§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I rise, Sir, according to Notice, to move the following Resolution which stands on the Notice Paper in my name:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly to represent to Her Majesty that there has been laid before this House a Special Proclamation of the Viceroy of Ireland declaring the Association known as the Irish National League to be a dangerous Association, under the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887; that no information has been furnished to Parliament to justify the issue of the said Special Proclamation, by virtue of which Her Majesty's subjects are liable to be punished as criminals without judicial inquiry into the nature of their acts; and that this House, in the absence of such information, prays that the said Proclamation shall not continue in force as to the Association named and described therein.I hope there will be no misapprehension in the House as to the nature of the function which we have to discharge to-day. It is a function imposed upon us by the act of the whole Legislature. An act of great importance, undoubtedly, which we, many of us, think to be an act of great violence, but an act of great importance has been performed by the Executive Government. That act, according to the law of the land, cannot be their act alone. The action of Parliament, whether in a negative or in a substantive form, must not be withheld. At this moment the action of Parliament is as essential, in the view of the law with respect to this Proclamation, as the action of the Executive itself. The Executive takes a solemn decision. It then introduces that solemn decision to our notice. We are called upon either to give or not to give an opinion upon it. For my own part, and for 1828 those who may think with me, I have expressed that opinion, I hope, clearly in the Motion upon the Paper. If no opinion be given upon the Proclamation the Proclamation conies to be the Proclamation of this House just as truly and substantially as it is the Proclamation of the Government. That is the reason why reference is made in the Statute to this House, that the House may become a party to it by the silence of approval, or by such comment or objection as the House may choose to make. Well now, Sir, in this particular Proclamation the Viceroy of Ireland declares, by and with the advice and consent of his Privy Council, that he is satisfied that the association known as the National League in Ireland is an association which incites to acts of violence and intimidation—I think those are the words. Sir, we do not and cannot possibly suppose that this conclusion of the Viceroy thus announced is a conclusion arbitrarily arrived at. It is necessarily founded upon information. It is impossible that the Viceroy should not have consulted—in fact, it would be the grossest breach of his duty if he had not consulted the best, the most authoritative sources of information, the largest number of those whose duty it is to supply him with information upon the state of the country; and upon that information we must take it for granted that this important conclusion of the Viceroy has been founded. Now, Sir, where is that information? We have a right to ask for it. We have a right to that information. The Statute has put upon us the duty of becoming parties to the act of the Government. Was it the intention of the Statute that when the House of Commons was to become a party to the act of the Government, or was to pass judgment upon it, it was to do so without being possessed of the means of forming a judgment? I assume it to be a matter that requires no argument, and that bears no argument. I assert that if we are associated with the Government when it comes to an important conclusion, we have a title to know the grounds upon which that conclusion has been arrived at, in order that our judgment may be supported and justified by this information in the same manner as the Government believe that their judgment is supported and justi- 1829 fied by such information. Well, Sir, the Government have been asked whether they intend to give us information in order to enable us to discharge our duty, and they have refused. I suppose there is no doubt at all that I am accurate in making that statement. Now, it is not for us to be led blindfolded to a decision upon this matter. It is for us to claim that we shall be supplied with the means of action; and if these means of action are withheld from us, then I say there are three propositions which we must immediately urge upon the House and the Government hi consequence. In the first place, it is a slight—I may almost say an outrage—upon the dignity of Parliament to suppose that it is to discharge a statutory duty of this importance without being in possession of the grounds upon which alone the discharge of that duty can properly be founded in the face of the country. In the second place, it reduces to utter destruction, to utter absurdity, the main contention of the Government put forward at the time when we were discussing the Coercion Act under which this Proclamation is issued. When the Government were pressed with the unquestionable fact that this is a wider and more searching and far-reaching Act than ever has been passed with a view to the restraint of private action in Ireland—[Ministerial cries of "No !"] I answer "Yes." I am very familiar with, that method of interruption, and treat it with as much respect as it deserves. But it is not necessary for me to make the assertion with regard to the Act as a whole. The assertion was made with regard to the Act as a whole; but of course it had reference specially to the most salient point of the Act—to the 6th and 7th sections of the Act in particular. It was pointed out that though undoubtedly this is a very unusual method of proceeding—a proceeding wholly without precedent—I think no negative to that can be ventured, even by the boldest of silent Members, yet we were called upon to observe the peculiar and effective safeguards under which it was placed. What were those safeguards? They were two. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had the courage to refer to the fact that the provisions of the Act were largely or gene- 1830 rally dependent upon the discretion of the Government who applied them—that is to say, upon his own discretion. It required some cornage to place that before the House as being in the nature of a safeguard which we were to take into our view as of appreciable weight. But there was a second and a greater safeguard, and that safeguard was the action of the Government under the 6th and 7th clauses, the most vital, perhaps, and the most far-reaching of all the clauses in the Act. That action was to be subject to the concurrence, to the review of Parliament. But what, Sir, is the value of the concurrence of Parliament, what is the meaning of the review of Parliament, if the vote of this House is to be a vote given blindfolded, given in ignorance of facts, given under circumstances under which the Government daringly refuse to make known to us the very grounds of their act which the statutory authority has required us to perform and sanction? Therefore, these safeguards have proved to be a farce—a farce, and nothing less than a farce. I want to know what is the value of the approval of this House given in the dark? I want to know whether it is not an approval given in the dark if the information upon which the proceedings of the Government have been founded is to be kept secret, if that information is to be withheld? I hope I shall not be told that there are various Papers on the Table of the House with respect to Ireland which will show to me that, for a long time past, there have been a number of persons subjected to the painful process termed Boycotting, and a number of persons in Ireland subjected to the protection, and, of course, necessarily annoying protection, of the police. These are the facts which, no doubt, have been before us for months and for years. If these are the facts upon which you are to justify these proceedings, why did you come to us for a discretionary power; why did you not ask us, in the regular and Constitutional method, to proclaim, denounce, and prohibit the action of the National League when the Statute was passing through Parliament? Why did you not do that which Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington did in 1829, who, when they deemed the Roman Catholic Association to be an association injurious to peace and good order in Ireland, asked 1831 Parliament to prohibit the action and existence of that association? I do not think that following times have greatly favoured the justness of their conclusion; hut nobody can doubt the propriety of their method. Why was not that course taken in the present instance? It was obviously the duty of Her Majesty's Government, if they had a case for the prohibition of the National League, to ask Parliament to concur with them in that prohibition in a regular manner by enacting it by Statute. So much, then, for safeguards. The safeguards, be it understood, have disappeared—they are absolutely null. Be the rest of the case what it may, no man will tell me that the mere action of a Party majority in this House, not founded upon information supplied for the purpose of enabling it to form its judgment, is a safeguard and not a delusion. It is a delusion practised upon the country, and is as little creditable to the Parliament who enacted it as to the Government who proposed it. So much for these two propositions with regard to the information that is withheld from us on this important occasion. There is a third proposition not less material and weighty than that to which I have already referred, and that is this—What are we to think of the information which those who have it know will not bear the light? Remember what has been the great controversy between us during most of the debates of this year. You have professed to legislate against crime, while we have contended that you were legislating against combination apart from crime. We have now come to the occasion when, if you had a case to produce, it was alike your duty and your interest to produce it; and to show that the combinations you are legislating against are combinations which issue in a crime. You shrink from the test. You decline our challenge, although we have as much title to know on what grounds you are proceeding as you yourselves have. It is impossible not to arrive at any other conclusion than this—that you yourselves know that the information which you withhold is information which will show that your proceedings are in effect proceedings against combination which does not issue in crime. Well, Sir, so much for the question of information. But what follows? What is the light thrown 1832 by this manner of proceeding upon the nature and provisions of the Act we have been passing, and particularly upon the nature of these 6th and 7th clauses, by which it was deliberately decided to deprive Irishmen, within the liberal and large limits assigned by the 2nd clause, of the protection afforded them by judicial inquiry? The issue of it all is this—that as the concurrence of Parliament is reduced to a mere form—I am afraid I might say a mere imposture —tho action of the Government, according to the view of the Government, is to be a solo action; and, being so, what I affirm is this—that this Bill in these particular sections, so viewed and so interpreted—and, in my opinion, such an interpretation is a great and mischievous aggravation of the Bill—is a new form of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. Yes, Sir; it is a new form of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act; it is in essence the same, in exterior shape it is somewhat different, but not, perhaps, an improvement. The meaning of the Acts which have been passed for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act is this—that the discretion of the Executive is substituted for judicial inquiry with reference to the liberty of the subject. That is the essence, and with respect to that central provision and substance of the matter the action of this Act is precisely the same—when the concurrence of Parliament in this Proclamation has been reduced to idle form by its being deprived of all judicial character, the essence of this Act becomes exactly the same as the measures for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. In the shape of the enactments I admit there is a difference, because in the case of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Acts you have a power of imprisonment undefined in its length further than it may be denned by the fact of such Bills being necessarily odious and un-Constitutional, whereas this Act has been deemed to be so great a blessing to Ireland that it has been deemed unjust to assign beforehand any limited period during which she is to enjoy it. What have we got to substitute for the discretionary power of the Executive in those Acts in the present Act? In the present Act we have an apparent trial, with a summary jurisdiction of imprisonment for six months. Is that an improvement? Is 1833 that apparent trial an advantage? Why do I call it an apparent trial? Because, although it has the exterior of a trial, inasmuch as the fact must be affirmed before a judicial tribunal, yet the law, the nature of the acts done, the character of the association, the substance or the emptiness, and futility of the allegations of the Government are entirely withheld from the cognizance of any Court of Justice whatever. And when any hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney (Sir Charles Russell) endeavoured to secure that there should be something like a judicial concurrence, at any rate, of these Resident Magistrates in the judgment arrived at by the Lord Lieutenant that was refused by the Government, and nothing is left to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction but the simple recognition of the fact that a meeting of the National League was held when a certain person was present at it, or that an advertisement appeared in some newspaper friendly to the general purposes of Nationalism, or something else of that kind. Why, Sir, what kind of trial is this? It is, as it appears to me, identical in substance with what the Law of Libel was in this country before the time of Mr. Fox, when what