§ (Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. Secretary Matthews, Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ SECOND HEADING. [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ SIR BERN HARD SAMUELSON (Oxfordshire, Banbury)
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—That this House, being of opinion that the Bill, if it should become law, will tend to increase disorder in Ireland, and to endanger the Union between that Country and the other parts of the Empire, declines to proceed further with the said Bill,said, he had seldom hitherto, when great Imperial questions were brought before the House, deemed it to be his duty to take part in the debate, but had been content to give his vote in accordance with what he believed to be the interest of the country. But his experience had convinced him that in some of the votes which he had given in support of exceptional laws for Ireland he had been misled; and it was for this reason that he thought it was his duty not to give simply a silent vote on the present occasion. The Bill before the House would deprive Ireland of one of the Constitutional guarantees which prevailed in every other part of this Empire, of which we were proud, and which other civilized nations had been glad to copy from us. To deal with Ireland by these exceptional measures had been a mistake, and it was time we should adopt another and better course. The Government called upon them now to pass this Bill, for which no case had been made out, and with regard to which very imperfect information had been forthcoming. He thought he was accurate in stating that the Bill rested on two speeches—one by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and the other by the Chancellor 513 of the Exchequer. The anecdotes, to repeat the phrase of the former right hon. Gentleman, had been shown by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland to be, in many instances, altogether unfounded. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had assumed that the facts in support of the Bill were matters of common knowledge. This was the situation, and on this ground they were asked to apply this Bill to Ireland. Only one serious case of Boycotting had been quoted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and this was given as a specimen of what was occurring in Ireland. He thought he might say in passing, and in reference to an answer given by the First Lord of the Treasury, that they, the English Members, also knew something of Boycotting. The First Lord of the Treasury had stated with perfect confidence that there was no Boycotting or intimidation in England. He did not hesitate to say that in the county he represented he could state cases of Boycotting, and Boycotting as atrocious as any of those brought before the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as reasons for passing this Bill. With regard to intimidation, hon. Members around him could also say something about intimidation. The poor agricultural labourers in the counties during the severe winter had reason to know that intimidation prevailed in England as well as in Ireland. As to the cases brought forward by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, probably they would hear something more about them before the debate terminated; but he should like to say that he had official information which did not agree with the information supplied by the Chief Secretary. He would read one or two extracts only, which gave a different account altogether as to the state of Ireland. Those extracts were from an authority which would be recognized by the Party opposite. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), speaking not so long ago, said that he—Saw nothing unsatisfactory—nothing specially alarming—in the state of Ireland. There was a great deal of popular excitement, a good deal of disorder and violent speaking; but in a of all prophecies Ireland was at that moment practically free from crime.They were told that "crime had been reduced;" that it was "in a normal condition, and below its normal condi- 514 tion." Then they were informed by the noble Lord that there was a certain school of political equitation specially represented by The Times, which persisted in adopting a line with regard to Ireland which consisted in continually jobbing it in the mouth, hitting it over the head with the whip, digging it in the side with the spurs —a method, said the noble Lord, which had laid rider after rider in the ditch. That was his description of the state of Ireland, and of the proposal to cure it by coercion, in the debate on the Address at the end of January. He was bound to say that the noble Lord had recently given them a somewhat different account; but where had his after official knowledge been obtained? It could not have been acquired since he left Office, and therefore it must have been obtained before that event. But the memory of the noble Lord was proverbially treacherous, and he (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) preferred to take the noble Lord's statements of official information in January to his recollections of that official information in April. The noble Lord now told them the Bill must be passed in its entirety. There were rumours that certain clauses in the Bill were to be abandoned; but the noble Lord said—"Unless you pass the Bill in its entirety you will have done nothing;" and he added—I say, from what I know, that within a month or two of passing this Bill, once more peace and order will reign, and true liberty will prevail in Ireland.The peace and order that would be brought about by this Bill would be such as prevailed when the historic announcement was made that "order reigns in Warsaw." This was the first time during the 87 years of the Union that it had been proposed that trial by jury should be not suspended, but permanently abrogated, in Ireland. It was the first time during the 700 years, since the conquest of Ireland, that it had been proposed that Irishmen accused of offences in their own country should be brought to this country to be tried—to a country which Irish peasants regarded as being to all intents a foreign country. A corresponding state of things in other countries had not produced a similar proposal. In Sicily it had been equally impossible, owing to the prejudices of the population to obtain 515 verdicts; but he had not heard that Sicilians were removed to Naples, Rome, or Milan to be tried; and yet the differences of race were far loss than they are between the people of Ireland and the people of England. There was no definition of the legal qualification to be required of one of the two Resident Magistrates before whom certain cases were to be tried. The Government took credit for not having made the Bill applicable to political offences; but was it possible to draw the line? And if it were possible he believed that the day was not far distant when political offences would have to be avowedly dealt with in the same manner as the present Bill dealt with the offences to which it wag supposed to be limited. He felt convinced that the Government could not stop at the proposed limit. They would be compelled to apply the same rule to political offences, and then trial by jury in Ireland, or, at least, by Irish, juries, would be entirely abrogated. It was his firm conviction that the disease was too deeply seated to be cured by measures like this, and the remedy must be sought elsewhere. We had passed many measures that were intended for the benefit of Ireland; but we had not passed that for which the people of Ireland had persistently asked, and that was a measure to give them self-government. And how had we governed Ireland, even when exceptional measures were not in operation? Our ordinary government of Ireland had been well described by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who said it was a system founded on the bayonets of 30,000 men encamped permanently in a hostile country; that it resembled Russia's government of Poland and the government of Venice under Austrian rule; that Irish officials were appointed by a foreign Government without a shadow of representative authority. He went on to say that the time had come to reform altogether the absurd and irritating anachronism known as Dublin Castle; that that was the work to which the new Parliament should be called; and that by doing that work it would best promote the true interests of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman further said in the same speech that the alternative was to "renew the dreary experiment of repressive legislation," and asked— 516Is it not discreditable that it is only by unconstitutional means we are able to secure peace and order in one portion of Her Majesty's Dominions?It was to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not set his hand to the work which he himself said was the work that the new Parliament ought to perform. Instead of doing that, he was content once more to "renew the dreary experiment of repressive legislation." Until another and a better way was adopted, we should have no peace or order in Ireland. The inevitable effect of the passing of the Bill on the influence of the Nationalist Leaders would be to diminish that influence for good and to increase it for evil. He could only hope that the leaders and the people would put restraint on themselves. If he were an Irishman, he did not know whether, even at his age, he should be able to put upon himself the restraint he was hoping for from others, and he could only pray that his fears might not be realized. In any case, it was clear that the mere passing of the Bill would render more difficult the future task of bringing about harmony between the peoples of the two countries. He was aware that any resistance which he and those who thought with him might offer to this ill-fated Bill could, in the present state of Parties, have but little effect; but, notwithstanding this, he felt it his duty to protest against its passing; and he, therefore, moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said that, taking as he did precisely the same view of the probable effect of the Coercion Bill on Ireland as his hon. Friend who had just sat down (Sir Bernhard Samuelson), he had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment against the second reading. The Government had incurred a grave and serious responsibility in endeavouring to rule Ireland by a special Criminal Law, rather than in accordance with the wishes of the majority of its people. He would admit that those who opposed the Bill also took upon themselves a grave responsibility, as every word spoken against the Bill in the House would weaken its operation if it were really necessary. But he believed the Government was adopting the wrong course to prevent the increase of dis- 517 loyalty in Ireland, and they were adopting a course that could end only in increased disaster, disunion, and disloyalty. The plan of coercion for the government of Ireland had been tried 86 times since the Act of Union, little more than three-quarters of a century ago, and each time it had failed. The difficulty of governing Ireland was increased by every attempt we made to govern it by force, and in his "belief it was doomed to a further failure when this Bill was passed. In his political life he had seen five or six Governments shipwrecked on the question of ruling Ireland, and signs were not wanting of another impending shipwreck upon the same rock. The controversy ought to be brought to a close; but he did not believe it could be brought to an end by force of arms. he believed that the true remedy and the only remedy was moral suasion, and that could only be effective by governing the people according to the will of the majority. There had been too many accusations of inconsistency hurled across the floor of the House, and, what was more painful still, too many between sections of the Opposition. It was very painful to him to see the two great Parties in the State in such thorough disagreement on this question, and still more painful to see those whom he was in the habit of looking upon as the Leaders of the Liberal Party disagreeing among themselves on the subject. There must be an end to these tu quoque arguments. Bidding for the Irish vote might be not only detrimental to the interests of Party, but even dangerous to the interests of our common country and of Ireland. It gave the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) the opportunity of playing upon both Parties, and he believed the hon. Member had played upon both Parties in a manner which was highly dangerous. He believed the question could only be solved by dealing with Ireland as they ought to deal with a people of intelligence and capacity who were capable of organizing and governing their own country for the advantage of their own people. This Bill brought in by the Government was both so bitter and fierce in its character that he could hardly find words to describe it, and it contained provisions which were proposed for the first time in the history of Irish coercive legislation. With refer- 518 ence to the examination of witnesses under the Bill, he could imagine nothing more detrimental to the interests of law and justice than that, on the fiat of the Attorney General, a Resident Magistrate might be directed to examine persons on oath; that the witness should not be excused from answering, on the ground that he might incriminate himself, and that he should be liable to indictment for perjury if he told a lie. This power was not to be confined to one district, but was to apply to the whole of Ireland. The powers to be given to the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim particular districts, and to suppress, after Proclamation, any association or meeting which he "believed" to be dangerous, were other features of the Bill which he condemned; while another objectionable part of the measure was the peremptory power which it gave of the search for arms in a proclaimed district. This Bill further differed, he believed, from all previous Coercion Acts by the insertion of provisions relating to the crimes created with the Whiteboy Acts, although the penalties under those Acts were not revision; and of all the Acts that had been inflicted upon the people of Ireland he had ever had the opportunity of reading, the Whiteboy Acts were the most bloody in their operation. They wore repealed in 1831, and were to be revived in 1887. Under them the offence of sending a threatening letter was punishable by death, and in every respect the Acts were most tyrannical and severe. They were, in short, the memory of a hateful system of legislation which had been brought to bear on the country. In those circumstances, he was prepared to take his stand on the logical position laid down a short time since in that House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who described that position as declining to add to the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland until all other remedies have failed. He was unable, therefore, to vote for a Bill of the kind until he was fully assured, in his own mind, that all other methods of dealing honestly and justly with Ireland had failed, and had had no effect whatever. During the whole time he (Sir Joseph Pease) had been in the House, he was never more disappointed and dissatisfied with a case than with that 519 which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland endeavoured to make out as to the necessity for the Bill. The case he made out was glaringly-insufficient; and if, as he stated, there was urgent necessity for it, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been fortified by the production of proof of a serious increase of crime; but he showed nothing of the kind, and gave the House very few statistics. In fact, there had been a decrease of crime. He had read many of the charges of the Judges; but those charges were based on documents which he had never seen and which the House had never The right hon. Gentleman told the House that there were 836 persons then Boycotted; but, from all that he (Sir Joseph Pease) had read in The Times, he should have thought the number would have been as many thousands. The Chief Secretary then said there were some 917 persons under police protection, and that 770 policemen were engaged in that duty; but there was no doubt that a large number of those men were engaged in watching and looking after farms from which the tenants had been evicted. Let them look at some Returns of agrarian outrages which the Chief Secretary had not touched. In the last six months of 1885 there were 543 cases, of which 232 were threatening letters, and four were murders; in the last six months of 1886 the number of cases was 472, of which 179 were threatening letters, and three were murders; and in the last quarter of 1866 there had been a further decrease of offences against life. Next they were told that juries would not convict—that there was Boycotting, terror of the Land League, the presence of American money, and great danger of evil counsels from the United States. He would admit that, as they stated, juries would not convict, and that there was Boycotting in Ireland; but he contended that if there was that difficulty now in procuring evidence and getting juries to convict, the sure way to increase that difficulty, and to increase the amount of the American subscription, was to pass that Bill. The Land Question was the evil at the bottom of the whole Irish Question, and unless they rooted out the complaint—until the Land Laws were fairly, justly, and generously dealt with—the disease would only break 520 out afresh. If the evil was not redressed, this Bill would produce secret societies in lieu of open meetings, and there would be an increase of offences. Some hon. Gentlemen would say that the Land Act of 1881 had been a failure; but five years' record of its working, ending August 21, 1886, showed that 169,651 cases were brought before the Land Commission to be dealt with. Those cases represented 4,672,084 acres—nearly one-third of the whole of the land of Ireland under cultivation; and why were those cases taken to the Courts? Simply because the rent claimed by the landlord was higher than the tenant could pay, or ought to pay. This was proved by the fact that the Courts had reduced rents to the extent of about £560,000, which had consequently been taken from the pockets of the landlords. Capitalized, in 15 years that would amount to over £8,000.000, and, under those circumstances, it was not necessary to ask how the tenants of Ireland had been treated by the landlords. The Sub-Commissioners reduced rents after the passing of the Act of 1881 by about 20 per cent; the Civil Bill Court reduced them by 20 per cent. and the agreements were cut down to 16½ per cent. But recently the rents had been cut down to 32 per cent, and if this rate of reduction had been applied two or three years ago, instead of a reduction of £500,000 there would have been £900,000 or £1,000,000 taken yearly from the rents of the landlords, and that would have made a great difference to the poor people of Ireland. Land that went into the Land Courts valued at 13s. 5d. per acre left them with the rent fixed at 9s. 4d. per acre, and this was a most important reduction to the small tenants, including those who held 26 acres and under. After the changes that the Land Law had passed through in Ireland the House would be surprised to hear it stated that the Poor Law valuation in Ireland was still in excess of the judicial rents. Judicial rents had been fixed to the amount of £2,586,000, and the Poor Law valuation of those judicial rents showed an excess of £530,000. Had the House any idea of the amount of money that the poor Irish people had lost between the years 1881 and 1886 in consequence of the depreciation of agricultural produce? They had lost no less than £24,000,000. That was a serious 521 loss; but added to it must be the amount j of excessive rents which the poor people had to pay to their landlords. When he be or that in mind, and remembered that the tenants who had suffered so seriously had, in addition, been subjected to the exactions of rapacious landlords, he could not feel surprised at the existence of the Land League, or even at the existence of secret societies. If the Government desired to have done with the League, let them not rely on alterations of the law, no matter how drastic; let them rather act on the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller, who declared that rents were too high. Yet, notwithstanding this evidence of a gallant officer, who was noted for his common sense as much as for his skill as a soldier, the Government affected to be surprised to find that the National League existed. Sir Redvers Buller distinctly stated that he was of opinion that the rents were too high, and that the poor tenants were now paying as much rent as they could afford. It should be remembered that where the rents had been reduced to about 20 per cent in Ireland, far greater reductions had been made upon English estates—larger reductions than had been effected in Ireland by the Land Courts—by the landlords of those estates; and he believed that in cases where the rents in Ireland had recently been reduced 30 per cent, rents had been reduced to a far greater extent—he should say, many including the landlord's outlay in draining, building, and improvements, 60 per cent—in England. Indeed, he believed he could lay his hand upon estate after estate where the reductions of rent had not been less than 60 per cent. He happened to hear of a district in Norfolk the other day where 40 country houses had become unoccupied and unused, an evidence of the general falling-off in the value of agricultural produce. he looked with the greatest dismay upon the step which Her Majesty's Government was now taking, and he warned right hon. Members opposite that to try once more to govern Ireland by coercion was to attempt a Herculean task, which had broken down some strong Governments, and would do so again. Nearly every Chief Secretary on whom such, a task had been imposed in recent years had had cause to regret his assumption of Office. If ever a man went to 522 Ireland with the intention of doing his very best for the people of that country —and he (Sir Joseph Pease) could prove it from the private letters which he had in his possession—that man was the late Mr. Forster. He went to Ireland solely and entirely with the desire of doing his best for that country; but he had lost his health, and his spirit failed him under the load which he had undertaken, and now he was no longer with them. Then there was the case of his friend Sir George Trevelyan, and the few years he spent at the Irish Office doubled, even quadrupled, the years of his life in the effect that they had upon him. He was succeeded by his right hon. friend the Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Camp-bell-Bannerman), who was the only exception to the rule, and who reminded him of the shield of Rhoderick Dhu—Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hideHad death so often dashed aside;and who, like the Chieftain's antagonist—Unwounded from the dreadful close,But, breathless all, Fitz-James arose "—did not find the Chief Secretary ship of Ireland an agreeable position. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) now undertook the duty of that Office with a grave face and a serious air, and no doubt he believed that he would succeed in going through with his Coercion Act, notwithstanding the failures of his Predecessors. He (Sir Joseph Pease) hoped, though he doubted, that the right hon. Gentleman possessed the same toughness which had characterized the right hon. Member for Stirlingshire. [A laugh.] That was no jesting matter, for every man who had attempted to govern Ireland by coercion found the same experience—his face became more serious, and his hair more grey. Among the Noblemen who had filled the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, several were of opinion that there was a better way to govern the country than by coercion. Lord Spencer, who had been Viceroy of Ireland for 8½ years, his two periods of Office being taken together, at last confessed that that country must be ruled by another way than coercion. Lord Carnarvon, himself, had also recommended in "another place" that the Irish people should be governed more in accordance with, their sentiment; and the recommendation of the Government's 523 own Royal Commission, presided over by Lord Cowper, prescribed other remedies than coercion. The principles which ought to direct us in the present controversy were, in his opinion, those laid down in the following passage from Dymond's Principles of Morality, which was a favourite author of his right hon. Friend the Member for Central Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) as being the duties of a Government in regard to a country like Ireland—Wherever men are competent to look the first duties of humanity in the face, and to provide for their defence against the invasion of hunger and the inclemencies of the sky, there they will, out of all doubt, he found equally capable of every other exertion that may he necessary to their security and welfare. Present to them a Constitution which shall put them into a simple and intelligible method of directing their own affairs, adjudging their contests among themselves, and cherishing in their bosoms a manly sense of dignity, equality, and independence, and we need not doubt that prosperity and virtue will be the result.The reason of the discontent of the Irish people was that they were poor and starving, and out of sympathy with their Land Laws, which had been, and were still, unjust. He believed that this Bill would create more alienation and cause more crime. He would, therefore, appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Government to abandon those things which were not remedies, such as the bayonet of the soldier, the truncheon of the policeman, and the terrors of the gaol at Kilmainham, and to try, by legislation more in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people, but in accordance also with Imperial necessities, to soothe the irritation of centuries, and promote the real Union of the Empire.