§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
MR. R. T. REID, &c) (Dumfries
, in rising to move, as an Amendment—That this House declines to proceed further with a measure for strengthening the Criminal Law against combinations of tenants until it has before it the full measure for their relief against excessive rents in the shape in which it may pass the other House of Parliament,said: Mr. Speaker, in the ordinary course the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for the Poplar Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Sydney Buxton) would have precedence of mine; and I am fully aware that, in rising to address the House now, I am only doing so in consequence of the courtesy of the lion. Member, for which I beg to thank him. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has, in answer to Questions which have been put to him to-night, expressed a strong opinion as to the conduct of some Members in this House in relation to obstruction. I wish the right hon. Gentleman to endeavour, as I believe he desires to do, to deal justly with all Members of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman could realize for himself the extent of feeling which exists on this side of the House in regard to this Bill, I am sure he would see that we should be failing in our duty if we do not do all that lies in our power, if not to persuade hon. Gentlemen opposite—which I am afraid would be a hopeless task—at least, to persuade some of those Gentlemen who call themselves and believe themselves to be Liberals, that they are supporting a Bill destructive of all Liberal policy in Ireland. I believe that this Bill, which is called a "Bill for the Prevention of Crime in Ireland," will really be more productive of crime than 20 almost any other measure which has been passed by this House for many years. It is a Bill directed against combinations; it is essentially a Bill against combinations, and the first thing that will happen will be that political combinations will be made the subject of attack. Now, Sir, there never has been, I believe, in history any instance in which political combinations have been made the subject of attack which has not been succeeded by those terrible secret societies that have made so disastrous a figure in the past history of Ireland. If you suppress the open National League, which now holds open meetings and publishes its deliberations, you will soon have in its place the re-introduction of those secret societies which the National League has set its face against, and has suppressed. So far as political combinations are concerned, against which the action of this Bill is intended to be directed, I maintain that it is of no more use to attempt to eradicate the sentiment of nationality, or whatever hon. Members may choose to call it, than to attempt to extract the brine from the English Channel. The feeling is so deeply seated—it has been cherished so long in the hearts of the people, and it has survived so many great trials—that I feel it is quite hopeless to endeavour to eradicate the Home Rule aspirations that now exist. Passing from political combinations to agrarian combinations, it is further desired and intended to put down agrarian combinations in such a way that no body of men will be able to act together. The clauses of the Bill are of such a character that I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) can hardly appreciate how severe they are; the language is so wide, the net is so large, and the meshes are so small. Indeed, however it may appear at first sight, and even where the words of a section may seem to preclude the misuse of power, in order to prevent any misapprehension of the stringent character of the Bill, hon. Members will find, in the Definition Clause, language which leaves the measure so drastic that I can scarcely believe the right hon. Gentleman fully appreciates the effect of his own proposals; and this stringent measure is to be applied by Resident Magistrates for the 21 purpose of putting down agrarian combinations. Now, Sir, let me suppose, for a moment, that the right lion. Gentleman may succeed in putting down agrarian combinations, and that the provisions of the Bill are used in such a way that the tenants cannot combine, either under the Plan of Campaign, or in any way more moderate or more legitimate in the way of combination, to bring pressure to bear upon their landlords. At the present time the tenants have some protection in the publicity which attends evictions; because, when a writ of ejectment is executed, the British public is made acquainted with it. There is, generally, a large crowd present, and although I do not, in the least, sympathize with any violence which may take place when the crowd is disposed to resist the execution of the law, still it is an evidence of the open and avowed hostility of the people to these evictions. But all this is to be changed. Ejectments are, in future, to take place not in any open way, so that they would come home to the minds and consciences of the people of Great Britain when the account is received, but by means of a written notice, which can be sent without any public display at all. The other and the chief means of protection they have had has been the Boycotting of an evicted farm. Boycotting an evicted farm is a very old practice in Ireland, and mention of it will be found in the old books which relate to the Irish agrarian question. The result of this Bill will be to prevent any farm from being Boycotted, even where an eviction has been most cruel, harsh, and oppressive. No doubt there may be hon. Gentlemen opposite who think that that is a good object. It is one of the things for which the Bill has been introduced; but what will be the position of the tenants when the Bill is passed? If this Bill has the effect which is desired, the tenants will be reduced to such a position that they will become the absolute slaves of the landlords; they will be unable to move a hand or foot, in any direction, for the purpose of protecting themselves; and if it be the case that there are harsh and cruel landlords in Ireland, and that there are many honest tenants who cannot pay their judicial rents, what is the inevitable result the right hon. Gentleman must expect? The Government must be aware that throughout the 22 history of Ireland the one great cause of agrarian outrage has been evictions. It is notorious that that is so; and I find among the Papers which were circulated only this morning a Return for the last quarter ending the 25th of March, some facts in which, I think, will be rather suggestive to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that he named certain counties as being counties within which he proposed to apply this measure. Well, Sir, let me see what have been the evictions in some of those counties. In the County of Kerry, which is the worst of all the counties described by the right hon. Gentleman, in the three months ending March 25, 1886, there have been no less than 1,766 persons evicted; in the next worst of these counties, and also a county mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the County of Mayo, there were 489 evictions; the next worst county is the County of Cork, and in that county there were no less than 341 evictions in the West Riding, and 272 in the East Riding. That, also, was one of the counties referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. I might enlarge upon this point, for I find that the next worst county is Limerick, and that, also, is one of the counties referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. What do these statistics show? Why, that the five counties in which the largest number of evictions are to be found are also live of the seven counties to which the right hon. Gentleman referred as being counties in which there has been exceptional crime. Does not the right hon. Gentleman himself, with his knowledge of history, and his recollection of what has uniformly taken place in Ireland, admit that if the tenants are to be put under the heels of the landlords, it must necessarily lead to a considerable increase of outrages? Knowing the history of the relations between outrages and evictions, can the right hon. Gentleman doubt that that must be so? I quite agree that if justice demanded it, if it were really fair and just, these men should be forced to pay their rents—that is, where the failure to pay was owing to their own fault. If they can pay, and will not pay, I am ready to admit that no fear of the commission of outrage ought to affect the minds of the Government. It is perfectly clear that men who are perfectly able to pay their rent, 23 and who refuse to do so by reason of desiring to take advantage of a state of lawlessness for the purpose of getting rid of their legal obligations, deserve no sympathy, and I, for one, profess no sympathy whatever for them. But, Sir, is not this a matter upon which the right hon. Gentleman should satisfy himself before he puts in the hands of the landlords such powers as are contained in this Bill, for we all know how the landlords are likely to use them. Before enacting these provisions, should he not satisfy himself that there is no likelihood of their being abused, and that the refusal to pay rents arises from a dogged determination to break contracts, instead of an absolute inability to pay the rents? I think I shall be able to show the right hon. Gentleman, beyond all doubt, that the position in which these tenants are who are to be placed in the condition I have described, without a remedy or any resource against their landlords, is that they positively cannot pay their rents; that their inability, as far as it goes, is an inability arising from poverty and misery and from utter distress, and not from a wish to have recourse to those factious measures of which the Orange Party and the Castle Party are apt to accuse the members of the National League. What is the real position of the tenants? To the information contained in the Blue Book, which has been so often referred to in the course of this debate, there is a most useful Appendix, which gives a Table supplied by the Registrar General, in which he gives the financial position of the tenants of Ireland, and puts before the country a picture which, if true, goes far to explain the existence of distress and even of disorder in Ireland. The Registrar General says that in 1881 the estimated total value of the crops in Ireland was £46,000,000 odd; in 1885 it was £35,000,000; and in 1886 it had been reduced to £ 31,000,000. I ask the House to consider what a fall that represents; and £46,000,000 is by no means a high value for the crops of Ireland in average years, for I find that some years ago it was as high as £53,000,000. The Registrar General refers to the total value of live stock in the same years. In 1881 it was £50,000,000; in 1885, £43,000,000; and in 1886, £41,000,000. Now, Sir, 24 the Report of the Royal Commission gives a great deal of information in addition. It points not only to the fall of prices, but to the gradual deterioration of the soil. It states that since 1879 much of the tenants' capital has disappeared; that the cost of cultivation has also greatly increased. It states, further, that the withdrawal of credit by the banks and others has left the farmers in a position of very great difficulty. That that is the condition in which the tenants find themselves placed at the present moment it is impossible to doubt. No one who impartially reads the evidence given before the Royal Commission—and I believe there are many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who desire to do so—can come to any other conclusion from these figures, and from other facts borne out and strengthened by the opinion of almost every witness examined by the Commission, than that the non-payment of rent is due to the fact that the tenants are really unable to pay. The Commissioners tell us that whatever combinations there may have been have had their source and encouragement in the fact that the tenants have really been unable to pay, and that they have been driven to enter into combinations because they had no other means of protecting themselves. There is one paragraph in the Report of the Commissioners which I think has not been referred to. At all events, if it has, I should like to refer again to two sentences contained in it. The Commissioners say—It has been said that these combinations only exist for the purpose of obtaining equitable reductions of rent. In some cases that may be true, and the refusal of some landlords of any abatement may explain much that has occurred; but the evidence shows that those tenants farmers, who have joined many of these combinations, constituted themselves the sole judges of what is an equitable rent.Well, that is true, under the Plan of Campaign; but, at the same time, it is also true that in September last the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) brought in a Bill, under which an equitable rent would not have been fixed by the tenants themselves, but by an impartial tribunal to which he was willing to submit the question. It is true, as is stated in the Report of the Commission, that these combinations exist, and that the Commissioners re- 25 commend that they should be put down; but what is proposed to be done in the case of those landlords whose refusal to grant any abatement "may explain much that has occurred." It seems to me altogether hopeless to trust to the effect of any appeal to those gentlemen. Everyone knows—and I speak from information gained by conversations with both Conservatives and Liberals—that there are a certain handful of landlords in Ireland who have never acted towards their tenants as hon. Gentlemen opposite are in the habit of acting towards theirs; but who have been systematically rapacious and unjust towards the poor people who are under their control. No one can deny that; and I want to know, when the great powers of this Bill are granted under the authority of the Parliament of this country, what provision is to be made to meet the case of those landlords, be they few or be they many, whose rapacity has been a disgrace to the country for many years past, and who still exist to cause future trouble, disorder, and crime? In 1880 I well recollect that the late Mr. W. E. Forster made an appeal to the landlords after the Compensation for Disturbances Bill had been thrown out. What was the result of that appeal? It was addressed to deaf ears; it had no effect whatever. Evictions were not only continued, but increased; and, as a consequence, crime also increased, notwithstanding that the Bill of 1881 was passed to check it. Only last autumn, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) also made a similar appeal. No one was in a condition to make a stronger appeal than the noble Marquess. He is a great Irish landlord himself—the greatest, I believe, of the Irish landlords, and he is in a position of authority—I do not say it offensively—in connection with the present Government. The Government take his advice, and look largely for support to his great influence, and the position of authority he holds with many hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. With all the weight of that authority, he made an appeal last autumn to the Irish landlords, and what was the result? The appeal was altogether disregarded, and the trouble which arose last winter in Ireland is 26 almost exclusively due to the perversity of a certain number of landlords. What is really wanted, and what might really settle this difficulty, and I believe make it absolutely unnecessary to pass the ferocious clauses of this terrible Bill, is this—that there should be really a fair rent as it was intended, by the Act of 1881 there should be. Let me quote again a few sentences—not more than five or six—from the well-known evidence of Sir Redvers Buller before the Royal Commission. I know that much of it has been quoted already. I am not going to weary the House by reading the whole of it over again; but I have extracted what I may call aphorisms worthy of being printed in letters of gold from the evidence of that distinguished officer. He says—My view of the country is this—that the majority of the tenants meant to pay their rents, and where they could pay they did pay them; but the rents have been too high. I do think that they are too high.Again, he proceeds to say—I think it was the pressure of a high rent which produced the agitation and consequent intimidation against the payment of rent. I think—and I feel it very strongly—that in this part of the country you can never have peace, unless you create some legal equipoise or legal equivalent to supply the want of freedom of contract which now exists between landlord and tenant.Again, he says—You have got a very ignorant and poor people, and the law should look after them, instead of which the law only looks after the rich. That, at least, appears to me to be the case.He further said—I propose that there should be a Court of Assessors of a permanent character for each county or district, or parts of one or more counties, which should have power, when applied to by a landlord or tenant, to raise or lower rents, on the basis of present prices and the rents paid for the past five years."He then says that it would be desirable to put a very strong coercive power on the bad landlord. Hon. Members must recollect that the Royal Commission have testified their opinion as to the inability of the tenants to pay the rents, although there is not one of them who holds the opinions I do, or is in any sense a Nationalist. Yet all of thorn, except one, recommend a revision of the judicial rents. A heavy responsibility will rest upon the Government, if they take the course of 27 denuding the tenants of all means of combination, deprive them of the sympathy of the public, and, at the same time, leave them to the mercy of landlords, who are merciless in their dealings with their tenants. If that is to be done, in face of the warning we have derived from past experience as to the increase of outrages springing from evictions, and in face of the solemn warnings given to the Royal Commission by Sir Redvers Buller and the advice he has given, I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will incur a very heavy responsibility indeed. The first fruits of coercion will be evictions; from evictions may arise—I hope it will not be the case—murder, treason, privy conspiracy, and rebellion. That is the course which has been followed in Ireland in the past, and I deeply fear that the same course will be followed in the future, if the Government persist in their present policy. Then it is said that a Bill has been introduced which proposes to offer a remedy. I am aware that I am not allowed, in opposing the present Bill, to refer in detail to the provisions of that measure; but this I think I am entitled to say—that we should most unquestionably be wanting in our duty if we allowed a permanent Bill of the character of that which is now before the House to pass into law, without providing, at the same time, the most conclusive safeguards against its misapplication, and for the protection of the tenants against excessive rents. As I have said, I do not wish to enter into the provision of the Relief Bill in detail, and I am not going to do so; but I want to point out what would be the position of the tenant, supposing even that both of these Bills should become law. What would be the position of a tenant who is under a legal obligation to pay a practically unjust rent, and whose position is such that he cannot obtain any indulgence from his landlord? Upon that point I only propose to say a few words, for the purpose of illustrating what the position of the tenant would be under such circumstances. I am taking the case of a man who cannot pay—the case of a man against whom there is an unjust fixed rent, either judicial or otherwise—and what I say in regard to that case is this—the proposals which I have heard of from the Government practically give the ten 28 ants no relief at all. The tenant whose rent exceeds £50 a-year cannot possibly obtain relief, nor can he get relief if he has means in his power, either by borrowing or by obtaining assistance from his children towards the payment of the rent, or from any other source; but even if he succeeds in getting over these preliminary difficulties, the relief which is afforded to him is no relief at all. It is not suggested that his rent should be lower, and all the wretched man could do in regard to any proposal I have yet heard of is to make himself a bankrupt and reduce himself to the position of a serf. He is then obliged to come under the orders of a Bankruptcy Court, and when the bankruptcy has been concluded he will be a fortunate man, indeed, if he is reinstated in his holding. It must be recollected that it is not proposed to confer anything as a right upon this unfortunate man. He is subject to whatever terms may be imposed upon him by the Judge, and in many cases he will, in all probability, impose such terms as the landlord may think fit to suggest. Now, this proposal of the Government, which, I presume, will come, before long, under the notice of this House, assuming it to be passed in its absolute integrity, will, I affirm, speaking as a lawyer, upon what credit I have to lose for legal acumen, be absolutely worthless as a protection. It would not keep one man on his holding by right, nor would it secure him the slightest abatement of- his rent; but it would leave him absolutely at the mercy of his landlord, qualified by such terms as the County Court Judge may think fit to grant. We all know the terms which are likely to be put forward when a man is destitute. When he is on the eve of being turned out of his holding the agent would appear at his elbow day after day, and say—"Why don't you purchase?" That has been attempted already, and there is the strongest proof of it to be found in the evidence before the Commissioners. Mr. M'Carthy's evidence has been quoted. I do not intend to read it; but I will summarize it in the shortest way. I am, however, using M'Carthy's own words in the short summary I give. He stated that the operation of the Act has been hindered by the unwise attempts which have been made on the part of some of the land agents to coerce the tenants into pur- 29 chasing at prices which, the Land Commissioners consider unfair, and that pressure was exercised by telling the tenant that he must either sign the contract of purchase or go out. What will be the effect of the Bill of the Government? I do not assert that it is their intention—because the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, speaking at Ipswich, denied it—that the intention of the Government is in any way to force on the provisions of the Purchase Bill. I am only speaking of the effect of the proposals of the Government. [Cries of "Oh! "] I am speaking now of Lord Ashbourne's Act, which is at present in force, and I assert that the real effect of this Bill will be to force the tenant into such a position that he will have no alternative between going out on the roadside, or purchasing on such terms as the landlord may feel inclined to give him. It is not only coercion, but beggary for the Irish tenant; and, so far as the British taxpayer is concerned, the effect will be to shuffle off upon the shoulders of our constituencies rotten estates in Ireland which are not worth one-half of the sum we shall be called upon to pay for them. I protest against these proposals, because