you had to do was to prove the fact of publication, and when the fact of publication was proved the character of the publication was altogether withheld from the cognizance of the jury. Now, how do you look back upon that period—the introduction of the Court of Justice as little better than a mockery and a delusion and a snare, to use the language of Lord Ddntnan—when the essence of the thing was withheld from judicial cognizance? When you were giving the Viceroy the whole substance, you might as well, perhaps, have given him the shell too. At any rate, this apparent trial may have the effect of deluding superficial observers into the idea that the case has been judicially handled, when, in point of fact, it has been determined, exclusively, to all substantial intents and purposes, in the chambers of the Viceroy of Ireland. I think that that is a state of things which is hardly creditable in a country in which liberty is valued as highly as it is hero, and which has lately widened very largely its securities for liberty by calling in the popular judgment on a scale hitherto unprecedented. The libertie of the 1834 people in one of the Three Kingdoms are to be committed to a jurisdiction unprecedented in our annals, unknown to our history; and that upon a scale, and in a manner, of which tyranny, even in former times, had never formed the brilliant conception. The arbitrary will of the Government is to be substituted for the regular action of the law. This principle of assumption instead of law is a principle most dangerous—I think most disgraceful—to be enacted in any country, most of all to be enacted in Ireland. There is no country whose claim to be treated with the strictest legality, and with the strictest observance of the higher principles of the Constitution, is so strong as that of Ireland; because there is no other country in which for such lengthened periods law has been made to assume the form of an outrage upon, the people. Unfortunately, we ail know very well that this has not been simply in ancient times. We all know very well that a great wrong has been inflicted upon the people of Ireland by the Acts of the Imperial Parliament. All of us, at least the great bulk of us—a large and increasing proportion of us—who sit on this side of the House are of opinion that nothing could be more grossly unjust than the manner in which, by Acts of the Imperial Parliament, the whole law of tenure and the recovery of rent was completely reconstituted in the earlier years of this century against the tenant and in favour of the landlord. We know—at least, I believe we know—that there never was a grosser act of injustice—though I do not believe it was unjustly intended, but that is quite another matter—there never was a grosser act of injustice perpetrated by the Legislature than when in the Constitution of the Encumbered Landed Estates Court we not only enabled but encouraged by our solemn sanction the encumbered landlords of Ireland to sell the improvements they had not made to people who were to give value for them, knowing that the value was to go into the pocket of the outgoing landlord, and the incoming landlord, who would pay for it, was naturally expecting it would be repaid to him in an increased rent. I might go later down. I might make an appeal to the Treasury Bench in relation to the Habeas Corpus Act of 1881, which I have heard this year censured by my 1835 right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), and which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has described in my hearing as a monstrous Act, with respect to which I confess I am not forward to undertake the defence of its provisions, although I am of opinion that in the condition which Ireland then presented special legislation of some kind was necessary unless we were prepared to give over to Irish hands the management of Irish affairs. All this has been done, and the law in Ireland is still upon its trial. The misfortune of Ireland is that in Ireland, in contrast to England and Scotland, those who administer the law, and especially those who administer the law locally and enforce the law, are not in sympathy either with the aspirations or the feelings or the interests of the people. Under these circumstances, it appears to me to be in the strongest sense playing with edged tools to pursue these rough and ready, these arbitrary methods, of dealing with the people of Ireland, for while the Coercion Act set up the intervention and review of Parliament as a safeguard and control on the Executive and the language delivered most emphatically by the authorized Representatives of the Government in de bate was to the same effect, yet a course has been taken which reduces the whole of this supervision of Parliament to a mere idle form, and makes the Executive Government uncontrolled master, within the limits of the 2nd clause, of the liberties of the people of Ireland with reference to all associations which they may think proper to proclaim. I am of opinion, therefore, that in Ireland it is not merely the Moonlighters, not merely the exclusive dealers, the Boy-cotters; but it is also the administrators of the law, and the law itself, that have, to a large extent, a character to retrieve, with respect to which it is our most sacred and solemn duty to take care that we do nothing further to compromise its dignity and its influence in the eyes and the minds of the Irish people. Well, now, Sir, we are tempted to ask which is the object which Her Majesty's Government contemplate as the probable result of this Proclamation. I will not oven touch the more delicate part of the question; I will ask myself, What is the National League? It is said to be 1836 a League which has for its members 500,000 of the people of Ireland. I know not whether that is statistically established. I simply quote the figures which are in current circulation, and I do not know whether they can be contradicted. If these figures be true, it is a very important truth, because it shows how unawares we come, or may come, nearer and nearer to that state of things which was once vividly and boldly described by Sir James Graham in reference to a far milder Statute, and under a far milder Government—when he said of a Bill he was opposing that in his opinion it came near to a declaration of war against the people of Ireland. I do not doubt that the sin of the League is that it has actively promoted and incited popular combination. I take it, there can be no question that those combinations have been formed and encouraged, not by any means only—far from it—but partly with a view of the enforcement of what is called exclusive dealing. I have never said a word to mitigate the character of exclusive dealing. It is, in my opinion, an evil and an objectionable practice in whatever hands it may be. This, I own, is a very popular practice, and popular, not in the sense of being dear to the people, but in the sense of being very agreeable to those persons of power and influence who make it an instrument by which they can promote their purposes. I have not a doubt, Sir, and perhaps hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may partially, though I do not think they will wholly, dissent from my observations—I have not a doubt that these combinations, this exclusive dealing, must involve much personal hardship on innocent persons. What is this exclusive dealing? It is the symptom of a social disease, and you, like quack doctors, are aiming all your power at a symptom and neglecting the source of the disease. You are only driving the disease in. Does the most sanguine among you believe that you can stop or effectually narrow the practices you think objectionable on the part of the National League? I doubt if you believe it. Certainly, I think, none of us believe it; but what we do contemplate as possible is this. If your Proclamations, or your measures, or your orders under this Proclamation have any success at all—which must be most problematical— 1837 but if they have any success at all, all the success they can have will be to substitute secret and clandestine action for action open to the light of day, and to substitute secret proceedings which none of us can get at for proceedings that can be published in the newspapers, that can be blazoned abroad as they very properly should be in all the organs of the landlords, and can be made the subject of special criticism and censure in the House of Commons. Is that substitution of secret for public action of itself good? It appears to me to be the exact reverse of good. You release all those who are engaged in it from responsibility—public responsibility—but you do not seriously narrow their liberty of action. You cannot deal with a whole people—I mean the whole people in by far the larger part of Ireland—effectually by these methods of coercion. You failed to do it in former centuries and former generations. Great changes have taken place in the present generation, and the most important change of all is that which has occurred within the last five years, when the Irish people have become fully enfranchised—possibly, looking to the construction of the law as it bears upon Ireland, quite as fully emancipated—I beg pardon, I mean enfranchised—quite as fully an enfranchised people as the people of either England or Scotland. So much for the miserable and scanty fruits—not miserable and scanty only, but the unsavoury and probably poisonous fruits—which you will hope to reap from this discretionary and arbitrary action. Now, Sir, I have contemplated the League on its side of weakness, and I have said that I do not doubt for a moment that much hardship must be involved in the action of popular combination; but is that a reason why we should go to the root of the matter and declare them illegal, or act against them as if they were illegal? If you strike at the hardships inflicted by exclusive dealing—though I do not believe that you could strike at them without substituting a greater evil for a lesser one—you ought to strike at them in all classes alike. [An hon. MEMBER: Huntingdon.] What is the difference, the vital difference, in this respect between the wealthy and poorer classes? The difference is this—that for all the important purposes of annoyance, vexation, and oppression 1838 which are comprised in the large assemblage of acts which in one or other of its various forms may be called exclusive dealing, in the use of that great power the rich man can proceed single-handed; he is strong enough to annoy, to vex, and oppress in a multitude of cases by his own solo action, without asking counsel or aid, and without rendering account why or wherefore. Not so the poor man. The poor man can only be defended by combination. It is combination alone—apart from crime—it is combination alone which places them upon a footing of anything approaching to equality with those whose interests may at times be in competition with or in opposition to theirs; and if you strike at combination on the part of the mass you deprive them of the weapon which in its full efficiency remains in the hands of the adversary with whom they may have to deal. We say you do not go to the root of the matter, and what we mean by going to the root of the matter the House is well aware. I will not enter now on the merits of that discussion; but having looked at the League from one sido—namely, the evils which its action produces, or the errors its members may have been betrayed into—I must look at it upon the other side. I must consider what it has done for the people of Ireland, as well as what it has done against any individuals among them. I wish with all my heart we may live to see the day when exclusive dealing in every class and rank may not only be abandoned in practice, but the very name forgotten. But I cannot consent to overlook the facts which stare me in the face as to the effect which has been obtained by means which may not be warranted, but for an end and a purpose which is not only lawful merely, but almost sacred. There has been—it is admitted now on all hands—a case in Ireland. The Legislature has thought it necessary to step in to recognize that case, and to legislate upon it. There has been a ease in Ireland where rents required to be reduced, and where there was not that willingness to reduce them which happily so widely prevails in this country, and the wide prevalence of which has enabled us to tide over, as I trust in the future it will, many and many a social as well as political difficulty. Has the action of the League in these respects been able to afford a real 1839 and humane influence in that behalf? I shall quote testimonies in its favour that cannot be contradicted—testimonies of persons who cannot be accused of undue friendliness to its principles, or even to its objects. Now, Sir, I shall quote only two of those testimonies—one of them is the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller, to which, in these new and unparalleled circumstances, it becomes necessary to revert. When Sir Redvers Buller was asked by Lord Milltown as to the general sympathy with, the action of the League, Sir Redvers Buller replied—"Yes; I think there is sympathy, because they think it has been their salvation." That is the statement in the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller. I have seen various editions of the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller. One of those editions contained an expression of concurrence in that view and sympathy with that view which is apparent in every line of that evidence of Sir Redvers Buller. In answering a further question, he said—The tenants in the West part of Ireland told me of rents that have been reduced and evictions that have been stayed which is directly due to the operation of the League. They believe that, whatever truth there may be in it.Then he goes on, without any interposition of words, to say that he is merely quoting the opinions of others. He goes on to say—Nobody did anything for the tenants until the League was established; and when the landlords could not let their farms, then they were forced to consider the question of rent.How does this evidence stand by the side of other testimony borne in this House by a very able Member of this House—the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell)—whose private opinions and leanings I have no-power to estimate, but with respect to whom, listening with much admiration to his able speeches, I must own I think that if there be any man who must be wholly exempt from the charge in whole or in part of any kind of sympathy with Irish Nationalists in Ireland or in this House, the Member for South Tyrone appears to be that man. Were I entitled to assume the character of a critic, I might even say that there is a little more than the absence of sympathy; but, at any rate, it is enough for me to establish the character of the hon. Member as a witness in this House. I 1840 am going to quote language of the hon. Gentleman, and he will correct me if I am wrong, as to the substance of a very recent declaration of his—uncontradicted, so far as I know, in any quarter of the House. The substance of it was this. The hon. Member said that in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, the three Provinces of Ireland, I think he said, in which outrage and intimidation had done their work, there had been reduction; in Ulster there had not been outrage and intimidation, and there had been no reduction.