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, being of opinion that the Bill, if it should become Law, will tend to increase disorder in Ireland, and to endanger the Union between that Country and the other parts of the Empire, declines to proceed further with the said Bill,"—(Sir Bernhard Samuelson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The hon. Baronet who has just sat down has told us a good deal about the pain that he has felt is the course 524 of these discussions. I can quite understand, though I cannot with accuracy say that I sympathize very greatly with him. When the hon. Baronet remembers the course which he and others took upon a measure of this nature, and in circumstances not very dissimilar from those by Which we are surrounded now, I can well believe that his position, and that of his Friends, is painful in the extreme. The hon. Baronet, however, cordially agrees with the Amendment. Now, what is the nature of that Amendment? The hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) asks the House to decline to proceed with the Bill which is now before it, because it will tend to increase disorder in Ireland and endanger the Union. But what is the alternative which the hon. Member offers us? The evil, he says, is far too deeply seated to be dealt with by the measure which is now before us; and the hon. Baronet, following that observation, declares that if you want to increase it to an unlimited extent, all you have to do is to pass this Bill. The people of Ireland, he says, are poor and starving; and that poverty and starvation exist because they live under Land Laws which have been and are unjust, and that notwithstanding the laws of which he complains were passed by the right hon. Gentleman who sits below him. The hon. Member for Banbury says that the only remedy for the present state of things is that we should make up our minds to concede Home Rule. Well, Sir, I am prepared to admit that this is one of the alternatives which we have before us. We have the policy of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on the one hand, the policy of the Government on the other. The policy of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian we have always regarded, whether rightly or wrongly, in its ultimate issue, as a policy for the repeal of the Union. The policy of Lord Salisbury and his Colleagues, on the other hand, we regard, whether rightly or wrongly, as the policy of maintaining the Union. Sir, it was shown, I think conclusively, by the experience of the year 1881, that remedial legislation by itself was absolutely useless then, and would be useless now; and unless we mean to do absolutely nothing, and are content to leave Ireland in its present state of chaos, it is between these two alternatives, for all practical purposes, 525 that Parliament must decide, if it means to deal in earnest with the present situation. We cannot allow Ireland to remain in its present state of chaos and confusion; that is absolutely certain. The hon. Member for Banbury knows, or ought to know, that we are absolutely precluded by the mandate of the country, as well as by our own convictions, from entertaining the policy of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the concession of Home Rule, and the establishment of a Parliament in Dublin; and, therefore, the only alternative which is loft to us is the policy of the Government. That being so, if we are able successfully to meet and dispose of the objections which have been raised to this measure, it seems to me that Parliament would do well to pass it into law, and to pass it into law without delay. Now, what are the main objections to this measure? I do not wish to pledge myself to all or any of its details to-night; but, generally speaking, the chief of them appear to be three in number. The first is that the grounds upon which it is asked for are absolutely insufficient and altogether unsatisfactory the second is that there is a fundamental distinction between the circumstances of 1881, under which the right hon. Gentleman resorted to coercion, and the circumstances of to-day, under which my right hon. Friend proposes to follow his example. Thirdly, we are told, and the hon. Member for Banbury told us just now, that coercion had never been successful in the past, and that it is, therefore, absolutely certain to fail again in future. Now, Sir, I wish to examine each of these objections. The first objection was made, if I remember rightly, by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. He laid great stress upon it, and I heard him with profound surprise, and I can only account for it by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's memory must have entirely failed him. I should have thought that the charges of the Judges quoted by the Chief Secretary would have some weight with the right hon. Gentleman. When his Government in 1881 was engaged in introducing a measure of this nature the charges of the Judges were made use of and freely quoted in support of the measure introduced by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). One of those charges is almost identical in its 526 terms with the charge referred to by my right hon. Friend. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend quoted from the charge of Mr. Justice Lawson. [Laughter and derisive cheers from Home Rule Members.] I hope hon. Members will allow me to make my own speech in my own way. Speaking at the Mayo Assizes in March, 1887, Mr. Justice Lawson used these words—The present state of things, according to the reports made to him, approached as near to rebellion against the authority of the country as anything short of civil war could be.That was in 1887. What do I find in 1881? In 1881 I find the right hon. Member for Derby quoted the charge of Judge Fitzgerald made at the Munster Winter Assizes, 1880, in which occurs this passage—Some organization, acting on the cupidity, the passions, and the fears of the people, had reduced some districts in the country into anarchy and confusion, little, if at all, differing from civil war.Now the charge of Mr. Justice Fitzgerald in 1881 differs in no respect that I am aware of from the charge quoted by my right hon. Friend in 1887. But in 1881 the charges of the Judges constituted, in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, a grave and formidable point in the indictment of the right hon. Member for Derby. But now, when precisely similar charges are produced by the Chief Secretary, what is the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman? No attention is to be paid to them; they are made light of and discredited and cast aside altogether. That is a specimen—the first specimen I wish to give—of the fairness and impartiality of the right hon. Gentleman in relation to this question. Well, Sir, I should have thought that the evidence adduced by my right hon. Friend with regard to the prevalence of the cruel system of Boycotting might possibly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. We have heard something to-night about Boycotting and intimidation in England. It it be true that Boycotting and intimidation exist in any part of this country in anything approaching the degree to which they exist in Ireland, I should be the first person to advocate for England precisely similar legislation to this. "Boycotting," says the right hon. Gentleman; "you have had more Boycotting in Ireland than you have to-day. Boycotting is exclusive 527 dealing; and, moreover, there is this remarkable feature about the Boycotting of the present time—namely, that it is almost entirely separated from outrage and from crime." Why, I say that Boycotting is a crime, and a dastardly outrage in itself. Has the right hon. Gentleman, of all men in the world, actually forgotten what Boycotting really means? If he has I must refresh his memory a little. Now I do not wish to exaggerate in any description I shall give of Boycotting, and therefore I will only give a very moderate and temperate definition—a description given by a man possessed of a large knowledge and a wide experience of Ireland and Irish affairs and a full access to all sources of official information—Boycotting is combined intimidation made use of for the purpose of destroying the private liberties of choice by fear of ruin and starvation. ….Boycotting, like every other creed, requires a sanction, and the sanction of Boycotting—that which stands in the rear of Boycotting, and by which alone Boycotting can in the long run be made thoroughly effective—is the murder which is not to be denounced.Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the words, and does his conscience prick him a little about them, for it is his own description? Yet the right hon. Gentleman is not ashamed to come before Parliament in 1887, and to say that the Boycotting which has been proved by my right hon. Friend offers no shadow of justification for the present Bill. Perhaps you may tell me that you cannot stop Boycotting by legislation, and you may quote Conservative Leaders to that effect. I do not care if you do; I do not agree with them: and I think the fact that when the last Crimes Act was dropped Boycotting increased four-fold is a pretty strong argument in my favour. But you can, at least, put a stop to the murders which, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, alone give a sanction to Boycotting, and the way to stop those murders is this. [A Home Rule MEMBER: What murders?] An hon. Member says "What murders?" If he will wait a few moments I will tell him of are which he cannot deny. The way to stop these murders is by the adoption of the Bill now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed the other night to derive great satisfaction from the fact that Boycotting and intimidation are now generally separated from outrage and from crime. I admit that 528 to some extent, perhaps, that is true to-day. But why are they more often separated now? The reason is notorious. The right hon. Gentleman knows it just as well as I know it, and everybody knows it. Such is the perfection to which the organization of the National League has been brought that the fear of the murder which is not to be denounced—the certainty that some cruel and brutal punishment will follow swiftly any disobedience to its orders—is sufficient of itself, in nine cases out of ten, to insure obedience to their behests, whatever they may be. But it is not always so. There are some people still left in Ireland who refuse to bow down to this cruel and tyrannous association, and whenever that happens murder and crime follow swiftly in its train; and, consequently, they are not always separated from each other even at the present time. A very remarkable instance of this is given in the Blue Book in the evidence of a witness on whom the right hon. Gentleman himself evidently places great reliance, for he quoted him over and over again in the course of one of these debates. The attention of the right hon. Gentleman, I remember, was drawn one night to this particular piece of evidence by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). He was invited by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to read it. He did not read it, however, and I think he was quite right. I think he showed a wise discretion in not reading it. It would have been uncommonly awkward for his argument at the time; but I am going to read it now. This question was put to Sir Redvers Buller—In fact, owing to the organization of the League, the enforcement of legal obligations in these districts has become an impossibility?His reply was—Quite so; you cannot collect a shop debt, hardly. There was a man murdered the other day on account of a shop debt on the other side of Trade. the crops of a farmer were seized by a shopkeeper, who employed a labourer to cut some oats, and he was shot the same night.So it has come to this—that you cannot even collect a shop debt in disturbed parts of the country without running the risk of some monstrous crime and outrage following that night; and, yet, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman is able to see nothing in all this that can possibly justify 529 the introduction of this Bill. I should think that evidence enough had been adduced already to satisfy the most exacting of opponents ten times over as to the present state of Ireland and the imperative necessity for strengthening the law. But I will give one other reason yet which has not been mentioned up to now; and I think it must convince even the right hon. Gentleman. It is now about 10 months since the Home Rule scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was rejected and since the verdict of the House of Commons was emphatically endorsed by the newly-enfranchised constituencies of the country. What was the state of Ireland then? Were the constituencies right or wrong in their decision? Has the state of Ireland been better or worse since then? I do not hear any hon. Members say that it has been bettor. If they did that would be the most cogent argument possible in favour of our rejection of that Bill. If it has not been better, has it been worse? Is that the opinion of hon. Members? They say it has been worse. I should like very much to know whether the right hon. Gentleman agrees with that assertion? It would be a valuable admission for the purposes of my argument. What was the condition of Ireland a year ago, and why were his great legislative changes proposed by the right hon. Gentleman? He has told us himself—This change," the right hon. Gentleman said, "is proposed in order to meet the first necessities of civilized society. Social order is not broken up in Ireland; it is undermined; it is sapped, and, by general and universal confession, it imperatively requires to lie dealt with.Now, that was the language of the right hon. Gentleman a year ago; and I ask the House to consider what is the position of the right hon. Gentleman tonight? I have quoted his own words as to the state of Ireland 12 months ago. It is not denied by any human being that it is worse to-day than it was at that time. The right hon. Gentleman knows that remedial legislation alone is useless, and he knows that we are precluded from adopting his own schemes; and yet he has the assurance to come before Parliament and to declare that the grounds and allegations upon which the Government have asked for this measure are absolutely insufficient and unsatisfactory altogether. I pass now to 530 another objection which has been urged against this measure. The objection is that there is a fundamental distinction between the circumstances of 1881 and the circumstances of 1887. That objection was raised by the right hon. Gentleman, who said—The fundamental distinction between this period and 1881 is this—whereas now the demand of the people has been almost universally restricted to just abatements, as can be proved from the evidence laid before us, in 1881 there was a movement in progress which was growing to be, and a few months after the statement of Mr. Forster was avowed and declared to be, a movement against the payment of rent altogether.When the right hon. Gentleman made that statement he challenged contradiction upon it. I am going to contradict him now. That statement is not altogether an accurate description of the case. The movement against all rent only arose after the hon. Member for Cork and his friends were arrested; and, unless I am misinformed, that movement was started in retaliation for their imprisonment in Kilmainham Gaol. What they were doing before they were arrested and what they were arrested for was precisely the same thing as that which is being done by the Plan of Campaign at the present moment, as I will show to the House conclusively out of the words of the right hon. Gentleman. On the 7th of October, 1881, the right hon. Gentleman declared that—For nearly the first time in the history of Christendom a body—a small body—of men has arisen who are not ashamed to preach in Ireland the doctrines of public plunder.Now, that was a charge the gravity of which it was impossible to exaggerate, and how did he support it? He said that—He took as the representative of the opinions he denounced the name of the hon. Member for Cork.And what were those opinions? I will give thorn in the exact words which he used. The right hon. Gentleman said—Months ago Mr. Farnell told the people that they ought to pay no rents they had covenanted to pay; that, whether they were able or not able, they were under no obligation to pay those rents, but that they must pay rents according to the views which were set down in Griffith's valuation. In fact,he said—and I beg the attention of the House to the statement, because it is so exactly descriptive of the present situation— 531the announcement amounted to this—that they were themselves to substitute an arbitrary standard for the standard to which they had themselves individually agreed."'Why, that is the very thing' which the leaders and the moving spirits of the Plan of Campaign are doing at this moment! There is not an hon. Gentleman who will get up and deny it. If I wanted a description of their action and their conduct I could not have found a description more accurate than that with which he has provided me. Well, Sir, these are the opinions which called forth the just indignation and the censures of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, I will give the very words in which those censures were expressed—I ask you," he said, "as honest men, not as politicians, not as Liberals, not in any other capacity, I ask you whether it is possible to describe proceedings like these in any words more just than the promulgation of sheer plunder?Now, Sir, that was the language of the right hon. Gentleman in 1881; but what is going on at the present time? The right hon. Gentleman is hoist with his own petard as surely no statesman was ever hoist before, and it is upon this miserable, flimsy, worthless, and utterly unreal distinction that he is not ashamed to take his stand to-day. And he seems to think that it reflects no discredit upon himself or upon the character of English statesmen that he should lend the whole weight of his great authority and influence to those very doctrines of public plunder which he formerly denounced, for which he imprisoned hon. Gentlemen opposite, and against which he invoked the very selfsame powers of the law which he denounces the Government for asking tonight. The right hon. Gentleman was appealing at that time to a great English audience in the town of Leeds in October, 1881. And I, too, will appeal to him in my turn to-night, and I ask him now, not as a Liberal, not as a politician, not in any other capacity, I ask him as an honest man—to use his own expression: as an honest man—I ask him, as an honest man, to get up in his place and make it clear—which he has never done till now—to make it clear to Ireland and to all the world, in words that cannot be mistaken, that as far as he is concerned he has neither lot nor part in, and that he will have nothing whatever to do with, the doctrines and 532 the promulgation of the doctrines of sheer plunder. Sir, I pass for a moment to the consideration of other matters which have been raised by the hon. Baronet who seconded the Amendment. You may tell mo that since all this has happened there has been a great fall in the prices of agricultural produce, and that, therefore, the whole situation has completely changed. The hon. Baronet who seconded the Amendment dwelt upon the great and terrible loss incurred by Irish tenants during the last few years, and he had the courtesy—or rather the want of courtesy—to tell us on this side of the House that we had not the slightest sympathy with them. [Home Ride cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheer that statement must pardon me if I repudiate it altogether. We have just as much sympathy with the tenants in their losses as any Party in this House. If tenants are poor and houseless it is a duty incumbent upon all classes of the community—and not one only—to bear the burden of their relief. [An Irish MEMBER: Protection.] Well, I have no objection to that, but I do not intend to propose it. When the hon. Baronet contrasts the abatements of rents in England with those which have been made in Ireland, he ought to remember how totally different is the position of landlords and tenants in the two countries. Their position was entirely altered by the legislation of the right hon. Gentleman in 1881. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) stated the other night that this was a Bill for exacting exorbitant rents. I dispute that proposition altogether. But, supposing for argument's sake he is right, who fixed those rents? The landlords had no more to do with it than you or I. [A laugh.] When the hon. Member laughs at that statement it is evident he has not taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the most elementary provisions of the Irish Land Act. Bents were fixed under the Land Act of the right hon. Gentleman entirely without the consent and against the will of the landlords; and the right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, as compensation for that unusual and unprecedented interference with the rights of property, gave the landlords a solemn and a binding guarantee on two points in particular; first, that under no circumstances whatsoever 533 should that rent be disturbed for 15 years, and, secondly, that if for any cause it was not paid their land should be restored to them if they wished it. That land was in many cases that I know of brought under Parliamentary title, and is just as much the absolute property of the landlord as are the coats on the backs and the purses in the pockets of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I heard an hon. Member the other night denounce Irish landlords in language of which he ought to have been ashamed. He described them as thieves and robbers, not to speak of their being rack-renters beside. Violent language is generally weak language, and perhaps it was to cover the weakness of his case that the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) was so violent that night. But if there be any theft or robbery in relation to this matter—it is not my opinion mind; I am only quoting the Lord Mayor of Dublin—the author of that theft and the author of that robbery is sitting on the Front Bench opposite? [Home Rule cries of "No, no!"] He fixed those rents; he gave this solemn binding guarantee to them; and I say it is an outrage on every sense of decency and fairness to turn round now upon the Irish landlords because they claim the fulfilment of the solemn bargain which, at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman, Parliament made with them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite boast greatly of their love of justice. Well, I want to put to them this question —supposing prices had risen instead of fallen, would they have come forward to disturb the existing arrangements? Not a bit of it—they would never have dreamt of it for a moment. But if the landlords are precluded from gain in a case of rise in the prices of produce, why are they to suffer when prices fall? And how is it possible for any man to advance that proposition Tinder the shelter and in the name of justice? When hon. Gentlemen opposite speak of bad landlords in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman, I observed, fell into that error himself. I should like to remind them of this—that, strictly speaking, where judicial rents prevail there is no such thing as landlords good or bad in Ireland at all. That is not my opinion only; it is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. I have been a Member of the House for 534 many years and remember all the debates upon the Irish Land Bills in past years, and in 1870 the right hon. Gentleman, arguing at that time with the ability with which he always argues questions, against fixity and security of tenure, said this—The effect of that provision will be that the landlord will become a mere pensioner and rent-charter on the estate which is now his own, and it will probably denude him of his interest in, and, what is more, absolve him of his duties in re gave to the land. I, for one, confess that I cannot support it, nor is it in accordance with the sentiments of my Colleagues.That, however, is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman did shortly afterwards, and I say it is monstrous now to turn round on the Irish landlords and denounce them in the way I have described. I have thought it right to make these few observations in vindication of my brother landlords in the other country. I think it is unnecessary to say more, because I believe that the provisions of the Government Bill which has been introduced into the House of Lords will be sufficient to cut away the last shadow of a pretence for the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Well, Sir, I think I have said quite enough to show the hollowness, the falsity, and shallowness of the objections which have been raised against this Bill; but I want to say one word as to the statement that coercion has always failed in the past and will fail in the future. That was conclusively disposed of by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the other night, when he spoke of the administration of Lord Spencer. I was never one of those who joined in the outcry against Lord Spencer. There is no doubt that under his administration a marked improvement did take place in the condition of Ireland. But before Lord Spencer went to Ireland coercion had failed, and the reason was obvious. It failed because of the vacillating way in which it was administered by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman. It was hardly possible that coercion could succeed when administered in that way. The right hon. Gentleman imprisoned hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House on one day, and then upon the next he proceeded to make Kilmainham Treaties with them. That is exactly what occurred under the administration of the Habeas Corpus Act of that time. For- 535 merly all measures of this nature, so far as I remember them, at all events, have been limited by a fixed period of time. Consequently, it is notorious that they have proved a source of sore temptation when the time approached for their renewal—a temptation to the Government to cater for the Irish vote by promising not to renew them. In this case that temptation will no longer operate in future. But it does not follow that it is to remain on the Statute Book for ever. I look forward to the time when the just and firm administration both of the repressive and remedial measures which have been introduced in the present Parliament, and which I earnestly hope are destined to become law during the present Session, will have conquered and laid low the demon of disorder and disaffection in Ireland, and when peace and prosperity and quiet and contentment, by the blessing of Providence, may again prevail in a prosperous and. smiling land; when, Sir, measures of this kind will be no more necessary in Ireland than in England or Scotland at the present time, and when this Bill may be safely repealed. This measure is aimed at the abettors and perpetrators of outrage, at men who were described by the right hon. Gentleman in 1881 as "the dangerous classes of the country" then, and who are still the dangerous classes at the present time. In a word, we found our case on this—the return to the ordinary law has absolutely failed; juries will not convict in Ireland according to the facts as they are viewed by the Government, as they are viewed by the Judges, and, as we believe, by the whole people at large. The failure of the administration of justice in Ireland is consequently complete. That failure is not disputed and is not contradicted by any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House. That is a condition of affairs which no Government that is worthy of the name can tolerate for a moment, and as I have shown by what I have said we have no other alternative than the measure now before us. We have, as I believe, the voice of the people—the voice of the nation—behind us. The mandate was given to us emphatically at the last General Election. That mandate we intend, and we are determined to carry it out. We ask the sanction of the House of Commons to a measure which, 536 in the words of a distinguished Leader of the Opposition, "can injure no man and touch no man who seeks lawful ends by lawful means;" and that measure, so far as it depends upon us, we are determined shall take its place on the Statute Book of England and without delay.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
