information given at the trial. The dying declarations of the two boys Joyce had been suppressed, and not only that, but even the fact that these declarations had been made had been suppressed. The Crown, again, had made no endeavour to clear up the point as to the blackened faces of the men whom the informers alleged that they had seen, and no independent witnesses had been asked any questions on this point. From all this, he submitted that the trial of this case showed a grave conspiracy against justice in Ireland; and it was the imperative duty of the authorities to clear the character of high officials in this country if they could be cleared. In any case, justice would not suffer by the proposed inquiry, but would, on the other hand, be promoted by it.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he should not have thought it necessary to trouble the House with any observations at all if it had not been for the language which proceeded, ho was sorry to say, from the Front Ministerial Bench. It was most unpleasant, indeed, to find him- 1108 self, within a week or two of the formation of a Government with which ho would like to be in accord, compelled to protest against the course they were pursuing. But he felt that he should not truly represent the views of those who sat near him, and certainly the opinion which he himself most strongly held, if he did not attempt, as far as he possibly could, to dissociate himself altogether from the general ten our and language of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and still more so from that of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill). What had they been doing that night? For the second time that Session they were going through the whole of the circumstances of the horrible murder at Maamtrasna, and they had been treated to nothing more nor less than a rechauffe of the discussion of last autumn; and although on the last occasion when the question was before the House, when the Members of the present Government were sitting on the Opposition side of the House, the most notable person who took part in the debate was the noble and learned Lord who now so worthily filled the position of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, that noble Lord, then Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), did not hesitate to express a clear and definite opinion on the Motion then submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington) that there was no cause to interfere with the decision to which Earl Spencer had then recently come, after an elaborate and careful investigation of the subject. Before proceeding to dwell upon anything else, he would refer for a moment to what were said to be some new facts; but there was only one solitary new fact presented to the House and the public for the first time by the hon. Member who had just sat down. "What was that new fact? It was that immediately after the trial of the prisoners, in the winter of 1882, their counsel had an interview with them, throe persons who were not prisoners were inculpated, and some of those who were prisoners were exonerated. It was now said that that fact had just been disclosed, and that it was of a most important character.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that the fact was conveyed to the Crown counsel 1109 and the Lord Lieutenant, but they did not act upon it.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, the explanation of the hon. Member did not touch the matter in the slightest degree. This fresh fact, which was said to have come out since the discussion last autumn, was a fact which had been in the know-lodge of the prisoners' counsel and solicitor during the last two years and a-half. He asked hon. Members to consider with him what was the real question before them. After all that had happened, ho lamented most deeply that the Forms of the House would not allow him to take a division on the Amendment he had put upon the Paper, which declared that—Any further inquiry as to the correctness or propriety of the verdicts of properly constituted juries would be highly prejudicial to the interests of justice, and this House generally approves of the firm and temperate administration of the Crimes Act by Earl Spencer as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.After the scant justice which had been done to the late Lord Lieutenant—many of whose acts he had found it impossible to concur in, and had ventured humbly to question both in the House of Commons and elsewhere, but who had, nevertheless, directed with credit the administration of the law, and had endeavoured to protect life and property in a period of unexampled difficulty—he had expected that that administration of the law would have received support rather than quasi- condemnation from right hon. Gentlemen now occupying the Front Bench. What was the Motion before the House? If it were read with its Preamble, it was nothing less than an entire condemnation of the administration of the law by Earl Spencer and the late Government, and a general allegation that the whole administration, in respect of murders of a most atrocious character, had been unjust, and unworthy of the Executive. How was the matter met by the Ministry of the day? Anything more surprising than the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be imagined. Was there a single word, from first to last, in the right hon. Gentleman's speech in vindication of the administration of the law? Was there one word which answered to any extent the malicious attacks which proceeded from the Mover of the Motion — [Cries of "Order!"and 1110 "Name '."]—with reference to the conduct of the Judges and juries?
§ MR. SEXTON
rose to Order. He wished to ask the ruling of the Chair whether the hon. Gentleman was entitled to impute malice to an hon. Member?
§ MR. SPEAKER
An imputation of malice to any Member of the House is undoubtedly out of Order. The hon. Member will withdraw the expression.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he would at once withdraw the expression. He would only say that they were most violent and severe attacks not only upon the Lord Lieutenant, but upon the Judges, the juries, the counsel, the witnesses, the Crown Solicitors, and all who had anything to do with the prosecution of these murder cases. He had listened to the speech of his right hon. Friend, and from first to last there was not so much as a word in it of vindication of any of those officials. With regard to Earl Spencer, all he heard the right hon. Gentleman say was that there were many things in the administration of the law under the Viceroyalty of Earl Spencer which he could not approve. He had listened to see if there was any qualification to the "damning by faint praise," in which the right hon. Gentleman had indulged; but he failed to perceive any. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had said that if ever there was a man who deserved to be put upon his trial and hanged it was George Bolton. George Bolton was a man who had been employed to represent the Crown in conducting the trial of those horrible cases.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, there could be no doubt that Bolton's success in hunting those murderers to their doom was the reason of the violence and vigour with which he had been attacked. Yet they had not heard one word from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in support of a man who, because he had done his duty courageously and successfully, was subjected to so acrimonious an attack. And what was the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India? The most notable observation in that speech which he (Mr. Lewis) could discover was when the noble Lord said that the present Government was foredoomed to failure if 1111 they assumed responsibility for one jot or tittle of the acts of the late Government.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he had taken the words down at the time, and they were that the present Government were foredoomed to failure if they assumed one jot or tittle of responsibility for the acts of the late Government. He ventured to say that there was not a single Member of the Conservative Party, of which the noble Lord now assumed to be a Leader, who would endorse that statement. What had been the case? On every platform in the Kingdom there had been the strongest denunciation of the Members of the late Government for not having more vigorously vindicated the law; and were they to be told now, after all they had said about Ireland during the last three or four years, that for Party purposes, and because they had changed from one side of the House to the other, they were going to cast insult upon the outgoing Viceroy, who had done his duty in such a manner as to receive the undoubted approval of every Member of the Conservative Party? He knew that it was unpleasant to get up and speak thus; but ho was following the lead of his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Brodrick), who, in the manly speech he had delivered earlier in the evening, showed, at all events, that there were some Members on that side of the House who wore not prepared to insult the late Viceroy of Ireland and the Representative of the Queen after he had done all he could to vindicate the law. What was the meaning of the ringing cheers from the Irish Benches opposite which greeted the speeches of his right hon. Friend and the noble Lord so enthusiastically? What was the meaning but this—that they saw in the attitude of his right hon. Friend and the noble Lord a practical acquiescence in the terms of the Motion, although they could not assent to it? When it was found, after those speeches, that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. 1112 Parnell) got up in his place and said in a most gracious manner, to which the House was very little accustomed from the hon. Member, that he would withdraw the Motion, it looked as if there had been something very like, if not a treaty, at least an understanding. He had been almost astonished to hear some of the observations which had proceeded from the Front Bench on that occasion. Among the other curious remarks of the noble Lord was this—that last November, when the matter came before the House and occupied three whole nights and part of a fourth, the House had before it none of the reasons of the late Viceroy for its action. None of the reasons of the late Viceroy for his action ! He thought they had a statement from Sir Robert Hamilton which Earl Spencer had made public—one of the most able, interesting, and satisfactory documents he had ever read—containing a most elaborate account of the evidence produced at the trial, giving the new evidence produced and a general summary of the whole matter, enough to satisfy any man who desired to arrive at a judicial conclusion on the subject. And yet the noble Lord said that last November the House had before it no evidence of the reasons upon which Earl Spencer had acted.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