I am confident the result will be a large and heavy loss to the British taxpayer. I do not believe that the Chief Secretary for Ireland would willingly impose that burden upon the country; but I believe that many persons behind him would be delighted to do so, and would be only too glad to see their friends thrust out of the position which they occupy and the whole burden placed on the shoulders of the British taxpayer. I am afraid that the Government cannot appreciate the full effect of their proposals, and I am bound, as a lawyer, to assert—although it may appear presumptuous on my part to do so—that there is no protection whatever in this Bill for the honest tenant who cannot really pay the rent. The protection afforded is absolutely worthless, and I am satisfied that it will be proved to be so when it is brought to the test. I therefore feel it my duty to resist this Bill as a matter of justice to the unfortunate people of Ireland, where, at the present moment, there is so much misery and destitution prevailing. I hope that we shall not be invited to proceed to the Committee stage of the Bill, as we were 30 invited to proceed to the second reading stage, with allusions and charges such as were imported in the earlier debates, and which were made and circulated at a most admirably chosen time against the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and other hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway. Now, Sir, I remember that substantially the same charges were made in 1883 by the late Mr. W. E. Forster, who did not shelter himself behind The Times newspaper. Mr. Forster came forward, and took upon himself the responsibility of making the charges; they were denied, and two years afterwards the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) entered into political relations with the gentlemen against whom the charges were made. And not only so, but the hon. Member for Cork himself was called into council by Lord Carnarvon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who evidently thought he was doing nothing wrong in associating with the hon. Member. Much as I differ from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, and Lord Carnarvon also, I know them to be men of intelligence and honour, and I altogether decline to accept any of those statements until they have been completely proved. That is the position which I think it is incumbent upon every hon. Member to take up. But let me suppose, for the sake of argument, that every word of these charges is true—assuming that the hon. Member for Cork, in 1882, wrote a letter which was most infamous if he did write it, and—hon.Gentlemen I hope will excuse me for using this hypothesis—that hon. Gentlemen associated in 1882 with people of a murderous character; but is that any reason why in 1887—fiveyearsafterwards—the House should pass a Bill of this ferocious nature for the purpose of taking away the liberties of Ireland? I feel it to be the duty of hon. Members who speak upon this Bill to take an opportunity of saying something in reference to the charges and the manner in which they have been used. I believe it is almost unprecedented in Parliamentary history, at a critical stage of a Bill, at a time when political passion runs high, that accusations should be repeated which were made three years ago, and thrown at the heads of hon. Gentlemen sitting either upon this or any other side of the House. I beg to enter my em- 31 phatic protest against such a course, and I hope that the Government, upon whom a heavy responsibility lies, will, for the sake of the honour and integrity of the House, undertake that the charges shall be made specifically, and that they will discountenance proceedings which I think wholly unbecoming the honour and reputation of the House. I have now stated to the House the general reasons which induce me to oppose this Bill. I do not intend to resist it myself by any resort to means of obstruction; but although I may not speak again against it, I hope that other hon. Gentlemen will do so, and that they will not cease to dwell upon the iniquity of the proposals now made by Her Majesty's Government; that they will not cease to protest against the cruel injustice which is being perpetrated against the Irish people, contrary, I believe, to many of the pledges which hon. Gentlemen gave at the last Election, in forcing this Bill upon Ireland against the wishes alike of Ireland and Great Britain.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
, in rising to second the Amendment, said, he was anxious to ask the House to pause, before proceeding further with this Bill, until the Government were able to lay before the House the policy with which they proposed to accompany coercion. Since the Bill had been read a second time they had had important developments of the Government policy "elsewhere," and they were able to see how their remedial measure was likely to be received by their own supporters. One-half of that measure could not pass in its present form; it was repudiated by the landlords and tenants of Ireland; and it was certain that it would not be passed in its entirety by the House of Lords, He asked the House, therefore, to wait until it saw what would be the substitute for the remedial measure of the Government. The measure before the House was originally propounded mainly as a Bill to prevent crime; but as the discussion went on further important objects were revealed. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), in a very menacing speech, told the country that the object of the Bill was to put down the revolutionary Party, and that until we put down that Party it was absolutely impossible finally 32 to deal with the agrarian question, or even to think of giving to Ireland that small modicum of self-government which he would be willing to grant. Again, only a few days ago the noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) had distinctly declared that the object of the Bill was to put down combinations by tenants; and he had gone on to say that unless the House of Lords and the Government passed some remedial measure it would be totally impossible to expect the country to accept a Bill intended to put down combinations among tenants. The ground upon which this Coercion Bill was based was the prevalence of crime in Ireland; but, putting aside agrarian offences, at no time had Ireland been so free from crime as she was at present. Was there any hope of putting down agrarian crime by means of a purely coercive measure? The experience of the last 86 years showed that coercive measures, unless coupled with full remedial measures, had no effect upon agrarian crime. Then, again, experience showed that agrarian crime had very little relation with political agitation. Thus, during the agitation in favour of Roman Catholic Emancipation, and during O'Connell's agitation in favour of Repeal, there had been very little agrarian crime. Indeed, it had been said at those times that the total absence of crime was a most serious symptom. The fact was that agrarian crime had its origin in a totally different state of things, such as in economic causes, in bad. seasons, and in times of great agricultural depression from low prices or otherwise, when harsh and ignorant landlords exacted the uttermost farthing of rent that they could squeeze out of their tenants—these were the causes which brought the people to despair and crime. In 1833, when the great tithe war was going on, there was a great deal of agrarian crime. At that time, in the middle of the discussions on coercion, Lord Palmerston, writing to his brother, said—By what sweeping majorities this reformed House of Commons is passing the most violent Coercion Bill over passed into law! It is a realtour de force; out then it will be followed by remedial measures. There is this difference between our case and that of the Metternich and the Pope. We coerce as they do, but we redress grievances as they do not.["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member 33 opposite cheered that. No doubt the hon. Member thought, as Lord Palmerston did, that the remedial measure was very satisfactory. But he might perhaps remind the hon. Member that the House of Lords threw out the Remedial measures. There was, therefore, little difference between the English Government and that of Metternich and the Pope. It was quite possible that, following the same analogy, the present House of Lords might not pass a remedial measure at this moment which would be satisfactory or sufficient for the purpose. But the House of Lords passed the coercion measure; and the following year the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was obliged to report to the Home Secretary of the day that agrarian crime had greatly increased in Ireland. The same thing had happened when extreme coercive measures had been again resorted to. The passing of the Coercion Bill in 1833 was followed by an increase in crime from 17,000 to 21,000 in the following year; and it was not until Lord Melbourne, two years later, adopted a different policy—that of substituting remedial measures altogether for coercion—that agrarian crime in Ireland began to diminish. Lord Melbourne, speaking in 1837, alluding to the change of policy with regard to that country which he had brought about, said that he did not believe in coercion, because the odium and the obloquy which it brought upon the Government fatally weakened the power of the Administration in preserving law and order. Later, again, agrarian crime enormously increased after the potato famine of 1846; and coercion was again in 1847 resorted to; but it did not succeed in putting down crime. Crime increased under it from 32,000 in 1847, to 40,000 in 1848, and it was not till favourable seasons returned that agrarian crime diminished. Coming later to 1881, when the lamented Mr. Forster introduced a very severe Coercion Act, accompanied by a strong remedial measure, Mr. Forster told the House of Commons that the Bill would be directed against villa go ruffians, and not against political agitators. In spite of that Act, agrarian crime increased. He believed that the reason why the Land Act failed to stop agrarian crime was that a great number of the Irish tenants were encumbered by arrears, and could not go into the Land Court. In 34 the following year a remedial measure was passed dealing with arrears, at the same time that another Coercion Act was passed through the House. The smaller tenants were relieved. His firm and confident belief was that the reduction of crime after 1882 was not due to the Coercion Act of that year, but to the remedial measures of that year—namely, the Arrears Act, which was one of the most beneficial pieces of legislation ever passed. He was quite prepared to admit that there was some increase of agrarian crime at the present time, but it was not serious. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] It was not serious as compared with past times. He agreed that it was and should be the object of them all to get that agrarian crime reduced within the narrowest proportions. That would not be done by coercive measures; but only by remedial measures carried out in a satisfactory manner. The remedial policy of the Government could be divided into two main parts; the first being that which related to the leaseholders, which had given satisfaction throughout the country; and, indeed, it was a reflection upon Parliament and a great pity that the Bill giving leaseholders the benefit of the Land Act was not passed long ago. The other half of the remedial policy of the Government was not so satisfactory. In fact it had given great dissatisfaction to the class for whom it was intended. The relief intended by that part of the policy of the Government could only be given through the medium of the Bankruptcy Court; and, looking broadly at that policy, it appeared to him to be absurd and altogether out of relation to the demands of the Irish people. It had been scouted equally by landlords and by tenants. If he were a landlord, he should be more frightened at that part of the policy of the Government than at any measure which had been suggested by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). On the other hand, the tenants were not contented. He believed it was generally feared throughout Ireland that that policy, if carried out, might have the effect of demoralizing the smaller tenants, while it might not give a remedy to the better class of tenants, who would not like to allow themselves to be made bankrupts, when perhaps they had some savings left in the savings' banks. He confidently believed that the measure 35 could not pass into law, and that it must be radically changed. It was, in his view, incapable of amendment, and the Government must substitute for it some other and totally different remedial policy. One of the first clauses which they would have to consider in Committee on the Bill was Clause 2, giving greater power against combinations of tenants, with drawing such cases for the first time from juries and putting them under the jurisdiction of Resident Magistrates, who were merely the creatures of the Government. He asked the House whether it was reasonable or right that they should be called upon to discuss the clause until they had the full policy of the Government before them in the shape in which the House of Lords would pass the remedial Bill. The clause would put great power into the hands of the landlords, and he feared its adoption would induce the House of Lords rather to favour the interests and strengthen the hands of the landlords than to generously deal with the reasonable demands of the Irish tenants. Unfortunately, the history of the House of Lords in regard to remedial legislation for Ireland had not been satisfactory in the past. Time after time over a long period it had thrown out important measures dealing with the Irish Land Question, and hardly a measure of the kind had ever come before it which it had not seriously injured. A great deal of the agrarian trouble which had occurred in Ireland had been due to the successive actions of the House of Lords upon those agrarian Bills. When one looked at the composition of the House of Lords on Irish. Questions one was not altogether surprised. They had been leavened and prejudiced by that infusion of Irish Peers who looked at those questions only from one point of view. Remedial measures of an agrarian kind for Ireland ought not to be introduced in the House of Lords, but in the House of Commons, where alone were the means of ascertaining the real wants and wishes of the Irish people through their Representatives. If they passed the coercive clauses before the Lords considered their remedies, what hope could there be that they would produce an effective remedy? If the measure, when it came down into that House, was amended in accordance with the views of the Irish people, what hope had they that the Lords would 36 accept their Amendments? The only security they could possibly have that the remedial measure would be sufficient and satisfactory, was by refusing coercion till a measure that was sufficient for the purpose was passed by the House of Lords; and in order to secure this object, he asked the House to refrain from going into Committee until they knew what form the remedy would take. He would only say, in conclusion, that the utterances of the Prime Minister in "another place" showed an utter misconception and want of appreciation of the position and desires of the Irish tenants; and that he did not understand the principle on which the Land Act of 1881 was passed, and on which an amendment and readjustment of the judicial rents was now demanded. Speaking in "another place," Lord Salisbury said—It is the landlord's right to get his rent as long as the tenant can pay; it is the landlord's right to change the tenant if he can find a tenant who can derive better produce from the farm. As long as he restricts himself within these two rights, no one can accuse him of being harsh and unreasonable."He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) entirely denied this view of the landlord's position. It was founded on an entire misconception of the Land Act of 1881. That Act established and recognized a dual ownership in the land; it gave legal sanction to the tenant's interest, and put his right on an equal footing with that of the landlord. Nothing could be clearer than this—that, from the point of view of equity and justice, the landlords in Ireland were not justified in insisting upon their rights to the total extinction of the tenants' interest and property in their holdings. If, since the Land Act was passed and the judicial rents were fixed, an entire change had occurred in the conditions—if prices of agricultural produce had fallen so that the continuation of the same rent for the remainder of the 15 years involved the total extinction of the tenants' interest and reduced them to the position of tenants at a rackrent—then every principle of justice required a revision of the terms of the Land Act. He would urge the House, then, not to part with its control over this question, not to pass this tremendous weapon to put down combinations, until it was satisfied that a remedial measure sufficient for the purpose and adequate to provide a remedy 37 against agrarian crime was laid before it. In conclusion, he would ask the House to listen to the opinion of Sir Robert Peel, whom hon. Members opposite would admit to have been one of the greatest statesmen of the present century, and who had probably more experience of Coercion Bills than any man in his generation. Speaking in 1833, on Lord Grey's Coercion Bill, he said—He had always dreaded measures of coercion, for he feared that, while their effect for good would be temporary, they would leave behind them a rankling wound of which the soreness would belong felt. There was a great risk that coercive measures would relax the energy of the ordinary law, and widen the breach between the richer classes, for whose protection they were framed, and the poorer classes, for whose punishment they were intended.There never had been a Coercion Bill of which it could be more truly said than this—that it was intended for the protection of the rich and for the punishment of the poor. By keeping their hands clean now they might obtain from the House of Lords possibly a more satisfactory remedial measure than was now before it. If, on the other hand, they passed the Coercion Bill in its present shape—and passed it before the other House had determined what the final shape of the remedial measure would be—his confident belief was that that remedial measure would turn out to be a nullity and a sham; whereas the Coercion Bill would be one of the harshest and most severe and comprehensive that had ever been passed through Parliament. He begged to second the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House declines to proceed further with a measure for strengthening the Criminal Law against combinations of tenants until it has before it the full measure for their relief against excessive rents in the shape in which it may pass the other House of Parliament,"—( Mr. R T. Reid,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, no one who carried his recol- 38 lection back to the four weeks of prolonged debate that had already taken place on the broad principles of this Bill would be surprised at the signs of weariness and slackness that prevailed in the House, and those signs were not confined to one portion of the House, for they were as obvious on the Benches below the Gangway opposite as in any other quarter of the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give me the opportunity of stating why there are not so many Irish Members sitting here as on ordinary occasions? They are not in their places because they are at the present time addressing meetings being held throughout England to protest against this very Bill we are discussing.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
, continuing, said, that, under ordinary circumstances, he should not have thought it necessary for any Member of the Government to enter again upon the well-worn path of this debate; but perhaps it would be hardly consistent with the courtesy due to the position of the Gentlemen who brought forward this Amendment, and to the moderation which characterized their remarks, if he did not rise to reply. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. R. T. Reid) who had brought forward the Motion expressed the hope that the subjects of acute controversy raised in the course of the debate on the second reading would not be revived. He joined with the hon. and learned Gentleman in that hope; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had scarcely, in some remarks that he made, taken the course best calculated to realize his hope. Speaking on behalf of the Government, he could assure the House that he should do nothing which could justify any hon. Gentleman in prolonging a debate which, in the opinion of the Government, had already proceeded long enough. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had given the House an historical disquisition with a view of showing that the only effective method of putting down crime was by means of remedial legislation. But after the Land Bill of 1860—which was described as a Landlords' Bill—though it merely applied to Ireland principles recognized in most civilized countries of the world—Ireland was freer from agrarian crime than at any time since Returns 39 of agrarian crime bad been prepared. In 1865, before the remedial legislation of the Liberal Party, before the Land Act of 1870 and the Land Act of 1881, the total number of agrarian crimes was 86—a figure lower than the difference between the agrarian crimes of 1885 and 1886, which was deseribed as inappreciable. He had already endeavoured to explain to the House that the Returns of agrarian crime were so made out that many crimes which had reference to the disturbed state of the country, and which were of a nature aimed at by this Bill, nevertheless did not appear in the Returns, as the police did not deem them to come within the category of "agrarian" offences. Thus midnight raids for arms would not, in all cases, be described as agrarian.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, they would come under the head of "attacks on dwelling-houses."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, they might or they might not. But last year there were 72 cases of firing into dwelling houses, and of these only 43 were put down as agrarian, and there were 402 cases of malicious injury to property, and only 150 were classed as agrarian.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the Belfast riots might possibly account for some of the cases that were not classed as agrarian. Then there were 165 cases of killing, cutting, and maiming cattle, and only 73 were classed as agrarian. He mentioned this to show that there were certain classes of offences which were connected with the state of the country and which were not classed as agrarian crime.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House on what principle the police classed an offence as agrarian? This is a very important point.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the police only returned an offence as agrarian where they could trace a close connection between it and matters with regard to land. Therefore, offences which arose out of the disturbed condition of the country were not classed as agrarian.