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I beg pardon—little or no reduction—I wish to quote accurately; but I was not very far from the mark. Well, Sir, the meaning is this—he has indicated three Provinces of Ireland in which there have been reductions, and those three Provinces have been the Provinces in which there has been effective action of the League. Do not suppose that I am stating these facts with respect to the National League for the purpose of insinuating that the League is to be allowed to do what it likes. Nothing of the sort. But what I am contending is this. That where there is a great association which, through a considerable part of Ireland, commands the confidence of the people, and where that association is, by the confession of witnesses, in some cases hostile and in others perfectly impartial and raised far above the reach of prejudice—where that association has been the means of conferring relief upon the tenantry of Ireland, relief which you, by your legislative acts, have admitted ought to be conferred—those are reasons strong and conclusive as if almost they were written in Holy Writ. My object is to show that in dealing with such an association you ought rigidly to adhere to the principles of law, and carefully to eschew the methods of arbitrary government and discretion. [Ironical Ministerial cheers.] You sneer, but you seem unconscious that my main, position is this—that by the strained and unheard of construction which you give to the statutory declaration respecting the intervention of this House, you depart entirely from the principles of law; you become yourselves so far, not law-abiders, but law-breakers. You set a bad, a mischievous, and a dangerous 1841 lesson to the people of Ireland when, if you find the language of the Statute inconvenient and restrictive with reference to a licence of action, you are determined to make no more difficulties than some persons in some parts of Ireland have made in bending the language of that Statute to your purpose. Well, now, Sir, I am well aware that in dealing with this question we are not to reargue the 6th and 7th sections. I am not rearguing them. I have spoken entirely upon what appears to me to be their undeniable construction, if any Act of Parliament is capable of being read plainly, in a plain sense and meaning. I have spoken of war against the people of Ireland; but pray observe that you cast the net very wide. I believe the members of this League are counted by hundreds of thousands; but in the 7th clause you go beyond the members of the League. The League itself is to be unlawful; the assemblies of any of its members for its purposes are to be unlawful; to call or to share in them is to be unlawful; to publish, with a view to promoting them, is to be unlawful. These are curious words. I think if those words be thus construed they will apply to comments in a friendly newspaper on any of the proceedings of the League—not to The Times or The Standard, who will not be suspected of sympathy with those purposes, and will be exempt from this prosecution, because it will not be construed to be "with a view to promoting the purposes of the League;" but whore the friendly newspaper inserts an advertisement or comments, without entirely condemning, where it points out that moneys have been received for the League, and that moneys will continue to be received for the League in such and such a place, I suppose that friendly newspaper will run a very slender chance indeed before the two Resident Magistrates. And, now, Sir, I may remind the House of a rather remarkable passage in a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—I think it was the speech in which he introduced the Crimes Act. He said that the Bill contained no clauses relating to the Press, but that it contained provisions—I am not quoting his exact words; he will correct me if I misrepresent their substance—but it contained provisions under which he thought it reasonable to hope that the conduct of the Press would be somewhat 1842 modified and restrained. No Press Clauses! Not for the world would this Government have the odium of Press Clauses; but it is a new and ingenious invention to avoid the odium of Press Clauses, and yet to introduce words into your Act under which at the sole discretion of the Executive Government persons writing upon the National League, with ever so qualified a favour of its purposes or with ever so candid a recognition of the real good which General Redvers Buller and the hon. Member for South Tyrone say that it has attained, will be liable to be brought before two Resident Magistrates and to have their action qualified, modified, and restrained. Well, it appears to me that, viewing the matter as a whole, we are pressing the people of Ireland very hard. It is quite evident that it is intended to work the recent law by the method of summary jurisdiction, and the circuit of summary jurisdiction has accordingly been expanded, and the actions of which, it can take cognizance have, according to Mr. Justice Holmes, been enlarged and increased. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland said it was very unfortunate that Mr. Justice Holmes had never been able to attend this House for the purpose of contradicting the account that had been given of his words. Yes, Sir; and what is a great deal more unfortunate still is that if he had attended this House he could not and would not have contradicted the account that was given of his words. I, for one, am perfectly ready to take my affidavit and make my deposition of having heard those words, and I am perfectly certain that Mr. Justice Holmes will not contradict them. Well, we have taken away from the people of Ireland within limits which we think sufficiently wide to make this summary jurisdiction an effective instrument for the working of the Act—we have take a away from them trial by jury. We have brought the whole law of association and the law affecting all those who belong to an association, or who in any way promote their purposes—for the words are as large as they can be—under the sole discretion of the Executive Government, just as much as if we had passed in plain and honest terms a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. We have set up with this tribunal of summary jurisdiction and constituted it 1843 in a manner that was deemed to be safe; and now, even to this pet tribunal—even to these two Resident Magistrates—we will not allow any power of trying I the nature of the acts done in connection with the proclaimed association for which they are to award six months' imprisonment. Sir, is not that pressing hard on the patience and spirit of endurance of the people? We will not allow them to judge. Of course, they cannot judge anything but the bare fact, which is of little or no consequence; but of the character of the act, its legality, or its spirit, they can pronounce no judgment; and finally we, the House of Commons, are absolutely shut out by the action, and I presume we shall be shut out by the declaration, of the Government from performing anything but an absolutely perfunctory operation in connection with the great responsibility laid upon us by the Statute. Our judgment is to be of no more worth than the nodding of a Chinese mandarin made in porcelain to convey our sanction to a measure or a proposition. This is going very low indeed. And most curiously, by the structure of the Act in this respect, even now we are not dealing with conclusive proceedings under it. Under the Proclamation itself nothing can be done. It is only indirectly that action can take place, and in virtue of that action the liberties of the people are to be sacrificed and trampled under the feet of the Executive Government. It is to be done by orders issued from time to time, and of these orders the House of Commons is not to have even the smallest cognizance. We are called upon to take cognizance of the Proclamation, which by itself does nothing, and that cognizance is reduced to a perfect farce. The whole of the operative proceedings under the Proclamation is reserved for the action of the Government of Ireland, without even the formal acknowledgment of our authority in the matter. The sword of Damocles is to hang over the heads of the Irish people. When we look to the sanction of the Act, there are no jury, no Judge, no Resident Magistrates, no control of Parliament; there is nothing but the absolute, unmitigated, arbitrary discretion of the Executive Government—of a political and necessarily a partizan Government. Well, will the Irish people bear the pressure that we are thus putting on 1844 their patience? I hope that they will, and I believe that they will. In my opinion, although the remains of former ill habits will necessarily be found in a country like Ireland, which has suffered so much and so long—although grievances may in the hands of those of the less instructed and less Christian-minded part of the population associate themselves with opportunity for the indulgence of evil passions—yet I rejoice to think that under recent pressure the conduct of the Irish people has testified to the great absence of all special and exceptional crime and to a great regard for and observance of the authority of the law. I trust, Sir, with all my heart, that that attitude will be continued; and if I may be permitted to offer them one syllable of recommendation, with all the earnestness that I can command, it is that it should be steadily continued. But what will be the motive that will come to reinforce other good motives in inducing the people to show respect for the law is Ireland under such trying circumstances as I have described in connection with the proceedings of the Legislature and also those of the Executive Government at this moment? If the Irish people suffer silently and obey, as I trust they will, they will not, I am sure, suffer and obey through fear. It will not be through fear of your Viceroys and your Chief Secretaries, nor through fear of your Proclamation and your orders issued from time to time. It will not be through fear. It will, on the contrary, be from the action of strong, vivid, and buoyant hope. The spirit of hope has come into the mind of Ireland within the last two years, and has become a great agent in determining its conduct. That spirit of hope was not effectually damped even at the General Election, when the Irish people saw that those to whose sympathy they looked had become a very small minority of this House. It subsisted under the darker circumstances of the last summer; it has become brighter and more lively. The Irish people believe that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is not the sense of the British nation. They know that the time and the opportunity must come—whether the majority of this House like it or whether they like it not—when that sense will be fully and authentically declared, and they are willing to trust to: it and they are confident of its character. 1845 They know likewise that under the operation of the law from time to time, as we have seen during recent years, opportunities sufficiently significant arise from month to month, and almost from week to week, from which inferences can, with rational probability, be drawn. I believe, Sir, that when that time comes the verdict will be the verdict that they desire and that they like; and they derive from current events accumulating and not insufficient evidence that such will be the case. And as they believe this, so, I think, I may say that we—those for whom I may presume to speak—believe it also. That that opinion of ours is the opinion of those who differ from us in this House or outside of it I do not say; but many of those who differ from us, if they do not believe that that is the case, are beginning rather ominously to suspect it. In the feeling of Ireland, Sir, we concur. We think that you have built your house upon the sand. The house may be in itself all very well as far as it goes. It is a majority of this House—a majority of tin's Parliament; and that majority is hold together with a great, or possibly we may find a somewhat diminishing, tenacity. But the House will not make the foundation of the house. The foundation of the house, if we are right, is slipping away from under your feet. It appears to us on this occasion in connection with this Proclamation that the violence of your proceedings increases as the strength which alone can sustain them steadily diminishes. And this, Sir, Ireland sees, and wisely and justly judging the signs of the times and taking account of this accumulating evidence, she trusts to this great nation for the fulfilment of her reasonable wishes; and in that generous expectation I, for one am convinced that she will not be disappointed. I beg, Sir, to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly to represent to Her Majesty that there has been laid before this House a Special Proclamation of the Viceroy of Ireland, declaring the Association known as the Irish National League to be a dangerous Association, under ' The Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887.'
That no information has been furnished to Parliament to justify the issue of the said Special Proclamation, by virtue of which Her Majesty's subjects are liable to be punished as
criminals without judicial inquiry into the nature of their acts.