I said we were not in possession of full information as to the reasons.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he would at once withdraw the observation. He supposed ho must have been under a delusion when he wrote down the words. He was sorry that his ears should have deceived him. But, probably, if the noble Lord would consult his own notes, he would find that he had made two observations, and not one, because he (Mr. Lewis) had also put down in his note that the noble Lord said—"We had not, in November, full official information." But, however destitute of information the House might have been, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was a very good judge upon such a subject, did not hesitate to make a speech on 1113 that occasion maintaining that Earl Spencer was entirely justified in his action. In order to avoid breaking the Rules of the House, the Resolution of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had been drawn up in a most comprehensive form. The hon. Member proposed to call attention not only to the Maamtrasna, but to the Crossmaglen and the Barbavilla trials, and the case of the brothers Delahunty. To everything, however, except the Maamtrasna ease, he had altogether given the go-by. No doubt, the hon. Member had included them in the Motion in order to prevent the discussion from being ruled out of Order. With regard to the Maamtrasna case, the House had not only no new facts, but no now case brought before it; and yet they had this remarkable fact—that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was premature to form any opinion on the subject, though the House last November did express an opinion, by a deliberate vote, by a large majority, against an inquiry, and the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland gave his assent to it on the part of those with whom he was acting. Whatever else might be said about this case, there was no doubt whatever that there had been twice a full investigation of it in the House itself, with all the materials before it ransacked together by Members of the Irish Party, who had had two years in which to get up their case. It was hardly worth while to slay the slain, and to revert to the details of the case; but there were one or two points to which he should like to draw attention, because they were matters on which he had ascertained that there was a little misapprehension. First, with regard to the confessions of the men who were now under sentence of penal servitude. He would not refer to that point except in passing to ask the House to observe the ridiculous way in which it was sought to get rid of the effect of those confessions. It was said that a good-natured priest told the men that the best way to establish their innocence was that they should plead guilty and get convicted. The House, however, must recollect one fact which came out last November, and "which had been previously communicated on the authority of the late Attorney General for Ireland. After the men had been convicted and sentenced, they 1114 presented a Memorial for a remission of their punishment. What ground did they put forward for asking for that remission? Did they say they were innocent? No, not a bit of it; they alleged that "they did not enter the house, and had no active participation in the crime." He desired to call the attention of the House to that point— that in their Memorial those men did not represent that they were innocent of the crime; but what they contended for was that they had not entered the house. It was upon that technical and legal quibble, as he believed, that the House would find a clue to the whole of the contention from first to last. In the untutored mind of those poor ignorant peasants they might go to the door of the cottage, look into the window, and see the offence committed; but because they did not fire a pistol, therefore, legally and morally, they were not as much guilty of murder as the other men. He believed that to be the explanation of the declarations made by the so-called perjured informers, and of the dying confessions with regard to Myles Joyce. If the House would read in these confessions, "innocent of having taken an active part in the commission of the murders, or of having been within the four walls of the cottage at the time they were committed," they would find an explanation of the delusion those men were under as to participation in the crime. He would now turn to another point in regard to which a great deal had been made — namely, the blackening of the faces. That was one of those plausible points upon which a person was most likely to be easily misled. There was a great deal in it at first sight, certainly—enough to make them pause in regard to it; but lot them look a little bit closer into the matter. In the first place, what was the terminology of "blackened faces," which was said to be the expression used by one of the boys? Did he mean anything of the sort? The first expression of the boy was that the men's faces were "dirty." It was not until afterwards, and not on the first occasion, that this poor lad, in giving the best account he could, in his shattered condition, said that the faces wore blackened and not dirty. Hon. Members who understood the Irish language would be able to say whether there was any kind of affinity of mean- 1115 ing between those two expressions which would account for the use of the words "blackened faces," although the faces were not blackened. What was the scene of the murders? It was a small Irish cabin entered in the dead of the night, with three or four pistol shots fired rapidly one after the other. The smoke would fill the apartment; the poor boys were in bed, and, on being aroused, would look around in horror. It was easy to believe that, under such circumstances, the faces of the men who had entered the cabin would appear to those boys to be black, and that they would for the rest of their lives believe that it was some Satanic beings who had entered the apartment, and who had blackened faces. Anyone who possessed common sense would see, all through the evidence, what was running in the minds of the witnesses. Anyone accustomed to the proceedings of Courts of Justice in reference not only to trials for murder, but any other criminal proceedings which rested on circumstantial evidence, would be aware that it was impossible not to have contradictions; but when the evidence came to be sifted it frequently turned out that the facts spoken to were not inconsistent with each other. Then, if there were contradictions in the evidence given in cases of that kind in the English Criminal Courts, how much more likely were they to find them in the West of Ireland under the circumstances of a trial of this character? Then, again, there was another matter which was to a great extent akin to the question of blackened faces—namely, "the depositions," as they were sometimes called, of the two lads. It had been found convenient in this case to mix up the so-called depositions with the dying declarations; but he would entreat the House to keep their minds fixed upon the depositions. It was alleged that there had been a gross act of injustice committed at the trial by the Crown counsel in keeping back important information given by those poor boys in reference to the blackened faces; and it was further asserted that that was done intentionally by the Crown counsel with the view of unduly pressing the law. But the evidence of two constables brought out the fact that this information was contained in the depositions which were handed to the counsel for the defendants; and 1116 that it was known to them just as much, as it was to the Crown counsel during the whole of the trial. More than that, the fact came out at the inquest; and did anybody believe that every fact or statement, however minute or rough, that came out upon the inquest held in some small house on the wayside in the wilds of Connemara would not be known far and wide in every cottage in the locality weeks and weeks and months and months before the trial in Green Street, Dublin? The fact was well known, and was common property, that those two boys were proved at the inquest to have stated that the persons who committed the crime had blackened faces, although, in the first instance, they had said that their faces were dirty. In looking through the debate which took place last November ho found that a good deal was made of that point by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. E. Clarke), and the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Solicitor General(Mr. Gorst); and those hon. and learned Gentlemen fixed upon this statement of certain facts having been kept back at the trial as a reason for saying that the prosecution had not been fairly conducted. There was not the smallest pretence for the case put forward by hon. Members opposite, and that case had been disproved most conclusively when the subject was discussed on the last occasion. It had been disproved again that night. It had been made manifest, and was clear as daylight, that the Crown counsel conducted the case with perfect propriety, and that they had made a full disclosure of the depositions. He now came to another point. It was said that there was no motive. It was conceded that four of the persons who were found guilty were guilty. No motive was proved with regard to them any stronger than with regard to the rest.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that no motive was proved with regard to the four who were acknowledged to have been guilty; and, in point of fact, one hon. Member who had addressed the House said that there was no motive with regard to any of the 10. If there was no motive with regard to the four who were conceded to have been guilty, what greater probability was there of a motive for the commission of this crime with regard to the other 1117 six? There was a sort of correlative argument that there were three persons outside who were wanted to be drawn into this murderous net, and that there was a motive with regard to them. And what was the motive? It was a dispute about a boundary—a stone boundary on a moor side. According to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) that was a sufficient excuse in Ireland for murder. Ho (Mr. Lewis) did not believe it. He did not think so ill of the Galway peasants as to suppose that that was a true representation of the motives by which they were likely to be actuated. It was also said that there was some question of sheep stealing; but be should have thought that it would have been easy to have brought the stolen sheep back again. If, however, there had been sheep stealing, was it probable that because one man had stolen sheep belonging to another man he would be able to induce nine other men to join with him in murdering the offender in order to vindicate justice? He did not believe it for one moment to be a true representation of the degradation to which human nature could be reduced in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions, still less in Ireland. Hon. Members opposite professed to know that "Big John Casey," as he was called, and his son, who were now living within a few miles of Maamtrasna, the scene of the murder, were guilty of the crime. They said they knew that Big John Casey did the murder; they had witnesses to prove it. Then why did they not indict him? He could point to cases where the indictment of persons who were out of prison was the only way of getting persons who were in prison out of it. Hon. Members said they knew where those persons were; that they could put their hands upon them at once, and yet they preferred to expend their intelligence and acumen and money in bringing the case before the House, rather than in exerting themselves to vindicate law and order.