There is one taunt that cannot be truly levelled at the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin). Whatever may be said of the policy he advocates and of the statesmanship of the views he expresses, it must, at all events, be admitted that the right hon. Gentleman has throughout been consistent. He has been a consistent supporter of the policy of coercion, and an equally consistent opponent of the Land Act of 1870, and still more of the Land Act of 1881, and of everything to ameliorate the condition of the bulk of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to show that there exists no real distinction between the condition of things in Ireland at the present time and in 1881–2, when the Liberal Government of that day were parties to bringing in and passing a strong measure of coercion. I am not myself concerned to draw any fine distinctions on this point. I opposed the measure of coercion of 1881–2 and voted against my Party, and I shall vote against the Bill of the Government now. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has admitted that there was a great access of crime in 1881–2 beyond what there is now. Since that time, moreover, you have given to Ireland by the Reform Act of 1885 a full and free voice to express its views and wishes Constitutionally. Now you know what is the will of Ireland. In 1881 the majority of the Irish Representatives, unhappily as I thought, were in favour of a policy of coercion. In 1887 the vast majority of the Irish Representatives—about five-sixths —are opposed to your policy of coercion. In addition to that you have now arrayed against coercion the great bulk of the Liberal Party. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that the fact of more or less opposition to this Bill cannot alter the duty of the Government. I agree. But it ought to suggest grave doubts to the right hon. Gentleman and his Party as to the policy of a measure of coercion to find it 537 opposed by the vast majority of the Constitutionally elected Representatives of Ireland and the great bulk of the Constitutionally elected Members of the Liberal Party. The right hon. Gentleman said this Bill was the only alternative to repeal of the Union. But was that the alternative on which the Tory Party went to the country at the last Election? Did they obtain a mandate from the country in favour of coercion? Certainly not. Did they not say that a resolute, consistent Tory Government administering the ordinary law with firmness would suffice for all purposes? I could quote from the addresses of hon. Members opposite to show how they repudiated the idea of having again to touch the pitch of coercion. The right hon. Gentleman, with, if he will permit mo to say so, very questionable taste, referred to the old exploded libel about the Kilmainham Treaty. I want to know is it the view of the Party opposite that no regard is to be had in the government of Ireland to the views and opinions of the Leaders of the Irish people? Is that their view of Constitutional government? Has it always been their view? If I am not mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman held a distinguished, though not very onerous, Office in the Conservative Government of 1885. Was the series of interviews between Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Parnell the beginning of a new "Treaty?" I never blamed Lord Carnarvon for this. Lord Carnarvon, charged with the grave responsibility of the government of Ireland, sought to do what in every Constitutionally governed country every Governor ought to do—he resorted to those who could give him the beat advice of the state and opinion of the country. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the subject of Boycotting, and, contrary to the whole tendency of the enormous Blue Book lately presented to the House, he arrived at the conclusion that murder is the sanction of Boycotting.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I quoted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) as stating that murder was the only sanction which made Boycotting effective.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire referred to an isolated 538 case of murder mentioned in the evidence of General Buller. That was a lamentable case—a crime which we all heartily regret and condemn. But will the right hon. Gentleman point to one syllable in the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller which connects that crime with the League or with any local association? This crime stood revealed as an isolated crime, without any connection whatever with the Land League. Well, Sir, I have not myself hitherto taken any part in the discussions on this Bill. I have preferred to wait until I should hear the defence made for it by its two principal defenders, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gosehen). I have also waited until the proposals of the Government were textually before us. With a full sense of responsibility I have considered this matter, and I say with deliberation that this Bill is more wide-reaching in its consequences—it interferes to a larger extent—than any Bill that has ever preceded it with the Constitutional rights and liberty of the Irish people, and it has been supported by a more meagre argument and more flimsy evidence than any Coercion Bill ever before laid before Parliament. I do not know, and I cannot therefore enter fully into, the feelings of right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I should have thought that the feeling uppermost in their minds would be not to treat this as a light matter, not to treat the opposition to it as a thing which was to be taken of course, not to denounce as accessories in crime and disorder those who conscientiously adopt views different to their own, but that they would have been oppressed with a feeling of shame that, representing as they do the great community of England which had had the government of Ireland for so many years, the outcome of all their policy had resulted in nothing better than this wide-weeping, far-reaching, stringent measure of further repression. What is the case for the Bill? I wish to state it fairly in order that I may try to meet it fairly. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said—"We do not base our case upon crime."
§ THE CHIEF SECEETAEY FOE IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Not on statistics.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
Not on statistics of crime. I suppose that means not on crime that can be authentically brought to the knowledge of the House as having taken place. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not rest his case upon agrarian crime, and that it was true that in 1880, 1881, and 1882 the amount of agrarian crime was largely in excess of what now exists. Taking away from the record of Irish crime crimes directly or indirectly connected with agrarian causes, I think it is not too much to say that Ireland is freer from crime than any other country on the face of the earth. That being so, one would have thought that the statesmanlike course would have been to go to the root of the evils causing the crime; but they did not do that—Her Majesty's Government postponed their remedial measures. All we know so far is this—that Her Majesty's Government reject the chief recommendations of their own Commissioners, and that upon this question of coercion they reject the wise and prudent advice of the only Member of that Commission who could be said in any sense to be a popular Representative upon it—the only man upon that Commission whose position could give him any right to speak in the name of the Irish tenant class. It would not be in Order, Sir, for me to discuss the measure that has been introduced into the House of Lords, and I do not propose to do so. I may, however, say this—that while I am in favour, as I was in 1881, of the inclusion of such leaseholders as desire to come under the benefits of the Act of 1881, yet of the rest of the Bill I have very serious misgivings. I greatly doubt whether it rightly deserves the character or description of being a Tenants' Relief Bill; certainly some of its provisions point much more directly to the relief of Irish landlords. As regards one provision, which takes away one odious step in the process of eviction, it is supposed to be in favour of the Irish tenant, but it is directly the opposite. It removes the one step in the odious process of eviction which has to some extent acted as a deterrent upon Irish landlords in carrying their legal right of eviction to the utmost. I confess I do not understand why the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) should have referred to that provision in the 540 Land Bill as one calculated "to appease the consciences of Englishmen," instead of attempting to justify it as one to satisfy the just demands of the Irish people. Statistics of crime not being the case for the Government, it is not surprising that we have not been given many instances, though such instances of crime as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has stated he relies upon have not been very happy selections. We have had speeches from the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and from the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. C. Harrington), and notably a speech from the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). I appeal to any candid man as to whether the speech of the hon. Member for Cork in particular did not make a very serious breach in the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and whether the reply which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to make to that speech did in any considerable degree repair that breach? What is the case of the Government? They say, first, there is the difficulty of obtaining evidence; and, secondly, that when the evidence has been obtained there is the difficulty of getting juries to convict. The next argument is the usurpation of the National League; and there is a further argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to which I do not think sufficient attention has been drawn, that it is necessary to pass this Coercion Bill in order, forsooth, to prevent the frustration of the land schemes which the Government are going to pass. I will allude to each of these topics briefly. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave the House a considerable number of figures with regard to charges of crime made and convictions obtained. These figures undoubtedly show a marked discrepancy between the charges of crime and the number of people that came forward to prosecute. But I would appeal to my hon. and learned Friends opposite as to whether, for those figures to have any weight, it is not necessary for us to know the circumstances of each case. We ought to know whether or not a large proportion of these offences were crimes committed in the darkness of night, when it was impossible to prove the identity of the criminals. In other cases, it may be 541 the evidence was exceedingly slight, or the charges trivial. Until the Government tell us the circumstances of each case, it is impossible for these statistics to have great weight. It is suggested that terrorism is the cause of so few-people coming forward to prosecute. I will admit that there are a large number of cases in which, from some cause or other, some persons in Ireland cognizant of offences against the law are unwilling to come forward to prosecute; but I say that is much more largely due to want of sympathy with the law than from terrorism outside the law. One of the most grave complaints against this Bill, if it should become law—I admit that want of sympathy with the law in Ireland is a source of mischief and evil—one of the most serious charges against this Bill is that it does nothing to remedy that evil, but will have the effect of still further alienating the sympathies of the people from the law. What is our experience of previous Coercion Acts? I recollect when the late Mr. Forster imprisoned under his Act 1,000 men without trial on suspicion of crime. So far from the persons so imprisoned being stained in character, I have seen correspondence with some of these men in which, I suppose as a mark of distinction, they signed their names-So-and-so, "ex-suspect." The right hon. Gentleman, as I understand, relies to a great extent on the fact that juries in many cases have not taken the same views of facts as the Judges. I appeal to my hon. and learned Friends opposite, the Home Secretary and the Law Officers, as to whether it is not at least conceivable that the juries have sometimes been right and. the Judges wrong? Undoubtedly Judges do sometimes make mistakes. As regards the statements put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in bulk, I maintain that they are unreliable statements, and that a great many allowances must be made on the grounds I have mentioned. After making those allowances, there nevertheless remains, it is true, a number of cases on which, forming the best judgment we can, we may arrive at the conclusion that juries have not done their duty. But to what is that owing? It is to this—that jurors are called upon to administer a system of law from which their moral sense revolts, and which they 542 believe to be made frequently an engine of oppression directed against men whom they regard as striving to do honest and useful work for their country. I do not apply that observation to such crimes as murder, or to crimes even less serious; but I do apply it to such cases as that of the hon. Member for East Mayo for standing, at whatever sacrifice to himself, between the tenants and the landlords who were proceeding by force to unjust exactions. Why, the history of juries in this country shows most clearly that they have again and again, when they were called upon to administer a law repugnant to their feelings, disregarded the direction of the Judge. It was so in eases of criminal information for sedition; it was so in cases of treason; it was so when the Criminal Code of England was a blood-stained Code. Then juries again and again refused to return verdicts of guilty in the face of evidence in order to temper the severity of the Code. So it was in the matter of duelling when, according to the average level of morals which prevailed at the time, the offence was not considered criminal. And so it was later still, when bribery was considered not a very grave, but rather a very venial offence. But I should like to use in this connection, if I may, some language stronger and more weighty than my own. Mr. Forsyth, in his History of Trial by Jury, quoting the words of Lord John Russell, says—'It is to trial by jury,' says one whose opinion is entitled to the greatest weight on such a question, 'more than even by representation (as it at present exists) that the people owe the share they have in the government of the country. It is to trial by jury also that the Government mainly owes the attachment of the people to the laws—a consideration which ought to make our legislators very cautious how they take away this mode of trial by jury by new, trilling, and vexatious enactments.'Then Mr. Forsyth adds—Thus it is that the power which juries possess of refusing to put the law in force has, in the words of Lord John Russell, 'been the cause of amending many bad laws which the Judges would have administered with professional bigotry, and, above all, it has this important and useful consequence, that laws totally repugnant to the feelings of the community for which they are made cannot long prevail in England.' An opposite evil may, indeed, arise in times of popular excitement. Jurors drawn from the masses of the people and under the influence of the same passions as their neighbours and fellow-citizens may paralyze the arm of Government by refusing to bring in 543 verdicts of guilty where the charge is that of sedition or treason, although the case against the accused is clearly proved. This has happened at different times in this country, and it might be carried to such an extent as to render a State prosecution a hopeless attempt. But the evil suggests its own remedy. It may, I think, be safely asserted that when this universal disinclination to convict exists, even when the evidence is clear, it is time to change the measures which have provoked such a humiliating result. It is worse than useless to persist in a course of policy which renders the Executive powerless and gives a triumph to the mob in every verdict of acquittal. The tack of the vessel must be altered when she can make no headway in the course that has been hitherto steered.I say, therefore, that this difficulty with regard to juries is somewhat exaggerated. I am not aware that there have been many recent cases—certainly none have been laid before the House—in which jurors have forgotten their oath. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I am not aware that there have been any considerable number of such cases. I know they have not been presented to the House in any form which it would be possible for hon. Members to grasp or criticize. I cannot leave this subject without saying one word more. What is it that has most discredited jury trial in Ireland? I am not now attacking any particular side of the House. It is the persistent and consistent system of jury-packing. The persons whom you selected want into the box knowing that they were expected to give the verdict you wanted, and if occasionally some got into the box whom you did not want there they regarded themselves as a sort of counterpoise. Lastly, it does not follow that where a Government fails to get a verdict the prosecution has been of no service. The very fact of a firm administration of the ordinary law, honestly carried out, even when verdicts of guilty are not obtained, is useful to the country; and one verdict obtained from a jury, in the language of the law, "indifferently chosen," would be worth 100 verdicts obtained from juries which, in the opinion of the country, were packed. One word more in this connection. There have been isolated cases, most abominable and wicked, in which jurors have been attacked for what they believed to be the conscientious discharge of their duty. I do not recollect any case since the dastardly attack upon Mr. Field; but that dastardly attack was condemned by 544 the whole of the Irish Members, and was repudiated by the sentiment of the whole of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned no such recent case. I know he did allude to language of a most reprehensible kind which appeared in United Ireland lecturing jurors as to what they ought to do. I join as heartily as any hon. Member of this House in condemning and reprobating any such language. But, Sir, of all the shams which have been put forward in this debate the greatest is the sham that in Ireland the people are groaning under a terrorism exercised in spite of them, and that the majority are only anxious to be relieved from it. Again and again it has been said by the right hon. Gentleman—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Never.] The right hon. Gentleman may allow me to finish the sentence. Again and again it has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and still more strongly by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this Bill is a measure to emancipate the bulk of the Irish people from the thraldom of the Land League and of a handful of men who are grinding them with ruthless tyranny. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary shakes his head; the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not. The right hon. Gentlemen must settle the matter between them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHE-QUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I did not express it nearly so eloquently as the right hon. Gentleman. I did not speak of hon. Members, nor did I speak of a handful of men; but I distinctly accept the proposition that this is an emancipating Bill.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
The National League may be right or may be wrong; its policy may be bad or may be good; it may be proper to put it down, or sustain it; but this at least is true of it—there never has been in the memory of man an organization, an association which more unanimously commanded the support of Irishmen, priests and people. Of course there are exceptions, but, speaking of the; Irish people as a body, it is true to say that this association has their sympathy and support. It is remarkable that this 545 should be questioned, in view of the statement of Sir Redvers Buller that the Irish people looked upon the National League as their salvation, as the only agency which stood between them and the extortion of impossible rents by exacting landlords. By the way, I have heard it said—I do not know whether it is true—that the original statement made by Sir Redvers Buller to the Commission was, not that the Irish people looked upon the National League as their salvation, but that it was their salvation. I have a word now to say about the Blue Book of the Commission. The formation of that Commission was hardly one to recommend it to popular support and sympathy in Ireland.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