§ MR. DILLON
asked how the police had, for instance, classified the murder of Curtin, which had no connection with the agrarian question?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he was not quite sure, but he did not think this had been set down as agrarian. This he knew, however—that the lamentable case to which he alluded on Friday, where two unfortunate girls were shot in a raid for arms, was not classed as agrarian crime, and yet that was as much due to agrarian discontent as if it had been the result of a most cruel eviction. This fact should be borne in mind in studying the Returns of agrarian crime. He also desired to point out that, as he read the figures, the increase of the ordinary serious crime throughout Ireland, excluding the Metropolitan district, was at least as great in proportion as the increase of agrarian crime. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment attacked the Irish landlords in very severe terms. [Mr. R. T. REID: Not all.] Well, he had attacked a large and important section of them. The hon. and learned Member declared that it was the duty of the landlords to reduce the rents of their tenants in precise proportion to the fall in prices, and to other circumstances affecting the value of the land in Ireland. Well, it was his (Mr. A. J. Balfour's) opinion also that that was the duty of Irish landlords; but it did not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to declare that it was their duty, for in 1881 the Party opposite deliberately turned the landlords into rent-chargers and mortgagees, and consequently it did not become Members of that Party to say to the landlords—"You ought to act as if we had never limited your immemorial rights." Of course, he was not to be understood to mean that the landlords ought to act up to the strict letter of the rights conferred upon them in 1881. On the contrary, he thought that every Irish landlord would be acting rightly and wisely for himself, his order, his tenantry, Ireland and the Empire, if he were to revise in a generous spirit and according to the necessities of the time his contracts with his tenants, even if those contracts had been imposed upon him by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. and learned Member asked—" What is to be done when by this Coercion Bill you will have conferred upon the landlord these immense powers for the enforcement of his rent? "But what "immense powers" did the Bill give? At the most it would enable 41 the landlord to use those legal powers which the Party opposite had themselves conferred upon him. Was that so monstrous a result of legislation that they ought to shrink from it with horror? That the Government earnestly desired to prevent anything in the nature of harsh eviction was amply proved by the legislation which they had introduced in "another place." The hon. and learned Member said that there were at present two checks upon landlords—namely, publicity and Boycotting. In reference to the first of these, the hon. and learned Member appeared to suppose that, under the Land Bill of the Government, a landlord would be able to evict his tenants without any publicity at all—without the presence of those immense crowds of excited people which, the hon. and learned Member deemed so valuable for the protection of the tenants' interests. But the hon. and learned Member was in error. It was perfectly true that a landlord would be able to turn a tenant into a caretaker without any parade; but if he should wish to evict the tenant, to turn him out of his holding on to the wayside, the same concourse of people would have the opportunity of assembling, and, as now, the services of the police might unhappily be required. Thus, all those "tragic circumstances" which the hon. and learned Member thought so valuable would continue to remain part of the ordinary procedure at evictions. The hon. and learned Member declared that eviction was the cause of crime, and argued that, because in counties whore the number of evictions was highest the number of crimes was also highest, the evictions must be the cause of the crimes. he did not deny that in certain eases evictions might result in crime; but he assorted most emphatically that intimidation, and some of those combinations which met with so much favour from the hon. and learned Member, wore the causes of eviction. Over and over again it happened that where a settlement would otherwise be come to between landlord and tenant on amicable terms, the organization which the hon. and learned Member defended stopped in and said that the settlement must not take place, and thus deprived the landlord of every means of exacting the smallest fraction or fragment of his 42 legal rights, excepting by the extreme method of eviction.
§ Mr. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to give a single instance of such action on the part of the organization to which he referred? [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the Question of the hon. Member appeared to be an argument in the guise of a Question.
§ MR. R. T. REID
wished to say that if any organization interfered to prevent a man from paying an honest rent, he was sure it would have no sympathy from him.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that he know that the hon. and learned Member had no sympathy with crime; but he thought that the policy which the hon. and learned Member recommended would have the effect of fostering that very crime which he desired to see repressed. He now came to the second check mentioned by the hon. and learned Member—namely, Boycotting. What conclusion could be drawn from the Amendment and speech of the hon. and learned Member except that he regarded Boycotting as a very good method by which to remove any harshness which might exist in connection with the working of the Irish Land Act? What other conclusion could be drawn except that he preferred that this monstrous and iniquitous system of Boycotting—this system, of punishment inflicted by an irresponsible tribunal on innocent men and women—should go on rather than that the landlord should be put in a position to exercise those legal rights which the legislation of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had conferred upon him? He now came to the consideration of the specific grievance which the hon. and learned Member alleged that the Irish people had. This grievance was that the judicial rents fixed before 1883 were between 12 and 14 per cent too high. That was the grievance which ought, in the opinion of the hon. and learned Member, to induce the Government to allow intimidation, Boycotting, outrage, and crime to go on unchecked. Could there be a more extravagant notion? The extent of the grievance was that the judicial rents fixed during 1881, 1882, 1883, and perhaps 1884 ought to be 43 revised. It seemed to him that the position was absurd when viewed in the light thrown upon it by statistics. There had been 1,102 evictions for nonpayment of rent in the six months ending on the 31st of March last. In only 254 of these cases had judicial rents been fixed. In the remaining 848 cases judicial rents had never even been applied for. [An Irish MEMBER: Leaseholders.] No; they could not make them out to be leaseholders—there might be here and there one. The great majority of those 848 might have stayed their evictions if they had applied to the Land Court for fair rents to be fixed. Why did they not do so? [An hon. MEMBER: Arrears.] They might have applied to the Land Court and had the evictions stayed till the Court had settled the rent. Was not that a conclusive proof that if the hon. and learned Gentleman had his way, and the Government had carried out that policy which the hon. and learned Gentleman said they wore incurring a grave responsibility by not carrying out, the condition of the Irish tenantry would not be remedied, except to a small and even infinitesimal amount? Compare the tender mercies of Gentlemen opposite with the policy of the Government. They had occupied themselves in denouncing the Land Bill brought forward in "another place." he was not going to discuss the provisions of that Bill. But it was framed by the Government in a far larger and more liberal spirit than appeared to animate the breasts of Gentlemen opposite, and its benefits would not be confined to an insignificant fraction of the Irish tenantry. The Government did not simply desire to prevent harsh and improper evictions in those cases in which judicial rents had been fixed before 1885, but approached the question in a larger spirit. He was not going to pronounce an opinion whether the clauses of that Bill, especially the Relief Clauses, were or were not unworkable. He did not deny their extreme complexity. The framing of those clauses was a matter of great difficulty and anxiety to the Government, and to deal with the question at all would tax the ingenuity of any Government. But the reason was that the land system of Ireland had been so tinkered and boggled by the Party opposite that it was 44 in a state of hopeless and inextricable confusion. That wonderful system of 1881, which was to remedy the wrongs of Ireland, had now so utterly and hopelessly broken down at the first strain put upon it, that the difficulties of a Government which attempted to reform it were almost greater than the ingenuity of man could overcome. That alone was the cause of any objections which might be raised by Gentlemen opposite to these particular clauses of the Bill now before the House of Lords. Now, what was the meaning of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment? It was that the House declined to proceed further with a measure for strengthening the Criminal Law until it had seen the provisions of a Bill introduced into the other House. But had not the Government pledged themselves that before the Crimes Bill left that House the House should see the measure before the House of Lords? Was that not enough? [Cries of "No!"] Why was it not enough? It was that hon. Gentlemen opposite meant to delay the passing of the Crimes Bill to the utmost of their power, and for that end he could not conceive a more ingenious plan than the one proposed. The House would have the opportunity of rejecting the Land Bill on the third reading if they were dissatisfied with the form in which it left the House of Lords. But it was not enough. It was not merely that the Crimes Bill should be thrown out if the Land Bill were not satisfactory, but that it should be strangled by excessive debate if the Land Bill were satisfactory. Gentlemen opposite were never tired of imputing sinister motives to the Government. The right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), before the Land Bill was introduced into the House of Lords, said that their object was to exact unjust rents from the tenants. The accusation had ceased even to be plausible since the introduction of the Bill in the House of Lords. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Crimes Bill was intended to compel the Irish tenants to pay excessive rents.
§ MR. R. T. REID
said, that in consequence of the right hon. Gentleman's speech at Ipswich he had distinctly disclaimed making such an imputation. He was in the habit of accepting the assurances of Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he entirely accepted the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement; but he was puzzled to know how hon. Members could go on talking about Bills which they had never seen. They had discussed the Crimes Bill before they had seen it, and their criticisms had been refuted by the event; and now they had been discussing a Land Purchase Bill which was not even before the House of Lards. The hon. and learned Member, following the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, was now imputing to the Government the monstrous intention of passing the Crimes Bill in order to compel Irish tenants to pay more for their land than it was worth. How did the right hon. Gentleman know what the Land Purchase Bill was to be? By what gift of prophecy did he know the provisions of a Bill which was still in embryo? The Government could not accede to this Amendment, which was obviously intended to delay the Bill. They denied, and had always denied, that it was intended by the Bill to interfere with the relations of landlord and tenant. This was a Bill to put down crime, and crime could not wait to be put down until they had a Bill with regard to Irish land. It was not conflicts between landlord and tenant in which they desired to interfere, it was not combinations they desired to crush; but it was crime which would be tolerated in no other country on the earth, which ought not to be tolerated in Ireland, and which the Government, as far as in them lay, did not mean to tolerate 24 hours longer than the Forms of this House rendered absolutely necessary.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
said, he had not the least intention of entering into the debate as regards the polemical considerations with which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman naturally bristled, although if he did he would be compelled to meet many of the allegations of the right hon. Gentleman with a direct negative; but with reference to what he might call the parenthetical part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, when he was speaking of agrarian crime, it would be of great use to the House if the right hon. Gentleman would favour them with some Memorandum containing information as to the rules and principles upon which agrarian crime was distinguished by the 46 police in Ireland. He was not blaming the police; but this information would guide the judgment of the House. There was another question arising directly out of a statement which he understood the right hon. Gentleman to have made outside the walls of the House. The statement was thus reported—In 1870, when Mr. Gladstone brought in his Coercion Bill, if a band of 30 men wont about posting up threatening notices threatening some man with outrage and Boycotting if he carried out one of the ordinary avocations of life, the 30 men who did that counted as 30 offences. Now they are counted as one."That statement must have been in some sense true or the right hon. Gentleman would not have made it. He understood that by the changes which had been made, comparisons of figures between that period and the present were entirely vitiated. He wished, therefore, to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would be kind enough to let the House have a distinct account in the form of a Memorandum of any change in the method of reckoning agrarian offences since any date the right hon. Gentleman thought it convenient to fix, in order that they might know how far they could rely on the comparison of figures which were absolutely vital to the formation of any sound judgment on this question?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he should be most happy to have a Memorandum prepared, explaining the principle on which the police distinguished between agrarian and other offences. He believed the only change that had been made was between 1868 and 1870. It was not made by a Conservative Government, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman would find the effect of it in the statistics themselves. If the right hon. Gentleman looked at the figures for the year he would find an explanatory foot-note. He had accurately described what the method used to be, and the result as to certain crimes was extremely misleading.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
said, that there might be a note of the kind somewhere, but he had carefully examined the Papers, and he had seen nothing which dealt with the question. It would be extremely desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should favour them with such a statement as he had mentioned.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
said, he was pleased at being able for the first time in the course of these debates to agree with a large part of the speech which had been made by a brother Liberal who, unhappily, was divided from him on this Irish Question. The hon. and learned Member had, however, confused together what appeared to be two aspects of the question. The major question was how Ireland was to be governed in the future; the minor question had reference to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member had told the House how deeply he and those who agreed with him felt on the subject of this proposal of the Government; and he put this fact forward as a justification for straining the Forms of Parliament almost to the breaking-point in their endeavour to prevent the Bill from passing. There were other questions on which men felt very strongly, but that was no reason why they should endeavour to stop the whole machinery of the Government of the country. To his mind it was absolutely necessary to separate the two branches of this question. First of all, however, he would deal with that part of it which was more immediately touched by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid), which had laid before the House in terms with which he very largely agreed the duty of that House towards that part of the tenantry of Ireland who wished to pay their rents, but who were not in a position to do so. The hon. and learned Member added that he had no sympathy with tenants who could pay a just rent and who would not pay it. But he omitted to lay before the House the fact that the whole action of the Plan of Campaign, and of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), was to confound in one great system of repudiation the two classes of tenants. One of the main duties of the Government of any civilized country was to insist that such separation should be made—that by the action of such a Bill as that now before the House the tenant who would repudiate a just contract should be made to fulfil that contract, and that, by the action of some such Bill as had been introduced in "another place," the honest tenant should be protected from evic- 48 tion. To the measure now before the other House, both the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had been a little unfair. They could not be in a position to pronounce upon that measure till it had left the House of Lords and they knew the shape in which it would be presented to the House of Commons. But there was a point which they could take hold of, and that was the declaration of the Prime Minister, who laid it down as an axiom of the Government that the land war in Ireland must be made to cease; and that it could not be made to cease as long as it was in the power of certain landlords, enemies of their class and of their country, to inflict upon men who could not pay punishments which were only merited by those who sheltered themselves under the wings of the hon. Member for East Mayo in his attempts to protect the other class of tenants. Liberal Unionists held that their primary duty was to maintain the Union; but in supporting the Government in their action for this purpose, they intended to put the utmost pressure they could upon them to pass such an Act as would put an end to the unjust and barbarous evictions. Before passing away from this branch of the subject, he could not help alluding to the Land Purchase Bill brought in last year by the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Mid Lothian. The bases of that Bill were the rents which were now denounced as unjust. He was waiting for an informal vote of thanks to the Liberal Unionists for protecting the right hon. Gentleman's reputation and the country from such an act as that. Then, it was said that the Liberal Unionist Members voted against the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), which, it was alleged, would have had the effect already which the Government now intended to produce by the Bill introduced in the House of Lords. But the hon. Members who made that accusation against the Unionist Party were demanding for Members from Ireland a totally exceptional treatment from that which was given to English and Scotch Members. When the Scotch Members brought forward the question of the crofters the right hon. Gentleman appointed a Royal Commission, and would not legislate until 49 he had received its report. What was sauce for a Scotchman was sauce in a similar case for an Irishman. The accusation had been very freely levelled against the Party which had the honour to follow the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain),that they were supporting what was called a Coercion Bill, having been returned as anti-coercionists. [Mr. COSSHAM: Hear, hear.] He would ask the hon. Member for Bristol to turn to the speeches of those who agreed with him and to the columns of The Daily News and other Liberal newspapers, and he would find that they raised the cry of "Conciliation versus Coercion," and said to the electors—" Do not vote for any Unionist Members, because you will be voting for coercion." Did any Homo Ruler deny that his Party devoted their energies to putting the issue of conciliation versus coercion? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear.] The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that was his point. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no.] He was sorry if he had misunderstood the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman; but that was the whole object of the Home Rule Press, from The Daily News down—or up, he did not know which to call it—to The Nation in Ireland. That was the point which was always being put forward. Yet now it was assorted by the same Party that at the last Election the country never had the question of coercion brought before it at all. The real point now at issue was contained in this principle—':Are you going to govern Ireland by or against and in spite of the National League?" Some hon. Gentlemen around him, headed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, had determined that Ireland should be governed by the National League. The country had determined that Ireland should not be governed by the National League, and that being so, it was absurd to turn round on Liberal Unionists and say that they had abandoned all their traditions in their endeavour to beat the National League. The Home Rule Liberals had entered into a partnership with the League, and could not dissociate themselves from the deeds of the League. They were told of an increasing roll of Irish crime; they heard of multitudes of victims of outrage who dared not give 50 evidence against those who had outraged them; and they had heard read the charges of Judges announcing that in their opinion law had almost ceased to exist in many parts of the country. I was acknowledged on all hands that the jury system in Ireland was at a deadlock In the Report of the Cowper Commission also, not only did the Commissioner press upon the Government the necessity for the maintenance of law and order but nobody could take up that Report in an impartial spirit without reading of acts which made his blood curdle with rage and indignation at such things being allowed in a civilized country. In the face of all that, the House was told that there was in Ireland a sort of semi divine calm; and when hon. Members came down to that House and declared it to be their duty to support a Government which would repress that state of things they were told, they were interfering between the poor and the rich, They were interfering between the pool and the rich—between the poor Irish tenants and that rich tyrant the National League. [Home Rule cheers.] Yes; there were other riches than money could give, and he doubted whether many men had more power given by the possession of gold than was given to members of the National League as heads of the local Courts. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries in his most moderate and useful speech said he thought it his duty to enter his protest as an English gentleman and a Member of that House in a matter of certain accusations made in the public Press. He was going to follow in the hon. and learned Member's footsteps—he trusted with the utmost care—because he also felt it his duty to state his view on that question. A charge had been made than which none other more foul or more terrible could be conceived; it had been denied point-blank by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). In that case The Times had been guilty of a most foul and malignant perjury, libel, and forgery. Ought a Member of that House to sit down under such an accusation levelled against a Member of that body? Was any Member of that House to be liable to similar accusations? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had said, and had justly said, that the burden of proof lay upon The Times and not that of disproof upon the hon. 51 Member for Cork. [Home Rule cheers.] Yes; but there was only one way of setting that machinery in motion. In an action for libel The Times would either have to give in at once or else file a plea of justification, and on that plea the whole burden of proof would rest on The Times. The Times would have to prove that the denial of the hon. Member for Cork was a false denial; The Times would have to prove that the letter was genuine and not a forgery, and if The Timesfailed to prove that—and he could think of few things more difficult to prove—not only would the hon. Member for Cork gain enormous damages, not only would he ruin his chief journalistic foe, but he would deal a deadly blow at the influence of the Unionist Party. The hon. Member for Cork had everything to gain and nothing to lose by such a course; and if, in the face of that, he did not commence that action, which he undertook to say no Member of the Liberal or Conservative Parties would fail to take under similar circumstances, then he ventured to say that the people of this country were not to be blamed if they drew conclusions very unpalatable to the National League in Ireland; and Members of that House were not to be blamed if, in their position as trustees of this country, they refused more than ever to give into the hands of a man who would not take such measures to clear himself as were open to him, the care of those most delicate relations between our country and his which would result from the passing of any such Bill as that proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, S.)