§ MR. LEWIS
The hon. Member had, be believed, been just promoted to a high municipal office in connection with the administration of justice, and the hon. Member said that it was the business of the Government to do that. It was a strange thing to say that it was 1118 their business to indict men whom they did not believe to be guilty. That was the only answer he could make to the suggestion of the hon. Member. The statements which were made at the inquest having been known from the very first, how was it, if the Crown counsel or solicitor did not themselves believe that those statements wore material, that there was no cross-examination on the part of the prisoners' counsel of the witnesses called for the Crown who were able to speak to that point? He was not speaking of the inability of the poor boy, Patsy Joyce, to be put in the witness box and give evidence; but there were other witnesses who were capable of being examined. One of two things was perfectly clear—either that the counsel for the prisoners did not believe in the fact themselves, or they did not believe in its importance or significance. When it was suggested that this poor boy had had the go-by given to him he was sure the House would believe that there was nothing to justify the suggestion. He would refer, in conclusion, to a statement of fact, which to persons accustomed to Courts of Justice would be conclusive. According to the statement of hon. Members opposite there were seven persons charged, every one of whom was perfectly innocent of participation in the crime; and yet there did not appear to have been the least attempt on the part of any one of them to prove his absence from the scene at the time the murder took place. It was said that it was in the middle of the night; but he would ask this question—did the family of every one of the men who were found guilty consist of one person only, and that person a wife? Were there no children, and were every one of them sleeping during the whole of that night? If the facts were investigated it would be found that the condition of those poor labouring men in Galway was such that three or four had to sleep in the same room; and to suggest to the House that seven persons charged with a crime of which they were perfectly innocent, the time being night and that none of them had an opportunity of proving from some other inmate of the house, or a neighbour, that at the time they were charged with committing the offence they were at home and in bed, was an attempt to impose upon the credulity of the House. 1119 A bitter attack had been made upon Earl Spencer. That attack and the charges lately made against the late Lord Lieutenant were grossly unjust. Everybody sitting upon the Front Bench knew that they were unjust. He did not hesitate to say that to their faces, because ho knew they believed that whatever might have been the faults of Earl Spencer, and ho had himself challenged many of his public acts, for occasionally Earl Spencer had been unjust to the Protestant, and loyal and orderly population of Ireland. [Ironical cheers from the Irish Members.] He know that hon. Members opposite did not think so; but he had as much right to hold his opinions as they had to hold theirs. Although Earl Spencer might have acted in some instances unjustly— and he (Mr. Lewis) did not hesitate to say that ho had done so—yet, in the main, during the last three years, Earl Spencer had upheld respect for the law at the risk of his life from day to day, with the sanction, with the approval, and with the acknowledgment inside and outside of that House, of the country, and especially of the Conservative Party. Therefore, he, for one, would not consent to be dragged into any implied, however slight, condemnation of Earl Spencer's conduct as Viceroy of Ireland, because it happened to suit the exigencies of Party warfare. In the opinion he thus expressed, although he might find but few supporters near him, he was sure that many in their hearts would entirely agree with him; and he was satisfied that he would not be one whit less acceptable in any Conservative community in Ireland when it was known that ho, at all events, was not poltroon enough to conceal his sentiments upon such a subject as this. For months past he had not hesitated to say that one of the first duties of the Conservative Party, when out of Office, was to assist Her Majesty's Government when they were endeavouring, in the face of most unexampled difficulties, to maintain something like respect for the law; and he recollected an observation which had been made by the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) which made him feel very proud of the Party to which he belonged. The right hon. Gentleman was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the observation had sunk deeply into his 1120 (Mr. Lewis's) mind. The right hon. Gentleman had stated to him that he considered the conduct of the Conservative Party in reference to the condition of Ireland as being above all praise. He had been very proud of that statement in regard to the Conservative Party when in Opposition. Ho was not so proud of their conduct now. They, at all events, had the responsibility of seeing that law and order were respected, and that property, life, and limb were protected; and they ought not to let it be supposed that they held less cheaply than they had hitherto done those great principles, because they happened to sit on the Ministerial side of the House. It was their duty to preserve and enforce those great and valuable conditions of society without which life would become intolerable. Ho regretted that he had been driven to make those remarks, because of the pusillanimous way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) had spoken of this subject, and had left Earl Spencer to be protected by others. He deeply regretted that the Forms of the House would not allow him to move the Amendment which stood upon the Paper in his name, and to ask the House to do what he believed would have been done by the great majority of the House. In conclusion, he could only express his general approval of the very temperate manner in which the late Viceroy had discharged the duties of his post; and in expressing that opinion, as an humble Member, he believed that he represented the views of a large number of the Members on that side of the House.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Mr. GORST)
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down evidently thinks that among all the faithless Members who occupy these Benches he fills the proud position of being the only faithful one now left. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me, also sitting on this side of the House, to say what I have said over and over again when I sat on the other side. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into the disquisition he has indulged in upon the Maamtrasna case. The hon. Gentleman and the right hon., Gentleman the late Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt), after a very super- 1121 ficial and cursory examination of the evidence in this case, appear to have convinced themselves that all these unhappy men were guilty. I must say that I greatly admire the confidence in themselves which the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen displayed in coming to so rapid a conclusion with regard to an extremely obscure and difficult case. But, although I admire their confidence and capacity, I will not attempt to imitate their example. When this question was under the consideration of the House at the beginning of the Session I did trouble the House at some length with observations on the evidence in this case, not for the purpose of inviting the House to come to a conclusion as to whether the men were innocent or guilty, but simply in order to point out that there were elements in the case which demanded further investigation and inquiry. I made those observations at a time when the late Government were refusing such further investigation and inquiry; and, therefore, I maintain that I was not then wasting the time of the House, as I was endeavouring to put forward circumstances in the case which militated against the determination of the then Government. But now, when a further inquiry is likely to take place, it does seem like wasting the time of the House to endeavour to induce it to do what it cannot possibly do—namely, undertake the investigation of this case itself, and thus to anticipate the result of that further inquiry. The hon. Gentleman did not, I think, rise for the purpose of discussing the Maamtrasna case, but he rose with great grief to express views which were adverse to the action of Her Majesty's present Government, and to say things which he asserted he was extremely sorry to say. But in doing so the hon. Gentleman seemed to express himself with considerable unction. I doubted, for some time, whether the hon. Gentleman held a brief from the Party opposite to abuse the present Government, or a brief to defend Earl Spencer. The House seemed to be astonished when the words "my Lord" came from him, instead of "Mr. Speaker;" but I was not at all astonished, because the hon. Gentleman's speech throughout seemed to be more fitted for a Court of Law than for this House. The hon. Gentleman appeared to find special fault with the two 1122 speeches which were delivered in the early part of the evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill); but he found fault with them upon precisely opposite grounds. He found fault with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer not for what he did say, but for what he did not say. Now, I do not see why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have taken up the time of the House, at this late period of the Session, by entering into an elaborate vindication of the law, which no one, at all events on these Benches, had called in question, and in repelling violent attacks upon the Irish Executive, which the Colleagues of Earl Spencer were perfectly able to answer. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did make use of some observations with reference to the conduct of Earl Spencer which were a sufficient vindication of that noble Earl. I do not know what further defence or what further observations could have been expected from the right hon. Gentleman. The Government are not only accused by the hon. Member (Mr. Lewis) for not defending Earl Spencer, but, according to the hon. Member, they should have taken up the time of the House by defending Mr. George Bolton. I think the present Government can hardly be expected to fight over again the many battles which have been waged during past years as to the character and position of Mr. George Bolton. If the Government were to begin to debate anew the character of Mr. George Bolton there would be very little chance of bringing the Session to an early termination. So much for the complaint of the hon. Member. The right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) complained of the speech of the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill, and he complained of the noble Lord not for what he did not say, but for what he did say. [Interruption.] Now I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seem disposed to receive everything I say with much disfavour, whether the noble Lord said a single word to-night which he has not repeatedly uttered when occupying a seat below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House? If the noble Lord has at- 1123 tacked the Irish, administration of the late Government, has he not attacked it in season and out of season -when in Opposition? The hon. Member for Derry (Mr. Lewis), who is so great an admirer of consistency, instead of finding fault with the noble Lord, ought to praise him. The noble Lord has stated that he will not assume any responsibility for the acts of the late Government. Is it pretended that the present Government are to assume responsibility for the acts of the late Government? I think, if they acknowledge responsibility for their own acts and are prepared to defend those acts, they will have quite enough upon their shoulders. This is not the only occasion since the Government has come into Office that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derry has stood alone in his denunciations of the policy of the Government. Before I had the honour of being again a Member of this House, the hon. Member was the solitary denouncer of the Government for their policy in not re-enacting the Coercion Act. It is remarkable that the only Member who should stand up in this House to denounce that policy should he a Member who affects, at least, to represent the people of Ireland. The hon. Member's conduct in this regard is opposed to the policy of Gentlemen like the Marquess of Waterford, who himself has