No, the right hon. Gentleman preferred to rely upon those anonymous anecdotes which he gave the House. They were presented by him, but beyond that we had no evidence of their authenticity, no means of testing their accuracy. On the Cowper Commission there was but one man who could be said to represent the Irish tenant. It was a remarkable fact that hardly a single witness who might be supposed to know anything about the condition of Ireland from the popular standpoint and about the feeling of the Irish people, had been asked a single question before the Commission bearing upon the subject of this combination against rent, about the supposed terrorism, about Boycotting, about crime, or about crime as connected with Boycotting. The evidence relating to those subjects appears to have been given by some County Inspectors and by land agents, and the cases they referred to were generally given without the time or place where they occurred being mentioned. I am perfectly aware that it is said that these witnesses would have given both date and place if they could have done so with safety to those concerned; but, at all events, the alleged danger to the parties concerned cannot have arisen in many cases where the whole story must have been known to many people. One of the Land Commissioners used the expression that the rents in certain parts of Ireland were "shocking." The general result of the evidence which was given before the Commission is to show that wherever fair 546 reductions of rent have been offered on the part of the landlords, the tenants have always shown an anxiety to accept them; and in such cases neither the National League nor any other association attempts to interfere. The Plan of Campaign has been denounced as being monstrous; but, for my part—I do not speak of the question of legality—I see nothing monstrous in tenants combining together to present their joint views and joint demands before their landlord, instead of each individual tenant appealing to his landlord separately. But, after all, it comes to this, will your Bill stop Boycotting? Has human ingenuity ever devised anything that would stop Boycotting? With regard to this point I should like to use language which will doubtless carry greater weight with hon. Members opposite than any of my own is likely to do. The present Prime Minister, speaking at a time when the right hon. Gentleman sitting below the Gangway opposite was a distinguished ornament of his Government, uttered this observation—and I hope that no hon. Member on this side of the House will be unfair and cynical enough to remember that it was uttered on the eve of the General Election, and at a time when it was supposed—rightly or wrongly—that cordial relations existed between the Government of the day and the Irish Party. The Prime Minister, speaking of Boycotting on the 7th of October, 1385, said—It grew up constantly, in spite of the action of the Crimes Act, and it grew up for this reason —that it is a crime of that character which legislation has very great difficulty in reaching. I have seen it said that the Crimes Act diminished outrages, that Boycotting operated through outrage, and therefore that the Crimes Act diminished Boycotting. In the first place, the fact is not true. The Crimes Act did not diminish outrages. I have a return of outrages in September, during which the Crimea Act was not in existence, and comparing that with the return in August, during which it was in existence, I find that the outrages which took place in September were considerably fewer than the outrages which took place in August. There is, therefore, no ground for saying that in the present condition—I am not speaking of the past condition of the Irish temper—the Crimea Act was any restraint on outrage, and it certainly was no restraint on Boycotting. Boycotting does not operate through outrage. Boycotting is the act of a large majority of a community resolving to do a number of things which are themselves legal, and which are only illegal by the intention with which they are done.547 The noble Lord went on to say—Do not imagine for a moment that the Irish Government are idle or quiet or inert in putting the remedies of the ordinary law into action. At this moment 35 prosecutions for Boycotting are pending, and that alone will show you that the Irish Government are doing their best—when you consider the difficulties of getting evidence upon such a subject—are doing their best to moot the evil. I believe the truth about Boycotting is this—that it depends upon a passing humour of the majority of the population. I do not believe that in any community it is enduring. I doubt whether in any community the law has been able to offer a complete, a perfect, and a satisfactory cure, but I believe it contains its own Nemesis within itself.It has been, in my opinion, satisfactorily shown that the action of the National League has diminished instead of increasing crime, and that it is better that the control of that association should be in the hands of responsible men rather than in those of men who have no responsibility whatever. It is surely better that agitation should be open rather than it should be turned into dark, devious, and underground channels. My case is that you have made out no sufficient ground for this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer appears to think that hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House believe that they can best keep up disorder and agitation by putting a stop to the remedial legislation proposed to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. But with regard to that point I would ask any candid man whether he believes that the land legislation of 1881 would have been possible except for the action of the Irish Representatives. Do hon. Members opposite believe that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would have had sufficient power and force of public opinion behind him to have enabled him to make that attempt—that bold attempt—in 1881, in the face of class interests, if it had not been for the action of hon. Members below the Gangway, which made it impossible for the then existing state of things to continue. The hon. Member for Cork at that time pointed out the difficulties which the Irish tenants would have to meet in bringing their cases into the Land Court, and he proposed that the Act should be made to work automatically by reducing the rents to within a certain point of Griffith's valuation, giving power 548 to the tenant to appeal when that point was in his opinion too high, and to the landlord to appeal when in his opinion it was too low. We hear now of propositions to make it clearer that no rent shall be paid on the tenant's improvements, and of other propositions which are to be found in the Bill which was introduced the other night—originally proposed by Irish Members—though hon. Members opposite are now professedly desirous of ameliorating the condition of the Irish tenant. Is it not perfectly sickening to hear this kind of observation from that side of the House, which represents the Party who resisted every one of these things, and who attacked the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) for his courage and manliness in rising superior to class interests and class prejudice? The whole Tory Party opposed the Land legislation of 1881—aye, and oven as late as in 1885 the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), whose absence we all regret, summarized the policy of the Liberal Party in Ireland as being a policy of spoliation of the Church on the one hand and the landlords on the other. During the debate on that Land Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not give it very warm sympathy; he stood by in the character of a candid and critical friend. Talk of intimidation and Boycotting, no case on record equals the Boycotting and intimidation carried on against the Land Commissioners after the Act of 1881 by the Tory Press and the Tory Party. Hardly had it passed when Members of this House and the other House of Parliament, and the Tories throughout the Kingdom, were attacking the Commissioners almost before they actually began their work. It must be remembered that they were men who were exercising a serious judicial office for which they had no security of tenure, and, with the threats of the Tory Press and the Tory landlord Representatives before their eyes, they knew well that if they did not mind their p's and q's and "spoliate" the landlords as little as possible, their tenure of Office—if a Tory Government came into Office—was at least precarious. But the Landlord Party in the House of Lords moved for a Committee of Inquiry into the working of the Act before it had been in operation for a year, and I say 549 to that action and to that Boycotting and intimidation on the part of the Tory Press and landlords is to some extent due that which has taken place in Ireland by rents being fixed at too high a point. Now, I come to the provisions of the Bill. With regard to the clauses of the Bill that deal with the question of preliminary inquiry, I think that they are reasonable, and I have no fear about them if we could only have a fair and honest administration of them; and, in a normal condition of things, I should have no objection to their being made permanent. Then I come to the clauses dealing with the appointment of stipendiary magistrates. Who are these gentlemen? I am not going to indulge in any kind of personal abuse; but, at the same time, it is the truth that these gentlemen are not lawyers or men who have had a lawyer's training; they are the sons of gentlemen in the Army and of landed proprietors—men who are not instinct with the popular feeling, and are unable to enter into the popular sentiment. Some of them are to possess such legal knowledge as will satisfy the Lord Lieutenant. What does that mean? If it means that they are to be lawyers of standing and training, why does not the Bill say that they shall be barristers or solicitors of so many years' standing? Now, I wish the House and the country to understand that those gentlemen are not independent stipendiary magistrates in the sense in which they exist in this country. They are in constant communication with the Castle, submitting cases for its direction, and deriving and obtaining assistance, direction, and advice from the Castle. They are regarded merely as persons carrying out the details of a certain amount of executive work. But it is said that they will never do any injustice. I think we heard of a rather alarming instance in the case of the hon. Gentleman who was then Member for Westmeath (Mr. T. C. Harrington). The hon. Member for South West Lancashire and I, myself, examined into that ease, which one could hardly believe. It was, however, absolutely true, and the matter was brought up in the form of a Question, in the House of Commons. What was that case, and what was its sequel? We hear of the terrorism said to be practised by the Land League and the National League. The hon. Member made 550 an honest and strong-minded appeal to the farmers of Westmeath. He reminded them that they were the recipients of special benefits under the Act; that the labourers were their friends and had stood by them; and he asked them not to be selfish, but to share their advantages with the labourers; because, if they did not, the labourers would combine together for their own benefits. That language was reported to the Castle by the local magistrate, and the report came back with the words underlined, and the direction in blue pencil, that they amounted to the offence of intimidation, and that the person who had spoken them should be prosecuted. He was prosecuted according to law, and was sent to prison. What was the sequel? In Westmeath—among those farmers over whom he had terrorized—such was the terrorism, that they returned him unopposed as their Representative to Parliament! That is an instance of the class of men to whom you are giving enormous powers—powers such as have never before been given to the same extent, under the same conditions, to the same class of persons. We see that it is an offence which comes under summary jurisdiction, to cause any person or persons either to do any act which such person or persons has, or have, a legal right to abstain from doing, or to abstain from doing any act they have a legal right to do. It is also a distinct offenceto incite, solicit, encourage, or persuade any other person to commit any of the offences hereinbefore mentioned.Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary took great credit for the fact that he was not making any attack on the liberty of the Press. But, supposing the editor of The Freeman, or that still more objectionable person in the eyes of the Government, the editor of United Ireland, were to write in his paper, advising the tenants not to be in a hurry to buy their land under the Government Land Act; that the landlords were asking 20 years' purchase, but that 10 or 15 years' purchase would be the real price, what will prevent these gentlemen from being prosecuted? Where is your boasted freedom of the Press? Then, I want to know why the light hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has not thought fit to draw attention to the existing powers of the authorities in Ireland. Why did he not allude in 551 his speech to the Act of 1875, which deals with the questions of intimidation following, watching, and Boycotting? In Lord Salisbury's speech he speaks of the Government at that time as having 45 prosecutions for offences of that nature. I want to know why it is that the ordinary law is not put into operation? It is said—" Oh, the reason is because under that Act the person charged could claim a jury." When you were dealing with a cognate subject relating to combinations in England, you carefully safeguarded the right to the person charged of demanding a jury. But I want to put the case still further home. Have the Government any reliable facts by which they can tell us the issue of the 45 cases of Boycotting of which Lord Salisbury spoke? How many succeeded? How many ought to have succeeded? What were the circumstances of failure? Because I am greatly mistaken, if it be not the case, that there have been convictions under the existing general law, or under the statute of Edward III., and, if so, I am justified in contending that there may be considerable action under the ordinary law in the way of dealing with offences of this kind. We have not been informed as to how this matter rests. I come next to the clauses about the change of venue. I do not dwell upon that subject beyond making this observation—that as I read the existing law in Ireland as shown by cases decided in 1858, in 1870, and in 1883, there is absolute power to change the venue where they please. [An hon. MEMBER: In Ireland.] In Ireland, in order to obtain what they call a fair and impartial trial. I want to know why that law is not sufficient? Instead of that, you have a most extraordinary contrivance. The Attorney General certifies where he thinks the venue ought to be changed, whereupon the Court "shall" change, and thereupon—and the right hon. Gentleman made a great point of this—the traverser or defendant can come to the Court and appeal successfully against such action if he can show that a fairer trial can be had somewhere else. Would it not be more straightforward to say, instead of leaving it to an executive political officer, that the Court "may, if for good cause it sees fit, change the venue?" Place the responsibility on the judicial, and not on the executive, officer. It were a mere waste of time to dwell at length 552 now on the proposition to remove prisoners for trial from Ireland to England. [An hon. MEMBER: That is given up.] I do not know that it is yet given up. I understood that was one of the things reserved to be given up on the demand of the Liberal Unionists, in order that their potency in the councils of the Government and in the country may be made the more manifest. I remember two ill-omened precedents for this proposition—one was the precedent of Lord North, when he proposed at the time of the American War, that prisoners should be imported from America to be tried in England, a proposition which was covered with ridicule by Edmund Burke; and the other was the rising in 1745, when Scotch rebels were deported from Scotland in order to be tried at Carlisle. I suppose it is that precedent which recommends it to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay). My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness has such boundless faith in the Government, that all he needed to be told was that this was a measure directed against crime, and he was perfectly willing then to shut his eyes and swallow whatever the Government should send him. And now I come to the, in my opinion, most serious clause of all —one for which, I know no parallel—I mean the power which is given to the Lord Lieutenant to create a new class of crime. For, as I read this Bill, it gives to the Lord Lieutenant power to deal with the case of dangerous associations; and, indeed, this was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. But where do you find your Constitutional precedent or justification for giving to the Lord Lieutenant the power to determine whether an association is, or is not, a dangerous association? Not even the ingenuity and great resource of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer can justify such a proposition. It is said that there are certain limitations under which this power is to be exercised. Sir, the limitations are worth nothing. The Proclamation is to lie on the Table of the House, and is to have effect within seven days if the House is sitting, or if Parliament be not sitting then Parliament must be summoned within 20 days. Who does not know that the Lord Lieutenant 553 would not venture on the Proclamation unless he was doing it at the instance of the Government, who presumably command a Parliamentary majority? That is not the way in which, according to Constitutional methods, criminal legislation ought to be carried out. But it is said—"Why are you solicitous about these provisions? They only touch criminals; they have nothing to do with anything but crime." But I ask was there ever any Proclamation of a severe and drastic kind on this or any cognate subject which might not have been defended on the same grounds? Where was the despot ever found who declared that he was going to discharge his despotic measure against innocent men? He was always going to use it for the best purposes, and only against the criminal classes. I have shown by the instance of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. C. Harrington) that this may be directed against men who are not criminal, and I could amplify that point by referring to many similar cases during the execution of the late Mr. Forster's Act. But above and beyond that, if I were even assured that this Bill would be administered by men of thorough fairness and thorough justice, that it would not be used to repress the free expression of popular opinion, that it would not be used to deprive tenants of the protection of which, even now, they still stand in need—if, in other words, you could suppose the existence of administrators endowed with divine powers, I should still resent and protest against this measure as an insult to the people of Ireland. It is not the strength of the blow, as hon. Members know, but the fact of the blow that makes the insult. We have been told by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) that this is a very good Bill, and the noble Lord has lifted up his hands in strong benediction of the whole of its provisions. He took very great credit for his powers of prophecy. The noble Lord has boxed the whole compass of prophecy, and I hope I may be forgiven if I say that he reminds me strongly of the professional sporting tipster, who sends out to each of his subscribers a different horse for the forthcoming race, and then when one of them wins, as one must win, he congratulates his clients and himself upon his powers of prophecy. But the 554 noble Lord said something more. he said that this Coercion Bill was but the ploughing up of the ground, and the harrowing of the furrows in order to pre-pare it in the natural course of agriculture for the seed, the fruitful seed, of beneficent legislation. I would suggest to the noble Lord whether this would not be more in keeping with the facts—tho surgeon who finds it necessary to apply a healing and strengthening plaster to his patient is to begin by flaying and excoriating him, in order that the healing plaster may have a wider and more beneficent operation? But I answer the noble Lord by the words of the noble Lord himself. They were spoken on January 31 last. Two months have elapsed since then—only two months. Will any hon. Member get up and say that anything has happened in those two months which justifies or renders necessary this Coercion Bill? No one can do so. On that occasion the noble Lord said—I see nothing unsatisfactory—always speaking comparatively—nothing specially alarming, in the case of Ireland at present. … The hopeful feature is that, in spite of all the prophecies we have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite, that there was going to be such a desperate outbreak this year of what is euphemistically called 'the wild justice of revenge,' Ireland is practically free from crime at this present moment. … But the great and main fact, and one which the House may well take notice of and found hopes upon, is, that crime in Ireland has been reduced to its normal level, and even below its normal level.Then he goes on to use an illustration, which I recommend to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman—I should say this much, that Ireland appears to me at the present moment to be something like a high-spirited and mettlesome horse, which has been extremely badly ridden for some time. There is a certain school of professors of political equitation, principally represented by The Times newspaper, who seem to think that the best way to ride a horse of that kind is to be continually jobbing him in the mouth, continually hitting him on the head with the whip, and continually digging him in the side with the spurs. This school of professors persist passionately in the advocacy of these measures, although they see rider after rider laid on his back in the ditch." —(3 Hansard,  285–6.)The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had better look out. The noble Lord referred to the existence of the Plan of Campaign, and said of it, that if Irish juries were to go on in what he described as a very curious fashion, it might be necessary in that 555 regard to come to Parliament for further powers. But has anybody said that the Plan of Campaign, either as to its character or its extent—condemn it in as strong terms as you like in regard to illegality —would justify the present measure, or anything like it? What is the state of the case against the Plan of Campaign? It is this—that out of about 40 estates—principally small estates—the Plan of Campaign has resulted in the obtaining, as on the Dillon estates, of 20 per cent reduction; on the Dunsandle estate of 20 per cent; on the O'Brien estate of 15 per cent; and on some other estates of reductions of from 15 to 20 per cent. Hon. Members may condemn the mode by which this was done, if they think it was an illegal combination, as the Judges are supposed to have said; but is there an hon. Member, recollecting the abatements voluntarily made by just landlords in this country, and recollecting the needs of the case, which your own Land Commission points out, who will say that he does not rejoice at the result, however he objects to the means? The operation of the Plan of Campaign is not such as to afford any justification for this Bill. It is proposed, however, to make this measure perpetual in its character. It is to be a part, not of a hateful, temporary policy of expediency, but a permanent measure of government. This is a confession of failure to govern Ireland. It blows to the wind the pretences of many hon. Members opposite and of many so-called Liberal Unionists to govern Ireland while disregarding the wishes of the Irish people —to govern it without repression, and by ordinary and Constitutional law. I have heard the question asked by more than one hon. Member—"But what is there in Ireland that presents any special difficulty, or any special grievance?" I commend to those hon. Gentlemen who ask that question the words that were referred to, but which were not read in full, by the hon. Baronet who proposed this Motion (Sir Bernhard Samuelson). They are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), contained in a speech delivered at Holloway on June 17, 1885. He said—This question is a national question as well as a parochial question, and the pacification of Ireland at this moment depends, I believe, on 556 the concession to Ireland of the right to govern itself in the matter of its purely domestic business. What is the alternative? Are you content, after nearly 80 years of failure, to renew once more the dreary experience of repressive legislation? Is it not discreditable to us that even now it is only by un-Constitutional means that we are able to secure peace and order in one portion of Her Majesty's Dominions? I do not believe that the great majority of Englishmen have the slightest conception of the system under which this free nation attempts to rule the sister country. It is a system which is founded on the bayonets of 30,000 soldiers encamped permanently as in a hostile country. It is a system as completely centralized and bureaucratic as that with which Russia governs Poland, or as that which prevailed in Venice under Austrian rule. An Irishman at this moment cannot move a step, he cannot lift a finger in any parochial, municipal, or educational work, without being confronted with, interfered with, controlled by an English official appointed by a foreign government, and without a shade or shadow of representative authority. I say the time has come to reform altogether the absurd and irritating anachronism which is known as Dublin Castle. That is the work to which the new Parliament will be called, and I believe that by its successful accomplishment, it will do more to secure the strength, the character, and the influence of the nation than by the addition of any amount, however large, to the expenditure of the nation for naval or military purposes, that it will go further to maintain our weight in the councils of Europe than by any amount of bluster in our relations with foreign countries; and that it will do more to promote the true interests of the people of the United Kingdom than by any extension of the Empire, which it is our business to govern well and wisely before we seek to multiply our responsibilities or enlarge our obligations.I make this observation upon the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that neither its strength, nor its wisdom, nor its truth is weakened by the present position of the right hon. Gentleman, however difficult it may be for that right hon. Gentleman to reconcile that notable utterance with his present position. But the fact is, that the solution of the Irish Question will not even be touched by your Bill. You are dealing with some of the symptoms, you are not attempting to deal with the causes. The difficulties in Ireland are partly agrarian, and partly political. I admit that agrarian legislation would not remove those difficulties; the political difficulty would still face you. But you would, be face to face with it under different conditions; and certainly such agrarian legislation as you propose to pass, as far as we can at present see, will do little to deal thoroughly or comprehensively with the agrarian part of 557 the question. It, therefore, only re- mains to ask, Can you govern Ireland against the consent of the people of Ire- land; or are you willing, at least, to try the experiment of trying to govern Ire-land with the consent of the people of Ireland? In every representative Constitutional system of government, the people governed have the governors who are placed over them responsible to them —the governed. In Ireland this is reversed. The governors of Ireland do not look to, and care little for, the public opinion of Ireland. They look over the heads of the Irish people, and if they can satisfy what the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale called the conscience of Englishmen, they caved nothing about the opinion of Ireland. That is the problem which you must face, and which you must deal with. It is true that you have got a power in Ireland which is not a legal power. It is true that, side by side with your executive power, you have got a power which, in many respects, is more powerful than the power of the Government. I make that admission to you; but whence does this power derive its force and its sanction? From the sympathy and the support of the people of Ireland. Surely it is a problem worth trying to solve; surely it is worth trying to win that power to the side of law and order, and to place upon the shoulders of those who represent and who wield that power the responsibility without which power is always a source of danger. That is the proposition to which, as statesmen, you ought to address yourselves. This Bill does not touch the problem. It is a Bill for further repression, and for forging fresh fetters for the Irish people, and it will justly be regarded as a Bill which, on the one hand, takes away protective agency from the Irish tenant class, who still need it, while, on the other hand, it throttles the free and open expression of public opinion in Ireland.