And, that this House, in the absence of such information, prays that the said Proclamation shall not continue in force as to the Association named and described therein."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
There is much, Sir, in the speech to which we have just listened as to which I should like to have detained the House, but which, however interesting in itself, does not appear to me to be relevant to the issue now before us, but to be rather appropriate in its character to the too prolonged debates which we have already had on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. There is especially one passage of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on which I should like to have dwelt, in. which he took occasion to repeat for the third or fourth time a proposition which. I believe to be wrong in law and in fact, a proposition which he attributes—without a shadow of foundation, though. I do not doubt that he believes it—to the late Attorney General for Ireland, of which no record can be found, which, was not heard by his Friends, which is in direct contradiction to all he said in private, and which has been contradicted in the House of Lords, by, perhaps, the greatest living legal authority, the noble and learned Lord who was Solicitor General, Attorney General, and three times Lord Chancellor in the Governments of the right hon. Gentleman. That proposition is that by the Crimes Act we created new offences. But, important as such a statement would be if it were accurate, I must on this occasion abstain from doing more than giving it a passing contradiction, and must hasten at once to a consideration of the substance of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. On what does he base the Resolution which has been put from the Chair? He bases it, in the first place, on the ignorance in which he asserts that the House has been left as to the ground of the Proclamation; and, in the second place, on on a defence of the action of the National League. I confess, though I think his case a weak one, on his first point he would have been well-advised had he not gone further. I think he would have been well-advised, in the interests of his own fame and reputation, if he had not taken upon 1847 himself to defend an association, the character of whose actions in certain parts of Ireland I shall shortly have to discuss before the House at considerable length. I will take the first count in the right hon. Gentleman's argument. It is that the House is not at this moment in possession of sufficient information to enable them to form a judgment on the question before them, and that the deficiency of information is the fault of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, information abounds. It is not want of information that is the difficulty, but the mass of information. It is not the difficulty of finding facts which taxes our industry or ingenuity, but how to make a selection out of the enormous accumulation of facts presented to our notice, and I will point out to the right hon. Gentleman that some of those facts have been laid before the House in the form of official Returns. He seems to make very light of those Returns—he seems to suppose that they have little bearing on this case. Is he aware that in the last Return laid before this House it is shown that nearly 5,000 persons in Ireland at this moment me suffering under the curse of Boycotting? Is he aware that Boycotting is the chief instrument of the National League—an instrument which it has freely used and never disavowed; and is he incapable of drawing the inference that the association under whose auspices nearly 5,000 persons are subjected to this kind of coercion is an association fatal to the rudiments of personal liberty in the country where it exists? That is not the only fact before the House in an official form. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from the Cowper Commission. Has he read what the Commissioners say upon this question? The Cowper Commission gives an account of Boycotting practised by the members of the National League. I shall read an extract to the House—Outrage was at first made use of to intimidate parties who were willing to pay rents, but latterly the methods of passing resolutions at National League meetings, causing their proceedings to be reported in local newspapers, naming obnoxious men, and then Boycotting those named, have been adopted. Tenants who have paid even the judicial rents have been summoned to appear before self-constituted tribunals, and, if they failed to do so, or, appearing, failed to satisfy those tribunals, have been fined or Boycotted. The people are more afraid 1848 of Boycotting, which depends for its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of the judgments of the Courts of Justice. This unwritten law in some districts is supreme. We deem it right to call attention to the terrible ordeal that a Boycotted person has to undergo, which was by several witnesses graphically described during the progress of our inquiry. The existence of a Boycotted person becomes a burden to him, as none in town or village are allowed, under a similar penalty to themselves, to supply him or his family with the necessaries of life. He is not allowed to dispose of the produce of his farm. Instances have been brought before us in which his attendance at Divine Service was prohibited; in which his cattle have been some killed, some barbarously mutilated; in which all his servants and labourers were ordered and obliged to leave him; in which the most ordinary necessaries of life, and even medical comforts, had to be procured from long distances; in which no one would attend the funeral of or dig a grave for a member of a Boycotted person's family; and in which his children have been forced to discontinue attendance at the National School of the district.Now, Sir, the facts here stated are familiar to the House, and I do not require to go to the Cowper Commission to establish their existence. But I quote the extract to show that there is evidence now before the House on this question in an official form, which of itself is conclusive.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not wish to interfere; but, as you desire it, I say that the Cowper Report ought to have been dealt with in the recent Act.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is an argument with which I shall deal in its proper place. The right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that the Government have entirely relied upon secret and confidential Reports. Of course, there are confidential Reports. It is perfectly true there are confidential Reports in large numbers on which a case might be made; but it is a great error to suppose that you require confidential Reports to make out a case. There is ample and overflowing material in the reports of the local newspapers in Ireland, which, to go no further back than the last two or throe months, abound in facts sufficient, in my judgment, and I hope in the judgment 1849 of the House, to justify the action of the Government in this matter. Then he asks me why we did not issue the Proclamation before; why we did not mention the League in the Crimes Act. I will give the hon. Gentleman—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: Right honourable.]—the right hon. Gentleman three reasons why we did not mention the League in the Act. I have been of opinion ever since I went to the Irish Office that the League came under the definition of a dangerous association; but I thought it inexpedient to proclaim it until the Land Act was passed. That is the first reason why we did not put the National League by name in the Act? But there is another reason, of which the right hon. Gentleman should know something; for his own Government had experience of how an association can change its name without changing its nature. How the National League would have laughed at such legislation—[Mr. T. M. HEALY: They laugh at you now.] [Cries of "Order !"]—which they would be able to overcome by no more elaborate process than a change of name. But there was yet a third reason why the National League is not mentioned by name in the Act. It may prove not to be the only association which will come under this clause. We cannot tell what dangerous associations may spring up under this Act. Had we limited the possibility of action to one association we should have rendered ourselves open to difficulties. I hope I have now answered sufficiently the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this matter. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, by our action, we had practically abolished the Habeas Corpus Act. It appears to me, with all due deference, that when the right hon. Gentleman made that statement he did not really understand what the Habeas Corpus Act does for the liberties of the country. [Ironical cheers.] Well, I will show what I mean. The effect of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the system of law of which it is the expression, is to make it impossible to put and keep a man in prison for an offence not known to be an offence when committed, or of which cognizance cannot be taken by the tribunals when it is committed. This effect it will still have. A man must have ample opportunity of knowing that he has committed an offence before he can be brought under 1850 the clauses of this Act. By the Proclamation, and by the order depending upon it a particular association is declared to be illegal in a particular locality. If after that a man acts as a member of it he commits an offence against the law as knowingly and as directly as if he picked a pocket or broke into a house. Whether it is a good law or a bad law is a different point. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it is a bad law; we think it is a necessary law, and therefore a good law, and so far we differ; but there should be no difference of opinion on the point that the law, be it good or bad, leaves the man who obeys it under the protection of the Habeas Corpus Act. Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the action of his own Government when he says, and says most falsely, that we have, in effect, suspended the Habeas Corpus Act?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will at once apologize to the right hon. Gentleman; I meant no offence by using the word "falsely"; I simply meant that the accusation was not one that could be sustained. Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that his own Government actually did what he alleges without a shadow of foundation that this Government has done? They suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, and by so doing destroyed the predecessor of the National League—the Land League—while the Leader of the Irish Party was in prison, when Parliament was not sitting, and without a fragment of information being given to the House or to the country. They proclaimed the Land League in a manner which made it absolutely impossible for any man in Ireland to know whether he would or would not be imprisoned by the Executive without the intervention of any tribunal. No doubt the proclamation of the Land League without the intervention of the Habeas Corpus Act is open to the strictures which the right hon. Gentleman has erroneously made upon us. Does he recollect the terms in which his Government proclaimed the Land League? They are very interesting taken in connection with the line of argument which it has pleased the right hon. Gentleman to take to-night. He was eloquent to-night upon the fact that the 1851 National League was a protection to the tenants in the struggle with their landlords, and that we by our action are interfering with a legitimate combination which deals with the relations between landlords and tenants.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to correct me specifically I shall be glad to give way. I will now read the Proclamation the right hon. Gentleman issued in 1881, when the Habeas Corpus Act was really suspended—Whereas an association styled the Irish Land League has existed for some time past and assumes to interfere with the Queen's subjects in the free exercise of their lawful rights, and especially—let the right hon. Gentleman mark these words—to control the relations of landlord and tenant.The right hon. Gentleman has done a great deal more, it appears, than change his opinions on Home Rule since this Proclamation; it appears that he has changed his opinions upon the fundamental operation of law in this country, and upon what does or does not constitute justice or injustice as between different classes. It is not merely his political opinion that has altered—his political morality has altered too. In vindicating the National League the right hon. Gentleman gave what I can only regard as a defence of Boycotting. I am aware that he faintly condemned certain of the aspects of the process; but in the main he appeared to find in the League something necessary, if not laudable, and something which produced excellent and desirable fruits in the country; but it appears to me that when the right hon. Gentleman claims Boycotting as a legitimate mode of limiting the unjust exercise of rights in any society, did it not occur to him that precisely the same argument, with no less effect and force, may be used to defend assassination, when used for the same purpose? I can understand someone following strictly the line of argument which the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and saying of assassination that it was an instrument the use of which he deplored, which leads to very disastrous consequences, which was 1852 perhaps wrong in itself, but which as a check, as a limitation on rights unduly pressed, might be used with advantage in certain countries and in certain states of society. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would shrink from such an argument. Then he should be careful how he uses a similar one to justify practices which in times past nobody has more severely denounced than himself. I regret that it is necessary that I should go at some length into the character of this association, quoting evidence from various sources of information which in the main are open to hon. Members. I cannot give a better summary of the conclusions I shall claim to deduce than by reading one quotation, which is in these terms—It is not only the landlords and the red-hot Orangemen who feel apprehension, but it is everyone who has offended the Land League—or the National League, as it was called aftor-wards—by not taking an active part in its support; everyone who has asserted his legal right to work for whom he likes or to take farms from whom he likes; everyone who has taken any part in bringing to justice those whom the organs of the now dominant Administration and Party regard as victims and martyrs; every quiet citizen and every member of that minority which would not be a minority if both Parties would join in a determination that law and order should no longer be trifled with in Ireland any more than it is trifled with in Yorkshire and Somersetshire."—(3 Hansard,  1111.)There cannot be a better summary of the facts and arguments I shall lay before the House. It does not lose any weight with me, and I am sure it will not lose any weight in the House, when I say that that passage is from a speech made by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir George Trevelyan) in the debate on the Government of Ireland Bill in April of last year. It has been asserted by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that the association which we take power to suppress in certain parts of Ireland is a political association, and ought to be treated with the same careful regard to all its rights as any other political association in Scotland, England, or Ireland. I entirely deny that, according to any sound definition of political, association, the National League is a political association. That some of the objects of the National League may be political I do not deny. I have not the least doubt that all the members desire Home Rule, and will 1853 make every effort they can to obtain it, and I admit that that is a political object; but you cannot determine whether this association is a political association in such a sense that it deserves the respect of the House merely by defining the objects for which it was originated. You have to consider its methods also. Are the methods by which the National League obtains adhesion to its views, by which it obtains increase in the number of its members—are they argument and persuasion, the only instruments legitimately used by political organizations deserving of the name? I have no doubt that some of the ruffians who in the French Revolution used the guillotine to obtain uniformity of opinion in France would have described themselves—as indeed they did—as a political organization. In the same way, no doubt, the Inquisition would have been described as a religious organization. The Inquisition, like the National League, obtained adhesion to its ranks by other methods than those of argument and persuasion; and, had it suited the exigencies of the time, the right hon. Gentleman might have moved some such Resolution as this in defence of its position, and the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) would have given it, as he now gives to the National League, his "moral support." But does that justify arguments of the kind I have described? The fact that associations are religious or political may absolve them from the judgment of this House; but it does not prevent us, should it be necessary, from taking action in the interests of order. I have had occasion to remind the House that the National League recruits itself by intimidation. That statement, when I first made it, was denied by the hon. Member who was, and still is, I believe, secretary of the organization. He said the Central League in Dublin would dissolve any branch that practised intimidation for such an object. I do not know what course the Central League may have taken; but I can state with absolute certainty that at the time I spoke, and before and since, the branches of the League have never hesitated to coerce persons to join it and to subscribe to its funds. It is that which fundamentally distinguishes the National League from anything that we know as a political organization in this 1854 country or in Scotland. Let me read a few extracts to establish what I say. Here is one dated the 13th of August, 1887. The Munster Express of that date says—Kilmacow.