sanctioned the course of the present Government by accepting Office under it. The hon. Gentleman was deservedly rebuked, on the occasion to which I refer, by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the County of Dublin (Colonel King-Harman), who expressed his indignation at the course the hon. Member had pursued. I wish to appeal to the Party opposite to make some better use of the time of the House than applauding speeches of reactionary Ulster Members. Some hon. Gentlemen on the Benches opposite seem to be annoyed because they have not heard from the Ministerial side of the House an enthusiastic vindication of the Castle officials. I should like to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) would join those hon. Members in reproving the present Government for not vindicating these officials. I must say that when one of the Colleagues of the late Government can go down to the coun- 1124 try and denounce the whole fabric and framework of the Irish Government in the strong and vehement language used by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think that hon. Members opposite can find fault with the present Government because the administration of the Castle officials of the late Government is not enthusiastically defended by those who sit on the Ministerial side of the House. Above all, I would make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt). What have the present Government done? They have announced, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nothing more than it was their duty to announce. Cases have occurred in England in which there has been a miscarriage of justice—or in which, at any rate, there was a doubt whether there had not been a miscarriage of justice. Would anyone pretend to say that the present Home Secretary should not now occupy himself in examining any such cases as are brought before him? Will the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) find fault with his Successor in Office because he expresses himself willing to re-open and reconsider cases which have been decided by the right hon. Gentleman himself? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No.] The right hon. Gentleman would not. Then, surely, there is nothing wrong, if a Memorial is presented to him, in the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland re-opening and reconsidering what, I think, hon. Members opposite, in their calmer moments, will acknowledge to be admittedly an obscure and extremely difficult case. That is all the Government have announced their intention to do. It is simply that it will do its duty in this particular case. [Cries of" Oh!"and "What more?"] What more or what less could the Government do? They have pledged themselves and promised that the Viceroy of Ireland will do that which it is his Constitutional duty to do, if a Memorial is presented to him by men alleging that they are suffering unjustly the punishment of penal servitude. Such a Memorial will receive careful and anxious consideration. I know why so much vexation and heat have been imported into this debate. It is because hon. Members opposite are irritated and annoyed because that confidence is placed 1125 in the Earl of Carnarvon which, was denied to Earl Spencer. I do not know whether the Earl of Carnarvon deserves the confidence of the Irish people more than Earl Spencer. Time will show. This, however, I do know—that the Maamtrasna case was one with regard to which I expressed my opinion when I had not the slightest expectation of standing where I am standing now. I expressed my opinion frankly and freely, and I thought, and think still, that there were very grave doubts as to whether it was not a case which, in the interests of justice, imperatively demanded a careful and anxious investigation. That careful and anxious investigation it is after the promises of the Government to-night likely to receive; and I am sorry if hon. Members opposite feel annoyed because certain Representatives from Ireland appear to place more confidence in the present Government than they did in the last.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I am not surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down should have expressed some doubt whether there is any advantage to be derived from the prolongation of this discussion. I doubt very much whether the discussion which has taken place this evening will be found to have strengthened the position of the Government, in this country, at all events, or with any Party, either Liberal or Conservative, in this country. The object of the attitude which has been taken up by the Government is clear enough, and it appears to have met with the success it deserves. It has, apparently, given great satisfaction to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the followers of the hon. Member, whose support they anticipate, and apparently are likely to receive. But I doubt very much indeed whether the means which the Government have adopted for obtaining, consolidating, and securing that support will commend themselves to any very large section of public opinion in this country or in Scotland. It is extremely convenient for the hon. and learned Solicitor General (Mr. Gorst) to have it in his power to claim that he has said the same thing on the Treasury Bench that he was in the habit of saying when he sat below the Gangway in Opposition. But the question which occurs to one when the 1126 hon. and learned Member makes that claim is, whether the Government, as a whole, are saying the same thing as they said when they were in Opposition? It is perfectly true that the hon. and learned Solicitor General, who has just spoken, and also the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill), who spoke earlier in the debate, were in the habit, as we have just been reminded, of attacking the Irish policy, and the whole Irish policy, of the late Government on every occasion, in season and out of season. But were they, in making those attacks, the organs of the Conservative Party as a whole; and are they now, in claiming that consistency, and in boasting that they entertain the same opinions now as they did when they sat below the Gangway? Are they now the Representatives and mouthpieces of the Conservative Party and the Conservative Government? If I recollect aright the attacks on the Irish policy of the late Government which used to proceed most frequently from those Benches, and from hon. Members immediately behind them, were not attacks upon the late Government for undue vigour in the execution of the law, but rather for not having executed the law with sufficient vigour. And now it appears that the organs of the Conservative Government and of the Conservative Party are those two Members of the Government who, as far as I know, alone, of all the Conservative Party, up to the present time and to the late change of Government, have associated themselves with the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in attacking the administration of the law in Ireland by the Government of Earl Spencer. Well, it is, I think, a matter of no surprise that the hon. Member for the City of Cork should desire to withdraw his Amendment. Neither is it a matter for surprise that he and his supporters should, with the exception of a re-statement of the case that was fully debated in the House six or seven months ago, have made no attempt to prove the assertion contained in the preamble of the Motion as to the maladministration of the Criminal Law in Ireland. I am not in the least surprised, after what has taken place, that no attempt has been made to substantiate what is insinuated, rather than asserted, as to the maladministra- 1127 tion of the law in the Barbavilla, the Crossmaglen, and Castleisland cases. The object of the hon. Member for the City of Cork appears to me to be not so much to prove the maladministration of the law in Ireland as to weaken the administration of the law; and that object has been much more effectually attained by the speeches which have been delivered, and which he has extracted from the Treasury Bench, than by any demonstration which it was in his power to offer to the House of any such maladministration. Sir, I entirely concur in what fell earlier in the evening from the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) that speeches such as have been delivered from the Front Bench opposite to-night cannot fail to weaken the confidence of the people of Ireland in the continuity of the administration of justice. I think it is an unfortunate lesson to teach the people of Ireland that the administration of the Criminal Law in that country is a matter which is liable to change, according to the changes of political Parties in this House, and that the administration of the law by Irish Judges and Irish juries, and Irish Governments, is likely to be changed when political Parties cross the floor of this House. In reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have no complaint to make of two of the conclusions which he announced. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he intended to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). In that intention I entirely concur with him. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that it would be the duty of the Irish Government, as of any other Government, to give a careful consideration to any Memorials that may be presented to them on behalf of prisoners who are suffering punishment, in which any fresh facts can be brought forward which they desire to lay before the Executive Government in mitigation of their sentence, or in order to prove that they are unjustly suffering conviction. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not go quite so far as has been just stated by the hon. and learned Solicitor General. I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to promise that these cases were to be reopened. All that I understood him to 1128 have promised was, what he was entitled to promise—namely, that any Memorials should receive the careful consideration of the Lord Lieutenant, and that the Government would reserve their judgment as to whether there was a ground for re-opening the legal question or not. There fell, however, from the Solicitor General words, which contained, in my opinion, almost a pledge that some of these cases, without the production of any other evidence than that on which they have been already decided, would be re-opened and reexamined. Well, Sir, with the conclusions announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have no fault to find; but I think that his speech was open to criticism, both in what he said and in what he did not say. The right hon. Gentleman had just listened to a deliberate attack, not only upon the late Executive Government of Ireland, upon the Lord Lieutenant, upon the Crown Prosecutors, and upon the Law Officers of the Lord Lieutenant, but also upon the Judges for the manner in which they had conducted certain trials, and upon the juries which had found certain verdicts. He had also listened to a severe attack upon the Lord Lieutenant for the manner in which he had refused to use the prerogative of mercy as the responsible Adviser of the Crown in the dispensation of mercy. Having listened to that attack, what did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said that he would express no opinion upon the points which had been raised? And why, Sir, would he express no opinion upon the points which had been raised? The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had not had time to master the facts, or to examine fully into the case before the House. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I think he said that the Government had not had time; and that is what I gathered the right hon. Gentleman to have said. But, Sir, no one expected the right hon. Gentleman to have had time to make himself master of all the charges which have been brought by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) against the late Government. But the Irish Government had been in Office for some time, and the Maamtrasna case had been laid before the House and fully developed before 1129 this House six or seven months ago. No new facts have been brought before the House to-night. The Irish Government was in possession of the facts of that case, and was able to form an opinion on it, and to tell the House whether there had been a failure of justice in that case such as to require it to be reopened or not. The right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with saying that he could not form an opinion; but he went further, and said that he hesitated to take any responsibility for the acts of the late Government. No one desires that the right hon. Gentleman should take any responsibility for the political action of the late Government; but he drew no distinction—he makes no distinction—between the political action and the judicial action of the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman seized the opportunity, when the judicial action of the late Government had just been impugned, in a speech of great severity, to make this public declaration to the House—that he hesitated to assume responsibility for any acts of the late Government. I say, Sir, that no interpretation can be put upon that statement, except that the right hon. Gentleman hesitates to assume responsibility for the administration of justice as carried out by the Government of Earl Spencer. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) went a great deal further than the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not discuss any political question whatever, but simply and solely the question of the administration of the law in Ireland; and he informed the House that he divested himself of all responsibility for all the acts of the late Government. In fact, he said, I think, that the only line of safety for the present Government was to declare themselves irresponsible for any jot or tittle of the policy of the late Irish Government. I say that such language as this is calculated to weaken respect for the law in Ireland. I say that such language would be mischievous if it applied only to criticism of the officials of the Government; but it is much more so when applied to the Crown Prosecutors, the Resident Magistrates, and the Constabulary officers. Those are the instruments with whom the present Government will have to work as the late Government had; and if the present Government are going to divest themselves of all responsibility 1130 for the action of the late Government, and if these officials of the late Government are to feel that their action is not to be supported by the present Government as it was supported by the last, how much zeal, how much loyalty, how much courage, and how much devotion in the exercise of their duty will the noble Lord expect they are going to receive from the officials of the present Government? But the noble Lord did not stop there. The language of the noble Lord is not confined to divesting himself of all responsibility for the policy of the late Government with regard to its officers; but the language of the noble Lord appears to me to go so far as to disown the support which has been given by the Government of Earl Spencer to the Judges and juries of the country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
Will the noble Marquess quote the language I used to that effect?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I have not got the notes I made. [Cries of" Withdraw !"from the Irish Members.'] I am not pretending to quote the exact words used by the noble Lord; but he said it was necessary for the present Government to divest themselves of all responsibility for every jot or tittle of the action of the late Government. That was said in reply to and following a speech in which the conduct of the Government of Earl Spencer, in the administration of the law in Ireland, had been impugned in almost every respect; and one of the particulars in which the conduct of Earl Spencer had been impugned was that he had allowed the law in certain cases to take its course, and sentences to be carried out, which sentences had been arrived at after a full, a careful, and an impartial trial conducted by the Judges of the land and by juries empannelled by law. [Mr. SULLIVAN: No, no; packed juries.] I say that when the noble Lord, in that sweeping manner, divested himself of all responsibility for the action I of the Government which had been impugned, I am justified in saying that his language applied, not only to the support given by the late Government to its Executive officials, but to the sup- port given by the late Government to the judicial authorities of Ireland. The noble Lord insisted that the Government of Ireland were unable to form an opinion upon the Maaintrasna case, because 1131 they had only just come into Office, and had only recently come into possession of official information upon the subject. Now, Sir, I ask the noble Lord whether he has come into possession of any official information which he did not possess before, except the dying confessions of the two prisoners who were executed?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
They are the whole key.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The noble Lord says they are the whole key of the information in the possession of the Government. The noble Lord referred to a whole heap of information which, he said, the Government had come into possession of since their accession to Office, and of which they were ignorant before; but I ask the noble Lord or his Colleagues to say if there was any other information, except those two confessions to which I have referred, which was kept back by the late Government, and which we repeatedly stated our reasons for refusing to produce? Well, Sir, what was the administration of Earl Spencer which has been so violently attacked, and for which the present Government refuse to take any responsibility whatever? Earl Spencer has been attacked because he has made use of the powers deliberately conferred upon him by Parliament in a period of unexampled crisis throe years ago. The powers conferred upon him by enormous majorities in this House, and in accordance, I believe, with the opinion of the vast majority of the people of this country, were absolutely essential for the maintenance of order, and even for the protection of life and property at the time. Sir, Earl Spencer has exercised those powers—he has, under the Prevention of Crime Act, changed the venue from all parts of the country where, in his judgment and on his responsibility, ho was of opinion that an impartial trial by juries of the county could not be had; he has empannelled juries according to the law, and he has instituted, in some cases, preliminary inquiries, as authorized by the Prevention of Crime Act, although no persons stood charged with the commission of an offence, and it was by the institution of such a preliminary inquiry that the Phoenix Park assassins were brought to justice. Earl Spencer has not only 1132 used these powers, but he has fearlessly carried into effect the sentences which have followed the verdicts which were so obtained, and he has exercised the prerogative of mercy, or has declined to exercise it, on his own responsibility, and the responsibility of the Government. He has declined to constitute irresponsible tribunals to relieve himself and his Colleagues of responsibility — tribunals which, in his opinion, and in the opinion of his Colleagues, would have been tribunals of inferior authority, constituted for the purpose of re-trying and reviewing decisions and verdicts given by a higher, more competent, and more legally constituted tribunal. It is for these acts that Earl Spencer has been attacked— it is for this administration of the law for this exercising of the special powers confided to him in times of special emergency that Earl Spencer has been persistently attacked by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his followers, who have renewed their attack to-night, and it is this policy and this administration of the law that the Government have, upon the first occasion upon which they have an opportunity of speaking upon Irish matters, hastened to divest themselves of any responsibility for whatever. I have referred, Sir, to the character of the administration of Earl Spencer, which has been impugned. I will now ask the House what has been the result of that administration? When Earl Spencer assumed Office crime in Ireland was rampant, murders in considerable numbers had taken place, and not a single criminal was brought to justice. Intimidation was prevalent over the whole country, and it was notorious that the law that was being administered in Ireland was not so much the law of the statutes administered by Courts of Justice as the law of irresponsible associations, administered too often with the assistance of outrage and crime. Well, Sir, under the administration of Earl Spencer, which has been impugned, criminals have been brought to justice, order has been restored, intimidation has been checked, and the ordinary law of the country is again being administered. But with no portion of his policy, either in its execution or its results, are the present Government anxious to associate themselves. It is all, in their opinion, open 1133 to doubt; and not until they have sifted the heaps of information which the noble Lord says the Irish Government have come into possession of will they assume that justice has been done, and that the administration of the law, as carried out by Earl Spencer, has been either just or wise. Well, Sir, under such circumstances, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was justified in saying that the experiment which is now about to be tried of governing Ireland by means of the ordinary law is an experiment that is to be tried under unfavourable and under adverse conditions. The law can only be administered through the officials of the country—the Judges and juries to whom I have already referred; and it appears to me that small confidence and small courage will be given to those officials and those officers of justice if it is to be proclaimed that the loyal support which they have received from one Government is in danger of being withdrawn when that Government is succeeded by a Government of opposite political opinions. There was one reckless assertion of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) to which I must refer. The noble Lord stated that it was notorious that the course taken by the Government in the former Maamtrasna debate was not decided until the middle of the debate; that a Cabinet Council was held, and that it was only as the result of that Cabinet Council that a decision was arrived at whether the Government would grant an inquiry or not. To that assertion, made, no doubt, in good faith, but I venture to think somewhat recklessly by the noble Lord, I have to give the most positive and unqualified contradiction. It is probable that a Cabinet Council may have been held in the middle of a four days' debate, and when the noble Lord has been in Office a little longer ho will find that it may be necessary to assemble the Cabinet at intervals of less than four days, and he will understand that the whole business of the country, foreign and domestic, cannot be suspended, while an Irish debate is being settled. But that that Cabinet Council had anything whatever to do with the decision of the Government upon that occasion I most unhesitatingly and most positively deny. How the noble Lord could have fallen 1134 into such a mistake I do not know, for my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan), who was then a Member of the Cabinet, speaking, I believe, on the first night of the debate, announced at that time the decision of the Government that the inquiry asked for by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington) must be refused. The noble Lord also attacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), because he said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thrown over the Irish Judges and the Irish juries. What was the noble Lord's reply to that? Ho said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer bad not said one word about them. Now, it is that silence of which we complain. The Judges and juries of Ireland were attacked by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and not one single word did the responsible Member of the Government say in support of the manner in which the Judges and juries in Ireland had performed their duty. There is another doctrine which was put forward by the noble Lord to which it is necessary that I should make some reference. He justified his vote on the previous occasion, when this matter was debated in October, upon the ground that he had no confidence in the then administration of Ireland, and that, therefore, he was entitled and justified in voting for an independent inquiry. That, it appears to me, is a remarkable and dangerous doctrine, for what is the effect of it? It is that the action of Parliament in any case involving the administration of judicial law which is brought before it is not to depend upon the case for inquiry which may be brought forward, but upon the opinion which any Party in this House may have, and the confidence they may feel in the particular Government which is charged with the administration of that law. Sir, I believe we, who are to - night sitting on this side of the House, are still in the majority. Supposing that the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir R. Asshe-ton Cross) were impugned; supposing that the