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W.E., Doncaster)
said, he was glad to have an opportunity on behalf of his constituents of entering a protest against this infamous and iniquitous Bill. he called it "infamous and iniquitous" because he was satisfied that its object was not to maintain law and order, but to bolster up a diseased and tottering land system, to grind down Irish tenants, to wring from them rents that they could not pay, 558 and to turn them out of the homes of their fathers. The Bill was as unwise and unnecessary as it was unjust and immoral, and it could only have the effect of greatly increasing and aggravating the difficulty of governing Ireland. Putting agitators in prison, whether they were priests or Parnellite Members of this House, was not the way to extinguish them; it was the way to add to their popularity and power. he had another complaint to make against the Members of the Treasury Bench, and that was that they had taken away the Easter holidays. He protested against that not so much because hon. Members wanted a holiday, as because they wanted to address their constituents. In his opinion the Government had deliberately taken away the holidays in order that Members of the Opposition might not have an opportunity of addressing their constituents, and in order that they themselves might have an excuse for not addressing theirs. They wanted to do things in their own high-handed way, as Tories always had wanted to do things, without taking the country into consultation or confidence. The Tories were going back to their old, bad policy of coercion and stern repression of what they were pleased to call disorder and sedition. That was the traditional policy of their Party. As it was in the days of Pitt, and Eldon, and Liverpool, and Sidmouth, so it was now. They had got into a groove from which it seemed they could not escape. Then, in addition to the spur of their hereditary Party propensities, they were urged on by a number of violent people—squires, colonels, parsons, and others —who were all for a short way with the Irish. Now, there was one thing he wished to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of, and it was this, that a great many of them, just as much as hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, were pledged to their constituents against coercion. He did not say that at the last Election they, in terms, told their constituents that they would always vote against coercion, but they certainly pledged themselves that they would not vote for coercion unless an overwhelming case was made out in favour of it, and they laid stress upon the point that although they might not be willing to grant Home Rule to Ireland, they were 559 in favour of the political equality of the Three Kingdoms. Notwithstanding the clover manner in which hon. Members opposite had deprived the Opposition of the opportunity of addressing their constituents during the Easter Recess, a very strong agitation against coercion would be set on foot, and he hoped hon. Members opposite would keep their eyes upon the agitation of the next few weeks; because if the result was to show that there was a strong probability that the country was against coercion, they ought either to withdraw their Bill or take the sense of the country in regard to it. Hon. Members opposite appeared to be much surprised that such a strenuous and vigorous opposition should be offered to their Bill, but they forgot that a great change had taken place since the last coercive measure was passed, not only in the enfranchisement of the democracy of England, but also in the enfranchisement of the democracy of Ireland. The present was the first Coercion Bill which was opposed by a majority of the Representatives from Ireland. He reminded hon. Members opposite that they themselves, by the manner in which they played fast-and-loose with coercion in the summer of 1885, did everything they could to place difficulties in the way of passing any future measure of coercion. He desired to quote a few words from a speech made on the 5th of March, 1886, at a dinner of the Eighty Club, by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who, he believed, was warmly supporting the Ministry in passing this measure. In that speech, the noble Lord pointed out that if any future difficulties arose in the way of the passing of any coercive legislation, those difficulties ought properly to be placed at the door of the Conservative Party. The noble Lord said—The action of the late Conservative Government in respect to Ireland cannot be without its permanent effect upon the government of Ireland. The abandonment last June of the Crimes Act which the former Government had acknowledged their intention of attempting to renew, the laxity of the administration of law during the intervening time, the uncertain attitude in which the Conservative Government met Parliament the other day—all these things cannot be without a lasting and permanent effect upon the problem of the government of Ireland.560 And the noble Lord went on to say that the result of the conduct of the Tories would probably be to make coercion impossible for the future. They were told by some of the supporters of the Government that coercion meant really nothing more than a firm administration of the existing law, and did not hurt decent, law-abiding people. That was a plausible way of putting it. But coercion meant a great deal more than that. Even in its milder forms it meant the suspension of the elementary rights of citizenship, while, in its severer forms coercion might include the suspension of trial by jury, the supervision or suppression of the Press, the right of invading private houses by day or night, the stopping of public meetings, the putting men in prison without trial or even without charge, the imposition of irksome restraints on the freedom of individuals, and the substitution of government by spies, detectives, and informers for those Constitutional liberties which in this free country they had been taught from childhood to cherish as their dearest possession. Coercion, then, was irritating and annoying to individuals, and an insult and an indignity to the nation coerced; and patriotic citizens were justified in taking every legitimate opportunity of showing how much they resented such treatment. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was a supporter of this coercive legislation of the Ministry. The noble Lord not very long ago took precisely the same view as he (Mr. Shirley) did of the annoyance and injustice which coercion caused, because, speaking at Bow in January, 1885, he said—It comes to this, that the policy of the Government in Ireland is to declare, on the one hand, by the passing of the Reform Bill, that the Irish people are perfectly capable of exercising for the advantage of the Empire the highest rights and privileges of citizenship; and by the proposal to renew the Crimes Act they simultaneously declare, on the other hand, that the Irish people are utterly incapable of performing with advantage to society the most ordinary duties of citizenship. All I can say-is, that if such an incoherent, such a ridiculous, —such a dangerously ridiculous—combination of acts can be a policy, then, thank God, the Conservative Party have no policy.That was the opinion of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) in 1835, whatever it was now. [Cheers.] He (Mr. Shirley) ventured to say that if coercion, 561 which was said to be the firm administration of the law, if such a policy wore applied to England, we should have an insurrection in a week, and yet this suspension of the elementary rights of citizenship was the system by which we had been trying to govern Ireland during the whole of the present century. On the 6th of July, 1885, the Earl of Carnarvon made a speech in the House of Lords, in the course of which he said—I have looked through a good many of the Acts which have been passed during the last generation for Ireland, and I have been astonished to find that over since the year 1847, with some very short intervals, which are hardly worth mentioning, Ireland has been under exceptional coercive legislation. No sane man can admit that this is a satisfactory or wholesome state of things, and it does seem to me that it is very desirable, if possible, to extricate ourselves from this miserable habit, and to aim at some wholesome and better solution. But more than being undesirable, I hold that such legislation is practically impossible if it is to be continually and indefinitely re-enacted." —(3 Hansard.)Ho quite agreed with Lord Carnarvon in that opinion. Comparisons had been made as to the circumstances which justified this Coercion Bill, and those which were brought forward in support of the Bills in 1881 and 1882. What did the figures show? He would quote those given by Lord Carnarvon in the speech he had just referred to. In 1878 there were 301 agrarian crimes committed; in 1879 the number amounted to 860; in 1880 there were 2,580, and in 1881, 4,439. In that, as in every former case, when a Coercion Bill had been brought forward, the Ministry of the day had thought it their duty to lay the foundation for the Bill on statistics of that kind. They had shown the existence of a large and increasing amount of agrarian crime. What was the condition of things now? In the present case the Government appeared to rely principally on the inventions and exaggerations of The Times and The Standard, and on the interesting and entertaining anecdotes of the Chief Secretary. There was nothing solid or substantial to support their view of the state of Ireland. But the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had shown that a number of charges by Judges might be brought forward in support of the view that the present condition of Ireland was satisfactory. Judges' charges 562 could, in fact, be quoted both ways; and they were very unsatisfactory evidence as to the condition of the country, because they were made up of facts obtained second-hand by the Judges. A Judge ought to confine himself to the matter in hand, and ought not to convert his charges to Grand Juries into political harangues. Then they heard a great deal about Boycotting and intimidation. Well, the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller showed that at the time he was examined intimidation and Moonlighting were both on the decline. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) said Boycotting was always followed by the sanction of murder. That was not so. There had been Boycotting in past times when murder had been the sanction, but that was not so at the present time. But Boycotting could not be prevented by legislation. It was simply the method by which any given community marked its displeasure with regard to an individual who went contrary to the stream, and insisted on the exercise of its right of exclusive dealing. We had Boycotting in England, and it was not easy to put a stop to it. The Dames of the Primrose League could practise it against those who would not support Conservative candidates, and the members of the Bar Boycotted those who would not conform to their customs. At school, offending boys were sent to "Coventry." In his Newport speech, Lord Salisbury said legislation against Boycotting was useless and absurd; and he (Mr. Shirley) could not help thinking that hon. Members opposite must regard that passage as an extremely awkward and inconvenient one. Boycotting was an unchristian and immoral practice no doubt, but it could exist just as much under a coercive as under a Constitutional system. There was no stronger evidence against coercion than the views of Mr. Knipe, the Ulster tenant farmer member of the Irish Land Commission. That gentleman, in his separate report, said that any attempt to meet agrarian crime and outrage by any fresh coercive legislation would now, as in the past, not only fail to secure tranquillity, but would inevitably end in seriously aggravating present difficulties. He added that the landlords, with a few honourable exceptions, had failed to make reductions of rent corresponding with, the 563 serious fall in prices, or to recognize the losses of tenants, and to this might be attributed combinations; and resistance to evictions; that if the power of the League were to be weakened and the people kept out of combinations it could only be by such legislation as would convince the poorest people that the law was their defender and friend. Mr. Knipe declared that it would be a serious mistake, while grievances were unredressed, to attempt, by fresh coercive legislation, to rob the people of their right of associating for the protection of their interests. They had heard a great deal about law and order in Ireland, and there could be no doubt that the maintenance of law and order was absolutely necessary in a civilized country; but the question was, would coercion secure the maintenance of law and order? He said, emphatically, No. It might possibly secure an appearance of law and order on the surface, but it would not do so in reality, and the effect would be to drive discontent below the surface, and to make the last condition of the country much worse than the first. The policy of the Government was, in its lack of foresight and statesmanship, like the policy of the ostrich which buried its head in the sand and congratulated itself on everything being right. He had the greatest possible respect for law and order, but he had a greater respect still for justice; and for a law to claim and to command the obedience of the governed, it must be a just law. There could, in his opinion, be no doubt that the only way to secure the supreme and final authority of the law in Ireland was to remove the terrible grievances under which the people suffered, to take care that no unjust rents should be enforced, and no unjust evictions executed. They should divest the laws of the foreign garb which they now wore in the eyes of the people, and invest them with a native character. But so far from the measure of the Government being likely to have any effect in that direction, he very much feared that its effect would be to make the maintenance of law and order in Ireland next to impossible. Another strong objection which he had to this Bill was its proposed permanence. It was not to be like previous measures of coercion, passed for a certain period, and then to expire; but the Government said this 564 Bill was to be enforced for ever and ever. But he maintained that they had no right, in view of the Act of Union, to enforce permanent coercive legislation upon Ireland in opposition to the will of the majority of the nation. To do so was violating the principle of political equality, which was a fundamental condition of the Legislative Union. With regard to that very drastic clause of the Bill which gave summary power to two Resident Magistrates in Ireland to send men whom they might consider to be offenders to imprisonment for six months, with hard labour, he could not condemn it in too strong language. Considering the character and qualifications of the men who were Resident Magistrates in Ireland—the nominees of the landlords, and themselves violent partisans —it was nothing short of monstrous, and he must characterize in the same way the provision under which it was proposed to bring Irish prisoners over to England for trial. He had no doubt if they were brought over to England that they would have a fair trial, but that did not dispose of the objection. The question was what would be the effect upon the minds of the unlettered Irish peasantry, who regarded England as a foreign country? Would they not believe that their countrymen were being brought over to England, not in order that they might have a fair trial, but in order that they might be found guilty and put in prison? That might be a feeling to be deplored, but there was no use in our shutting our eyes to facts; and certainly a great deal was to be said for the feeling of the Irish peasantry in view of this unprecedented and deplorable proposal. He deeply deplored that the House should be called upon to spend its time in enacting a measure of that kind in this year of Jubilee—a year which, above all others, ought to be a year of unity, peace, and concord. What they wanted in such a year was the uniting and knitting together of the hearts of all the peoples of this great Empire, and it was because he believed that the measure of the Government would not have that beneficial and happy effect; but would, on the contrary, be the harbinger of untold evils, that he opposed it with all his power and with all his heart.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, that if the hon. Member who had just 565 sat down wished for his Easter holiday, he was sure the House would give the hon. Member leave of absence, in order that he might "stump" the country. The Ministerialists did not complain of opposition to the Bill; they know perfectly well that there would be opposition, and they were prepared to meet and overcome it, when the time came, as they overcame it with a large majority last week. The late Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) had remarked that this Bill would not cure the ills of Ireland. Doubtless, it would not do so, and he did not think the Government believed it would have that result; but the Bill would enable the Government to carry out those remedial measures on which they depended to promote order and contentment in Ireland. He would not dwell upon the specious arguments which had been advanced against the Bill. It had been said over and over again that the state of Ireland in respect to crime and disorder did not justify the introduction of this measure. All he could say on that point was that if it was true that there was such little crime in Ireland, and that the country was in such a peaceful condition as Gentlemen opposite would have them believe, the Bill would have no effect whatever. [Ironical Home Rule cheers.] It must be inoperative unless the crimes referred to existed, except on two suppositions—first, that the Irish magistrates were such diabolical characters that they would invent the crimes in order to put them down. [Home Rule cheers.] Would hon. Members opposite venture to make such an assertion as that? [Home Rule cries of "Yes!"] Then let those hon. Members get up in their places and substantiate the statement by giving the names of the magistrates who, they say, would do it. [Cries of " All of them!"] The second supposition was that when prisoners were brought over to England for trial they would be condemned by English juries, though not guilty. Did any hon. Member think that was probable? He could not believe either of these alternatives. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister use a great many words in speaking about crime in Ireland; but he had not heard him state distinctly that he did not consider there was a great amount of crime in Ireland. What, then, would be the effect of the 566 Bill, and who would be the people affected by it? The rebellion in Ireland —for the agitation was nothing short of rebellion —was carried out in three ways, or by three moans. First, there were the comparatively smaller crimes rife throughout the greater part of Ireland—Boycotting and the like. Those crimes were relatively small; yet, in their aggregate, they had a very serious effect. He could only compare them to the sting of a wasp. A single sting might not do much harm to a person; but if he was stung all over his body by a host of wasps the effect might be as serious to him as a fatal wound. Secondly, the agitation was carried on by the greater crimes, such as murder, Moonlighting, and firing into houses. It might be true that the number of such crimes had decreased as compared with 1881; still they were in exact inverse ratio to the success of the smaller crimes. If the smaller crimes did what was wanted, it was clear that the National League did not want the help of the larger crimes; but if the smaller crimes were not effective, those great crimes were hold in terror over the heads and minds of the people, and this terror was the great machinery by which the rebellion was carried on. The third means of conducting the rebellion was the organization of the National League, which was simply the Land League under another name. It had the same look and the same smell, and was nothing-else than a great conspiracy spread through Ireland. It was by that organization that the Irish agitators led the rebellion, and conspired to upset the connection between England and Ireland. Now, he thought the Bill introduced by the Government, which he insisted was not a Coercion Bill, but an anti-Coercion Bill, would cope with all those means of fomenting the rebellion. The senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) dismissed Boycotting lightly, saying that it was an old crime. But did it therefore cease to be a crime? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) treated in a similar way an atrocious case of ill-treatment of girls. "Oh," said the right hon. Gentleman, "the Irish people were taught this crime 100 years ago." But did that make it less a crime? Considering the progress of education, the offence now had a darker complexion. 567 Would any hon. Member dare to say that crimes of this kind ought not to be put down? Then came this question—would anyone suffer in consequence of the suppression of such crimes. [Cries of" Yes! "] Would any among the hon. Members opposite suffer? [Cries of "Yes!"] He agreed with them in thinking that some among them would, but they would only suffer if guilty. The hon. Member who had just sat down said that Boycotting was practised in England, and reminded the House that he was once a schoolboy and that he was sent to "Coventry." He was not surprised to hear this confession from the hon. Member; but was it not absurd to compare such trifling practices with the Boycotting that occurred in Ireland? He would give the House an example of the length to which Boycotting was carried in that country. The case was taken from The Kerry Evening Post of January 29. [Mr. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.): It is a Conservative, an Orange journal.] He was glad to hear that because it justified him in crediting the story. It appeared that two Kerry men had served upon a jury by whom a number of men were convicted for the offence of Moonlighting. The word went forth that these two unfortunate men must be Boycotted, and the following notice was published:—If you do not Boycott these tools of the Crown you will be coerced into doing so. Do it voluntarily, or severe measures will be taken against you. There are men who will not stick at a trifle to obtain revenge.That was an example of the real coercion which was reducing Ireland to a condition of poverty and wretchedness. Ireland returned to Parliament 85 Nationalist Members and about 20 Conservative and Liberal Unionists. London returned about 50 Unionist Members and 10 or 12 Radicals. The Unionist representation for London, therefore, was nearly proportionate to the Nationalist representation for Ireland. Now, supposing that they in London should determine to Boycott all people who supplied Radical tradesmen with goods, what would be said by the hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) and those who shared his views? Why, that the grossest tyranny was being practised. Why should a system which would not be tolerated in London for a single week be permitted 568 to flourish in Ireland? The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was greatly incensed at the notion that his countrymen, when accused of crimes of the most serious kind, should be brought to this country for trial. At the same time, the hon. Member expressed complete confidence in the people and working classes of England. Why, then, should he object to the proposal that Irish criminals should be tried by people in whom he reposed that confidence? English juries were not prone to hang prisoners, and always leant to the side of mercy; but the hon. Member knew that they always gave verdicts in accordance with the evidence, and he feared for the safety of men whom, though they were steeped to the lips in blood, the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and Separatists generally were not ashamed to use as instruments for the fulfilment of their political aims. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"]