—The usual meeting of this branch was held on Sunday, July 31. The Rev. Thomas Kennedy presided. A notice was ordered to be taken of Edmond Cassin's conduct, as a member, in giving assistance to James Kinsella to draw coals, knowing him to be an expelled member, and at the same time having the assistance of a supporter of a land-grabber. Mr. Peter Haberlin, Kilmacow, was then called in and charged with working for an obnoxious party. He admitted all, and promised, if pardoned, he would not offend for the time to come.Of course, what I wish to point out hero is that this is simply a way of saying that a man shall not work for anybody who has been expelled from his branch of the League. In The Dundalk Democrat of the 25th of June, 1887, there is a resolution which was passed by the Tallanstown branch condemning as traitors and cowards all persons who did not become members of the League. In The Kerry Sentinel of the 3rd of June, I read that a resolution was passed strongly condemning all persons who have not joined the League.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. and learned Gentleman doubts the accuracy of what I have read he can refer back for himself to the newspaper which I have mentioned. On the 12th of June—and this is official information—Five men carrying arms entered the house of Alexander Moyinham, of Raheen, put him on his knees, and fired shots over his head. The motive was that he had not paid his subscription to the National League.The Tuam News of the 24th of June says that in the Kilcornan branch of the League a resolution was passed expelling all members who had any communication with persons who declined to join the League.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I was reading from was a brief extract of a notice which appeared in The Tuam News of the 24th of June. Here is a resolution in The Kerry Sentinel of the 3rd of June, passed at the Knocknagoshel branch. It strongly condemns all per- 1855 sons in the district who have not joined the League. The New Ross Standard, of July 25, contains the following:—Rathmure and Templeudigan Branch.—Mr. J. Redmond, V.P., presiding. It was announced that at next meeting a new committee should be appointed, as the term of the existing one had expired; consequently every member is expected to attend. Another cogent reason for a full attendance is that on that day will close the receiving of subscriptions fur membership, and cards for same will be distributed. All who have not yet subscribed will be good enough to do so at or before next meeting, and the committee are requested to bring a list of the subscribers and non-subscribers in their respective localities. The names of the latter will be kept in the committee room as a record of the number of anti-Nationalists in the district. The charge made against a certain member at previous meeting was postponed, as the accused was absent. John Cullen, Rathduff, smith, came before the meeting, asking pardon for working for objectionable parties, and he promised, if admitted a member, he would never again work for these parties. His conduct in the past being so strongly opposed to the National cause, the further consideration of receiving him was deferred to a larger meeting. A long discussion on the meanness of grass-grabbers or grass sneaks next ensued, and resulted in a cordial vote of thanks to the Bree League for exposing these mean creatures. They also highly complimented Father Sheil for his spirited and very patriotic letter. We find that James Forristal, Grange (Anthony's brother), had cattle on forbidden grass, but he has withdrawn them.We all know what is the fate of anti-Nationalists. If hon. Members have forgotten what that fate is, I will read another example. The Midland Tribune of the 11th of August, 1887, says—Kilruane Branch.—A meeting of this branch was held on Sunday last, Mr. Michael Flannery, P.L.G., in the chair. The following resolution was agreed to:—'That we take the earliest opportunity of reminding our members of their duty with regard to the machinery they use in cutting down the harvest this season, and call on them to use no implements that are not the property of Nationalists. The adoption of such a course will have the effect of leaving the enemies of the tenant farmers all alone in their glory and their machines to rot in the field.'Through that you will observe what the fate of the anti-Nationalist is. The next extract, as will be seen from the character of it, is not from a newspaper. I have derived it from official sources of information—On the 22nd of January, 1887, the houses of 16 families were visited and the inmates ordered to join the National League.1856 [A Home Rule MEMBER: Where?] In County Kerry. I shall not give the exact locality—On the 7th of February, 1887, the houses of 15 other families were visited in a like manner, the inmates being ordered to join the National League and subscribe Is. in every £5 of their valuation towards its funds.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Visited by a gang of men. This advertisement appeared in The New Ross Standard of the 13th of August, 1887:—Tullogher.—Met on Sunday, August 7. We have several times given public notice to those interested that their subscriptions were overdue, and unless defaulters had paid on or before a fixed date their names would be given to the public. When such a list appears people can have little excuse if some may find their names there emblazoned. …The first business taken up was to procure a list of those honourable men in the parish who have not yet paid their subscriptions. It was decided that the best course to be followed would be to invite a full attendance of the collectors at the next meeting, when they would be expected to furnish a complete list of the defaulters in their respective districts.Now, in the case of associations in this country, it matters very little whether names are given to the public or not; but let the House recollect that the giving of the names of non-members or defaulting members of the National League to the public means that these men, their families, and their acquaintances are Boycotted. I think I have now given a sufficient number of extracts to prove my first proposition, which was that the recruiting of the National League is a recruiting which is done by intimidation, and that by this fact alone it is separated by an enormous abyss from any legitimate association whose methods of procedure consist of argument and persuasion. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to tell us that, besides being a political association, and on that account worthy of our respect, the National League was in effect a trade combination, and his argument was that it was analogous in its character to trade combinations in this country. What is the essence of trade combinations in this country? It is that persons who have a particular article to dispose of—namely, their labour—combine together for the purpose of seeing that it is disposed of at a price which they think proper, and on terms which they 1857 think just. That is the whole essence, as far as I know, of every labour association in this country, and I appeal to the Labour Members in this House to say if I am not right. If that be a true account, I ask is there the slightest resemblance between an association of the character which I have described, and which I will describe in greater detail later on, and the ordinary trade combinations with which we are acquainted in this country? Does the House not see that whereas combinations of tenants not to take a farm would be exactly analogous to combinations in this country, combinations to prevent other people from taking farms which they have a right to take and which they ought to take are upon a very different footing? I imagine that it requires no proof, and I do not think hon. Members opposite from Ireland will deny, after the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) the night before last, that one of the objects and methods of the National League is to prevent men taking farms through intimidation. Is that denied by the hon. Member for East Mayo himself? If it is, would it not be sufficient to show that the Plan of Campaign is under the patronage of the National League, has been supported by the League, and supported through the instrumentality of Boycotting and outrage? ["No!" and cheers.] Is it not sufficient to show that? Even by the hon. Gentleman's statement it is manifest that where the Plan of Campaign in its entirety does not exist, nevertheless intimidation against tenants who have the audacity to pay their just debts prevails to a large extent? I should like to read to the House an extract bearing on this point. This is a resolution passed at Kilmacow, on Sunday, June 26—That we condemn in the most emphatic manner the callous and treacherous conduct of Mr. John Moloney, Thomas Kennedy, Edmond Barry, and Sirs. Lawrence (members of this branch), John Durney, Pat Durney, and Mrs. Hetherington (non-members), all of Skough, in paying rent to Peter Walsh while their brother tenants were being evicted, thereby enabling the exterminator to crush more ruthlessly and effectually his unfortunate victims; and to mark our abhorrence of such baseness we hereby expel the first four"—
An hon. MEMBER
Hear, hear!—"and direct our secretary to demand their cards; while, of course, we regard the last three in exactly the same light.1858 Some hon. Member cried "Hear, hear !" but I should like to tell him that expulsion from the National League means something more than expulsion from a club. The next case I give is not from a newspaper. This happened in County Clare—The houses of Pat Morrisey and Mic Murrihy were fired into on the night of the 13th of August. Morrisey had paid his rent on the 26th of July without consulting the other tenants. For this he was denounced by the Mullough branch of the Irish National League. Murrihy had refused to sign a memorial with the other tenants. Shortly before the outrages the band of the Mullough branch of the Irish National League, headed by its president, Father Garry, C.C., marched by at short distance from these houses with the evident object of intimidation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That report I give upon my own authorHy—the authority that would have been the sole authority for the statistics, for not laying which upon the Table the right hon. Gentleman has denounced us during the greater part of his speech. It was also reported in another instance that on the 13th of July, 1887, at the weekly meeting of this branch "a man," who a short time ago was refused membership of the League for not having adopted the Plan of Campaign, was admitted on promising to do so immediately. And here let me say that since the Crimes Act was passed there has been a marked diminution in the number of cases in which the name is mentioned. These cases, I apprehend, clearly show the methods by which the League, which is represented to us as being a legitimate trade combination, on the lines of English trades unions, carries out its behests—namely, by intimidation and outrage. Let me also remind the House that in these cases the National League is using as its tools men who in many cases have cause profoundly to regret the action of the League and its influence over them—men who are quite willing and able to pay their rents, but who are compelled by the tyranny of the League to submit to the extreme penalty of eviction, involving a loss of their homes and the loss of their holdings—and this they are obliged to submit to though they can pay their rents, and avoid it because this irresponsible association says they shall join this combi- 1859 nation to rob the landlord. Those men are deprived of all their improvements, of their homes, and of everything they regard as valuable in order to satisfy the demands of tenants who have been sometimes less prosperous, often less deserving, than themselves.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is the hon. and learned Member not as well aware as I am how many of the tenants, let us say on the Lansdowne estates, would now give anything they are worth to be restored to their holdings?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
But they would not be allowed to redeem in consequence of the action of that organization of which the hon. and learned Gentleman is so distinguished a member. Another object of this League, which has been described to us as a legitimate trade union association, is to punish by all the means in its power those whom it is pleased to describe as "land-grabbers." I believe the hon. Member for East Mayo at Dublin two nights ago gloried in that fact.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have not the speech by me; and if the hon. Member denies what I say I will withdraw it. It is a matter of small importance to me, and of no importance to my argument. But, at all events, whether he denies it or not, I shall prove by instances that I have here that the National League does attempt to punish what it styles "land-grabbing"—in fact, it is an offence against which it directs all its tyrannical methods. Here is a case derived from official sources.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I rise, Sir, to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether it is in Order for a Minister of the Crown to quote from an official document without laying it upon the Table?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It does not follow that every document from which a Minister quotes must be laid upon the Table of the House. Public documents and despatches must, of course, be laid on the Table; but it is possible that a Minister may quote from confidential communications which could not be laid before the House even if moved for. But, of course, if a Minister declines to 1860 lay on the Table documents which he has quoted, it so much diminishes the authority they carry, inasmuch as the House cannot judge for itself of their value.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am quoting the substance of the official Report—In November, 1886, the Mullagh branch of the National League condemned a man named Patrick Kennedy, because in 1879 he took a farm from which the widow Dempsey had been evicted, and he held it still, It was determined to hold a public meeting on the farm, and printed placards were posted through the country. On the 21st of November a meeting was held on the farm. About 3,000 persons were present; violent language was used, and Kennedy was hooted and groaned. He became so frightened, and the people became so hostile to him, that he went before the committee of the Mullagh branch of the National League, on the 6th of December, and promised to give up the farm. He obtained from the branch a ' permit' written by the secretary, stating that, as he had yielded to the League, and asked time till January to sell his stock, there was no objection to people dealing with Kennedy. Kennedy removed his cattle off the farm on the 8th of January, 1887. At a meeting of the Mullagh branch, on the 6th of March, 1887, the committee decided to write a letter to Kennedy, asking him to state whether he had given up the Kylebeg farm to the landlord or not. On the 10th of March Kennedy received a letter from the secretary of the branch, saying that they were informed that he was still in possession of the farm, although he had removed his cattle, and 'that if he did not send some satisfactory account before next meeting they would be under the disagreeable necessity of declaring him still a land-grabber.' Kennedy did not reply, and on the 5th of April he received another letter from the secretary, saying he was again directed to communicate with him, and demanding a reply. Kennedy did not reply. In May the former tenant, Mrs. Dempsey, put some sheep and goats to graze on the farm, and Kennedy was afraid to interfere, although he still pays rent for the farm. Mrs. Dempsey's son is now cutting the meadow on the farm, and Kennedy is afraid to interfere, and states he is waiting for the passing of the Crimes Act before he asserts his rights. The Tuam News publishes accounts of Kennedy's offence against the League and his consequent treatment as described.
The following report appeared in The Wexford People of July 23, 1887:—
Craanford and Monaseed.—League met on Monday the 11th instant. A communication was brought before the meeting asking if this branch had any objection to a gentleman buying out the farm of S. Calloran, from which James Keenan was heartlessly evicted. The committee were unanimously of opinion that no one should have anything to do with this farm.