conduct of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is impugned; supposing that we did not feel implicit confidence in either the Home Secretary or the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, then, according 1135 to the noble Lord, irrespective of the case brought before us, we are fully entitled to vote, and justified in voting, for an independent inquiry, because we do not feel entire confidence in the Government which is charged with the administration of the Criminal Law. It appears to me that such a doctrine as this utterly and completely destroys the responsibility of the Government. If that doctrine were accepted, it becomes the duty of the House of Commons to decide upon questions of the administration of the law, not with reference to their confidence in the Judges or judicial officers charged with its administration, but upon political grounds, and with respect to the confidence which one Party may or may not have in the Gentlemen who happen to sit on that Bench. The noble Lord has asked for how many of his Colleagues my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) spoke, when he said that they were proud of Earl Spencer's administration, had confidence in it, and wore prepared to uphold it. I shall not undertake to answer for Colleagues not present, but I can inform the noble Lord that there is one of the Colleagues of Earl Spencer who is not now present, and not the least important of the Colleagues of Earl Spencer, who is willing to be fully associated in that expression of my right hon. Friend of confidence in Earl Spencer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) is unfortunately not able, on account of indisposition, to be present hero this evening; but I know he had been most anxious to be present, and I have received a note from him this evening, one portion of which I hope the House will allow me to read. My right hon. Friend expresses his hope that I may be able on his behalf—perhaps I had better read his own words. He says—I hope you may be able on my behalf to express my deep sense of the debt we all owe to Earl Spencer for the courage with which he stood in the breach three years ago, for the greatest service to criminal justice and to security of life ever rendered in Ireland, for the calm with which he has borne alike imputations cast upon one side on his first assumption of Office, and later less disguised attacks on the other; and, finally, for an administration of the powers of Government, perhaps the most even-handed and intelligent that we have ever known.Sir, in that opinion of the late Prime Minister of the debt which is owed to The Marquess of Hartington 1136 Earl Spencer by his late Colleagues, and I believe by the whole country, I, for one, most entirely and unhesitatingly concur, and I say that posterity will recognize, as I believe the great majority of the Members of this House and the great majority of the people of this country now recognize, the services which have been rendered by Earl Spencer in the administration of the law in Ireland during a time of almost unexampled difficulty and gravity.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE)
Sir, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I deal with some of the matters incidental to this debate. The debate began in a somewhat thin House, and with a certain amount of warmth; and although several hon. Members have endeavoured to apply a sedative to our discussion, it would appear that their manner of doing so was not successful, and that the Parliamentary thermometer had again risen to fever heat. Sir, I sincerely trust that I shall be able to deal fairly with the subject under discussion. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has been severely handled by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis), and by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) for what his speech contained, and more severely handled, I am bound to say, for what it did not contain. My right hon. Friend made his statement, a short one it is true, but in a very thin House; and from what I could gather ho endeavoured, at all events, to explain to the House that he did not intend to go into the various legal questions that were introduced into this Motion. But, Sir, my right hon. Friend has, I think, been somewhat unfairly treated with regard to the short statement which he made. I think that a most unjust and unfair criticism of that speech has been placed before the House, not because my right hon. Friend did not go into the question of the administration of justice in Ireland; but because my right hon. Friend did not state that he had complete and absolute sympathy with the administration of the law by the Judges and juries in Ireland, it was said that he was holding up to obloquy, and, as it were, endeavouring to bring the administration of law in Ireland into 1137 contempt. Well, Sir, I say that, considering the circumstances, the hour, and the state of the House when my right hon. Friend made his statement, that this was most unfair treatment. My right hon. Friend, although he did not, perhaps, feel exactly in accord with Earl Spencer in this matter, spoke of the noble Earl in terms of commendation. As one who has known Earl Spencer for a number of years, I think it right to stand up in my place, and say what I have said many times in private—namely, that I consider Earl Spencer went to Ireland at a time when affairs were in a pitiable condition, and that he displayed a vast amount of courage in carrying out a task most odious and difficult of performance. Sir, this is admitted by us all. I should like for one moment to brink back the House to the statement of my right hon. Friend, because, after all, when the heat of debate is over, that should be the real test of what our position is to be with reference to these matters. That position was clearly enunciated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I do not propose to depart from it to the extent of a single letter. What is our position with regard to this question? In the first place, we have refused to go into the legal aspect of this difficult case; for my own part, I absolutely decline to do so. This case has been tried before juries in Ireland, Memorials have been presented to the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in reference to it, and beyond that there have boon very lengthened debates upon it in this House; and surely it cannot be said that I am treating the House with any want of courtesy in saying that my right hon. Friend absolutely refused to go behind the backs of the late Government in regard to it. The next point is that we have refused to accede to the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and we refuse to accede to that Motion in the belief that by acceding to it we should injure the interest of the administration of the law in Ireland. That, Sir, is, I think, a plain and simple reason to give for the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken. What further declaration did my right hon. Friend make? He stated to the House that although the Government refused to go into these legal matters, and although they had refused to accede to 1138 the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, yet, at the same time, there was a tribunal in existence to which aggrieved prisoners might submit their eases for consideration. My right hon. Friend referred to the prerogative of mercy which could be exorcised by the Viceroy of the day in Ireland. In regard to that, I should like to allude for one moment to what the late Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) said when this question was last before this House. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the Viceroy, who was surrounded by the best advisers, and who acted with the deepest sense of responsibility, was entitled to exercise the prerogative of mercy. That is the simple position which Her Majesty's Government has taken up in this matter. We have been severely handled by Members sitting on the opposite side of the House, and we have also had several animadversions cast upon us by Members on this side. But when you come to the hard fact before the House, I ask—"Do you propose to alter the prerogative of the Viceroy?" And, again, when it is said that we have made a concession in this case, I ask, where is a shadow of proof that can be put forward in support of the statement? Hon. Members opposite, if they demand anything, surely mean this—that they ask us to commence our administration of justice in Ireland by at once abolishing the prerogative of mercy of the Viceroy. Why, Sir, we could not for one moment entertain that proposal. We are aware that this prerogative exists, and we say that it can be exercised not only with regard to the case before this House this evening, but with regard to a petty larceny that might be committed in Ireland to-morrow. There is an appeal to the Viceroy by Memorial forwarded to him, he can duly consider any case in all its bearings, and we demand that in this case the Viceroy shall not be debarred from exercising his independent judgment. After all, the chief grievance of hon. Gentlemen opposite amounts to this—that, it having been stated on the Treasury Bench that the prerogative of mercy still existed, the hon. Member for the City of Cork did not in consequence propose to divide the House on his Motion; and hon. Gentlemen opposite are now trying, for electioneering or some miserable pur- 1139 poses, to make out that some extraordinary concession has been made to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite. It is well known that hon. Members opposite are very clever in matters connected with electioneering. I often wish we on this side were half as clever; but I cannot help thinking that a great mercy has befallen the country in that Gentlemen opposite are now in their proper places, and that this electioneering process, in which they are so skilled, is confined to them in Opposition, and that they are not with divided Councils governing the country as responsible Ministers of the Crown. As I have said, the first grievance of hon. Members opposite seems to reside in the fact that the hon. Member for the City of Cork is not going to divide the House on his Amendment. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) had said some harsh things with reference to the attacks which we, when in Opposition, made upon the Irish policy of the late Government. It is true that hard words wore used by some upon those Benches with reference to that policy; but I think I should, in common justice, mention one fact—namely, that the chief incentive for those attacks can be referred to one point—that for many months the Executive in Ireland allowed these crimes to go on in that unhappy country, and that we had been made aware, at all events, of the motives of one Member of the late Government by a somewhat cynical speech which he made at Birmingham, in which he said that there was a motive for that negligence, because the Conservatives wanted to pass a severe Land Bill for Ireland. We have heard something about the broken continuity of the law. That is a hard term, and one difficult to define; and I should like to ask hon. Members whether the Government propose to make any change in the law in Ireland with regard to those great questions which have been brought before us to-day? The noble Marquess has referred to Earl Spencer and to his administration in Ireland. If that administration has produced a better state of things than existed in Ireland three years ago, placed in the position which I occupy with reference to that country, I frankly acknowledge that it is a good thing for Ireland; and, further, if we see fit to relax exceptional legislation in 1140 respect of Ireland, let hon. Gentlemen claim what they like in that respect. I say, let us frankly admit that a better state of things has at length been brought about with regard to Ireland by the late Administration. We have been taunted because we propose to relax exceptional legislation. Sir, we must take upon ourselves the whole and sole responsibility for those proposals. But we are not content with that. During the next week, or before the end of the Session, we shall have other proposals to make in reference to Ireland. We are not content only with the relaxation of an exceptional law; and when the heat of debate has passed away I believe it will be seen that we have acted for the best, and we, at all events, shall be content to abide by the result of our administration in Ireland. All I can say is that, if we fail, we will ask for, as we shall receive, no quarter whatever; and if wo succeed, we shall think least of all of any credit which may attach to ourselves, and most of all of what that success really means—namely, a brighter and a happier day for Ireland.