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not in Order in using that expression, and I must ask him to withdraw it.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, that if his language was out of Order he would certainly withdraw it. The Liberal Government proclaimed the Land League without special statutory powers; but the Government were obtaining powers by the Bill for the suppression of associations of this character. Hon. Members opposite knew that the Bill would strike at rebellion in Ireland. The National Party—the whole Separatist Party knew it. The Bill would secure a fair trial to the remedial measures in which alone the Government were interested. Could hon. Members opposite point to any measure which they had introduced which was calculated to promote the well-being of Ireland. [Cries of" Dozens!"] he hoped hon. Members would name at least one dozen. It was said that this was a Landlords Bill, and supported by the upper classes. It was nothing of the sort. He was not an Irish landlord, nor did he belong to the upper classes. He was not tarred with the Conservative brush; he had nothing to do with the Conservatives. [A laugh.] He meant he had nothing to do with the aristocratic line. It was always said that the Conservatives were aristocratic. Well, he 569 was not. His worst enemies had never accused him of that. But all the landlords together had never done the mischief in the country which the National League and the Land League had done, But the Bill would stop all that, and would tend to the well-being of the country, would promote industry, and encourage enterprize, trade, better means of communication, such as tramways, &c, and tend to make Ireland peaceful and prosperous. If they had a Parliament in every city in Ireland, the country would be none the richer or more prosperous. It was because the Government and their supporters desire to bring Ireland into a condition which would encourage enterprise and attract capital that they asked the House to accept this measure; but unless law, order, and liberty were in the first instance re-established, it was his opinion that it would be next to useless attempting anything of an ameliorative character.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said, he believed that the hon. Member who had just eat down had to his constituents advocated equal rights, equal powers, and equal laws for Ireland and England. How, then, would the hon. Member's constituents receive such a speech as he had just delivered? He did not believe the hon. Member was a typical Englishman. If he thought so he should despair of a settlement between the two countries. He believed, however, that the hon. Member's fellow-countrymen would repudiate his ideas. The position of the Government was unique. The demand for a Coercion Bill was generally supported by statistics which, of course, were supplied by Dublin Castle. But there was absolutely a decrease of crime in 1886 as compared with 1885, when the Tory Government deliberately abstained from asking for exceptional powers. But in 1885 it was necessary for the Tories to seek aid from the Irish Party in view of the coming General Election. There was also a diminution of crime in the second half of 1886, when the number of offences was 472, as compared with the first half, when the number was 553. The only argument, therefore, which was left to the Government was the miserable tu quoque that the Liberal Governments in the past had done the same. But if Liberal Governments had 570 done wrong in times past, that was no reason for the Conservatives to do wrong now. Statistics proved that crime did not exist in Ireland, and he believed the object of this Coercion Bill was to grapple with the National organization which had done so much for the country. The position of to-day was of the Government's own making; they had rejected the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, which would have alleviated the misery of the winter and spring. He agreed that law and order were the essential basis of all stable States; but if hon. Members desired to make the laws respected, the first thing they should do was to make those laws worthy of respect and bring them into harmony with the views of the majority of the people. When the Irish had a Parliament of their own they would pass such laws, and enforce them with an iron hand if necessary. They were asked to influence the Irish people to observe laws which were in direct opposition to the opinions which the Irish Party hold. So long as Parliament insisted upon passing laws antagonistic to Irish feeling, so long would there be a difficulty in working them. The Irish National League had been accused of fomenting disorder and crime; but the fact was that, through its instrumentality, many disagreements between landlord and tenant had been amicably settled, and bloodshed and disorder had been averted. Those who brought charges against the National League derived their information from untrustworthy sources, especially from the London Press, which seized every opportunity of maligning Ireland and of endeavouring to fan up that spirit of hatred between the two peoples which it should be the object of journalists and public men to allay and calm. As for the Plan of Campaign, it had only endeavoured to make unreasonable men do that which their reasonable brethren all over the country were doing, and it had succeeded in bringing many a bully to his knees. They knew from experience that this legislation would not be used for the purpose of punishing criminals, but for hunting down political opponents. History, he contended, showed that these Coercion Acts increased crime instead of decreasing it; this would be the effect of the present Bill, and whilst so far from crushing it, would only purify and strengthen the national spirit. He 571 and his Friends were agitators because they could not gain a hearing for Irish grievances except by agitation; but at least they were open agitators, and if they were suppressed the secret conspiracy of desperate men would be substituted for their open and Constitutional agitation. He knew that hon. Members opposite desired to sever the connection between the Irish priesthood and the National organization; but he could tell those hon. Members that the Irish priests exercised a most conservative influence on the people. The Tory Party had said at the time when Earl Spencer was in favour of coercion that no man was better qualified by experience to speak on such a subject; but now, when he had enlarged his experience and had altered his views, hon. Members disregarded his opinion. It was not with any feeling of satisfaction that he was unable to speak respectfully of the administration of the law in Ireland, or of those who administered it. Judges in Ireland were almost invariably raised to the Bench on account of their political views, and on account of the hatred they bore to the Irish people; and they permitted those views to bias their judgment on the Bench. He regretted to think that the voice of an Irish Member did not carry much weight in that House. He thought it a mockery of Constitutional Government that the opinions of duly elected Representatives should be ignored. Irish Members had felt it to be their duty to lay their case to the best of their ability before the House, and they having done so, the responsibility of dealing with the matter would now rest upon Parliament.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
The challenge which has been thrown down to the Government by the Amendment placed upon the Paper, and now before the House, is a perfectly fair and distinct challenge, and if the proposition contained in it is established, most undoubtedly the House of Commons ought not to accept the second reading of this Bill. I think, however, that the speeches which we have listened to during the evening show that the House and the country have gained a great deal of useful information upon this question during the 15 nights' debate which we have had upon Irish matters. There is no longer any doubt that there are mischiefs in existence in Ireland which re- 572 quire to be promptly dealt with. There is, for instance, no longer any attempt to deny that the judicial system of the country has completely broken down; and that it has broken down on the one hand, from the inability of getting witnesses to come forward and give testimony; and, on the other hand, from the difficulty of finding jurors of spirit and courage enough to do their duty. From those two causes the judicial system of Ireland has completely broken down. Nor is there, nor can there be, any longer any question of the existence in Ireland, apart from, and far beyond the mischief I have just indicated, of other mischiefs which have been proved by evidence the most conclusive that has ever been laid before the House of Commons. There is evidence that there are mischiefs existing in Ireland, widespread in their operation, and very deep and serious in their effects, which must be dealt with if we are to have any hope of restoring prosperity and peace in Ireland. In my opinion, the prosperity and the peace of Ireland are objects which are as dear to the hearts of many of those who sit upon this side of the House as they are to the hearts of the most ardent Nationalists. It has been said, within the last few days, that the Government have been forced into bringing forward this Bill by the influence of the Liberal Unionists, or by the more noisy Members of their own Party, or by the influence of a panic-stricken and violent Press. Sir, there is not a fragment of truth in any one of those assertions. I am quite willing to allow that there has been, on the part of the Leaders of the Conservative Party, a great reluctance to admit that the experiment which they hopefully made of dealing with Ireland by the ordinary law has not been a success; but they believe that the failure of that attempt has not been due to any want of resolution or of industry on their part. They have striven, on the one hand, to enforce the law with care and caution; and, on the other hand, to enforce the law with firmness and with strength. But there have been influences at work in Ireland of great and powerful efficacy, and which are in operation now, which have, to a great extent, defeated their action, and would be fatal to all government in that country, unless they can be checked and put an end to. Those influences—those illegitimate in- 573 fluences—are using the undoubtedly real sufferings and troubles of the Irish people as an excuse for agitation, and as a weapon with which they may obtain Nationalist objects; and it is with those influences that the Government desire to cope by bringing this Bill into operation in Ireland. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad that my definition of the issue which is raised between us is accepted by both sides of the House. We have never doubted that there has existed in Ireland for the last few years, and that there does now exist in that country, a great deal of real suffering and distress, which it will require the exertions of Parliament to deal with, and, to some extent, to assuage; but we also believe that, where there has been real distress and trouble, there are those in Ireland who, so far from making any effort to relieve that distress and to remove that trouble, would rather keep them in existence and aggravate them, in order to have the opportunity of using them as means for forwarding schemes which are dangerous to the Empire itself. Now, Sir, I said that there was no longer any question of the existence in Ireland of serious mischiefs with which it is necessary that the Government should deal. I am entitled to say that, after the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell), who has spoken in the course of this debate, and who made, I think, the ablest speech which has been made on this matter from the Front Bench. It was a speech which was remarkable for its moderation and caution in regard to the statements which it contained, and it was one which was statesmanlike in its character. But what did that speech come to? It was in itself a series of admissions on his part that there are in Ireland grave and serious mischiefs to be dealt with, and the mischiefs which he admitted, as he went on, are the very mischiefs against which the principal provisions of this Bill are directed; but, from the beginning to the end of that speech, it contained no single suggestion as to the steps which should be taken, or the provisions which should be adopted, to meet those mischiefs which would be more fitting than the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. Let us see what his suggestions come to. He spoke, in the first place, of the difficulty of getting witnesses to give evi- 574 dence in Irish Courts of Justice, and he attributed that difficulty to a cause which is somewhat remarkable. He suggested that it is greatly owing to the fact that sympathy is felt for those who have broken the law. I can quite understand people who are outside reading in the newspapers of the break-down of the law, and feeling sympathy for those who have broken it; but when you are dealing with a case of personal outrage and actual injury—when a man has been forced upon his knees, and shot in the legs, it seems a curious thing to suggest as the reason why that man, his friends, his neighbours, and his family do not come forward to give evidence, is that they are out of sympathy with the law. There must be a deeper and a stronger reason than that, and that deeper and stronger reason is found in notorious cases such as these and others which have happened in Ireland—in the fact that those who have come forward to give evidence in a Court of Justice have been Boycotted afterwards. They have found themselves cut off from all the ordinary associations and comforts of their life, from any sort of enjoyment with those among whom they live, and even from carrying on the work by which they live, or of obtaining the means for their subsistence. An hon. Member the other day actually suggested that the reason why the Curtin family was Boycotted was not because of a possible sympathy with the attack made upon them, but because after the attack had been made, the members of the family had given evidence against the perpetrators of the crime. This my hon. and learned Friend admits is a serious mischief, with which we ought to deal. But when he comes to the remedy proposed in this Bill for that mischief, what does my hon. and learned Friend say? He says—as I should say—that the plan proposed by the Bill of having inquiries where an offence or crime has been committed, although no person is in custody for that crime, is a proposal he should be glad to see incorporated in any Bill for the reform of the Criminal Law of this country. I believe it to be a sound and good provision of itself, and one which we ought promptly to adopt in dealing with the difficulties of Ireland. That proposal was put forward in a Bill for this country with reference to any special case of emergency when the late Go- 575 vernment proposed the adoption of a Criminal Code. The proposal of the late Government with respect to England was sent up to be considered by a Grand Committee, and was most willingly assented to by those sitting on this side of the House, who were Members of that Grand Committee. That very clause is what the Government now ask the House to adopt, in order to get rid of the difficulty in regard to procuring the evidence of witnesses in Ireland. Let me pass to the second difficulty. My hon. and learned Friend admits that there is a difficulty in getting convictions in Ireland—that is to say, he admits that there have been cases in which juries have been untrue to their oaths, and in which they have found verdicts of not guilty on evidence that to all appearance was perfectly clear against the accused. Does the observation which my hon. and learned Friend made upon that excuse us from the necessity of trying to find a remedy? I do not stop to consider what truth there is in the observation, as it is for the moment irrelevant to the point I am upon. He says there has been disaffection and distrust created in Ireland of the jury system by the systematic packing of juries, and he was impartial enough to say that that jury packing has been practised by both sides. Be it so; let us admit it for the moment. What is this but another element of weakness in the jury system in Ireland? The effect of the course pursued by Governments for years past in setting up this dangerous jury system in Ireland has been that, instead of the 12 men entering the jury-box prepared to discuss and consider the evidence and to decide according to their oaths, jurymen have got a belief that they are partizans on one side or the other, sent to find a verdict of innocent or guilty, as the case may be. My hon. and learned Friend has not answered the suggestion that some amendment of the law is required to counteract this state of things. Let me strengthen that reason by another cogent reason. The gravest matter of all in connection with the break-down of the jury system in Ireland is that, in a great measure, it has been brought about by the influence of terrorism upon jurors. [Cries of "Jury packing!"] I have dealt with jury packing. It is past controversy that in Irelend there has been an attempt to coerce juries 576 partly by holding meetings, and by exhortations in the papers before juries were called upon to go into the jury-box, and partly by that vile insertion in the Irish newspapers of the names of the members of the jury who said they voted for an acquittal, so that people might be able to refer to the jury panel and mark down the names for popular hatred and vengeance of those who had not assured the writer in the newspaper that they had voted for an acquittal. I was glad to hear my hon. and learned Friend speak in terms of manly and indignant eloquence of paragraphs like that being inserted in the newspapers. I am glad, indeed, that he spoke those words. But I greatly fear that the words of my hon. and learned Friend, eloquent and courageous as they were, will have but little effect in Ireland. There are other steps then which must be taken in regard to Ireland. It is clear that the system of trial by jury has broken down there in some way or other, and that we must supplement the system of trial by jury by a system of summary jurisdiction which will bring prompt, if but small, punishment for a good many serious crimes, and it is a very grave question for the House and for the country to consider whether, in regard to the more serious crimes which are dealt with by the jury system, it is not necessary to adopt some such a plan as the removal, in certain cases, of the trials to this country, in order to secure impartial trials and justice. It is all very well to make objection to any specific proposal for dealing with the difficulty that exists; but that difficulty is not to be got rid of by dismissing successively every suggestion that may be made for providing a remedy. At the present time, a great deal of most serious mischief exists in Ireland, and it is mischief that can only be dealt with as the law now stands, by means of trial by jury. At the present time, trial by jury has substantially broken down in regard to a large class of cases in Ireland. ["No, no!"] It has broken down through the acts of those who have set themselves publicly to coerce and terrify jurors. [Cries of "Where?"] More than once, in the course of this debate, evidence on this subject has been read. During the last two or three weeks it has been proved by the charges of the 577 Judges. The charges of the Judges are undoubtedly statements of very serious importance. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was in Office, and when he and his Colleagues had to support a Bill of a far more stringent kind than that which the Government now propose, they quoted the charges of the Judges, and thought that in those charges they had sufficient justification for the measure they were proposing to Parliament. But what is the answer now, when the charges of the Judges are quoted? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian says that if one of those Judges had expressed an opinion upon some particular case which came before him—a case, I presume, in which there had been sufficient evidence to convict—that that would be of importance; but the right hon. Gentleman says, further, that when the Judge, with all the responsibility of his position, and of his public duty, makes statements with respect to the condition of crime in the district with which he is dealing, that is to be treated as a sort of speculative series of observations which he was not called upon to make, and that, therefore, no attention should be paid to them. We had an odd illustration of the way in which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) deals with such questions, for he referred to the fact that my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General quoted the charges of four Judges; but "there are 21 Judges in Ireland," said the hon. Member, "and whore are the other 17?" That observation for the moment made a great impression upon the House. Now, as a matter of fact, there are only nine Judges who go on Circuit. The 21 Judges include the Judges of the other Courts, who have nothing whatever to do with going on Circuit, or with the administration of the Criminal Law. But of the nine Judges who go on Circuit, the charges of four were referred to by the Attorney General in support of his argument. Well, then, let me ask, upon what ground could the Government more properly go, than upon the ground of statements made by those Judges in these circumstances, and with their knowledge of the state of the country? Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, with a very obvious object, say—" Bring your specific cases, and let us quarrel over them." I quite 578 see the object of desiring to have laid before the House what would really be a mass of unintelligible details, and the discussion of the separate and several cases would be the discussion of a mass of unintelligible details. One can see the object of hon. Members in endeavouring to get the House to lose itself in an utterly hopeless attempt to deal with 40, or 50, or 60 criminal cases one by one. The House of Commons has very much better means of knowledge than that—very much better means of knowledge in the opinions of the Judges, who have brought a judicial training to bear on the facts, and have spoken with the responsibility of their position, and in whose judgment with regard to the character of the crimes in the district in which they are travelling and holding Assizes the House of Commons places confidence, and wisely and rightly places confidence. I pass onto the third subject with which my hon. and learned Friend to some extent dealt, and that was the matter of Boycotting. Of course, we have heard a great deal of discussion with regard to Boycotting, and the extent of Boycotting in Ireland. Here, again, is an illustration of the way in which the House of Commons must deal with questions which involve very much detail and a very large mass of evidence. The Blue Book produced by the Royal Commission contains an enormous amount of evidence and many thousands of answers; and when it is dealt with, picking out here and there certain answers supposed to prove a particular conclusion, when the evidence of witnesses is handled as the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller was most unfairly handled by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, the House of Commons might spend weeks and months in dealing with answers, or a selection of answers, contained in this Blue Book with regard to Boycotting, intending to prove a particular proposition. What resource has the House of Commons in the matter? It is to hear what the Commissioners themselves say. I hear a great deal of talk about the composition of the Commission. There was one Commissioner whose name used to be quoted with the greatest possible respect and admiration by hon. Members opposite so long as his letters in the newspapers wore sup-posed to assist the contention they were 579 making. That was Sir James Caird. He was one of the Royal Commissioners; and instead of casting up and down the pages of this great Blue Book to get an answer here and there, and bringing them together in order to produce a definite result, will not the House of Commons be justified in taking the conclusions at which the Commissioners arrived with regard to the prevalence of Boycotting in Ireland? We hear, in euphemistic language, of "exclusive dealing;" but the Commissioners describe it in language which apparently sums up the evidence. That language has been quoted before; but it is so much to the purpose that I will venture to read it again to the House. It is said that Boycotting is now altogether dissociated from outrage and crime—that there is no crime and outrage, and that Boycotting, therefore, has become inoffensive. It is as true now as it was when the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian first said that the ultimate sanction of Boycotting is murder. Boycotting is now installed as a system in Ireland, as the records in the Irish newspapers and accounts from different parts of the country show; and as at first it was established by the dread sanction of murder, so now it is supported by the sanction of outrage and crime. The Commissioners say—Outrage was at first made use of to intimidate parties who were willing to pay rents; but latterly the methods of passing resolutions at National League meetings, causing their proceedings to he reported in local newspapers, naming obnoxious men and then Boycotting those named, have been adopted. Tenants who have paid even the judicial rents have been summoned to appear before self-constituted tribunals, and if they failed to do so, or, appearing, failed to satisfy those tribunals, have been fined or Boycotted. The people are more afraid of Boycotting, which depends for its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of the judgments of the Courts of Justice. This unwritten law in some districts is supreme. We deem it right to call attention to the terrible ordeal that a Boycotted person has to undergo, which was by several witnesses practically described during the progress of our inquiry. The existence of a Boycotted person becomes a burden to him, as none in town or village are allowed, under a similar penalty to themselves, to supply him or his family with the necessaries of life. he is not allowed to dispose of the produce of his farm. Instances have been brought before us in which his attendance at Divine Service was prohibited, in which his cattle have been, some killed, some barbarously mutilated; in which all his servants and labourers were ordered and obliged to leave him; 580 in which the most ordinary necessaries of life, and even medical comforts, had to be procured from long distances; in which no one would attend the funeral of, or dig a grave for, a member of a Boycotted person's family; and in which his children have been forced to discontinue attendance at the national school of the district. Had we thought it necessary for the purpose of our inquiry, we could have taken a much larger amount of evidence to prove the existence of severe Boycotting in very many districts. We did not, however, think it necessary to examine more than a sufficient number of witnesses to inform ourselves, and to illustrate the cruel severity with which the decrees of local self-constituted tribunals are capable of being, and are actually, enforced.Better, far better, than any words and extracts quoted by hon. Members from the evidence in the Blue Book—better, far better, is that account given by the responsible Members of the Commission of the results of the evidence which, with so much pains, they had taken. But I should like to say a word with regard to the very curious fact that hon. Members on the other side, whenever this Blue Book is referred to, have acquired the habit of calling out "Buller, Buller!" —[An hon. MEMBER: Knipe!]—as if Sir Redvers Buller was the witness whose evidence they were entitled to refer to in justification of the National League, and in refutation of the statements that have been made from this side. I suppose the only possible explanation is that they have not read Sir Redvers Bullur's evidence for themselves. I believe they must have trusted to the account given by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian of that evidence; and they have been deceived with the belief that Sir Redvers Buller gave evidence which practically exonerated the National League. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) gave some extracts from Sir Redvers Buller's evidence the other day. When hon. Members opposite adopt Sir Redvers Buller as their witness, and refer to his evidence on various questions raised in connection with his mission, surely they must have forgotten the evidence he gave in regard to the part of Ireland to which he was sent. Now, at the beginning of his evidence Sir Redvers Buller says—I speak only for Kerry, Clare, and part of Cork; and in respect to those counties I think there is, in certain localities, an organized stand against the payment of existing rents; but that rent generally is being well paid.—Do you think that the improved state of the country, as far as the payment of rent is concerned, comes 581 from the fact that the power of the League is decreasing, or is it because the League has given orders that rents are to be paid if reductions are offered?—No, I do not think so; I think the League would, if they could, prevent the payment of rent, and are now endeavouring to their utmost to prevent rents being paid; but the improvement in the payment of rents is because the tenants are getting reasonable allowances.—Therefore, in spite of the opposition of the League, they are willing to pay?—I believe that the great majority of tenants throughout those counties—that is, the majority of those who have not paid—are anxious to pay.—Are anxious to pay?—Yes; are anxious to pay. —Where they get reasonable allowances?—Yes; where they get reasonable allowances. —They must have reasonable allowances. That is a condition?—Not exactly. When I say that the great majority are anxious to pay, there are a great many men who do not require an allowance at all, and who would pay if they dared.—They are still in fear of the League?—They are coerced, and in fear of the intimidation that is rampant in this country.Now, Sir, it is impossible—[Cries of "Read on!" from the Home Rule Hunches.] —I have read a passage from Sir Redvers Buller's evidence, which show?, as clearly as anything can possibly show, that to his knowledge, in tho3e counties for the peace of which he was responsible, there was coercion rampant—coercion which intimidated men who were able to pay, and were willing to pay not requiring any allowance at all, but who were afraid to pay because of the coercion exercised by the League. Now, in the face of these three matters, surely something must be done by the Government with respect to Ireland. If it is not possible to get witnesses to give evidence because of the terrorism and influence of Boycotting; if it is not possible to get jurors to do their duty steadfastly because of the terrible danger which a man runs if he does his duty; if it is impossible to get freedom of action on the part of tenants who are willing and able to pay, but who dare not, surely the Government must step in and do something to remedy such a state of things. The only question is what the course of the Government should be. All the speeches Which have been heard in support of the Amendment are speeches which go directly towards the advocacy before the House of that which is the only alternative suggested to the Bill of the Government. There is manifest unfairness in the alternative which hon. Gentlemen opposite are so fond of putting with regard to the action of the Government as compared with the action proposed by 582 the other side. They say it is a question between coercion on one side and conciliation on the other. They say that that issue was not put before the country at the last General Election; and they say that, as it was not put before the country, they are entitled to use every moans that Parliamentary practice has placed in their hands in order to delay and obstruct the progress of the Bill. Let us just see how the matter stands. To describe it as a choice between coercion and conciliation is an entire mistake and misrepresentation. There is coercion in Ireland, as Sir Redvers Buller has proved, and as the Commission has shown; and against that coercion it is that the Government intend to make, by the help of tin's Bill when it is passed, a firm and resolute stand. But what is the other alternative? It is not conciliation; it is surrender. It is surrender to the intimidation which pursues witnesses when they come out of the witness-box, which makes jurors afraid to exercise their rights and to do their duty in the jury-box, and which intimidation, as I have shown by the passages I have read, even from the mouth of a witness supposed to be favourable to the other side, is proved to be rampant in different parts of the country. And was not this issue put before the country at the last Election? Distinctly it was put very plainly' before the country. The cry with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian went to the country in the middle of last year was that very cry. It was he and his followers who declared that the choice before the country was between what they called conciliation and what they called coercion; and there was no mistake or hesitation as to the line which the Conservative Party took on that question in that Election last year. I venture to say that there was no man who stood as a Conservative candidate before one of the constituencies who, while saying that it was still hoped that a firm administration of the ordinary law would be able to repress those influences of mischief which were disturbing and do moralizing the life of Ireland—there was not one who did not go on to say further that, by some means or other, order must be restored in Ireland, and the observance of contracts, and the observance of social rights, must be enforced; and it was a firm and resolute govern- 583 ment in Ireland that the country accepted and supported at the Election which then took place. Well, now, what is the choice? I say that it is the adoption of remedial measures on the one hand, and an absolute surrender to the forces of disorder on the other; and when I speak of remedial measures, I repudiate altogether the distinction between this Bill and the Bills which refer to the Land Question. They are all remedial measures. Without a Bill which shall relieve the tenants, whose deplorable cases I have read, from the coercion which is now exercised upon them—without some measure which shall break down the tyranny which now holds them in thrall, it is impossible to get a free experience of any measure dealing with the question of land. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian found that to be the case in 1881. It was all very well for my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Charles Russell) to say that hon. Members below the Gangway supported and endeavoured to enlarge the scope of the Land Bill of 1881. Sir, when that Bill was passed they endeavoured to defeat its operation. ["No, no!"] Yes; the influence of the popular Leaders in Ireland was used to keep the tenants out of the Land Courts—["No, no!"] —and to restrain them from submitting themselves to the influence of the Land Courts; and it was not until the right hon. Gentleman had sent his chief ally of to-day to Kilmainham Gael that the Land Act of 1881 was allowed to have a fair and free trial. At the present time there is an instance of precisely the same course of conduct on the part of the Leaders of the National Party in Ireland. It was confessed in this House not long ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) that it was not possible to imagine a scheme of land purchase more favourable in its arrangements to the tenants than that which is connected with the name of Lord Ashbourne, and which is now in operation in Ireland. What is the attitude of the Nationalist Leaders with regard to that measure? So far from assisting in furthering the object of that Bill, so far from endeavouring to help in that process which they have always declared to be the chief and best remedy for all the I disorders of Ireland—namely, the trans- 584 forming of the tenants of Ireland into proprietors of the land, they are now doing all they can by speech, by advice, and by warning, to prevent the tenants from taking advantage of Lord Ashbourne's Act and becoming the proprietors of their farms; and if a Bill were to be passed by the present Government for dealing with such matters, either with regard to the alteration of the Land Act, or to the extension of the terms of purchase, it would be impossible for it to have free scope and effect as a remedy for Irish troubles, unless this Bill were passed and we were able to set the people free. I was very sorry to hear one passage in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend —a passage which I confess, I think, disfigured that speech—in which he spoke in terms of criticism of the Bill now introduced in "another place," and which deals with the question of leaseholders and also with certain questions in the mode of eviction of tenants. He alluded to the proposal made to do away with the necessity that the tenant who was in default in regard to his rent should be evicted by force from his house, and turned out with his family. Having been turned out of the holding, he may then be re-admitted as caretaker. He alluded to the proposal that, instead of that proceeding, a notice should be sent to the tenant which would do away altogether with the necessity of eviction. [A laugh.] I quite understand the object of hon. Members opposite in this matter. Now, we all know that the effect of a provision of that kind would be to get rid of a good many of the present scenes of trouble and disorder; and because it would put an end to those scenes which are now quoted as an excuse for the agitation conducted by hon. Members below the Gangway —for that very reason, they desire that these scenes of disorder shall continue. [An hon. MEMBER: It is all a sham.] They would rather, when a tenant is two or three years in default in his rent, that the landlord should be obliged to go down and turn the tenant out on the highway, and evict him and his family, for the very reason that such a proceeding is likely to produce scenes of disorder and tumult. My hon. and learned Friend attacked that provision of the Bill because he said it was in the interest of the landlord, and so he associated himself, I am sorry to say, in that one passage of his 585 speech, with that which has been the course of conduct of the Nationalist Leaders in Ireland for years past—namely, a desire to keep grievances alive and to secure a recurrence of those hardships by making speeches by which they assert their influence and authority. Now, Sir, it is clear that something must be done with regard to the question of Ireland, and the Government propose these remedial measures in strict conformity with the declaration and the pledges which the Members of this Party made before the country in the middle of last year. What is the alternative? The alternative is not the suggestion of a different Bill from this to deal with the question of Criminal Law in Ireland, or the suggestion to meet this mischief by any other such measures; but the alternative is to disregard altogether the decision of the country at the last General Election, and to proceed to enter upon a discussion whether or not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is to be allowed to deal in his own fashion with the question of Irish self-government. Let me point out to the House what would be the consequence of entering upon such a discussion? It is, I think, agreed that the agrarian question—the question of land purchase—is at the root of the real trouble in Ireland. Of course, it does not cover the whole area of the trouble; but it does deal directly with agrarian questions in Ireland. Hon. Members below the Gangway know perfectly well that if the agrarian question could be satisfactorily dealt with, a great deal of their occupation in the Nationalist agitation would be gone. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian made an after-dinner speech a little while ago, which occupied two columns and a quarter of the newspapers, and a good many people searched diligently down those two dreary columns to see whether there was anything for which that speech was made, and it turned out that there was one sentence which was probably the reason of its delivery; and that was the declaration that while, on the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman believed that means could be found for dealing with the Land Purchase Question in Ireland without trenching upon the resources or endangering the credit of this country, the first condition necessary for that was 586 the establishment of a certain system of government in Ireland, and unless that system were established in Ireland he could not take a single step towards the solution of the Land Question. Now, Sir, what prospect is this which the right hon. Gentleman offers to the House of Commons? No declaration in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's policy of Home Rule for Ireland can be got from the present House of Commons. The only way in which the most ardent supporter of the right hon. Gentleman can imagine that it can be got is, by making the work of the House of Commons impossible, and his only hope can be that by harassing and impeding the Government it may eventually become necessary to appeal again to the constituencies. Why, Sir, the Liberal Party, or rather one section of the Liberal Party, under the Leadership of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, have positively adopted the programme which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) denounced so vigorously in 1881. On the 11th of March in that year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was making an attack upon the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and he said—The hon. Member for Tipperary "—the hon. Member for East Mayo sat for Tipperary then—the hon. Member for Tipperary said that the Land League had three objects in view—first, to paralyze the Government; secondly, to obstruct Parliament; and, thirdly, to supersede the action of the law.The hon. Member for East Mayo has not changed his objects one whit. He still holds the same views, and he would be the last man to suggest that he has altered his objects since 1881. What he desired to do in 1881—namely, to paralyze the Government, to obstruct Parliament, and to supersede the action and authority of the law, he is trying to do now. But now he is no longer denounced by the right hon. Member for Derby, and the only change is that he now has the right hon. Gentleman as an active accomplice. These words exactly describe the action which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian is now taking. He desires to put himself in a position to paralyze the Government—knowing that he can do nothing himself—because he is in a minority in 587 the House of Commons. he desires to hamper and prevent the Government from giving effect to the judgment pronounced by the country at the last Election. He wishes to obstruct the action of Parliament, and to give encouragement to his allies below the Gangway to enter upon what he terms "sporadic discussion" that may paralyze the action of Parliament, and during that interval the whole time of this House is to be spent in continual discussion, the real object being that the authority which has established itself in Ireland may have time to strengthen its hold on that country, and strike its roots deeper, and make its laws more closely and unhesitatingly obeyed. As time goes on, if the House of Commons is unwise enough to embark afresh upon a discussion of the right hon. Gentleman's Home Rule scheme, we might find, before we reached the end of that discussion, that the present mischief in Ireland, which is universally admitted, had become absolutely incurable. But supposing that it were possible that the right hon. Gentleman could carry out his mischievous design—supposing that he could paralyze the Government, and make in impossible for the House of Commons to do its work, and compel an appeal to the country, does anyone think that the result would be to bring that section of the Liberal Party back to power —[An hon. MEMBER: Try it.]—independently of the support of hon. Gentlemen from Ire-laud below the Gangway? Sir, in 1886, the right hon. Gentleman, who knew perfectly well how keen and severe are the temptations of political life, warned the country against exposing the Liberal Party to so terrible a temptation as that of being placed in a position which would compel them to rely for retaining Office on the support of hon. Members below the Gangway. He solemnly assured the House that, much as he trusted the Liberal Party, he did not think it ought to be trusted if it were in Office by the support of the Irish Party, and were liable to be told by them the very day after they came into Office—"If you do not do this, or if you do not leave that undone, we will turn you out." He saw the danger; but the temptation was too strong for him, and in those fatal days at the beginning of last year he bartered away all the con- 588 victions he had publicly declared, and his future political freedom.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Sir, I rise to Order. I wish to ask you if it is in Order to discuss the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian at the Election of 1885 upon a Motion for the second reading of the Crimes Bill?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
The right hon. Gentleman, I say, bartered all the convictions he has avowed and his future freedom for the sake of coming into Office under conditions the danger of which he had recognized in 1885, and which he illustrated in 1886. There is no reasonable man in this House who, looking at the condition of political parties, or the prospects of political life, can suppose that any circumstance can happen which, at any Election, would result in putting the right hon. Gentleman in power, irrespective of the vote of his allies below the Gangway or the other side of the House, and against such a danger as he has himself illustrated the country ought to protect the right hon. Gentleman. The duty of this Government, having received the mandate of the country, is to carry it out with all diligence, and to address itself to the necessary and useful work that requires to be done. The task of dealing with disorder in Ireland is the first to which the Government must address itself. But we cannot help remembering that there are many other subjects with which Parliament has to deal. There are Bills now waiting to come before this House, which have passed the other House of Parliament, dealing with matters of serious importance to the people of this country; and those who are entering on the plan of obstructing and delaying—for they cannot defeat the progress of these Bills—will have to reckon with the country, which will soon find out that the only result of that unjustifiable obstruction has been to increase the difficulty of establishing law in Ireland, and to delay the progress of measures of great value to the people of this country.