said, the noble Viscount who had just sat down (Viscount Wolmer) was one of those who made himself the mouthpiece of attack against Irish Members, but granting that the 86 Members for Ireland had come red-hot from a convict prison, their election to the House only showed that the wrongs of the Irish people were such that in spite of that the people determined to send them to Parliament to expose their grievances. He feared that the common principles of decency and honour were being subverted. Ideas on such subjects must have changed since the time when the denial of a Gentleman whose word had never been proved untrue would be taken anywhere, and much more so 52 that of an hon. Member of that House. In former times that word was taken without question; but, now, there were "insinuating doubts" thrown against it. If this sort of thing was continued and it suited hon. Members opposite to insist upon and repeat, in the insinuating and offensive methods they adopted, the charges they brought against hon. Members on that side of the House, he would not say that those who sat on those Benches would be answerable always for the temper in which they might meet those charges. Those charges were insults and calumnies which in former times would have been met in a very different manner from that adopted now-a-days. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had found great fault with the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid), but he (Mr. E. Harrington) thought that, judging from past experience of Bills introduced in the House of Lords, the Amendment was quite justified. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had been dealing very fairly by the House in the matter of the statistics of agrarian outrages. During the quarter ending March 31 last, the total number of agrarian outrages in Ireland was 241; but of these 118 consisted of threatening letters. Dealing with evictions in Kerry, he showed that in the quarter ending the 30th of June, 1886, 187 families, numbering 1,206 persons, were evicted; in the succeeding quarter 207 families, embracing 1,274 persons, were evicted; while in the last quarter 306 families, numbering 1,706 persons, were evicted. Since the beginning of the agitation—or rather the depression in agriculture which has given rise to the agitation—there had been evicted in Kerry 14,000 persons. This meant that one out of every eight or nine persons in the agricultural population of the county had been evicted. There was no need for him to indicate what a continual and irritating cause of crime these evictions must be. He was far from palliating either crime or outrage, but it was the duty of the Irish Members to plainly tell the Government what was the cause of the crime and outrage, and to ask them to make an honest endeavour to get at the root of the evil. It was easy to represent the 53 Irish Members as defending crime and outrage, but that was doing them a gross injustice. They hoped and believed that the near future history of their country would vindicate their action from other such odious aspersions. They were as anxious as any other section of the House that crime and outrage should be put down in Ireland; but their experience of every coercive measure which had been passed for that purpose showed that those measures were invariably directed against political offenders; while in many instances criminals were either allowed to go scot-free or such unfair means were taken to obtain their conviction that, when convicted, they were made objects of popular sympathy—a state of things highly inimical to that proper respect for the law which should exist among the people of any country. That Crimes Bill the Government now wished to pass before they carried their remedial measures, and the working of it, it should be remembered, was to be intrusted to the hands of the Resident Magistrates, a body of men who were practically the offshoots and dependents of the landlord class, and all whose interests were bound up with the maintenance of rents at their present exorbitant level. He insisted that the National League had exercised a humanizing influence in checking secret societies, which would undoubtedly have developed if the tenants had been left unprotected against the landlords. The League consisted of determined, outspoken men, who faced the tyrants, and told them their opinion of them, and everything that the League had done was as open as the day. Were it not for the League, crime would have been rampant; but to the League crime was repugnant, as it was to all honest and fearless men. If the Government would now come forward with their "large proposals" for the settlement of the Irish Land Question, there would be no need for this Bill. On an investigation into the nature of the claims which had been returned as having been dealt with by Grand Juries, arising out of malicious injuries, he found that those put forward by the Land Corporation of Ireland were practically adjudicated upon by Grand Juries consisting of its own shareholders; and it had put forward claims for cattle which it had afterwards been found had strayed upon the farms of its 54 own members, prematurely assuming that the cattle had been stolen by Moonlighters. One thing put down as malicious injury was the firing of grass; whereas nothing was more common than to set fire to it for the purpose of obtaining an improved growth, and it was within the bounds of possibility that some of the claimants who had obtained compensation had themselves set fire to the grass for the purpose of improving it. The real difficulty of getting at the truth in these matters was that there were so many men concerned in the unjust administration of the law who were related to landlords, or were in some way identified with the interests of the landlords. He gave warning that, if this Bill passed into law, he should go back to his constituency, and, while endeavouring to keep the people within the lines of the law, would take every opportunity of resisting the oppression and tyranny which the Bill would impose upon the people, and he should not be afraid to take the consequences. He felt that he had not put the House to any inconvenience by addressing it, because the House had obliged him by absenting itself; but if hon. Members would not listen to what Irish Members had to say, the Irish people had the ear of the country, which was now open to the tale of misery which they had to tell.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, he thought those who had followed the discussion on the Bill before the House would have come to the conclusion that the arguments on the other side of the House very much resolved itself into two heads. Hon. Members asserted, in the first place, the desirability of maintaining law and order in Ireland; and they then occupied themselves with recriminations against right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench for the part they took in 1881–2. On the latter point he agreed very much with the Member for Glasgow (Mr. E. R. Russell). There were many Members on that side of the House who cared very little what course was taken by the Liberal Party, at the head of which was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in 1881 and 1882. The circumstances had changed in almost every respect, and he understood that the right hon. Gentleman, and those who were associated with him, had 55 entirely changed their policy in this matter. It had been admitted by the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) that the old policy had failed, and the Liberal Party had turned back on it for ever. Then, as to the first assertion, as to the necessity for restoring law and order in Ireland; the memories of those who used that argument to so wide extent as they did must have rather failed them on this matter. This Bill was a distinct fulfilment of a pledge given in the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the Session, and he would venture to recall the attention of the House to the Speech, which clearly referred to this Bill and its introduction. That Speech pointed out very clearly the relation between such disorder as existed in Ireland and the conflict between landlords and tenants in that country. Her Majesty, in the Speech, said that grave crime was less in Ireland; but she went on to say that the relations between the owners and the occupiers of land in certain districts had been seriously disturbed, and further, that—Organized attempts to excite the latter class against the fulfilment of their legal obligations was made.And then we were told that our attention would be called to reforms in legal procedure. It was clear that these reforms wore contemplated, not in regard to the general maintenance of law and order, but the suppression of the "organized attempts "to which Her Majesty had previously referred. The "legal obligations" of the Queen's Speech meant nothing more nor less than "rent." The Land Court in Ireland had decided, and Lord Cowper's Commission asserted, that the rent of land in Ireland was much greater than it should be; and that being so, it followed, as Mr. Knipe, the dissentient Commissioner on the Cowper Commission, and also Sir Redvers Buller, said, that the combinations which this Bill was intended to suppress were the salvation of the people. He had heard, with great astonishment, some references to the land legislation of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian in 1881. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale said that the law in regard to the occupation of land in Ireland was more favourable to the tenant than in almost any country he 56 knew. That might be; but it was not more favourable than the circumstances demanded, seeing that in Ireland the tenant had created the value of that for which he was asked to pay rent. The Land Act of 1881 had turned out a partial failure, because the advice of the hon. Member for Cork was not listened to then, as it also, unfortunately, was not listened to last September. Had it been, we should now have been in a better position. Since the introduction of this Bill, the conduct of the Government in withholding statistics and information which were requisite to support their assertions, and the case they tried to make out in its favour, had been almost unprecedented in Parliamentary history. Such figures as had been meagrely doled out to the House, not only did not support, but contradicted some of the assertions made. The Chief Secretary had told them in his speech on the second reading that statistics showed that agrarian crime was in excess as compared with previous years. The facts were the other way; for whereas there were 279 cases of agrarian crime in the last quarter of.1885, there were only 166 in the last quarter of 1886. In the first quarter of 1886 the number of agrarian crimes was 256, and in the first quarter of 1887 it was 241. These figures showed clearly that agrarian crime was not increasing, as was asserted, but was diminishing. But this was not the only instance in which the Government had shrunk from, or been unable to make good, their assertions. The First Lord of the Treasury made an assertion that juries would not convict in Ireland. Thereupon he (Mr. J. E. Ellis) placed on the Paper a Notice of Motion for a Return showing the number of cases in which juries had so failed to convict; but when he asked the right hon. Gentleman to consent to the production of this Return, he was told that there were no official records. But, if there were no official records, why should the right hon. Gentleman have told the House in such an off-hand way that juries would not convict? In the same way, he had put on the Paper a Motion for a Select Committee to investigate the truth of the anecdotes told by the Chief Secretary in support of his case on behalf of the Bill; but, although the hon. Member for Cork had said that he would refer the statements he had made to a 57 Select Committee, the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) declined to do so. He (Mr. J. E. Ellis) protested against such conduct on the part of the Government when so grave a matter was at stake. The debate on the Bill had amply demonstrated that the disorder and dissatisfaction in Ireland were mainly duo to evictions and to the treatment of the tenants by the Irish landlords. Lord Dufferin, speaking of the landlords of Ireland, in the House of Lords, said, in the year 1845—There are those possessing property in Ireland, in whose honour, in whose sense of justice, in whoso compassion, I, for one, have no confidence whatever.That was strong language to use of any class of men; but he believed it was amply justified by the conduct of the Irish landlords during the time of the great famine from 1845 to 1847. Further, he believed the words of Lord Dufferin were true of many of the landlords of Ireland at the present moment; and the Land Act of 1881 was an evidence that the Irish landlords could not be trusted to deal fairly by their tenants without the intervention of the law. Now, what was going on in Ireland at the present time? The evictions in 1885 affected 15,423 persons; in 1886, 19,473. In the first quarter of 1885, 3,446 were evicted; 1886, 3,447; 1887, 5,040, making a total of more than 400 a week, or 20,000 per annum; and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had justly said that in certain circumstances eviction meant a sentence of death. The evictions at Glenbeigh were simply a sample of what took place. One need go no further than that for an explanation of the disorder at present existing in that country. He observed that the number of homicides in Ireland in 1886 was 10; who could tell in how many of the 20,000 cases of evictions the word "homicide" justly applied? The real fact was that this Bill was intended to crush the National League, and so to leave the tenants at the mercy of the landlords by making evictions less noticeable. He had examined the constitution of the National League as laid down in the address to their fellow countrymen of the hon. Member for Cork and his Colleagues, dated October, 1882, and with the permission of the House, he should like to quote it. It was as follows;— 58The necessity of close organization, for the purpose of concentrating and giving a definite direction to the National energies, is universally felt. It has been forced upon public attention, by the encroachments upon popular rights, which have been going on in all directions since the power of union among the people was relaxed. The landlord combination for the purpose of breaking the spirit of the Irish tenant; the dismay which the present scale of judicial rents has created among applicants to the Land Courts; and the confiscation of tenants' property that is being effected wherever disorganization has crept in render it more necessary now than ever that the Irish tenantry should be re-united in vigilant and lawful association, for the purpose of protecting themselves from injustice, and for seeking that full measure of land law reform which alone can secure them against the perils of halting legislation. From the farming classes the desire for organized effort has extended to the labourers, whose miserable condition has been so long disregarded, and to the artizans, who see in the spirit evoked by a great National combination, a power which can nourish our decaying native industries with millions of money, now annually drained away into foreign markets.With all these incentives to organization, the Irish National League unites a programme of social and political reform, which will gradually transfer all local power and patronage from privileged strangers into the hands of the people, and so fortify them for the work of National Self-Government, which is the inspiration of all our struggles. The National Conference has, with the most hearty unanimity, embodied these principles in the programme of the Irish National League. It remains for you now, in your various districts, to give immediate and practical effect to these resolutions; so that from the formation of local branches, the League may be able to proceed to the election for the Central Council, and may be able to offer to every section of the Irish people the power and protection which organization and discipline alone can ensure.He submitted that there was nothing in that address of a treasonable or reprehensible character. He felt bound to condemn the language of the Chief Secretary for Ireland with reference to the National League, as reckless and random assertions tending to lower the dignity of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said—We cannot forget that the League leans a part upon those dark, secret societies which work by dynamite and the dagger, whose object is anarchy, and whoso means are assassination.This was a serious charge, and when they remembered by whom it was made, he thought they were justified in asking for proof. He (Mr. J. E. Ellis,) could not but contrast this statement with the speech of Lord Spencer, to which he listened with so much pleasure, at New- 59 castle on September 21, 1886, in which that noble Lord explicitly severed the Representatives of the Irish people from the faintest complicity in or knowledge of crime or outrage. On the subject of the letter in The Times, the signature of which was attributed to the hon. Member for Cork, he took diametrically the opposite view to that taken this evening by the noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer). He accepted the emphatic disclaimer of the hon. Member for Cork, and he believed the English people would accept it. It seemed to him that in such a matter they should require as strict an adhesion to the laws of evidence as would be observed in a Court of Justice; and he must say that the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), in launching serious charges against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and then sheltering himself behind an anonymous journal, was what he should not have expected from him. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech in that House, had said that what the Government had to do was to attempt to break down the oppression under which the people of Ireland were suffering, and to enable them to protect themselves against the self-constituted Dictators of the country. That was the fallacy which underlay the whole argument. Hon. Members below the Gangway were no more self-constituted Dictators of Ireland than the right hon. Gentleman was the self-constituted Dictator of St. George's, Hanover Square, and they sat in that House by as unquestionable a title as any Member of it. No proof had been given in that House that the National League was built up in the way that had been asserted. The Chief Secretary for Ireland told them that it prevented settlements between landlord and tenants, but when challenged he had been unable to show that that was so. The source of the strength of the National League lay in the conviction of the people of Ireland that to it they owed their salvation. A policy of exasperation had been entered upon in the last week or 10 days, which consisted of vilifying the characters of Irish Members in that House. This attempt to preserve the Union by forged letters in newspapers and rancorous abuse would fail as it deserved to. This Amendment asked that they should have the 60 full measure for relief before them before they went on with the consideration of a measure for strengthening the Criminal Law against combinations of tenants. The Prime Minister himself had said that the two Bills were sister Bills, and that the one was the complement of the other. For his own part he had not much confidence in the remedial measure put forward by the Government. The Times recommended it to the Conservative Party and their allies on the ground that it would save landlords the expense of having to go to the Court at Dublin. They had been almost threatened again that evening by the Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to the length of this debate; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that this charge of Obstruction had not the slightest terrors for him; he knew that he had the support of his constituents against this Bill, and on that side they would continue to do their duty in this matter. It was because he believed that this Bill contained within it a grave danger to the peace of Ireland, and that it would postpone that for which they all hoped and which they earnestly desired, the better government of that country, that he offered it his resolute and uncompromising opposition.