The following account is an instance of the action of the League in Galway
West Riding for the purpose of compelling a man named Michael Flanagan to give up a farm:—
On the 10th of November, 1884, Michael Flanagan took the Hollywood farm, which had been surrendered by a man named John Rochford in 1882. On the 30th of August, 1885, Flanagan received a threatening: letter warning him to give up the farm at once or prepare for death. On the 15th of November, 1885, he, in compliance with a verbal summons, attended before the committee of the Shanaglish National League, where he was examined as to the circumstances of his taking the farm. After his examination he was ordered to retire, and, being soon recalled, was told the committee decided that he should give up the farm. Flanagan said he would abide by their decision. On the 29th of November he was again brought before the committee, and asked if he was taking steps to give up the farm. He said he was, but asked for time to sell his stock. He was allowed till the 12th of February, 1886, to do so. He was then admitted a member of the National League. On the 12th of February he had not given up the farm, so on the 21st of February he was called before the committee, and a resolution was passed that he should give up the farm at once. Flanagan then refused to comply. Private information was received that his life was in danger, and he was constantly watched by police. On the 7th of March, 1886, the committee summoned Flanagan before them, and demanded that he should resign his card of membership; but on the intervention of a clergyman he was given time to think over his decision. On the 26th of March the Shanaglish branch passed a resolution pronouncing the Hollywood farm Boycotted and Flanagan a land-grabber. On the 15th of Hay a car-house and a car in it wore maliciously burned, and on the 28th of January, 1887, about 200 yards of a wall round the Hollywood Farm were knocked down. On the 5th February, 1887, at a National League Convention held at Gort, Flanagan was denounced, and all who associated with him were condemned. And so on the 19th March a farmer named John Halloran, who was on friendly terms with and associated with Flanagan, was attacked by four men and very severely beaten. He would have been killed hut for a timely rescue. Flanagan is still in constant danger, and as long as he holds this farm his life will he insecure. Accounts of his case were published from time to time in The Tuam News of the 26th of March, 1886, and other dates.
§ After hearing that case, will the right hon. Gentleman still maintain that there is any analogy between the proceedings of the National League and the proceedings of trades unions in this country?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have brought that case down from 1884 to the present time. I have not quoted from The Tuam News, but from my official information; 1862 but I am informed that from time to time notices of the case were published in The Tuam News. Here is another case; it occurred in the Portumna district of the County of Galway—On the 27th of December a man named Heagney was brought before the National League committee and charged with having grabbed land. (This land Heagney took 18 years ago.) He refused to give up the land, and on the 15th of February, 1887, threatening notices were posted against him, and he became Boycotted. More notices were posted on the 20th of February, and when he or any of his family go out into the country or to Mass they are hooted and groaned. Heagney's children and a servant man of his have been assaulted, and as their lives are in danger they have been placed under police protection. On the 1st of July a sheep belonging to Heagney's servant was maliciously killed.Will the right hon. Gentleman, in the face of those cases, maintain that there is any analogy between the proceedings of the National League and the proceedings of trade unions in this country?
§ MR. W. E GLADSTONE
I never said anything about the relations of the National League to trades unionism.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The whole burden of the right hon. Gentleman's song for the last three months has been to draw this very parallel between combinations for the protection of the tenants in Ireland and combinations for the protection of workmen in England. Hero is an instance of a man being Boycotted who took a farm from which a tenant was evicted 41 years ago—A meeting of the Killoe branch, County of Longford, of the National League was held on the 22nd of May, and a resolution was adopted and published in the local newspaper condemning a man named Owen Hughes for having grabbed a grass farm from which a tenant had been evicted. The eviction took place 41 years previously. Within the last few years the farm has been held by two other persons, who, in succession, had to give it up owing to the action of the League. Four years ago Hughes' windows were broken and a shot fired into his house, and a year ago, being sorely pressed, he promised the League he would give up the farm, but he has not done so. He is Boycotted, cannot purchase goods, and two men who ventured to speak to him were summoned before the League and censured.I cannot conceive that a more remarkable instance of the action of the League can be given to the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The resolution which I mention was published in the Weekly News. I hope that will be sufficient. If anyone caves to inquire further into these matters, he may consult the The Leinster Leader and other local papers. In The Tuam News of the 18th of July there was a charge of giving a water supply to a "grabber," and of allowing him a right of way to the well to procure water. The local branch of the League caused a wall to be built, blocking up the passage to the well. I do not know what comments hon. Gentlemen will be disposed to pass on that proceeding. Then, on the 11th July, there was a case of a man taking an evicted farm brought before a branch of the League, and he was compelled to make a public apology for having committed that crime, not against the laws of the land, but against the laws of the League. The Munster Express of the 30th July, 1887, reports that a branch of the League at Kilmacow in the County of Kilkenny had before it the case of Thomas Ryan, who, with his brother, was evicted for non-payment of rent, and who, unknown to his brother, came to terms with the landlord as far as his own share of the farm was concerned. It was stated that—Great interest attached to this case, because some short-sighted people could not see how Thomas Ryan could have done wrong in taking his own land. The committee, however, unanimously condemned him for not having acquainted his fellow-tenant with his action, or sought the advice of the National League, and they ordered his name to be erased from the roll of members.On this particular branch of my case I believe I have said enough to satisfy the House of that no punishment is regarded as too severe in dealing with a person who may have taken a farm from which another tenant has been evicted, with a view to carry on a legitimate industry. But there is another offence against what is known as the law of the League, which, I think, specially deserves the consideration of the House; it is with regard to the taking of grazing land. I think this particularly interesting, because it is perfectly obvious, from the nature of the case, that the only possible object of making that an offence against the rules of the League is to injure the landlord, not to benefit 1864 the tenant. I can conceive that there are persons who think that they are doing the community a service in punishing a man who has taken an evicted farm; but when you are punishing a man for no other offence than that of taking landlord's grass is it not manifest that you are using the vast power you have taken upon yourselves, not for protecting the tenants, but solely and only for the purpose of injuring, and, if possible, destining the landlords? And yet the proofs that this is an offence against the League, and punished as severely as any other, are absolutely overwhelming and conclusive. Let me give a few cases to the House—At a meeting of the Ballyhur branch of the National League on May 22, 1887, a resolution was proposed condemning a farmer named Michael Allen for taking the grazing of some glebe land from Lord Kenmare. This glebe land was voluntarily surrendered by a farmer named Leahy. The neighbouring farmers objected to the land being taken by Allen, as they were in the habit of allowing their cattle to stray over it and get cheap grazing. On May 29 the case of Allen came before the League meeting again. He was accused of grabbing, and condemned. On June 2 Allen had to be given protection. On June 27 a report was received that Allen had submitted to the League, promising to give up the glebe land in November, 1887. Allen informed the police that he required no further protection as he was now safe. On July 31 Allen gave up the land, having been required to do so by the League in writing.Here is a man whose sole offence is that he had taken land which the previous tenant had voluntarily given up. That he was acting legally, it might be, even meritoriously, nobody will deny, and yet in consequence of that action he is condemned by the League, and has to receive police protection. But when he finds life so intolerable that he has to give way to the authority of the League he informs the police that he does not require protection any longer. I cannot conceive a stronger instance of the species ox tyranny exercised by an irresponsible body than the action of the League in this matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Official. Here is a quotation from The New Ross Standard of July 25, 1887—Ramsgrange and button's Parish.—Met on Sunday, the 19th instant, Very Rev. Canon Doyle, P.P., president, in the chair. P. Cahill, 1865 steward of Mr. Gifford, came before the meeting and said Mr. Gifford wanted to be a member of the League. Mr. Gifford was not a landlord; he was only a tenant. If he was allowed to be a member he would act up to the rules of the League. The following resolution passed:—'That we accept Mr. Gifford's explanation that he is not a landlord, but merely a tenant, and that, therefore, we deem it reasonable for him to act in all matters, selling grass, &c, as a tenant farmer; and that we further accept his adherence to the rules of the Irish National League, and receive him as a member.Because this man is a tenant and not a landlord, therefore the National League permits him to sell his grass to whom he likes, when he likes, and where he likes. If hon. Members will refer to The Wexford People of the 23rd of April this year, they will find two resolutions—the one passed at Cushinstown, prohibiting the taking of demesne lands for grazing, the names of the offenders to be published; and the other passed at Gorey, directing the names of persons who took grass lands contrary to resolution to be read out, and an offender residing in another parish to be reported to the neighbouring branch. Therefore, if any Member of this House was before in doubt whether the authority of the League was to extend to grazing land from which no tenant had been evicted, he can be in doubt no longer. I have now shown the House, by specific instances, the kind of action which the League has taken with respect to the relations of landlord and tenant. But he would be a shallow interpreter of history who could for a moment think it possible that action of that kind can be confined to the individual who commits the offence against the avowed rules of the League. If you allow any body of men to arrogate to themselves the authority which the League arrogates to itself, you must expect to find that that authority is extended till it interferes with every relation of life. But this general truth is specially true of the League in consequence of the special character of the punishment which is the chief sanction of its decrees. It is used for every purpose. You can only Boycott a man by threatening to Boycott a vast number of people who trade or associate with him. Therefore, Boycotting strikes a vast number of persons who have committed no offence against the League, and yet who suffer from the 1866 heavy weight of the penalties it has the power to inflict. The Nationalist of the 13th of August, 1887, speaking of the Baltinglass branch, says—A largely-attended meeting of this branch was held at Mr. Byrne's on Sunday. Mr. William Loughlin presided. … Mr. Denis Murphy, of Woodfield, who hires out a mowing machine, came before the meeting to explain about his having mowed Boycotted meadows in county Kildare. He said he was unaware of the Boycotting: but, as it was so extensively published, he should have known of it or made inquiries about it. He would make every reparation in his power, and volunteered to put an apology in The Nationalist and Leinster header of Saturday. This was deemed satisfactory, and the meeting adjourned.Can any humiliation be more profound than that? Can anything better show how deeply intimidation has eaten into the heart of the people? Here is a resolution passed, according to The Wexford People, on the 4th of July, at a meeting of the League in Ramsgrange and Sutton's parish—That the conduct of John Quinn, of Tin-nock, is most reprehensible. He came to Ramsgrange on the 19th ultimo, and admitted he had violated an important resolution of the New Ross Convention. Yet since then he had the audacity to attack a respectable member of the baronial committee for having done his duty in reporting it. He is, therefore, required to come before the National League on the 10th instant, and apologize for his conduct, or take the consequences; and that Patrick Stafford, of Boderan, be also required to attend on the same occasion.Here is an extract from The Kilkenny Journal of the 13th of August, 1887, as to a meeting of the Dunnamaggin branch—The members of this branch met on Sunday…Letters have been read from the neighbouring branches in answer to complaints from this branch; a member apologized for using a Boycotted machine, and promised not to do so again.I am now going to read a case which appears almost pathetic. The Leinster Leader of the 10th of July, 1887, speaking of the Ballyadam and Wolfhill branch, tells this story of what it calls "a repentant sinner"—Abbin Morrin, from Boley, came before the committee, and stated that in an evil hour, and being pressed by extreme want, he drew coals for the benefit of Trench's house wreckers. He was now sorry for having so far betrayed his neighbours and his country, and promised that if the committee would restore him to the friendship of the people he would not offend again. The committee promised, in consequence of Morrin committing the offence before any 1867 evictions were carried out, to consider his case next meeting if in the meantime he kept aloof from the landlord party.Let the House observe that even, extreme want was not thought by the League to be an excuse for serving an unpopular master. The next case, I think, shows to what depth of humiliation the tenantry have been reduced. The case is reported in The Leinster Leader of August 6. A man was called upon, to explain why he had used a hack-car which belonged to an Emergency man, and replied that he did not know upon whose car he was getting, but that after travelling some distance on the car he discovered where he was. He admitted that he should have got off the car there and then, and he expressed his regret for remaining on the car when the state of affairs became known to him. That is almost a more impressive case than those which tell of National League proceedings of a more violent character, for it shows how every action of life, however innocent in itself, is controlled by the League, and how abject is the position of those persons who come under its wrath. Then there is another case reported in The Leinster Leader of August 13. The committee of the Ballyadam and Wolfhill branch of the League were considering the cases of certain Emergency men in the neighbourhood, and the rev. chairman said—"There is Jack George, with his henchman Larry Dempsey, whose action, it is needless to add, excites disgust." A Mr. Brennan replied that he did not think that Dempsey would have gone to George had he not been unable to procure the necessaries of life, and the rev. chairman thereupon said—"It is no excuse at all." Now, what does the House think of such action, and of the fact that the League that indulges in proceedings finds defenders here? May I just read a few reasons why people are Boycotted? There is an extremely interesting case, which will be instructive to the House as showing how one man's offence is visited by the League upon his relatives and friends. Justin M'Carthy, senior, allowed a land agent to collect rents at his house. That was his offence, and on account of it Justin M'Carthy, junior, is Boycotted. Jeremiah M'Carthy is similarly treated, because he is Justin M'Carthy's brother; another person is 1868 Boycotted because he speaks to members of McCarthy's family; a blacksmith is Boycotted because he is Justin M'Carthy's friend; someone else is Boycotted because he voted for M'Carthy at the election of Poor Law Guardians; another man is Boycotted because he swore an information against some members of the League who assaulted and robbed M'Carthy; and yet another because he sold a heifer to M'Carthy; and another because he drank in a tent with a member of M'Carthy's family. This case shows how far-reaching are the effects of the decrees of this irresponsible tribunal, and how large is the amount of suffering that may be caused in one neighbourhood where a violation of its rules has been committed by a single individual.