§ MR. HEALY
said, ho thought the House and the country would contrast the tone of the two speeches which had just been delivered. As an Irishman, ho begged leave to say that the speech of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, characterized as it was by a tone of conciliation, and showing that his Party intended to carry out, not only in Ireland, but throughout the Empire, a policy of appeasement, contrasted most favourably with the speech of the noble Marquess. The motives of the two speeches would also be criticized; and what were those motives? The Government avowed, as any honest Government should avow, that they had promised this inquiry in order to cement together all the subjects of Her Majesty. That was the avowed object of Her Majesty's Government. But the noble Marquess also, on a former occasion, had promised an inquiry; and the object of that promise of inquiry, the meanest that a Parliamentarian could conceive, was to ease the progress of Supplies. For the purpose of saving two or three hours of Parliamentary time, because Irish Members were speaking on the Appropriation Bill, the noble Marquess promised, as was reported in The Freeman's Journal, that a 1141 full inquiry should be granted. That promise, whether by the noble Marquess or by Earl Spencer, had been shamefully broken. But for their purpose to-night, and for their purpose as statesmen of an Empire, it mattered not whether the promise was broken or kept, because he regarded the motive on which this inquiry was granted by the present Government as a motive confessedly of satisfying the keen and burning desire of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 of the subjects of Her Majesty. Moreover, it was in order to appease the craving of a large Party in that House that Her Majesty's Government promised the inquiry. Let hon. Members look at the object of the promise given on the other side by the noble Marquess. To save two or three hours of Parliamentary time, on the 11th of August last, the noble Marquess gave the promise, and he kept that promise by sending down to Maamtrasna Mr. George Bolton to inquire into the conduct of Mr. George Bolton; and to-night hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords who gave the promise stood up in that House with proud mien and defiant visage—if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) thought that a reflection upon himself he begged to withdraw it—to justify what they had done in Ireland, and to announce that, as a solid Party, they stood by Earl Spencer. It seemed to him that those serried Opposition Benches, which for the last month they had not been used to, had been arranged for a purpose, because he observed in the newspapers that upon that day week a little banquet was to be given to the late Viceroy, Earl Spencer—a species, he supposed, of what the French called lonche d'estime —and here hon. Members found them arranging the hors d'oeuvres. The Liberal Party, however, was not quite solid, because he missed from their Benches that night—as the public would miss from the lonche d'estime —the statesmanlike and significant figures of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). And it was a remarkable thing to him that the Liberal Party appeared to havefallen into the mistake of allowing their policy that night upon this Irish question to be voiced by such Gentlemen as 1142 the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and the noble Marquess; and he could tell the Liberal Party that the Irish people would not fail to note that distinct line of cleavage in that grand old Party. And he would ask Gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), whose resonant basso they had all heard so constantly that night cheering the noble Marquess, to select the section of the Liberal Party to which they would belong. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to say under which flag he was going to fight—Under which King, Bezonian?Speak, or die.Were the Irish people to understand that in this even-keeled vessel of the Liberal Party, when in full sail, Gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), whenever any dirty work was to be done, could send the noble Marquess and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) to swab the decks, whilst they retired to the cabin with the sublime serenity of men in the possession of a first-class passage? The Liberal Party, it appeared to him that night, exemplified an extraordinary condition, because—if he might continue the nautical metaphor, he would say that there was a portion of them who, having thrown Earl Spencer, as a species of Jonah, overboard, seemed to want the Tory Party to pick him up again—to take him out of the somewhat malodorous waters into which he had been flung, and, giving him aid and comfort, sustain him as a new Administration. He could only say that the Tory Party, in his opinion, had acted with extreme wisdom in declining to bring medical succour to that great Liberal statesman whom Gentlemen like the right hon. Members for Chelsea and Birmingham, belonging to his own Party, declined to assist in resisting. The speech of the noble Marquess appeared to be full of envy at the success of the Tory Party in governing Ireland. It seemed to him to be very much a question of sour grapes. If the Liberal Party had been unable to govern Ireland with anything like decency, he could only say that were the Government that followed it, Tory or anything else, he, for his own part, was deter- 1143 mined, when he saw it doing its best, ho should give it a fair trial. But while they had the Government that night denounced by the noble Marquess, aided by the late Homo Secretary, for aiding and abetting the Parnellite Party, and when at the General Election they would have the Tory Party denounced as "truckling to treason," and so on, he asked which section of Liberals they were to believe? The noble Marquess produced, with great effect, a letter as he (Mr. Healy) understood it, from the Prime Minister. [Cries of "Late."] Happily, late Prime Minister. That Prime Minister had in that House a very distinguished relative, the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone). Now, were they to believe the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in his denunciations of the Irish policy of the Government, or were they to believe the hon. Member for Leeds? He wished to know which facet of the policy of the Liberal Party were they to give their trust to? He had road with great attention the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Leeds on Tuesday night, which was reported in The Leeds Mercury verbatim. This was what the hon. Member for Leeds said in regard to the system of government in Ireland, which the noble Marquess thought ought to be upheld at all hazards—Put the Tories had now chosen, for good or evil—with the Irish landlords consenting— to rely upon Mr. Parnell for the preservation of law and order, and for personal security in Ireland; hut Irish landlords, Irish officials, and Irishmen must rely upon Mr. Parnell for something more. They—the Liberals — had refused a great number of the measures of Mr. Parnell because they were loyal to classes in Ireland, whom they believed were threatened.So it seemed that it was not because these measures were bad, but on grounds of expediency, for which the Liberal Party now attacked the Government that they declined, and hustled the measures out of the House—Because they were loyal to classes in Ireland, whom they believed were threatened, whom they were weak enough to believe were loyal and straightforward men. Those men had betrayed them, He asked them, then, who was there in Ireland to fight for, and whom were they to stand up for, against the Nationalist Party?The noble Marquess referred to the necessity of maintaining the law in Ireland. What good was the law unless it 1144 rested on the adhesion and suffrages of the people? And they had the statement of the hon. Member for Leeds with regard to the law which the Irish Members impugned — which they attacked as having been unjustly administered—that there was not a single Party in Ireland whose wishes were worth a moment's consideration but the Parnellite Party. The hon. Member for Leeds went on to say—and this was of keen interest, when they recollected that the Tory Party were said, for the purpose of bidding for the next General Election, to be playing into the hands of the Irish Members—they would see who was prepared with the highest offer—There was no one in Ireland whom they might stand up for; as his point was that for good or for evil Mr. Parnell represented the Irish people.If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that to-night, and had said it because the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) represented the Irish people—if he had referred to the hon. Member's discontent as representing the discontent of the Irish people—if it had been once granted that the hon. Member represented the Irish people— would it not be madness for him to refuse the present demand? The hon. Member for Leeds went on to say—Let them end, then, the mockery of what was called Constitutional government in Ireland, and let them form a system of government which was based entirely upon popular wishes and on popular sentiment."Constitutional government in Ireland !"Constitutional government in Ireland embraced, he (Mr. Healy) presumed, Earl Spencer and Marwood, embraced the Prevention of Crime Act, special juries, and George Bolton. "Let them end, then," said the hon. Member for Leeds, the son of the late Prime Minister,the mockery of what was called Constitutional government in Ireland.The noble Marquess attacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer because he said he would venture to give an inquiry, which had not been refused to the meanest slave who tugged at the galley. The hon. Member for Leeds said—His experience of what 20 or 30 determined Irishmen could do in the House of Commons showed him that 80 could make our present system of government practically unworkable. 