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, he considered the Amendment a reasonable one. It was perfectly conceivable that, if some adequate measure of relief with respect to Irish rents were placed before them, and they were certain that it would pass into law, the House might become convinced that there would be no necessity for further proceeding with this strengthening of the Criminal Law. He admitted, for himself, that he was not very hopeful of any such measure being placed before them by the Government, because, from the character of the remedial measure which they had proposed "elsewhere," he despaired of their being able to put it into such a shape that it could be hopefully regarded by the House. He could not see how the proposal of bankruptcy, as the highway to success, had the promise of success. It struck him as very much like as if they were told that to knock a man down was the best way to set him on his legs. He had never himself observed an operation of that kind successful. Still, they were 61 bound to look upon it as possible that some measure of a hopeful character might be put before them; and he was satisfied that unless they had the assurance that some effectual measure of remedy against the evil of excessive rent, now undeniably existing in Ireland, was to accompany this measure of coercion, it would add infinitely to the amount of misery at present endured by the Irish people, and to the amount of hostility with which English rule was already regarded. He was satisfied that this measure, under such circumstances, would produce an immense amount of oppression. The Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary for Ireland had both stated that the Bill was aimed at crime alone, and not at combinations of tenants for the purpose of reducing unjust rents; but if it made those combinations crimes, their statement was a mere quibble. All the liberty the Home Secretary, by the Bill, would leave for combinations of tenants, was the liberty to express an opinion, or hold a sort of academic discussion with regard to the rents that they would like to pay for their land; and if they took any steps to carry that opinion into practical effect, and bring it to bear with any practical aim upon their landlord, then, according to the law as it had been laid down by the Queen's Bench in Ireland, they involved themselves at once in a criminal conspiracy. He hold that all combinations for any purpose whatever that would be of any practical use, would be stamped by the Bill as criminal, and every person who engaged in them would be exposed to very severe punishment. It was said that there were no new crimes created by the Bill; but he was certain that several of the combinations aimed at had never yet been pronounced to be criminal by any English or Irish tribunal. Whether these were new crimes or not, it was perfectly certain that the sort of tribunal which was to be erected in Ireland for the purpose of dealing with so delicate a matter of jurisprudence, would manufacture new crimes. There was plenty of material in the Bill to enable the two Resident Magistrates to make a great many new crimes. There were, at all events, artificial crimes that wore perpetuated by the proposed legislation. In connection with trade disputes in England, the test of criminal combina- 62 tion was the criminality or innocence of the act when done by an individual. What was allowable in industrial matters and in the case of artizans should be equally allowable in the case of agrarian disputes as between landlords and tenants. What was innocent in the case of individual tenants, ought also to be innocent in the case of a combination of tenants. If a combination among tenants who desired a reduction of rents should be held to be illegal under this Bill, as he feared it would, the Government could not escape the charge of having created or perpetuated an artificial crime. A law having such results could not fail to cause passionate resentment in the people of Ireland; and their irritation would certainly not grow less when they considered the character of the tribunal which was to be intrusted with the enforcement of the lave. Instead of trial by jury, they were to be subjected to the arbitrary authority of Resident Magistrates. The Irish people would feel that they were being under what they regarded as English usurpation and English despotism; for now, when they had, by the return of 86 Nationalist Members, given unequivocal expression to their desire for Home Rule, he failed to see how anyone who believed in the principle that a country ought to be governed, in accordance with the will of its people could look upon the perpetuation of the direct rule of this country in Irish home affairs as anything less than a usurpation and a tyranny. At the very moment when they felt this usurpation most keenly, the Irish people were to be deprived of the traditional safeguard against Government tyranny. In support of the proposal to suspend trial by jury in certain cases, it was alleged that jurors were in sympathy with crime. He did not believe, however, that jurors could ever really be in sympathy with crime. The right way to state the proposition was, to say that jurors felt antipathy for the Government who prosecuted the perpetrators of crime; and the true inference to be drawn from what was called the failure of the jury system in Ireland was, not that the jury system had broken down, but that the system of anti-Irish Government for Ireland had broken down. The more startling the failure of juries to support the Government in the prosecution of undoubted crime, the clearer 63 was the proof of antagonism between the people whom those juries represented and the Government. In such circumstances it was not the jury system that ought to be abolished, but the system of government, in order that a Government more in harmony with the mind and will of the Irish people, should be substituted for that at present in power. If it were true that juries were terrorized by the National League, then all that was required was as much strengthening of the law as would procure the conviction and punishment of that offence and no more. If this sort of legislation were pressed forward, there would be an evil done to others besides the Irish nation. The appeal which was made to the English people in order to secure the enactment of this measure, would have a demoralizing effect. It was an appeal to the worst passions of the English people. They were a generous people, but they had their faults; and they were extremely jealous lest it should be said that they were unable to keep down any nation with whom they had once been in hostile conflict. The question which was now being put to the English people was this—"Will you allow yourselves to be put down by this contemptible Irish nation? "The Bill appealed to the worst side of the English character, and would, so far as successful, be more injurious to England than to Ireland. The conquest of Ireland by England might be an easy task; but the self-conquest of England, in matters where justice and right were concerned, was a more difficult, but a more brilliant and useful victory. That victory, the Government were doing their best to prevent, and leading the English nation onwards and downwards on the path of pride, injustice and oppression. Fully believing that the measure they were pressing upon the House was one of that nature, he cordially supported the Amendment.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
Mr. Speaker, the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. E. T. Reid), in a speech marked by great ability and great moderation, invites this House to declare that it will not—Proceed further with a measure for strengthening the Criminal Law against combinations of tenants until it has before it the full measure for their relief against excessive rents in the 64 shape in which it may pass the other House of Parliament.It has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by the noble Lord the Member for the Petersfield Division of Hants (Viscount Wolmer) behind me, that in moving this Amendment we are straining the powers of Parliament to the utmost and almost to the verge of breaking. The noble Lord has only had a short experience of this House, or otherwise he would have known that important measures of this kind are almost invariably met on the stage of going into Committee by some Amendment or other. This is the more necessary in the case of a measure which touches—as this does—the liberties of 5,000,000 of people. It is not to be expected, that a Bill which will surround the whole of the Irish people with a network of legal machinery of a technical and even of a dangerous character can be prosecuted through this House with the facility of a Turnpike Bill; and it is too much to ask that a Bill of that character should be passed without discussion. Her Majesty's Government have already allowed four or five speeches—some of them marked by very great ability—to be made from this side of the House without any reply. I remember, on a former occasion, that such a policy was designated" a conspiracy of silence," although it was not, fortunately, a conspiracy punishable under the provisions of this Bill. Now, I do not think that such an Amendment as this ought to be met with a conspiracy of silence. I am bound to say that as far as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) is concerned his answer was full, and that he replied to my hon. and learned Friend with the courtesy which uniformly characterizes him. But we have had from no other Member of the Party opposite any reply to the rest of the speeches which have been addressed to the House to-night. Now, Sir, what is the position in which we stand? We have practically two measures before us—perhaps not exactly before us; but, at any rate, in our minds; one of them is actually before us, and with the provisions of the other we are perfectly well acquainted. One of them purports to be a measure against crime, whereas the other purports to be for the relief of tenants from excessive rents. Now, if 65 the speech, of my hon. and learned Friend proved anything, it proved two things—namely, that a repressive measure would only tend to aggravate and increase crime, whereas the measure which is intended for the relief of the tenants will altogether fail. Moreover, we have been assured in this House that the repressive measure is intended to be pressed through both Houses of Parliament with all its pristine severity. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered that statement. They rejoiced in the severity of the proposed amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland; but we have no guarantee as to the condition into which the measure of relief will come down to this House, or as to the character it is likely to assume when it passes through Parliament. I think the difficulty of discussing these two measures apart must be obvious to every hon. Member; but it is impossible not to connect them together in our minds, because the Prime Minister said that he considered these two Bills as sister Bills, one being the complement of the other. Why, I would ask, is a Coercion Bill to be a complement of a Belief Bill for the Irish tenants? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has answered that the object of the Bill we are now discussing is the prevention of crime. But another contention is that effectual relief given to the Irish tenants will render all repressive legislation unnecessary. What is it that is at the root of the present condition of Ireland? The noble Lord the Member for Petersfield spoke of the character of the Irish landlords. He thought that we had dealt with them with great severity. Now, I do not feel at liberty to reflect on the Irish landlords in the severe strain which they have been reflected upon by other and higher authorities elsewhere. Let me bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman opposite the statement which was made in respect of the condition of Ireland, and the character of the Irish landlords on the highest authority no later than Friday last in the House of Lords, "With one or two exceptions," said a noble Earl in" another place"—he distinctly stated that until very recently landlords did not make improvements on the land; that the tenants made them, and when they were made their rents were raised. He attributed the present condition of Ireland to the fact that the landlords, in other respects an 66 admirable race of men"—[it was not stated what those other respects were]—"were undoubtedly bad landlords.That is not the language of any supporter of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), nor is it the statement of an Irish Member, nor of those Bashi-Bazouks to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) made reference in his Edinburgh speech. It is the statement of one of your own witnesses, for these are the words of Earl Cowper, speaking in his place in the House of Lords within the last few days, and nothing so strong has ever been said by anybody on this side of the House. Indeed, no language has been used which is so sweeping and so condemnatory as the words of the noble Lord. He says that until very recently the landlords made no improvements on the land, and that when improvements were made by the tenants the rents were immediately raised, or, in other words, that the landlords confiscated the property of the tenants. Then he attributed the present condition of Ireland to the fact that the landlord class in Ireland, who in other respects wore a most admirable race of men, were undoubtedly bad landlords. The noble Lord went on to say that—The future hope of the country lay in protecting the tenants in the possession of their improvements.Now, let us consider, for a moment, if that is the condition of Ireland, and if such a condition lies at the root of the deplorable state of things in that country, why it is that Her Majesty's Government should insist on passing through this House a Coercion Bill of unexampled severity, and give us no guarantee that their measure of relief will be one that is at all adequate to the requirements of justice. On the contrary, the very measure of relief which was recommended by Lord Cowper's Commission Her Majesty's Government have distinctly put aside, and refuse to act upon. Let me remind hon. Gentleman opposite that of all the Viceroys of Ireland now living Lord Cowper is the only one who is opposed to the principle of a domestic legislature for Ireland. All others have, more or less, given in their adhesion to that proposition. Remember further that he is the ally of 67 the Government, the Chairman of their own Royal Commission, and yet he expresses his own conviction after serving for long months in Ireland, and after examining witnesses, whose evidence is to be found in that ponderous Blue Book; and he goes still further, because, while he has declared that the present agrarian condition of Ireland is so bad, he has also declared the Government to be a hateful bureaucracy. This is the declared opinion of one of the leading Members of the Unionist Party in terms which, if coming from, a Liberal, would be regarded as tolerably strong. Now, Sir, with respect of the Land Bill, we ask whether it will remedy the evils which now exist, or whether it will not prove to be altogether inadequate to cope with them. We recognize that, so far as the leaseholders are concerned, it offers a substantial been to them; but they only form one-fourth of the tenants of Ireland. To the rest it is a cruel mockery. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary can derive very little consolation from the debates which have taken place on this subject, because I believe that the whole of the Government measure has been condemned, almost in the strongest terms, by all those who have spoken upon it—whether friend or foe. Surely the only proper and sensible way of carrying out the recommendation of your own Commission, was to reduce excessive rents by submitting the claims of the tenants to the Land Commission which originally fixed the rents. But what is the course proposed to be taken? Instead of doing that you substitute the most stupid and heartless provisions that were probably ever submitted to Parliament. You refuse to reconsider or to revise the rents until the tenant is reduced to bankruptcy, yet you throw over what your own witnesses have said. Sir Redvers Buller tells you—I feel very strongly that you can never have peace unless you create some legal equipoise, or some equivalent.You do not propose to supply any such equivalent; but you give to the County Court Judge an indirect and temporary power of revising rents; but that power extends only to bankruptcy; and the thrifty, solvent, and honest tenant must pay unjust rents until his little savings are gone. I cannot conceive anything more likely to demoralize the tenants of 68 Ireland than such a provision. You declare that the thrifty tenant must go on until his savings are exhausted before he can hope for a reduction, whereas the unthrifty and dishonest man can go at once to the Bankruptcy Court and hope to get a reduction of rent. In a case of bankruptcy, we can understand that the Judge should decide how far the bankruptcy was due to the tenant's own conduct; but when the bankruptcy arises from bad seasons—it may be from bad farming—you put into the Bill more extraordinary provisions than have ever been inserted in any other measure ever brought before the House. If the rent exceeds £50 there is to be no relief whatever for the tenant. If his rent is only £49 he may hope for a reduction; but if it happens to be £51 he is entirely outside all chance of it, and is practically beyond the reach of the law. If, from any course whatever, he is able to pay—it may be from his children's earnings, or from some supplementary industry—he must pay as long as his means hold out. If the landlord does not proceed by way of ejectment, but by distress, the tenant can get no relief whatever. If he becomes a bankrupt he may obtain relief.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that he is violating one of the Rules of this House, which is that no hon. Member is entitled to discuss the provisions of a measure which is now before "another place."