§ DR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)
I cannot help congratulating the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General upon the speech he has 589 made on the subject of this Coercion Bill. I am glad that he has had the manliness to place the whole case on its proper basis. He has told us, and we are much obliged to him, that the object of this Bill is to suppress the National League. He did not tell us that in so many words; but, by a paraphrase, we ail understood he told us unmistakably that the object of the Bill is to suppress the National League. He also admitted with candour and manliness that it is a Coercion Bill, and a Coercion Bill as extreme in its provisions as any which has hitherto been proposed to Parliament; but he boldly said that it was a remedial measure. We will not quarrel about terms. He may call it a remedial measure, with the palliative admission that it is a Coercion Bill; but I do not think that that qualification will be at all calculated to conciliate the Opposition, or to satisfy them that it is anything more than a misuse of terms. The hon. and learned Gentleman admits that there has been no attempt to conciliate public opinion in Ireland; that this Bill is not an attempt at conciliation, but that it is simple and naked coercion. He may call it a remedial measure if he likes; but he never addressed a single argument to the real question before the House. He has gone over the old Tory ground; he has indulged in vituperation of hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House. It is very easy to make imputations such as he and other hon. Members have indulged in; but he has not brought forward one single title of evidence in support of his vituperation. He has been quite as barren of argument in that respect as any of the hon. Gentlemen who have preceded him on that side of the House. There is only one way, Sir, of arguing with people who make broad imputations which are incapable of proof, and of which not one particle of proof has been offered by the hon. and learned Member or by anybody else; and that is to despise the imputations, and to scorn the persons who make them. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we entertain the utmost possible contempt for these imputations; and for those who make them we have the utmost possible scorn. We believe that the people of this country, as well as of Ireland, will join us before long in this scorn and contempt. And now let me come to the 590 main question before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman never addressed a single argument from the beginning to the end of his speech which was not mere clap-trap. I believe that that is not altogether an un-Parliamentary expression; but I maintain that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was the merest "clap-trap" and fustian, and it is not worth while to take further notice of it. The hon. and learned Gentleman admits one fact in which we all agree—namely, that things are not altogether as they ought to be in Ireland; that there is a great deal of disorganization there, a great amount of poverty, and that something must be done in order to remove that disorganization, and apply a palliative remedy to the poverty which now exists. Upon that point we are agreed; but the only remedy the hon. and learned Gentleman has for it is coercion pure and simple. He follows in the wake of so many other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have gone before him, and he simply tells us—"Shut your eyes and open your mouths, and see what you are going to receive." We are to receive some wonderful been from the Government if we will only allow our hands to be tied and our mouths to be gagged, but what that been is going to be beyond the Bill now before "another place" he does not offer us the smallest hint. This Bill is called a "Bill for the Prevention and Punishment of Crime in Ireland." The Amendment which has been proposed says that instead of preventing crime the Bill will increase it. To every word of the Amendment I fully agree; and, so far as the Bill itself is concerned, I conceive that every clause contained in it is wrong in principle, and will be mischievous in operation; nor do I think that the Bill itself, if it becomes law, will conduce to the prevention or the punishment of crime. Instead of insinuating charges he cannot prove against hon. Gentlemen, the least of whom is as honourable as he is, it would have been better if the hon. and learned Gentleman had dealt with the plain, simple facts before the House, and had given something like argument in support of his side of the case. Let us see how the matter works out. This is a Bill for the prevention and punishment of crime; and it is said that crime is 591 not prevented in Ireland because of two things—the difficulty of getting evidence, and the difficulty of obtaining a conviction. Now, to begin with, there ought to be some little evidence to show that there is an abnormal state of crime in Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman avoided that point. No doubt he remembered how ignominiously the Chief Secretary broke down when he attempted to make out a case, and he would also remember how my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) afterwards said, pulverized the arguments by which, the Chief Secretary attempted to show the existence of enormous crime in Ireland. If the hon. and learned Gentleman did not introduce statistics to prove his assertion, why make it at all? So far from showing that there is an abnormal state of crime in Ireland which requires the drastic treatment which this Bill proposes, not only did he fail to do so, but he never attempted to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer—who tried to put a little backbone into his invertebrate speech—admitted that there is very little abnormal crime in Ireland, and that it is not for the purpose of punishing crime that the Bill has been introduced at all. The right hon. Gentleman put it, in short, that the object of the Bill is to suppress the National League. Those are not exactly the words of the right hon. Gentleman, but that is the pith of his argument; and he went on to intimate that as soon as the National League is suppressed, then the Government will and to suppress the crime which may arise out of the suppression of the National League. Therefore, this is really a Bill, according to the reasoning of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the promotion of crime in Ireland and its punishment hereafter. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General desired to quote the Irish Judges, why did he not read the speech of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland which was made in Dublin yesterday, at the opening of the Commission of Oyer and Terminer? I have no doubt that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has read it; and if so, he must be aware how utterly it demolishes the absurd arguments which 592 have been addressed to the House in support of the case, in quotations from the Judges' charges, as to the state of crime in Ireland. What are the real facts? In the City and County of Dublin—the Metropolis of Ireland—with the largest population in the country, with the exception of Cork, probably, what was the calendar which came before the Lord Chief Justice? There were only seven criminal cases for trial at the principal Criminal Commission in Ireland—similar to your Old Bailey or Central Criminal Court—three for the city, and four for the county. But that was not all, for there was an harangue delivered from the Bench—not such an harangue as was quoted by the Chief Secretary, for I am not aware that the Lord Chief Justice ever does indulge in political harangues. He is too strong-headed a man to do so; and when appealed to yesterday morning' on a matter which he did not consider came within the purview of his Commission, he said—I have nothing to do with anything in this Commission but to deal with the criminals who are sent before me for trial; and when you ask me to deal with anything else, I have nothing more to do with it than with what is happening in Mesopotamia.Those are the words of the Lord Chief Justice, and they convey a bitter sarcasm upon other Judges who have gone through the country delivering political harangues, I will not say to order, but looking very like having been delivered to order. That was the statement made by Sir Michael Morris yesterday; and I wonder whether we shall ever again hear political harangues from the Judges quoted from the Treasury Bench. If we do, I would recommend those who quote them, in justification for the assertion that crime is prevalent in Ireland, also to read the statement of Sir Michael Morris in his place in the Queen's Bench at Dublin as Lord Chief Justice, that he had nothing more to do with matters outside his Commission than with what might be happening in Mesopotamia. So much for the harangues of the Judges which were so freely quoted by the Chief Secretary; and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General has wisely abstained from going into the matter again. I will offer no further comment on that argument than the comment which was made indirectly 593 by the Lord Chief Justice. There was another argument which the Solicitor General also avoided, because he saw that it had utterly broken down, and that was the statistics of crime. He did not adduce a single fact to prove that an abnormal state of crime exists in Ireland. He tried—I will not say to catch votes, because I am very much afraid that the votes of hon. Members are altogether inaccessible to argument, how-ever strong the argument might be on one side or the other; but he endeavoured to catch the applause of the House by clap-trap arguments, which did not touch the real merits of the case. He told us that crime cannot be punished in Ireland, because witnesses cannot be got to give evidence of crime. Upon that point, also, it would have been better if we had more particulars. Not a single case has been proved. The hon. and learned Gentleman said—"Oh, if I were to read all the evidence contained in this Blue Book, it would be a matter of confused detail, which the House would not understand, and would prove nothing." But did anybody ask him to confine himself to the Blue Book? Could he not have given to the House some of the recent cases which he talked so much of, and point out any instance whore a witness has been prevented from coming forward in order to give evidence in a criminal case because he has been intimidated? Why, what is the fact? A good deal was said by the Chief Secretary about the great number of cases in which witnesses have not come forward; but he judiciously avoided supplementing his argument by giving the smallest hint as to whether evidence was accessible, or to be got at in such cases. Then there is the old cry about threatening letters, which is always forthcoming when coercion is in the air. We are told that there are a large number of cases in which these letters have been written. These cases are capable of being multiplied to an indefinite extent, just as accommodation bills increase on the eve of a commercial crisis. We can furnish an infinity of these letters; there are many of them about now, and they form the largest item in this list of crimes. If we go back to the time of Forster's Coercion Act, they were even in greater plenty then than they are now; but I believe there were very few convictions for sending threatening 594 letters. In one case the most atrocious threats were used to a person who was caught in the act of affixing the letters to his own doors. The case is on record; the man was tried and convicted for it, and it was one of the half-dozen convictions which took place. So much for the crime of writing threatening letters. Now I pass to other matters. This Bill is supposed to furnish the means of getting evidence. The worst crime of the class aimed at by the Bill is firing into dwelling-houses, and at their occupants. I should like to know what this Act does to tell those in the dwelling-house who it is that fires at a distance of a hundred yards in the night time? There is nothing in the Bill to enable those in the house, if they happen to be shot at, to say whether they are shot by the police patrol, or whether those who fired are Moonlighters. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that this thing has been a crime since the days of Cain. No doubt, murder has been a crime since then. But no one that I know of approves the crimes which the Bill is intended to prevent. We, in England, are content to call a crime a crime, just as we call a spade a spade; but matters which would be settled in England by a fine of a few shillings are in Ireland not called by their proper names—they are called outrages. I am sorry that this abuse of rhetoric is still being used by Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench for the purpose of creating indignation against offences which, if they were called by their proper names, would shrink into very small dimensions. There is nothing in the Bill which will prevent or discover a single crime; but it is admitted by those who advocate it that it is intended for the suppression of the National League, and that will produce crime undoubtedly. Another reason alleged in support of the Bill is, that the jury system has broken down. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman what has broken down in Ireland. It is not the jury system—it is jury-packing that has broken down in Ireland. Whereas jury-packing has been hitherto denied, and it has been persistently asserted that juries have been indifferently chosen, and that the selection of Protestants has been the result of pure accident, jury-packing now stands before the House of Commons and the public in its naked deformity, 595 It has poisoned the fountain of justice in; Ireland; tins is admitted since the Sligo panel was set aside on the ground that it was packed, and no one new ventures to say that jury-packing does not exist in Ireland. The real remedy would be to go back to the pure principle of choosing jurymen indifferently; that which is supplied by the Bill is no remedy. The proposal of the Government is to patch up the discredited system of jury-packing. They propose to take powers to change the venue from one district in Ireland to another. Although I am sure they will not send Orangemen to be tried at Cork, I am not at all sure that the Government will not send Nationalists for trial at Belfast. It remains to be seen whether this will effect the purpose of the Government, but I doubt whether it will tend to the punishment of crime, or to the better administration of justice in the smallest degree. Then there are clauses for extending the summary jurisdiction of magistrates. I think this should be called a provision for the extension of summary jury-packing, for it enables the Government to effect this in the most extensive way; but as to the securing of the conviction of criminals, that is quite another matter. Nothing has been said as to how fair it would be to send the Leaders of the National Party for trial before two stipendiary magistrates with summary jurisdiction. I say it would be about as fair to send a Nationalist Leader for trial before two stipendiary magistrates, as it would be to send a sheep for trial before two wolves—they would get about the same amount of fair play. I do not say that out of any ill-feeling against stipendiary magistrates. It is the nature of the wolf to make war upon sheep, and it is the nature of the stipendiary magistrate to feel that the Leaders of the National League are at war against his class, and he, therefore, uses his position for the purpose of making war against them and to keep himself on the Bench. I believe that the extension of the powers of summary jurisdiction which the Bill proposes to give to stipendiary magistrates in Ireland is un-Constitutional, excessive, and dangerous, and that it will, if carried out, tend only to renewed discontent and dissatisfaction, because the people of Ireland have no confidence in the impartiality of these men. The sti- 596 pendiary magistrates are to have power to accumulate sentences. We have had an example of stipendiary magistrates in Belfast sentencing a person to 29 months' imprisonment. No doubt, hon. Gentlemen, including barristers, in this House will be surprised to hear that no Judge, from the Lord Chief Justice to the lowest Judge on the Bench, would give more than two years' imprisonment to any criminal, no matter of what crime he might be convicted. It is not very long ago that we were told by a right hon. Gentleman that the future policy of the Government should be a policy of equality, simultaneity, and similarity of legislation as between the different parts of the United Kingdom. This Bill is the first instalment of that policy. We have a Coercion Bill brought forward, imposing penalties and giving powers to magistrates which would not be endured for one moment in any county, or in the smallest hamlet in England. Then there is a provision for special juries, in order to get convictions. The special jury is to be struck in the same way as it is in England. But I should like to know whether the men who serve on the special juries are to be paid a guinea a-head for each case they try? But in England there is no special qualification for men as special jurymen; and I have seen in the box special jurymen who afterwards turned out to be swindlers and thieves, and who were put on the list simply because they asked to be put on. Such men as these will have a very strong motive for earning a guinea for every conviction they give. But the great alteration which is to be wrought by the Act is by trying cases in England, instead of Ireland. Now, I hope the Government will persevere in that proposal; because I know something of English juries and Irish juries, and I think it would be a change for the better to bring every prisoner to England, where juries cannot be packed as they have been in Ireland, and where a man would have a chance of being tried by 12 impartial men. I have no doubt that the result of this will be satisfactory. The next point is one to which I take a strong objection. I object to every part of the Bill which gives power to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to make laws. A legal association is declared illegal, and the declaration of the Lord 597 Lieutenant makes this the law, and subjects everyone connected with it to the penalties provided by this Bill. Such a monstrous proposal, I do not think, was ever made in this House. This power is, in reality, to be bestowed on the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; and, however innocent a Society may be, if it is displeasing to the local magnates where it exists, he can proclaim it, and make a number of persons subject to the penalties of the Act. This is getting in the thin end of the wedge of arbitrary power—a power as arbitrary as ever existed in Russia or Turkey. You may as well expect that one limb of the body can be diseased, and the disease not extend to the other parts, as that this diseased state of law can exist in Ireland without spreading to the other parts of the Kingdom. So far as the chock said to be provided upon the exercise of this power is concerned, nothing can be more illusory. I should like to know how often bye-laws made in this country are vetoed by the House of Commons. I do not think there is a single instance of a veto being applied to any bye-law that has been laid on the Table of the House. This is the sort of Act which the Government propose as a remedial measure for Ireland. The Bill is bad in principle and in every clause, and no argument worthy of the name has been adduced in support of it. There has been a deal of imputation and insinuation, but no argument; and I am convinced that the Bill has no basis whatever in any desire to institute beneficial legislation for Ireland. The intention of the Government is the suppression of the National League, and we are to pass the Bill simply because the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury tells us it is his duty to bring it in. If hon. Gentlemen opposite have handed over their consciences to the keeping of the First Lord of the Treasury, they are, of course, quite right in voting for anything which he tells them it is his duty to propose; but they must not forget that there are others who have duties to perform besides the right hon. Gentleman; and I am sure that if we had no better arguments against the Bill than he has for bringing it forward, we should be looked upon as miserable politicians. Not one Member on the opposite Benches has stood up to defend the Bill; no one has said anything more than that he has handed his 598 conscience over to the First Lord of the Treasury. Now, I say, we are determined not to let the Bill go by default. We are determined to use every form of Constitutional opposition to it, and to expose the flimsy pretexts put forward in support of it. We propose to take every point in the Bill, and show that the Government have no grounds on which to rest their claim that it should become law. The real issue is between coercion and conciliation. The so-called remedial measure of the Government is a most summary measure for facilitating evictions in Ireland, and that is supposed to be the great remedy that is to effect conciliation with regard to Ireland. We have as much regard as Gentlemen opposite for peace and order—[laughter]—and although hon. Gentlemen may laugh and scoff as much as they please, we have as much regard as they have for the Union between the two countries. What we want is some such Union as that alluded to by Lord Salisbury in connection with the Colonies—a union of sentiment instead of the union of bondage which has so long existed. Failing that, we have every hope that the Irish people will bear this, as they have borne every Coercion Act in the past, and our advice will be to suffer it in the belief that their sufferings will not last long.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
I do not rise to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for the adjournment; but I desire to take this opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman the Loader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) for the firm and dignified course which he took on Saturday morning, [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I wish to say a word or two with regard to the resumption of the debate. I think it is very unreasonable that the debate should be adjourned until to-morrow, and that the House should meet again on Thursday. Everyone knows that we, as well as the officers of the House, have been working very hard, and that the Speaker himself has suffered from the strain imposed upon him. In view of that fact, and that the Deputy Speaker (Mr. Courtney) has to work for double time, it is unreasonable that we should come down here on Thursday for 599 the purpose of a parade debate, when nothing will be done; whereas to-morrow, if we met at 12 o'clock, the Government could, by suspending the Standing Orders, go on as long as they like with the Bill. We are to re-assemble on Tuesday, and I understand that the Government intend to subsequently grant a Vacation of a week or ten days in lieu of the usual Easter holidays. The Government are spurring a very jaded horse, and I do not think that the course which they are taking is one which will facilitate the real Business of the House,
§ THE FIRST LOED OF THE TEEASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am exceedingly desirous of meeting the views of hon. Members sitting below the Gangway, and in every other part of the House; but, as hon. Members know, the Government have announced it to be their imperative duty to sit until Thursday, and that, therefore, the debate on this Bill should be resumed to-day. But it is for every hon. Member to decide how soon they shall go away on Thursday. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: We do not want to go away.] Then we must go on, I am anxious that there should be some rest given to the House after the second reading of the Bill, if it be possible; but the hon. and learned Gentleman and those acting with him must be aware that there is very important Business to be transacted by the House, and if the debates is unduly prolonged it may be quite impossible to carry out the arrangement which I desire to make. I can only say that it is my wish, and the wish of the Government, to do everything we can to meet the desires of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House; and I would point out to the hon. Member that the Members of Her Majesty's Government need rest quite as much as any other hon. Gentleman opposite. I very much regret that it is not in my power to accede to the suggestion made by the hon. Member opposite with regard to to-morrow, and I only hope that he will assist us in our endeavours to enable hon. Members to get away as early as possible on Thursday,
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman explain that he and his Colleagues over there are as 600 much in need of rest as other Members of this House, as it furnishes us with some distinct prospect that they may possibly break down altogether before long. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not express a wish—I do not say I hope that the Government may break down; I only say that the right hon. Gentleman's statement shows a prospect of that which will afford a possibility—I was going to say not an unhoped-for possibility—of getting them out of an awkward position. I think we have every reason to complain of being brought down here on Thursday. I understand that we are to meet on that day at 2 o'clock. It is perfectly obvious that between 2 o'clock and 6 we are not likely to do very much work. We may do a certain amount of talking; but we shall do nothing else. [Laughter.] I beg hon. Members' pardon; I forgot that talking comes from this side of the House, and that howling comes from that side.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I protest against being brought down here on Thursday afternoon. We want to get away in order to prepare our minds for the solemnities of Good Friday; and the prospect of being kept here until 6 o'clock on Thursday evening, harassed by these interminable debates, is not likely to put us in a proper frame of mind for the festivities of Easter, It appears to me that the programme the right hon. Gentleman has laid before us displays pretty clearly the inmost working of the Government's mind. They are willing, after the second reading of the Coercion Bill, to let Members away for a certain amount of holiday, if it be possible. As I pointed out the other night, it is obvious that the Government do not wish to allow their supporters out of their reach until they are committed to this Bill by passing the second reading. That is the secret of the whole of the rushing and forcing of this wretched business through. They know perfectly well that the indignation of the country is rising.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I intended, Sir, to refer to the Question of adjournment. I was endeavouring, perhaps in a rather circuitous manner, to explain my ob- 601 jection not to the present adjournment, which I think is a very good thing, but to the shortness of the interval which the Government contemplate allowing us at Easter.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
On this question, I desire to point out the very grave inconvenience that will arise from the shortening of our holidays. We are promised that, after the second reading of the Bill, we shall get that rest which it is agreed on all sides is required—which the Government admit is as necessary for them as we hold it to be for ourselves. The First Lord of the Treasury should bear in mind that hon. Members representing Irish constituencies to get home have to cross the sea, and have to cross it again to come back. As he must see, it will be scarcely worth their while to go home for a few days if they have to come back so soon for the purpose of passing the second reading of this Bill. The proposal of the Government is obviously an inconvenient one, particularly when we remember that the state of mind of our fellow-countrymen at home is one of considerable exasperation at this moment. If, at this period, we had a prolonged holiday, we Irish Members might be able to use our influence with our people in order to allay their excitement and encourage them to hope that before long this storm may blow over. I contend, Sir, that this fact, if the Government will take it into their consideration, forms a sufficient reason why we should get our accustomed holiday. We ought to be allowed to go home for a sufficient length of time to be able to exert a beneficial influence in the direction I have pointed out. Permit me also to draw attention to the fact that if we adjourn on Thursday, we shall have, as I said before, to cross the sea, and to take a fatiguing journey; and how shall we be fittingly prepared to take part in the solemnities of this holy season? I say, Sir, it is a most unreasonable thing to expect that we shall be content to put up with such a short holiday. Let me point out another reason—though the Government will hardly be likely to consider it sufficient. It is this—that not only are the minds of our fellow-countrymen in an exasperated state, but the minds of the people of England are somewhat excited; and it may be necessary for hon. Gentlemen representing English con- 602 stituencies to explain to them the present state of the case.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
This discussion is wholly irregular on the Question for adjournment. Hon. Members might, with the indulgence of the House, discuss these points on the Motion for the adjournment of the House; but the present discussion is altogether irregular.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I understood at Question time that the usual course would be adopted on this occasion as to the adjournment of the House for holidays—
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is taking part in the irregularity I have just pointed out.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.