1145 If that system did become unworkable, it became so to the harm of the British Empire.So that it was not for the sake of honour or decency that the English Government was to give them Home Rule, but because they had the power of enforcing it! What would happen in the next Parliament if they had 80 Members in the House? Why, they would have all these inquiries — into the Maamtrasna case, the working of the Prevention of Crime Act, and the sad glory of Myles Joyce — without difficulty, because if they could get Home Rule how much more readily would they be able to obtain an investigation into the circumstances of a few wretched peasants in an out-of-the-way part of Ireland. That remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Leeds did not appear to be received with much gratification by the Liberal Members. The hon. Member went on to say—This must be taken into consideration, and they must either satisfy the reasonable demands of the Irish people, or must eject them from the House, and govern the country by martial law. [Cheers.] If, then, the Irish nation desired a Parliament on a federal basis; if the Irish Leaders agreed that they could formulate and work a practical scheme—and ho believed they could—if they loyally accepted the supremacy of the Crown and of the Imperial Parliament— then, in God's name, give them a Parliament on College Green.He presented the hon. Member for Leeds to the noble Marquess with his compliments. It was a remarkable speech that was made by the hon. Member for Leeds, and it gave the Liberal Party great satisfaction; but he did not hear them cheer it now. The noble Marquess, with his high and haughty mien, refused them an inquiry which would impugn Earl Spencer. He was willing that the hon. Member for Leeds should give them Parliaments galore, and the Members for Birmingham and Chelsea (Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Charles W. Dilke) should give them county government, and all the rest; but to attack the sacred ark of the Liberal Party in the form of Earl Spencer—oh, that the Liberal Party would consider a vital question, to which the granting of Home Rule for Ireland was a mere bagatelle, which would be immediately granted if they got 80 men into their Party. He had listened that night with extraordinary interest to the speech of the noble Marquess. It was a speech which, to 1146 his mind, marked "the parting of the waters." It was similar to a speech which they had the other day in the House of Lords, directed against a certain section of the Liberal Party by his Grace the Duke of Argyll—a speech intended to segregate a certain portion. According to the noble Marquess it was not an offence to differ upon a question of Free Trade, or foreign policy—as to Afghanistan or Egypt. It was not upon such trifling questions as that the Liberal Party must swear none of these shibboleths; it was Earl Spencer. He was to be their policy; they must stand by him, they must fall by him. He would put these questions to the noble Marquess—"If you are lucky enough at the polls at the next Election, do you think or suppose that you will send back Earl Spencer to Ireland? Will the cry of the Liberal Party to the working men of the towns in England, to the agricultural labourers in this country, be 'Rally to Earl Spencer and the renewal of the Crimes Act?'"He remembered well hearing the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), in the last Parliament, and he then stood where ho (Mr. Healy) now stood, refer to the noble Marquess as the "late Leader of the Liberal Party." That was upon a mere question of flogging in the Army, the question which had been ripened by the endeavours of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the hon, Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), as this question had been ripened by the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Harrington). On this occasion, however, the right hon. Members for Chelsea and Birmingham remained quietly on the fence waiting to see which way the cat was going to jump. Now, he supposed that this debate which had been got up that night by the noble Marquess was intended purely for electioneering purposes—to show the English people what the policy of the Liberal Party was; but next week, or the week after, the right hon. Members for Birmingham and Chelsea would go over to Ireland, and would play the tune of the Liberal Party with variations. He understood it was the custom of Her Majesty the Queen, when these Gentlemen come into Office, to present them with the Seals of Office; and he would suggest, also, that the Leader should be provided with a tuning fork, so that when the 1147 note was given, by the noble Marquess any false notes by the right hon. Members for Birmingham or Chelsea could be toned down to the proper key. In his opinion one of the absolute necessities for a great Party was a cry, and the Liberal Party could not that night impose upon the English people with the cry of 'Earl Spencer. "They were not united upon it. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), when he next addressed the Attercliffe Division of the working men of Sheffield in two or three weeks' time, rally his constituents to the cry of "Spencer and the Crimes Act?" Let any other of the long row of distinguished potentialities who were sitting on the Front Opposition Bench try the effect of that elixir of life—the policy of Earl Spencer—upon the putrid corpse of Liberalism in this country. He ventured to think that they would find that it was absolutely impotent, as had been the speech of the noble Marquess that night, to affect the Tory Party. He congratulated the Tory Party sincerely upon the attacks which had been made upon them by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), because to-morrow those attacks would be answered elsewhere by the right hon. Member for Birmingham and the right hon. Member for Chelsea. One of the great advantages of the Tory Party was that they never need say a word in answer to attacks upon them by the Liberals, because some Liberal was sure to get up and denounce the Liberal who had gone before him. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone) would attack the noble Marquess, and even the great bulk, the great form, of the right hon. Member for Derby would be demolished by the attacks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham. Ho (Mr. Healy) recognized that the Tory Party had before them a very arduous task. They had in Ireland two Parties to deal with—the National Party, which was represented in the House by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and the Party traditionally allied to themselves, the old Tory and Orange Party. The National Party, for their part, recognized that in endeavouring to accommodate the differences of these two Parties, and to "knit up the ravelled sleeve of care," which 1148 had existed for centuries in Ireland, the Government were undertaking, if not a successful, at least a noble task. For his part, he desired by every means in his power to hasten the day when his countrymen might be united together as one solid phalanx; and when that task was accomplished, whether it be by the Tory Party or the Radical Party, they in Ireland would have no more of those frightful scandals and outrages, they would have no more attacks upon the Judicial Bench, or upon juries by reason of their partizanship. He would bless the Party, whichever it might be, which had the fairness to carry out that hallowed and glorious work. It was not unnatural that the Tory Party having come into Office, and having a chance of succeeding in doing what the Liberal Party could not do, the Liberal Party should be jealous and censorious of their opponents' efforts. That was not an attitude on which he could congratulate the Liberal Party. Their own account of their action was that they desired to act towards Ireland as a country to be allied with England for good and all; but now, when for the first time—at least in his experience—there was some chance of that being accomplished without mischief to any Party in Ireland, and without hurt or harm to the people of any creed, class, or religion—and he would not accept for one section of the people that which would inflict a substantial injury on any other section— they should not forget that the Tory Party had set about that task with the blessing of the late Prime Minister. He (Mr. Healy) personally did not intend to add anything, if he could abstain from doing so, to the difficulties of a Government which, he believed, being trusted by the Tory Party in Ireland, had some chance of effecting real and substantial improvement. Whether that improvement be carried on by appeasing the minds of the Irish people and showing them that they might expect equal justice before the law, or affording that justice to Irish prisoners which Government would not deny to the meanest English convict, such as in the case of the man who was convicted and sentenced to death for murder, and who was released by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), three weeks ago, he cared not. If the Government would show that they would 1149 do that, he did not care what others might say. Then the people of Ireland would at last have discovered that Ireland had ceased to he the cockpit of English Parties, and that there was some chance of the people becoming devoted and attached, and of Ireland becoming a very contented country.
said, he would not have ventured to detain the House, but for the observations made by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Mr. Gorst), who had commented with a considerable amount of asperity upon the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis). The Solicitor General had said he did not consider the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lewis) was a proper exponent of the views of any portion of the people of Ireland, because he was the only Member for an Irish constituency who was an Englishman. He believed the part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lewis) to which the Solicitor General took objection was that in which the hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion that the law-abiding population of Ireland admired and respected the conduct of Earl Spencer. He (Mr. Macartney) thought it was right for himself to say that he knew that the law-abiding inhabitants of Ireland of all shades of politics did respect and honour Earl Spencer for the way in which he wielded the sword of justice entrusted to his hands by Her Majesty the Queen. He was as opposed as any man to the politics of Earl Spencer, and he did not approve of any acts of the noble Earl's administration except those which were connected with law and justice and the protection of life and limb. It was only due and fair to Earl Spencer to say that he went away from Ireland having earned the respect and admiration of all loyal people for the courage and uprightness he displayed. There was another thing in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General which astonished him very much. Speaking about the inquiry which was about to take place, the hon. and learned Gentleman did what he hardly thought a lawyer should have done—namely, express his own opinion that there had been a miscarriage of justice. It was for the new Viceroy himself to find out whether there had been a miscarriage of justice. Ho (Mr. Macartney) cared 1150 little whether he belonged to a reactionary Party or not; but he was surprised at the concession which had been made that night by the Government to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell).
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee upon Monday next.