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I am much obliged to you, Sir, for your reminder, and I shall, of course, at once bow to your ruling; but I was about to point out that the remedial proposals of Her Majesty's Government appear to be framed not so much to do simple justice to the Irish tenants as to satisfy the conscience of the English constituencies. I may ask what is the justification for this Coercion Bill of the Government? I do not believe that the settlement of the agrarian question will, of itself, put an end to Irish discontent. But there are other questions which lie deeper than the mere agrarian question. Above all, there is the National Question, and the question of the Local Self-government of the Irish people. Those questions this House will have to deal with sooner or later, and it is the duty of the Government to satisfy the wishes of the Irish people in that direction before they 69 strike at their liberties. We maintain that there is nothing in the present state of crime in Ireland to justify the demand for this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to-night, for the first time, has endeavoured to make out a ease for it—I do not think very successfully—and I am sorry that I was not in the House when my hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottinghamshire (Mr. J. E. Ellis) gave to the House, as I understand, a complete, searching, and thorough refutation of the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. But we had a series of authoritative statements on the subject before the right hon. Gentleman opposite took Office—leading up to the time at which he did take Office—which ought to satisfy the House that there is no plea for coercion. On Lord Mayor's Day, the 9th of November last, the Prime Minister stated that the state of things in Ireland had decidedly improved, that outrages were diminished, and that order was being much better maintained. Later than that, the late Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)—whose absence from this House I am sure we all regret, and especially the cause of it—stated that during the previous six months outrages had diminished by one-half compared with what they were in the six months before. The right hon. Gentleman added that a better feeling-prevailed between landlords and tenants than had existed for many year. Then, again, we come down to the Queen's Speech, and in that Speech it was stated that although there were grave crimes, more or less, in Ireland, those grave crimes were much fewer. We had also a very definite utterance from the noble Lord the Member for South Padding-ton (Lord Randolph Churchill) as recently as February last. The noble Lord said—I see nothing unsatisfactory, always speaking comparatively, and nothing alarming in the present state of Ireland. There has been a good deal of disorder and violent speaking; but the hopeful future of Ireland is that, in spite of all the prophecies of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the country is now perfectly free from crime.The noble Lord made subsequent references to the state of Ireland which were still stronger—comparing Ireland to a horse which was badly ridden, and declaring that unless it was better ridden in future it might throw its rider. It is 70 quite true that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has, in all his speeches, laid much stress upon the prevalence of Boycotting. I am one of those who look upon Boycotting as a great evil—a practice which entails much suffering, and is very hard to endure; but we have the authority of the Prime Minister for saying that Boycotting is not a question which comes within the Crimes Act. The Prime Minister distinctly stated that the Crimes Act could not affect Boycotting, seeing that that is an offence which cannot be dealt with by legislation. It is altogether a matter of local public opinion, and it is impossible to put an end to it by repressive legislation. Well, Sir, this Bill—the Bill we have now under consideration—is really a measure directed against combination, and some of us know what it is to deal with the laws which affect combinations of this kind. It is aimed at combinations, both agrarian and political. We have had some experience of the law of conspiracy in this country when it has been administered by a judge and jury, but it would be nonsense to allow the law of conspiracy—a most technical and complex question—to be administered by the Irish Resident Magistrates. Let us for a moment consider who these Resident Magistrates are. They are the servants of the Executive Government, obeying the orders and asking for orders from Dublin Castle. They are not independent Judges; they are not in any way in the position of Stipendiary Magistrates in England; they are not men trained to the law. I have an authority on that matter which states that a couple of years ago there were in Ireland about 90 Stipendiary Magistrates, of whom 35 wore military men, 22 were ex-constabulary officers, two wore ex-constabulary clerks, and of the remainder 19 held only temporary appointments terminable at the will of the Viceroy. I would appeal to any man who has any knowledge or experience of the administration of the law whether it is reasonable that we can leave the law of conspiracy and intimidation to be administered by men who, if lawyers, are lawyers without experience, who probably never had to deal with a conspiracy case in their lives, and who if soldiers are without the requisite knowledge. But, at the same time, I 71 would rather deal with, soldiers because I am satisfied that they would be men of common sense, and of good feeling, and would be less likely to come to an unjust decision than men possessed with a smattering of legal and technical knowledge, especially if these Resident Magistrates are to administer the law without the assistance of a jury. I conceive that if the law of conspiracy and the law of intimidation are to be administered without a jury in Ireland by the Resident Magistrates the liberty of the Irish people is actually gone. We find how difficult it has been, even with a Judge and jury, to obtain justice for trades unions, and those of us who fought the Trades Unions Bill had a long and painful experience of the manner in which the Stipendiary Magistrates, and even the Judges of the Superior Courts, strained the law of conspiracy, and condemned men to long periods of penal servitude for some act which was then illegal, but which is legal to-day. And now some of the most difficult branches of the law are to be confided to the Irish Resident Magistrates, who are for the most part military men or ex-constabulary officers. Surely if there is to be combination at all, either agrarian or political combination, it is better that it should be open than secret. There is nothing, in my opinion, so dangerous as to suppress combination. All attempts to suppress combination in all ages and in all countries have been negatived by secret conspiracy and crime. What does the examination of history teach, us with regard to the suppression of combination? You had secret societies in the Middle Ages, you have had the Carbonari in Italy, and you have now the Nihilists in Russia. Wherever you attempt to suppress combination you will have secret conspiracy and crime. I think it is flung in our teeth that we have become demoralized by association with hon. Members who belong to the National League. I have had some experience of secret combinations, and I am by no means prepared to reproach those who are fighting for freedom of association with being sympathisers with crime. I know that when I first came into this House in 1868 and moved to abolish the Criminal Law Amendment Act, in order to give freedom of association to the working classes of this country—from 1868 to 72 1875 those of us who took part in that movement were constantly reproached with sympathy with outrage and crime. Noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen—some who are now in "another place," and others who are at present in this House—reproached me when I introduced this measure for being in sympathy with the Sheffield ratteners. It was stated that I wanted to obtain impunity for the Sheffield rattening, but after the Royal Commission sat in 1874, what did Lord Cross, who was then Home Secretary, do? He took up the very Bill we had introduced for seven years running, and which had been rejected year after year in this House; and he passed a measure which is practically the Magna Charta of the associated members of the working classes of this country. What has been the result? Why, that from that day to this there has never been so little outrage, so little illegality, and so little that employers could complain of in connection with the trade unions of the country. The country is now free from the bad feeling which used to exist between employer and employed, and the relations between the working classes and their employers are more satisfactory in this than any other country in the world. This result has been brought about by sanctioning the association of workmen in unions for their own protection. It was not obtained by repressive legislation, but by legislation of a relaxing character. With. respect to the question of coercion, I must make reference to a great name which has been constantly used by certain Gentlemen to defend their position in supporting a Coercion Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Petersfield stated that when we went to the country at the last Election we reproached them with being coercionists, and he says that, therefore, as we told them that they would inevitably be driven to coercion, the result was that they were returned in order that they might support coercive measures. No greater mistake can be committed than that. The noble Lord forgot to tell us that almost every hon. and right, hon. Gentleman opposite, and every Liberal Unionist who came into the House, denied that coercion was an alternative of the measure of last year. We knew perfectly well that if you rejected that measure coercion was inevitable; and I am afraid that this Bill will 73 not be the "be all" and "end all" of your coercion policy. It is said with respect of Lord Salisbury's speech, that his20years of firm government pointedly alluded to coercion. Every hon. Gentleman opposite denied that assertion, and said that coercion was the furthest thing from, their thoughts; and that it was only a horrible Liberal Government that would dream of introducing coercion. Great names have been introduced into this House in defence of a Coercion Bill. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, and some hon. Members on this side, are very prone to shelter themselves under the great name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright)—they never fail to quote him, when they can, in defence of coercion. They remind me of some of those early Florentine Masters whoso works we sometimes see in Italy, and which depict some great saint covering under his mantle a number of peccant souls of all races, all ages, and all creeds. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham has now the advantage of being quoted on Conservative platforms by hon. Gentlemen who have denounced him all their lives, and have denounced all his works. I should like to know how far they are prepared to follow him in anything except the restriction of the liberty of the Irish people? And so it is with regard to some of our Unionist Liberal Friends. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) quoted Lord Macaulay, and read an extract from a speech delivered by Lord Macaulay in 1833, in justification of the vote he was about to give. But what were the circumstances under which Lord Macaulay made that speech in 1833? The hon. Gentleman made no statement to show the condition of crime in the country at that time; but Lord Macaulay said that in one county alone, within a few weeks, 60 murders and assaults with intent to murder and 600 burglaries had occurred. He added that, since the previous summer, the slaughter in Ireland had exceeded that of a pitched battle—Talk of civil war," he said, "I would rather have lived in any of the civil wars we have had in England during the last 200 years than in some parts of Ireland at the present moment.Yes, Sir; but is there anything like that state of things to-day in Ireland? The 74 House has been told that, during the past year, there have been 10 homicides in Ireland; whereas Lord Macaulay spoke of 60 murders or assaults with intent to murder in one county alone. Lord Macaulay made another speech in 1844, which the hon. Member for Inverness did not quote; and when he quoted my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Birmingham he showed his willingness to quote him when defending himself from a charge of desiring to impose a restriction upon civil liberty; but when the question of religious liberty, or any other question in connection with which my right hon. Friend has taken afore most place, comes to the front, I think the hon. Member for Inverness will be found a long way in the rear. Now, I say that, if you pass this Bill, you cannot stop short with the coercive provisions it contains; you must carry the coercion further. At the risk of wearying the House with another quotation, I must read a few lines from a speech of your Predecessor, Sir, in the Chair you now occupy. No shrewder man ever occupied that Chair, none more benevolent, none more honourable. Lord Hampden said—The Union as now established has been only maintained through Coercion Acts repeatedly passed by Parliament against the will of the Irish people, and without coercion such a Union could not be maintained.But he goes further, and says—It has been difficult, as I can testify, to carry on the Business of the House of Commons in the face of 40 discontented Members; it will be still more difficult to do so in the face of the larger contingent of 86 discontented Members. It can be done, no doubt; the House of Commons is omnipotent; but this can only be attained by the exercise of coercive laws, not only outside the House against the people of Ireland, but inside the House against the Representatives of Ireland.We are told that the American people are against you, and that it is in view of the Irish vote. [Cries of " No, no!"] I trust that right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be more awake to the facts of the case some day. The best of the American people, as far as I know them—and I know a good deal of them—are against you. I know many of the men who have taken part in the meetings which have been held throughout the United States, and especially in the Now England States, and I know that the feeling of the American people is against this Coercion Bill. When I sea the names of the leading episcopal 75 clergy of the United States, and such names as those of Russell Lowell, Wendell Holmes, and Senator Hoare, and hundreds of others, I know that they are our best friends, not only in America, but in the world, and that the whole of the enlightened and intelligent sentiment of America is against this Bill. [Cries of "No!"] I say yes. You may shut your eyes to the fact; but the time is coming when we must recognize the fact that we are face to face with a difficulty which is not confined to our own shores. Some day or other we shall experience a rude awakening from our determined attitude and our determination to put our foot on the liberties of the Irish people. It was towards the close of the last century, in the course of one of the greatest speeches he ever delivered in this House, that Mr. Burke, in speaking of conciliation with America, referred to the success of the English government in Ireland. He said that for 500 years we had accomplished nothing by means of our arms; but that, having given a Constitution and Parliament to Ireland, that country had become the glory and the strength of Britain. A longtime has passed since any hon. Member of this House of Commons has been able to rise in his place and speak of Ireland being the glory and the strength of Britain, On the contrary, she has become our weakness and our shame, and if we are to maintain our position in the councils of the world, if we are to be a strong and united Empire, and to have that real union about which hon. Members opposite speak so much, and I am afraid think so little, we must endeavour to make Ireland our friend, and make her once more the glory and strength of our country.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Of all the remarkable speeches which have been delivered in the course of these debates by the new governors of Ireland, I think the speech of this evening is the most remarkable. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) complained of the many weeks of debate already devoted to what he called the broad principles of this Bill. But I will take leave to point out that the debate, as a rule, has not been devoted to the broad principles of the Bill, because those broad principles, in point of fact, have yet to be debated mainly in Committee. 76 The debate has been devoted to the question, which I venture to say has certainly not been more than adequately discussed, of the circumstances and the condition of Ireland which were brought forward as the justification for the introduction of this Bill. Before referring in detail to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, I wish to direct the attention of the House to two statements made by the right hon. Gentleman this evening, and of which, I think, immediate notice should be taken. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has once more reiterated that this Bill is to put down crime. Now, I want to know, however, whether on this point the House is to believe the Chief Secretary or the Prime Minister? The other night the Prime Minister delivered a speech containing an authoritative exposition, which I presume we are bound to accept, of the policy and object of the Government, and he most distinctly stated, in language which, if not always prudent, is at least always clearly and distinctly understood, that this Bill is not to put down crime, but to put down certain combinations in Ireland. He emphasized the words "certain combinations," in order to show that what the Government have in view are combinations which are at present known to exist in that country. Lord Salisbury says—Our position is that this land war must cease. We have offered to the other House of Parliament a measure, not without hesitation, in order to put a stop to certain combinations. But surely we are not unreasonable in saying that, when we have asked for exceptional measures in order to put a stop to these combinations, some check should be put upon the action of landlords who exasperate their tenants and keep alive such combinations.I wish to know whether the House is to accept the declaration of the object of the Government from the Prime Minister or from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary? I most distinctly say that the Irish people are bound to come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister more frankly and more truthfully declares the object and policy of the Government in this measure—that it is not a measure to stop certain combinations which are known to exist in that country. The second declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was to the effect that the Government distinctly pledge themselves, and will even 77 give security to the House, that before this Bill is passed into law, or even leaves this House, another measure will be passed by the House of Lords which "will secure the tenants of Ireland from an unjust use of power which this Bill will place in the hands of the landlords. I am astonished how any right hon. Gentleman responsible for the government of Ireland can come before this House after what has occurred during the past two weeks and make such a statement as that. We are at least entitled, before we give credence to such a statement, to ask where is the measure of which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking? Because it is certainly not the measure now before another House of Parliament. I have examined the Land Bill of the Government and I have read it, and I think it cannot be repudiated too often by those who take an interest in the welfare of Ireland, and are authorized to speak on behalf of the Irish people. In the name of the tenants of Ireland, I absolutely and utterly repudiate that measure, and I declare that their position would be made worse, instead of better, if that measure were passed into law. That measure bears on it the mark of coming from men who are totally and disgracefully ignorant of the condition of the country which they undertake to legislate for; and it will be only adding yet another stone to the mighty monument of the wretched and broken-down attempts of the English Parliament to legislate for the people of Ireland. It is a fact beyond the possibility of denial that that measure has been met in Ireland with a chorus of disapproval and rejection that is wholly unprecedented in regard to any measure ever proposed for that country, and it is exceedingly difficult to say whether the Irish landlords or the Irish tenants condemn it in the most strong and violent terms. I myself went over to Ireland, and remained there a fortnight, having travelled in the North and other parts of the country; but I did not find that there was a single individual, whether landlord, or land agent, or tenant, who approved of it except the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell). Yet it has been introduced as a reason for allowing the further progress of the Coercion Bill to put down crime in Ireland. I should like to know where the measure really is 78 which is to afford protection to the Irish, tenants? The tenants declare, through every means they have of making their voice reach Parliament, that the measure now before the other House of Parliament affords them no shadow of protection or of hope, because the whole method of the Bill is calculated to render it entirely worthless, as I shall presently show. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated, at the very outset of his speech, that the Government wish to pass such a measure as will enable thorn so far to restore law and order in Ireland that the landlords may use the power you give them—pointing over to these Benches. What power could he mean but the one—that law and order should be so far restored in Ireland that the landlords should be able to exact the judicial rents? There was no meaning whatever in what the right hon. Gentleman said, unless he meant to place the landlords of Ireland in that position. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the whole amount of our grievance is that the judicial rents fixed before the beginning of 1886 were 12½ per cent too high. I listened with pain and astonishment to the right hon. Gentleman's remarkable assertion, and I was surprised to find that the Government should have taken so little pains to study the evidence as to come down here, at this stage of the proceedings, and inform the House that the whole grievance of the Irish tenants is that the judicial rents have been fixed 12½ per cent too high. Let me refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Report of the Cowper Commission, which is signed exclusively by landlords. What does Lord Cowper say? He uses these words, and they are most remarkable—Although we admit that it is undesirable to disturb an arrangement which it was understood would be permanent, yet we cannot put aside the necessities of the Irish tillage farmers; to compel the Irish farmers to sell their working stock in order to pay rent would be fatal to their future prosperity; and should prices continue on the present low scale it would become absolutely necessary to revise the rents judicially fixed prior to the beginning of 1886.The Commissioners say they cannot put aside the necessities of the Irish farmers; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is prepared to put aside altogether the recommendations of the Commissioners. I contend that, strong as 79 these words are, and they are not all the Government Lave to go upon, the position of the Government is entirely untenable. I maintain, however, that even these words, strong as they are, utterly inadequately represent the present condition of the Irish farmers. Let me turn, for one moment, to the evidence of the chief valuer of the Irish Land Commission—Mr. Gray—a Yorkshireman, whose appointment upon the Commission was, I believe, received from the outset with the greatest possible dissatisfaction by the tenants of Ireland. What does Mr. Gray say? He was asked by Lord Cowper—When you talked of two or three years ago, you had no doubt in your mind, the existence of a period of depression?Mr. Gray said—I certainly had not; for my part, I thought we had gone through the worst, and I looked forward to the revival of trade. My idea was that there was more to he expected from a revival of trade than from legislative measures.He was asked if he thought the farming had fallen away in one district in Ireland more than another, and his reply was, that in some districts it had been reduced to a very low pitch, and he added, that they all knew that if the land did not grow a greater amount of produce than in a state of nature, no one could live upon it. He was then asked to give an idea of the fall in the value of farms, and he said that the question was one which he had some difficulty in answering. He had seen some farms in the South and West which he could not see afforded any means of living at all, and in reference to such firms he should say that there was a fall of at least 100 per cent. That is the evidence of the chief valuer of the Irish Land Commission—Mr. Charles Gray. And yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says that his object in this Bill is to give the landlords the opportunity of exacting the rights you have conferred upon them, and to restore a sufficient degree of law and order in Ireland to enable them to exercise and exact those rights. I have already shown what that may result in, and I could show a great deal more if time permitted. I have given an indication of what the real condition of affairs in Ireland is in the opinion of men who are in a position to judge, and whose evidence is absolutely untainted 80 by any suspicion of partiality towards the Nationalist Party. Let me turn now to the reductions of rent which have been made on the estates of certain gentlemen to whom I alluded on a previous occasion—namely, the reductions recently made on the estates of Mr. Arthur Murrough Kavanagh, Lord Castletown, and Lord Courtown. I quote them from the last Return of the reductions of judicial rents, and I give them for three reasons—first, because these gentlemen are representative gentlemen; secondly, that it is proof of the necessity of making reductions, although they were only made after a desperate fight in court; and, thirdly, because all three of them wrote to The Times the next day, not denying any of the facts, but saying that they intended to appeal as they considered they had been unjustly treated. I will first read the amount of the reductions to show what the condition of affairs must have been. I believe these estates may be taken as typical of many others; secondly, I propose to point out who it was who made the reductions; and lastly, I shall point out that the weight of evidence completely refutes the allegation of these landlords that they were marked out for vengeance by the friends of the National League. On the estate of Lord Courtown the rent of one farm was reduced from £15 8s. 6d. to £8, on another from £67 to £38, on a third from £16 to £8 15s., and on a fourth from £28 to £14 15s. On the estate of Mr. Arthur Murrough Kavanagh the rent on one farm was reduced from £14 to £7 15s., on another from £2 to 12s. 6d., and on a third from £17 17s. to £8 a-year. Upon the estate of Lord Castletown the rent of one farm was reduced from £21 to £14, of another from £33 to £19, of another from £28 to £13, or less than one-half, and upon another from £428 to £380. I quoted these figures a fortnight ago, and the Irish landlords affected by the statement in their defence asserted that the Government Commissioner had acted as our agent, and had marked them down for public vengeance. Now, I will answer that charge. Who was the Commissioner? The gentleman who made the reductions was Mr. Robert Reeves, one of the Sub-Commissioners, himself a County Clare landlord, and a member of a Conservative family. Yet hon. Members opposite have the coolness and audacity to sug- 81 gest in defence of their conduct that Mr. Hooves acted under our instructions, and marked them down for vengeance. So much, for the landlords, and the way they are likely to act towards their tenants if you give them additional power. I will conclude the question of the action of the landlords by quoting a short passage from the evidence of Mr. Edward W. Power—the agent of Lord Clancarty—on whose estate the present Plan of Campaign is enforced. The evidence of Mr. Power was given before the Cowper Commission, and in regard to it I would paraphrase the saying—"Would that mine enemy would write a book," by another—" Would that mine enemy or his agent would only consent to give evidence." Mr. Power stated that he did not think the allegations as to the poverty of the tenants and their inability to pay had any existence generally; but as the Leaders of the Government had appealed to the landlords to give reductions to the tenants last winter, Lord Clancarty felt himself obliged to offer some temporary abatement to show that he had done all that he could. He added, that if the tenants did not pay they deserved no further consideration. He had told Lord Clancarty years ago that if the Government would only assist them the landlords would get their rents. Was there ever such a frank acknowledgment in regard to the policy of the Government in assisting the landlords to put pressure upon the tenants? And this Gentleman also thought that the Government had acted unfairly in going about beseeching the Irish landlords to give reductions of rent to their Irish tenants. I think that, under those circumstances, I am entitled to assume, that if this Bill is passed it will be used by the Irish landlords in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says that the Government desire to pass it—that is to say, that it will be used by the landlords to exact the rights that are still left to them, and which they often speak of as very slight. It will be used by them to recover rents the Government Commission have declared to be impossible, and destructive of the prosperity of the country if they were attempted to be recovered. This power is to be placed in their hands to enable them to put down all combination among the tenants to refuse to pay 82 exorbitant rents. In endeavouring to illustrate and justify his argument, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary fell back on the old and often exploded statement about the cause of evictions in Ireland and the number of evictions. He endeavoured to show that the number of tenants who have been evicted has been exceedingly small; and he then went on to state that crime was not the result of evictions, but that intimidation and crime produced evictions. With regard to the assertion in reference to the smallness of the number of tenants evicted, a more utterly deceptive statement could not possibly be brought before the House. It is perfectly true that the greater number of tenants who were evicted in Ireland up to the 1st of January last were non-judicial tenants, but the right hon. Gentleman, in making his statement, has taken no account whatever of the effects of the pressure put by the Government on estates in Ireland on which great reductions were made last autumn to judicial tenants, and the pressure, also, by which we succeeded in obtaining large reductions. That is only a portion of the case, because the eviction of the judicial tenants is only now commencing. The judicial tenants got some relief from the Land Courts, and would naturally not be the first to break down. They are now, however, rapidly falling into arrear, and, if necessary, I could convince hon. Members that the condition of things that exists with regard to judicial tenants all over Ireland, and especially in the Province of Ulster, ran hardly be exaggerated. What is the condition of things on many of the estates in Ulster? Evictions are now becoming frequent; but that is not the worst. On many of the large estates, like the Downshire estates and the Wallace estates, it is found that many of the tenants have fallen into arrear. But what is the course of action usually adopted on a large estate? A man is not evicted at once when he ceases to pay rent, but he is allowed to go on falling into arrear for four, five, or six years before a writ of ejectment is issued against him, because the landlord knows that he has the security of the tenant right; and it frequently happens that by keeping up a continual pressure and threatening to evict, the tenant is induced to give up his holding, 83 and dispose of his tenant right. Therefore a condition of things does exist at this moment in the Province of Ulster of the utmost gravity, so far as the future of the people and the general prosperity of the country are concerned. If you find that on a large estate a considerable portion of the tenants are falling rapidly into arrear, and are threatened with eviction, you will have to face a very serious condition of things. Very recently—only about 10 days ago—I chanced to be in the County of Down, in the very heart of the Downshire estate. In the town of Banbridge I found that the number of ejectment processes for hearing was 78 in one session, and of these only six were defended. That is a most portentous and extraordinary fact, and this is taking place, too, in a district where there has been no suspicion of agitation on the part of the National League. These 72 undefended ejectment processes have occurred, as I stated, in a district where there never has been any agitation at all; and I have been assured by those who know the country that this is only a picture, not alone of the condition of the Downshire Estate and the Wallace Estate, but of the surrounding estates. Many of these men have been waiting and hoping for relief year after year, and yet this Bill affords them no prospect of relief whatever. I have gathered from evidence to which it was impossible to shut my eyes or doubt, that if no relief be given, the tenants of Ulster will, within a very short time, be in the same condition as the tenantry of the West and South of Ireland, and will be compelled to have recourse to the same methods for relieving their distress. [Laughter.] I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman opposite who laughs may find it anything but a laughing matter when the crisis comes. I am informed that the tenantry of the Duke of Abercorn, of Lord Castlereagh, and of Sir Richard Wallace have met already and have threatened agitation. At every single meeting we had on the estates I have mentioned, the Plan of Campaign was alluded to with cheers, and was threatened to be used against the landlords if they did not accede to the wants of the tenants. I have no doubt that the Members from Ulster have in their mind's eye this fact, that this movement, if not dealt with at once, will be much more difficult to deal with in the future. 84 I can, therefore, easily understand their anxiety to get the Bill through, to enable them to deal with combinations of tenantry in Ulster. I believe—I am firmly convinced—that if this Bill were permitted to go through the House rapidly, we should have no security whatsoever that any measure will be passed through either this or the other House giving protection to the tenants, or that this measure will not be used as an instrument of coercion by the landlords. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary say as the only consolation he could afford us regarding the other Bill—even on his theory that the Bill in its present shape, or under Amendments which have been foreshadowed, will give protection to the tenants? He said—Hon. Gentlemen will have an opportunity of rejecting the Coercion Bill on the third reading should the other Bill, when it comes to this House, not satisfy them.Not satisfy whom?—the majority of this House. But do the Irish tenants believe that they can trust their interests and look for protection to the majority of this House? They have, unfortunately, more evidence than is necessary to convince them that that protection means simply no protection whatsoever. Now, I wish to say a word with reference to the contention the Chief Secretary put forward repeatedly in the course of his speeches in these debates, that evictions have not been the cause of crime, but, on the other hand, intimidation and crime and outrage has been the cause of the evictions. Sir, I utterly and absolutely deny that statement; and, furthermore, I say that there is not a shadow of foundation for it. What are the facts of the case? I have here with me a summary which I got drawn up the other day—a complete analysis—of all the cases in which I was instrumental in getting the weapon of combination—namely, the Plan of Campaign, put into operation in Ireland. It is to that weapon the right hon. Gentleman alludes, when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of "intimidation, crime, and outrage." The number of estates on which the Plan of Campaign has been used is 75. It is difficult to say exactly the number of families affected by it; but I should think the number would be 30,000 or 40,000. Well, on the whole of these 75 estates 85 on which we have used the weapon, with the single exception of that of the Marquess of Lansdowne, no evictions have taken place; and I can point to hundreds of families who unquestionably would have been evicted but for the Plan of Campaign. There would have been wholesale evictions. The ease of the Marquess of Lansdowne's clearances is the only case of real eviction in the whole of Ireland which can be traced to the operations of the Plan of Campaign or to combination, and even in that case a great many families who have been evicted will be back in their homes before the end of the week. There is no foundation, then, for the statement of the Chief Secretary. On the contrary, when we turn to the Returns of eviction, we find that in those places where the League is weakest, and where the Plan of Campaign has not been put in force, evictions have raged with the most unchecked fury. In the County of Kerry we find that on not one estate has the Plan of Campaign been adopted. It was tried in the case of one estate, and did not prove successful—that is to say, the tenants did not fall into the combination. In the County of Kerry there were 303 evicted within the past three months—more than four times as many as in any other county in Ireland; and Kerry is the only county in the South of Ireland in which I have not operated. I would pursue that argument throughout the whole of Ireland, and so strongly do the figures work out, that you might almost say that evictions have been numerous in Ireland in inverse ratio to the numbers of families that have been banding together in the Plan of Campaign. So that there is not a shadow or a shade of foundation for the statement that evictions are due to intimidation or combination amongst the tenants. The exact reverse is the case, and I challenge any English Member to go over to Ireland, in the next Vacation, to make investigations on the spot, and to see if I am not speaking the absolute truth. There is another point I would refer to. When the right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to make out a case for this Coercion Bill, he alluded to the condition of the County of Mayo; and, although he has not alluded to that at any length again tonight, I cannot resist saying a word as 86 to that, for two reasons—first of all, because he described that county as being in a particularly disorderly and tumultuous state. He used the words of a learned Judge who declared, at the last Mayo Assizes, that the condition of Mayo differed in a very small degree, if at all, from a condition of civil war. The second reason I desire to refer to the subject is because Mayo is the county I represent. Furthermore, I desire to point to this matter as a typical instance of the reliability of statements extracted from the charges of Judges, upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary confessed he chiefly based his case for this Bill. We were told this county was in a condition, as well as I recollect the words, little, if at all, differing from civil war. Now, I have here some facts relating to the condition of Mayo, which I think will surprise hon. Members of this House. I have, first of all, the evidence of Mr. Francis Blackburn Henn, Resident Magistrate, who resides in Ballina, and has under his charge the police of the northern part of Mayo, He was examined before the Royal Commission in October last, and this was the evidence he gave. He was asked—" How are rents being paid in your district? "His reply was—"I must say satisfactorily." After some considerable cross-examination, Lord Cowper said—Your district seems to be in such a satisfactory state, that I do not think I have anything more to ask you."Yes, satisfactory," said Mr. Henn, "I am glad to say." That is the testimony of the Resident Magistrate, the head of the police in the Northern Division of the County of Mayo, a county, recollect, that we are told is in a state little, if anything, differing from civil war. I can speak positively for the Eastern Division of Mayo, and I can say that it has not been for many years in a condition of greater freedom from crime than it is in at present. With the exception of one serious riot at Charlestown last spring, there has been absolutely no crime, disorder, or interference with law for the whole of the winter and spring. I turn to the statistics of crime in Mayo, and it takes away my breath to lay them side by side with the speech of Judge Lawson, in making his charge in the month of April. The report of agrarian outrages in the County 87 of Mayo, from the 1st January to 31st March, 1887, shows that the total agrarian offences for the first three months of this year were 12, of which seven were threatening letters, leaving five outrages in a county with a population of 230,000 human being. These are the statistics for the three months—Murder and manslaughter, none; firing at the person, none; attempts to murder, none; conspiracy to murder, none; assaults on the police, none—and this in a county which is in a state of civil war—for three months, no assault on the police; aggravated assault, one; assaults on bailiffs or process-servers, none—and if there is any division in which the Irish people are inclined to indulge, if they are at all disorderly, it is assaults on bailiffs and process-servers, who are to them about the most obnoxious individuals in the country; and if you want to know whether the country is absolutely and phenomenally quiet, you would ask whether there have been any assaults on bailiffs and process-servers—robbery,none; taking or holding forcible possession, one; intimidation, otherwise than threatening letter, none. That is in a county where intimidation so reigns, that no man, according to the learned Judge, is safe, and the ordinary operations of the law are prevented. No officer of the law was assaulted—neither police, process-server, nor bailiff, nor was any man intimidated, according to the Police Report for these three months. I leave it to any fair-minded man to judge what kind of credence is to be given to Judges' charges, when we have the evidence of Official Returns that this is the state of things. When I heard the Chief Secretary talk about the condition of Mayo, I hardly knew what to make of it, because it is a county I represent, one I frequently reside in, and one which I know to be more peaceable than any district with which I am acquainted in England. I alluded to Mayo a little aside from the main part of my argument, because I think it is almost like throwing water on a drowned rat to try and make any further case against the Government, so far as this Bill is based on crime. The Government only base their case on five counties, and this is one; and I, therefore, contend that having shown that the actual condition of one of the counties is a condition of peace and quiet, it is sufficient to dispose entirely of the other four. The Chief 88 Secretary declared that the object of the Bill was to enable landlords to get the few rights that were left to them by the late Government, and that, to my mind, condemned his Bill, not only from one point of view, but from the point of view of every honest and liberal and kindly man in England.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Gentleman; but he has made that assertion four or five times. I never said that.
§ MR. DILLON
I have made the assertion several times I confess, because I consider it of enormous importance. I took down the right hon. Gentleman's words at the time. If he withdraws them, of course—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not withdraw what I said. In what I said, I was arguing upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I said, on his statement, that was the result.
§ MR. DILLON
That certainly alters the matter. It slightly alters the character of the statement; but still, I think, from the statement of the Prime Minister, I am entitled to assume that that is the object of the Government. His contention that the grievance which we complained of, and put forward as a reason for not passing this Bill until we were secure of the removal of that grievance, was utterly insignificant, as argument for the delay of a measure of this character shows to me that he must still be completely ignorant of the real condition of affairs in Ireland. I say again, at the risk of repetition, that it would be difficult, in my mind, to use language to exaggerate the position of the Irish farmers; and I say, that the grievance which we complain of, and which, putting aside altogether the question of the right of self-government, on the Unionist theory, we are entitled to get remedied by this House, one of the greatest and most vast that a people can suffer from. It is a grievance touching the lives and the existence of great multitudes of our people. It is a grievance—and, remember, this has been stated before—which has reached such a pitch that it has now become actually intolerable. What is the condition of things in Ireland today? You have tens of thousands—I am not sure that I should be incorrect if I said you have 100,000 families in Ireland, who are face to face with absolute 89 desperation—who are face to fare with desperation, and see in the Land Bill of the Government, no prospect, nor any promise of relief from their present position, who are told, that in order even to seek relief from that Bill—a hope of relief which I know will be absolutely delusive—they must exhaust their means, and do what, in spite of all the hard words that are used towards Irish tenants, they still consider a disgrace—namely, become bankrupt and slaves to the County Court Judge, and plunge themselves into what is hateful and dreadful to every agricultural tenant in the world—the meshes of the law. I say these people are in such a condition that they ought to excite the compassion and sympathy of every Government in the world. The population of Ireland at the present moment is flying from the country at a rate unparalleled in its history. So great and so terrible is the effect of the depression, and so gloomy is the prospect, that though our population has sunk by 250,000 within the last five, seven, or eight years—a thing unknown in any other country in Europe—and, at the present moment, all the ships that the Liverpool lines can put on, carry away our young people—the best blood of Ireland—as they crowd into the ports seeking the means of emigration. The heart of Ireland is sick and weary of waiting, and if you pass this Bill, and, at the same time, give the people such a measure of relief, such a contemptible mockery as the Bill which has originated in "another and a suitable place," the people of Ireland will turn away in absolute despair, and take refuge, some of them in America, and those who have the courage to remain at home in the only thing they have hope in—namely, combination in some shape or another; and if you do not allow them to combine openly, of course they will do so in secret.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I rise to support the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid), and I must say, at the outset, I am surprised that we have had nothing like an adequate reply to the question, why this drastic measure should go into Committee. I think we had a right to expect some sort of reply to the Amendment which has been placed on the Paper. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), just 90 before resuming his seat, drew the attention of the House to the present alarming condition of Ireland. Ireland is in such a condition at the present moment that she does not require coercive measures; she is in such a condition as to require prompt and immediate remedial measures of the largest and most extensive application. My hon. Friend has alluded to the emigration which is taking place from Ireland, and I contend that it is a blot upon English statesmanship of to-day that this emigration should occur. It is a disgrace to the Legislature of this country to find that, at the present moment, while the people of Ireland—the young people of Ireland—are hurrying from their native land, unable to find homes or employment, this Parliament should be engaged in passing measures, not to remedy their condition and improve the resources of the country, not to make the land one in which employment can be found, but in seeking to repress Constitutional agitation, and in putting an end to liberty. It is a sad, sorry, and sickening sight. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Treasury Bench may, from the attitude of their superior knowledge, sneer at and "pooh, pooh" the evidences of sympathy with Ireland which come from all parts of the civilized world; but the criticisms of the civilized world are passed upon the proposals of the Government, because all countries are now in possession of the facts that are occurring here. Within the last few weeks, Queenstown, which is the principal Irish port for emigration, has been black with people, not old and apparently broken-down people, but with decently clad young men and young women, who, under a happier and any normal condition of things, ought to be able to find employment at home, and ought to be able to contribute to the development of the industries of Ireland. Sir, the Government seek to deny that this measure has any connection with the collection of excessive rents; but we say that is the very spirit and essence of the Bill now before the House. And, Sir, we will prove that, not by declamatory remarks, not by soaring into the realms of imaginative figures, into which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary so often soars, but by a hard reference to solid facts—with reference to the Re port of the Royal Commission that the Govern- 91 ment themselves appointed. Sir, I think that Members on this side of the House are perfectly justified, before going into this case, inlaying before the House the fact that Lord Cowper's Commission was, in its composition and appointment, a Commission undoubtedly of landlords. We are also justified in laying stress on the fact that the only Member of the Commission who was not either in profession or in sympathy, identified with the landlord interest, was a Liberal Unionist, who has presented a Report to which the Government has paid not the slightest attention; and to which they attach not the smallest importance. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seemed to be inclined to-night not to agree with the statement that outrages and disorder proceed as naturally as any cause follows effect from eviction and rack-renting in certain districts in Ireland. But Returns which have been placed in the hands of Members lately show most conclusively that we have only to refer to the figures, which illustrate the present condition of the most rack-rented county in all Ireland, and that is Kerry, to prove our case. Undoubtedly, Kerry swells to a very large and undue proportion the list of outrages. In the Returns lately to hand, we find that in the quarter ending 31st of March last, out of 1,007 evictions, that unhappy county furnished 306, or, practically, one-third. Thirty per cent of the evictions which have taken place, therefore, in all Ireland in the present quarter, or the quarter just ended, took place in that county, and the evictions which took place in that county were more than half, more than 57 per cent of those that occurred in the entire wide Province of Munster. We say those figures establish to the mind of every reasonable man a clear and distinct connection between evictions and outrage. Let us turn to that which illustrates the present condition of the tenantry with regard to rent. I observe that at the last sitting of the Kerry and Clare Sub-Commission a large number of case; were brought on for hearing. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland stated this evening—and I do not know from what source he draws his information—that the Reports show that there was a fall of about 12½ per cent in the price of agricultural produce 92 The Cowper Commission reported that there was a fall of 18½ per cent. Last week the average reductions made in the rents by the Sub-Commission wore from 50 to 60 per cent. In one case—Captain Fagan, landlord; Tim Minahan, tenant—the old rent was £33 10s., and it was reduced to £16—that is to say, the tenant had been paying, in the estimation of the Commissioners, 100 per cent over the value of his farm. I have other cases here of a similar kind. On Lord Kenmare's estate several cases wore adjudicated upon, and the reductions made averaged from 35 to 50 per cent. What do these figures show? They show that the rack-renting in Kerry has exceeded all belief, and it was not until it was proved by figures before the Sub-Commission that the real state of the case became known. A large number of evictions have taken place in Kerry, and it does seem to me the Government are taking a most unwise course, if they are sincere in their desire to restore law and order, in introducing a measure of this kind in the face of circumstances of the nature I have described. Sir, in the course of this evening's debate, the National League has been referred to as a fruitful source of intimidation; and I should like to be allowed for a few moments—and it will only be for a few moments—to refer to a case in my own constituency, which illustrates where evidence has been given before the Cowper Commission with regard to these cases of Boycotting and intimidation, how groundless the majority of such cases are. In discussing the question, Sir, a few nights ago, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) referred to the case known as the Troy case in my constituency. He referred to it at considerable length from what I have heard. I was not present when he spoke; but from the report I have seen of his speech, it is evident he drew his information from those very veracious pamphlets published by a body known as the Irish Loyal and Patriotic League. He referred to this case of Troy, and seemed to make great capital out of it. He stated that this man Troy had been Boycotted through the agency of the National League—that he had been subjected to all sorts of intimidation, that his horse had been poisoned, and that he had been violently 93 ejected from a meeting at Liscarrol, which he had attended for the purpose of making public his grievance. I should like to lay all the facts before the House in a few words. In the first place, this alleged case of Boycotting arose from the fact that there was a family dispute between this man Troy and the real owner of a farm. Troy had, under false pretences, got possession of the farm, until the children of the owner, who was a lunatic, came of age—or rather until the eldest son of the then lunatic came of age. The consideration for which Troy obtained possession of the farm was the payment of £100. When the young man came of age, £100 was offered to Troy, and he was expected to relinquish the farm; but he distinctly declined to do so. Thereupon, very naturally, a large number of the neighbours and friends sympathized with this young man—whose name was Burke. They said that Troy had acted unfairly and dishonestly, and to my mind they had a perfect right to take the course which they then adopted. They refused to have any communication with Troy—they refused to hold any intercourse with him until he consented to do what they required. They required him to make honest restitution. It was said, in the course of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, that this man's horse was poisoned, but that was not the fact. The horse died from overwork, and when the charge was brought before the branch of the National League in the district, they offered to pay the expense of a veterinary surgeon, in order that the question might be examined into further. I have, in my possession, a letter written by the landlord of this very farm, concerning which this great dispute arose—this dispute of which the hon. and gallant Member made such a flourish of trumpets a few nights ago. The landlord says that the man who claims the farm is his tenant, and that he is anxious that he should pay his rent. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred in strong language to the fact that this man Troy attended a public meeting for the purpose of making his grievance known to the public and speaking from the platform, and that he was violently ejected from the platform. But the truth of the matter is, that Troy attended at the meeting, and having hired a number of ruffians and primed 94 them with drink, he actually assaulted the Chairman of the meeting; instead of his being the injured party, he was the cause of the meeting being broken up. I do not wish to trouble the House with accounts of this kind, my desire being simply to show on what substantial grounds alleged cases of Boycotting are brought forward to show how terrible is the state of crime existing in Ireland. I referred a moment ago to the recent reductions in rents in Kerry; and I have here a Report issued within the last few days by the Sub-Commission which sat for the purpose of revising them. I find that the reductions range from 55 to 60 per cent. If this Bill passes, unaccompanied by remedial legislation of a character very different from that which is before the other House, I ask what will be the actual condition of the vast majority of the tenants? It is obvious that these people, because they cannot pay their rents, and have fallen into arrears, will be evicted wholesale; and I say that the passage of this Bill into law will put a premium on evictions, and render impossible any attempt at accommodation on the part of the tenants; thus, instead of tending to the restoration of law and order, its effect will be exactly opposite. It will make matters far worse than they now are by adding a keen sense of irritation to that of injury, under which the Irish people at present labour. We are told that this measure is to be accompanied by a remedial measure now being proceeded with in "another place." It is not competent to us to discuss the details of that remedial measure; but from what we have seen of it, I think that the effect of it will be to drive tenants to seek salvation from ruin. We are told a humorous story of persons who committed suicide to save themselves from slaughter; and I think the Irish tenants must seek ruin by the Bankruptcy Court before they can hope for any relief from the present intolerable condition of things. I hold that not to be an inaccurate version of the legislation proposed in "another place;" and I can only say that the Irish Representatives, unless the Bill be largely altered and improved in several respects, will be forced to offer it every opposition in their power, and, in doing so, they will be simply discharging their duty to the people of Ireland. I am sorry to see that, at the present time, evictions are 95 very numerous in Ireland; and if the Government would pay attention to the Report of their own Commission, if they would pay attention to the work at present going on in the Sub-Commissioners' Courts all over Ireland, they will be compelled to acknowledge that these evictions are unjust, and that a Bill, such as this before the House, will tend to heighten that injustice. "We have heard a great deal of the sacredness of judicial rents. Now, I find that, in the past week, over 200 persons were evicted on an estate in Queen's County, because of the non-payment of rents; but when I compare those rents with a valuation founded on the present state of things, they are 50 per cent, and in some few cases 60 per cent, in excess. What relief do you offer these men? None whatever, until they become bankrupts. When the measure I have referred to comes before this House we shall be at liberty to go into it, and prove to the satisfaction of the House how illusory are its provisions, and how utterly powerless they are to deal with the state of things now existing in Ireland. The rents are admitted to be too high, and yet the Government will not carry out the recommendations of their own Land Commission. Do they seriously imagine that, by placing more power in the hands of Resident Magistrates, and almost absolute power in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, they can remedy a state of things such as has been shown to exist? Why, it is an insult to the common sense of the country to say so. Mr. Knipe, who is a distinguished dissentient from the other Commissioners, made a Report, to which I think this House ought to pay considerable attention. We must remember that he is not a landlord, but a large tenant farmer having practical knowledge of land; and he recommends, not that you should introduce coercive measures, or amend the Criminal Law for the purpose of putting down combinations or organizations; hut that you should shorten the judicial term, and that you should deal, through the Courts, at once with judicial rents which are admittedly too high. This Bill will only tend to introduce a greater state of exasperation than exists at present; and I cannot see how any responsible Government or Party of politicians cannot, in the present state of things, find no better 96 remedy than this Bill, added to a promise of remedial legislation of the character to which reference has been made-I trust the House will pause before it goes into Committee on this Bill. I know, however, that any words I can offer will have very little weight with the Government or their supporters. No matter how much we recall to their minds the speeches they formerly made against coercion, they seem callous on the subject, and proof against all such reminders. We, however, on these Benches are not the keepers of their consciences, and I shall not pursue that subject any further. I have not the honour of knowing the hon. Member for the Houghton Division of Durham (Mr. Wood); but I assure all Liberals who supported him at the recent Election that at every meeting in the Division he was against coercion, and made it one of his strongest points on the platforms last summer. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to bear in mind that it is no light task which the Government undertook when, in defiance of the 86 Representatives whom the Irish people have sent to this House, they persist in forcing on them this measure. We, at least, claim to know Ireland's wants better than the Government, and, certainly, better than their supporters; but it seems, nevertheless, that our voices are to be drowned and our protests disregarded. This is the first time that the great bulk of the Liberal Party have been opposed to coercion. I am sick of the argument used with reference to the position of the Liberal Party in this respect, and I do not see the utility, at this stage of the proceedings, of bandying across the floor of the House charges of inconsistency as to what was done in 1871 and 1882. The Liberal Party acknowledge that they have turned their back on the hateful policy of coercion; and, in doing so, they have taken a statesmanlike course. While the debate on the Procedure Rules was going forward in this House, there was one argument which repeatedly came from the other side, on the question of the Conservative advocacy of the closure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said—" We know much better now; four or five years have passed, and we are in a better position to judge." This is exactly the argument which the Liberal Party are entitled to use with reference to the present 97 proposals of the Government. Coercion has been tried, and, notwithstanding what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), it has failed. Is it sufficient for the Government that it should realize the aspiration of Lord Cowper, in seeking to drive discontent beneath the surface? If so, is it a condition of things which any Government could look upon as satisfactory, or a condition of things which any great political Party in the country will be glad to see maintained? I contend that discontent ought not to exist, and considerations of public duty and safety have sunk to a very low ebb, when the highest ideal which the Government can propose to Parliament and the country is, that they should drive discontent below the surface, and overthrow all Constitutional agitation in Ireland. The Government profess to be very indignant when they are accused of designing by this Bill to repress lawful combination. Bat what else do you mean? You entrust all the powers of the Bill to the Lord Lieutenant, who is to say what is or is not a dangerous association; and you entrust the punishment of members of such associations to Resident Magistrates who are dependent on the Lord Lieutenant for their position, pay, and promotion. Considering the gravity of the position in Ireland, and the far-reaching nature of these proposals, I am entitled to recall the fact that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has but recently escaped from a severe controversy with his own tenants, and that it is exceedingly probable, unless he alters the tone he adopted a short time ago, that he may be engaged in litigation with them. Can he be said to be an impartial judge in cases of this character? We cannot forget that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has recently found a resting-place on the Front Treasury Bench (Colonel King-Harman) is a convicted rack-renter. I do not want, more than is necessary, to cast the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's misfortunes in his face; but we have a right to prove that those who are anxious for the passing of this measure are themselves interested, to a large extent, in the suppression of all combinations of the Irish people against rack-rents. We ask the Government to pause in the steps they are taking; and, at 98 the same time, remind them that they would not be able to pass this measure at all were it not for the support of some Members who sit on the Opposition Benches. But, Sir, under happier conditions, we should ask the Government to pause—we would ask them to reflect on the futility of the step they are taking. I would warn them, Sir, if they hope by the provisions of this Bill, no matter how stringently administered, to break down what we call the national spirit of the Irish people, that they are greatly and grossly mistaken. If they hope to terrorize or intimidate the Representatives of the Irish people from defending their lawful and just rights in all possible events, they are equally mistaken; and they are most mistaken of all, Sir, when they think that they add to the happiness of the Irish people, or to the strength of this Empire, or to the strength of the Union, by a measure so ill-omened, and a policy so mistaken.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate he now adjourned,"—(Mr. Handel Cossham,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.