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that imaginative statement has been contradicted? Will he give the House the authority upon which he repeats the statement?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think it would be more convenient if the hon. Member reserved his reply to the proper time. As the hon. Member has chosen to throw some doubt on my authority, I may tell hon. Gentlemen who cast aspersions upon these statements that they are on the authority of officials to whoso character the highest testimony was borne by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). To return to my argument—as the House will recollect, I was endeavouring to show how the National League extends its sphere of operations, and the case to which I am now about to refer is not connected with land. The tenants of whom I am about to speak are not tenants of farms, but of ordinary houses. It is known as the New Ross Workhouse case.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
As a matter of Order, I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will lay upon the Table of the House the quotations which he reads, and which he calls official information?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman was not in the House when the Speaker gave a ruling on that point.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I was in the House, and the Speaker gave no ruling on that point. The ruling had 1869 reference to private and not official information.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I wish to ask, Sir, if when a Minister quotes from an official document it is not the invariable rule of Parliament and the House that the Paper shall be laid on the Table, and that he is not at liberty to quote it without laying it on the Table?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already given a ruling on the point generally, but not on the specific point. What I said was that it does not follow, because a Minister quotes from a document, that it must be laid upon the Table. It might be a confidential document like a Police Report. Such Reports are frequently quoted and yet not laid upon the Table. But when the right hon. Gentleman calls a document official it is not necessarily implied that the document is confidential; and it might be necessary, in order that the House may verify the statements made, that it should be laid on the Table of the House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I do not refer to the extracts from newspapers. What I wish to know is whether, after the ruling of the Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman will lay upon the Table every official document from which he has quoted?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, Sir. My quotations have been of three kinds. I have read advertisements that have appeared in newspapers; I have read confidential documents; and I have read notes which I have made of certain cases. I presume the right hon. Gentleman does not want the first of these, and he cannot have the second. When I was interrupted I was reminding the House of a very curious case, which shows how the National League interferes in matters altogether outside the sphere of land and landlordism. The tenants in the New Ross case were householders, not tenants of land, but household tenants from week to week. Under the compulsion of the National League they allowed themselves to be evicted for non-payment of rent in August, 1886. They were taken into the workhouse, and the Guardians of the workhouse, being practically the nominees of the National League, these people were allowed special and un 1870 authorized privileges, wholly outside the practice of the Poor Law. The Local Government Board in Ireland thought it necessary to interfere, and, in order to insure that the tenants should be treated like other paupers, dismissed the Guardians and appointed Vice Guardians. These unfortunate house tenants, who, in an evil moment, obeyed the National League, remained in the workhouse for 10 months, and at the end of that time insisted upon going out, as they could stand it no longer. During these 10 months every effort was made to prevent the poor rates being paid, in order to compel the Local Government Board to withdraw from their position. A force of police was required to protect the collector of poor rate in the district in consequence of the action of the National League. These tenants, who had stayed in the workhouse for 10 months at the bidding of the National League, would endure it no longer, and they came out and returned to their homes. They have ever since been Boycotted by the local branch of the National League for not obeying its orders. For my own part, I am unable to conceive any form of tyranny more gross and scandalous and unwarrantable than this case discloses. The people were not farmers at all. The League first compel them to leave their home, to go into the workhouse and to stay there, and finally Boycott them for leaving it. I hope, Sir, that I have now made it clear that the National League, whose branches we have taken powers to suppress, has made itself responsible, by resolution published in the face of day in the newspapers, for urging persons to defy and resist the law, for urging resistance to the payment of local rates, for interfering with the ordinary civil rights of individuals in the matter of taking land, selling and buying goods and cattle, let ting houses, engaging servants, employing professional advisers, the exercise of the ordinary affairs of the Poor Law franchise, and the choice of companions in everyday life. And among the commodities of which it would deprive its victims are the common necessaries of existence—bread and water—that there is a system of espionage established, under which the actions which it condemns are made known by one branch to another, so that a man who is denounced in. one part of a district cannot 1871 escape from the tyranny of the League, by fleeing to another. That tyranny overshadows him. Vainly he changes his sky, for tyranny overshadows him wherever he goes. Under this monstrous system, at the present moment some 5,000 people in Ireland are actually suffering punishment, and they represent but a very small fraction of those——
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
This is the sort of interruption of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite complains, and to which I have been subjected several times. I should have asked Mr. Speaker to interfere to protect me several times from the observations of hon. Members opposite; but, as a matter of fact, I am personally indifferent to them, although I do not think they conduce to the order of debate, or to the clearness or consecutiveness of my argument. Well, I said that nearly 5,000 persons are actually subjected to Boycotting, and that number represents but a small and insignificant fraction, because others are afraid of being Boycotted, and either do that which they would rather not do, or they abstain from doing that which they would rather do, and which they have a perfect and absolute right to do. And when I hear hon. Members like the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who stated that he prided himself upon the fact that he had opposed outrage and violence, and that the Leaders of the National League had themselves opposed outrage and violence. I say that it is my deliberate conviction that a condition of society in which there is no intimidation, but in which, through failure of the police or other cause, there may be crime, is far healthier than a state of society in which there may be no crime, but in which intimidation so prevails that no man living under its shadow is master of his own actions. About the facts I have stated to the House, taking them broadly, there can, I conceive, be no dispute. The great bulk of them have been taken from the public papers, or from sources the trustworthiness of which, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman opposite cannot complain—they are from sources open not only to this Government alone, but to every other Government. How poor is the plea put forward by the right hon. Gentle- 1872 man the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), that the association whose deeds and operations I have described to the House must be considered either as a political association or a legitimate combination in the interests of the tenants. The truth is, the right hon. Gentleman appeals to us in the name of freedom. He always appeals to us in the name of freedom. It appears to me that there is nothing in Ireland that cannot be done if you only give it a sufficiently fine name. The whole object of the Leaders of the Irish Party at the present moment appears to me to be to treat the Irish problem in as histrionic a manner as they can. They desire to take a course of action which will strike the imaginations of the people of England and conceal from them the real nature of the acts which are done in Ireland It is in obedience to that principle that they like to compel landlords to adopt the last resort of eviction. The result of eviction is that some hardships will really happen, and many hardships will be invented; and these are made the most of and figure prominently in speeches made by hon. Members from Ireland and by Radical Members of England. The people of this country little know that the outrages depicted before them in these glowing terms would never have taken place but for the action of the organization which the Government to-night ask the House to give them the power to suppress. As the Leaders of the Irish Party have played this tragic comedy of Irish politics in the matter of eviction, so they attempt to defend, under the seductive name of law and liberty, an association whose very essence consists in nothing else but a negation of law and a negation of liberty. The right hon. Gentleman opposite comes down to the House and tells us that we are straining the law and interfering with freedom when we are trying to put down that system of intimidation which, if it be allowed to prevail any longer in Ireland, will make the observance of law and the restoration of liberty almost impossible. I believe that many hon. Members have not hitherto been aware of the facts I have mentioned to-night; but after what I have now stated I hope there will be no ignorance on the point in future. They may, up to the present, have shut their eyes as to what is the true nature of the so-called political organizations; but if in the future they 1873 are blind, their blindness will be wilful blindness. They have made themselves tonight, through the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid to than (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), apologists of intimidation. You cannot be an apologist for intimidation without making yourselves accomplices of intimidation; and on every hon. Member who votes for the Resolution now before us will, in my opinion, rest the guilt of having done all in his power to perpetuate a system which would be a disgrace to any civilized country in the world. I believe the verdict of the House will be in favour of the Government; and I believe that, as the verdict of the House will be in favour of the Government because hon. Members know the facts upon which the Government rest their case, so the verdict of that people whom the House represents will not be the less in favour of the Government when they realize the true nature of the system at which we aim this blow. The political freedom about which you talk is totally and absolutely valueless except in so far as it contributes to personal freedom. That is, and that must be, the basis upon which every superstructure of political liberty in a healthy, free society must rest; and my belief is that the love of individual liberty is so deeply engrained in the minds of the English people that, when they once understand and realize what is the working of that association against which this Proclamation is levelled, they will, without distinction of Party or creed, support the Government in the action which, in the exercise of our responsibility, we have thought it right to take.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made that night what he was sure would be described by his friends as the best speech of his life. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted from three sources of information which he might say were anonymous. A large part of his quotations consisted of reports from the public Press of meetings of the National League; but he would like to point out that there was no more authenticity as regarded those reports than there was with regard to any other paragraph; and he would have Members recollect with what indignation day after day Ministers had stood up in their places and repudiated the assumption that they should pay any attention to 1874 anonymous paragraphs even though they appeared in some of the most important papers. These local papers from which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted were in a great measure dependent upon unpaid local correspondents, who gave more attention to the rounding of a sentence sometimes than to its strict accuracy, and who very often put things into the newspaper which looked big, but which those who were acquainted with the circumstances of the locality know how to estimate at their proper value. It might be said that the editors of these papers ought to exercise more discretion. So they ought, and perhaps under the Grimes Act they would; but the fact remained that many of those items got into the papers in a form which was especially regrettable to those who had the conduct of these newspapers and those members of the National League who were represented to have performed the actions. He did not pretend to deny the general accuracy of the Press reports; but, take them all in all, and take them at the worst, what did the whole statement of the Chief Secretary amount to? After searching over the transactions of all the local branches of the National League—1,800 in number—for many months and years the Chief Secretary had only been able to indicate that in a particular branch they threatened to publish the names of those who had not subscribed, and in another branch they threatened to cut off a member who did not conform to the rules. After all, it was a common thing for any society to threaten to cut off members who did not conform to the rides; and he would remind them that on a former occasion, when the Chief Secretary said certain National League branches had threatened to publish the names of defaulting members, the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. C. Harrington) had shown that whenever such a thing came under the cognizance of the Central Branch of the League such action was strongly condemned. Wherever such a course had been adopted by a local branch, not only had the National League in Dublin condemned that branch, but the better sense of those who were in the local branch had always been against such a proceeding. He would challenge the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel King-Harman) to show a 1875 single instance in Ireland where the threat to publish the names of defaulting Members was carried out. After all, were they not living in a country which pretended to have a Constitution? Did they not in England day after day hear threats of what the Socialists would do if certain conditions were not granted; and did they not see threats in public papers of what would be done if the Home Secretary persisted in a certain course? Even if such a threat of publication were carried out the parties had their remedy under the ordinary law against the editor of the newspaper, who could be subjected to a severe punishment. They did not object to the Government using the Crimes Act against these isolated cases of individuals or individual branches who had wrongly and grossly violated the law. They maintained, however, that the ordinary law was sufficient to meet these cases, and they now maintained with greater force that the Government having a Crimes Act were able to deal with this violence and intimidation whenever it showed itself. The Government had chosen the time when they had sent what they said was a message of peace to Ireland—as he believed in his soul for the purpose of irritating the people of Ireland—to strike at that organization which their own witnesses declared to be the salvation of the people of Ireland. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had referred to the different editions of General Buller's evidence. It was a matter of common notoriety that that evidence as printed was not as it was given, and that the ordinary course as to proofs was not taken in the case of General Buller. District Inspector Davis, too, had had leading questions put to him in order to make him say what the Government wanted to prove that evening, "The strings of intimidation," he was asked, "are held by the League?" He says—I only know that in a case where it denounced land-grabbers, and those people appealed to the central branch, the local branch was admonished for interfering, and those people held on without trouble over since.''The President said—I gather from you that there is less outrage now than in former days, and that Boycotting still prevails, but that rents with abatement are being paid better than they have been?The answer was, "Yes; and in that 1876 district abatements were necessary." Being asked whether Boycotting was to be attributed to local action or to the influence of the League, he said—"I would not attribute it to the League at all." He now came to what he thought the gist of the matter. Sir James Caird said—I understand there is no sympathy among the respectable tenants with these outrages?—Yes; there is not.—Then there must be an organisation exercising a tremendous power over them. Have you any objection to state what that organization is?—I do not think that it would be for the advantage of the country that I should say what it is.It would be seen from that evidence that the witness was again and again led up to the brink of the statement which the Government desired, and every time he shied at it. The officer of the Government said that there was in those districts an organization to name which might frustrate the ends of justice. It was in districts where the Land League had not established a footing, but whore there were societies which encouraged crime and outrage, that disorder and lawlessness prevailed. The Chief Secretary had mentioned the case of a man named Justin M'Carthy living in a small and obscure village in County Kerry, and the right hon. Gentleman named a list of about 50 or 60 persons in that single parish who were stated to be Boycotted. These names were not read out from 'the local papers, but from "official" sources. Now, taking each Kerry family as averaging six or seven persons, the right hon. Gentleman's list would represent nearly all the population of the parish as being Boycotted. The thing was an utter absurdity; and that preposterous story would excite a hearty laugh among the miserable people of that district at the expense of the Chief Secretary when they came to hear of its being attempted to be palmed off upon the House. It was an insult to the intelligence of those who really knew Ireland to represent, as was done in the official Returns, that 5,000 persons were Boycotted in that country. When any serious accusation was made by the Chief Secretary against the National League, and when they sought to test the ground on which it was based, the right hon. Gentleman said—"Oh, I fall back upon official information and on privileged communications," adding, in his lofty style, that he gave the facts to the House on his word as Chief Secre- 1877 tary. If the Irish Members were only supplied with the particulars on which the right hon. Gentleman founded his accusations, they would be able, he was sure, to dispose satisfactorily of every one of them. He believed that Mr. Samuel Hussey, who was the head and tail of all those fabrications which appeared in The Times and the I L P U, and on the official Returns of that House, had been the sole author of the cases mentioned by the Chief Secretary. There might be family quarrels here and there between the inhabitants of a village; they might, sometimes, not interchange good wishes with each other at Christmas time or the New Year; and, occasionally, they might have given one another a good basting; but it was a gross "sham" to speak of those things as aggravated cases of Boycotting. He did not believe that there was a sane man from John O'Groat's house to the Land's End who, if he read what he had now said, and placed it side by side with the speech of the Chief Secretary, would not believe that the Boycotting case of the Chief Secretary was an utter delusion and a sham. As to the interruptions which the Chief Secretary encountered, a great deal of the blame for them attached to the other side, because, when the right hon. Gentleman was quoting from some paper, he all at once made some outrageous charge, as if he were still reading, against that organization whose interest Irish Members had at heart, and when he was challenged to state where he got his facts he said he was relying on official information. The right hon. Gentleman wound up his speech by an accusation against the League. He said that English Radical Members and Irish Members going over to Ireland and finding evictions going on started a tragic drama to excite the pity of the people of England, and he asked the House to remember that it was the National League that was to blame for all. He (Mr. E. Harrington) denied the justice of that accusation; it was almost too much even for a Chief Secretary for Ireland to make. The right hon. Gentleman knew that it was the evictions that necessitated the Land League, which was, according to him, the predecessor of the National League. But he (Mr. E. Harrington) thought it was in many respects dissimilar. It had widened its scope considerably since it 1878 succeeded to the Land League. He could tell the right hon. Gentleman what he could verify himself by referring to statistics—he could tell him that there were only two evictions in the County of Kerry in 1878. They rose to 19 in the next year, and from that year onwards the evictions had not been less than at an average of from 350 per quarter in the County of Kerry. He asserted that since the commencement of the trouble in the County of Kerry—since the commencement of what was called the agitation, there had been rendered homeless by evictions in those years as many as 14,000 persons, and while some of these had been restored to their places, he said that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 people in the County of Kerry huddled together by the ditch sides in places where hon. Members would not put their dogs after a day's shooting. Seeing and knowing that that was going on for years, they in self-defence for the protection of the people, and acting on the instincts of manhood, and disregarding whatever the consequences might be to themselves, flung themselves into an organization that was already awake in the country, and tried as far as they could by that organization to stem the disasters brought upon them by landlordism. It was too much for them, therefore, to listen to these accusations, and all this talk about the League inciting to crime, violence, and intimidation. What was the League doing at present? If they wont into the office of the National League in Dublin they would find a large staff—or at least they would when they decided on the Proclamation—engaged in the work of registration in order to keep their political position in the country in the districts where there might possibly be a narrow fight. The Government struck down that which was their political weapon and which was their protective weapon, and which was the shield of their persecuted people, and having done so they still chose to speak of the existence of Constitutional freedom in Ireland. He would not weary the House further; but if he sat down it was not for want of matter—it was not for want of discovering off-hand in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland sufficient matter which he could show to that House to be wholly baseless. He believed that the Irish Members would be able to show that there was no founda- 1879 tion of truth for the accusation made against the National League as a whole, and that if here and there there was a fault on the part of individual branches in obscure localities, or individual member a of that organization, there was no more than would be incidental to an organization of the kind when people had to try and act within the strict letter of a cruel law, and to protect themselves against unjust and harsh evictions, and at the same time to try and educate the country up to that tone of mind which would be useful when the time came to apply themselves to the reconstruction of the Government of Ireland. He challenged the Government to go on with their Proclamations. The Irish Members had told the Government what their purpose was. If they were found to be the abettors or counsellors of violence, then let the Government punish them by all means. But in the absence of this necessary evidence, they ask the Government not to proclaim this organization; not to destroy an instrument fur good. If the Government disregarded their appeal, then so strong would the Irish Members feel it to be their duty to the people of Ireland—believing that the sharpest hour of need was the nearest hour to triumph—that they would adhere to their work in Ireland and not shirk the consequences, cither there or in Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
maintained that the hon. Member had offered no reply to the case of the Chief Secretary founded on the statements of newspapers and of advertisements inserted in them by the local secretaries of the National League. When the hon. Member recommended persons who felt injured by such advertisements to seek redress against editors by means of the ordinary law, he reminded him of a statement made last year by the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, that for a Boycotted person to try and get redress by means of the ordinary law and from a jury struck from the ordinary panel was a cruel farce. The question before the House was not one of principle, but of expediency. As far as principle was concerned, it was decided by the Crimes Act and by the large majorities who gave their assent to that measure. Those majorities took the course they did, believing that the hands of the Government required to be strengthened in order to 1880 deal with the conflict between lawlessness and order in Ireland, and because they felt it was possible that the Government might require the power which they were now demanding in order to deal with the National League. Having voted for the Crimes Act, he was not inclined to refuse to the Government the weapon which they now desired. He trusted that the Government, having decided that it was necessary to use those powers, would not use them in a half-hearted manner. Whatever might be said of the Irish, they were a very bad people to run away from—and he hoped the Government would not flinch from the course they had taken. The House had been told that the National League was the salvation of the Irish people and and that it had done its best to repress outrage. In his judgment, however, it was a somewhat remarkable coincidence that the largest number of cases of Boycotting occurred in the county of Cork, where there were more branches of the National League than in the rest of Ireland. It was also remarkable that in Ulster, where there were comparatively few branches of the League, there was less Boycotting and fewer persons required police protection; but that in Munster, where there were 400 branches of the League, there were more outrages last year than in. any other Province of Ireland. The other night the hon. Member for Longford drew a dreadful picture of agricultural prospects in the West and South West of Ireland. He pointed out that the hay crop was a failure, that prices generally would rise, and that where the people were poorest there rents would be risen. But the hon. Gentleman did not carry his argument to a conclusion, or he would have told them also that when the food of the live stock was exhausted, the animals would necessarily be put into the market and sold for what they would fetch, and the consequent reduction in the price of meat would more than counterbalance a trifling rise in the price of butter or potatoes. When he was told that the National League had been the salvation of the people he remembered that these words were attributed to the officer who would be concerned in enforcing this Proclamation, and he hoped the Government would rely largely upon the courage and discretion of General Buller in carrying out the provisions of the Act, and that; having chosen their policy, 1881 as he believed, wisely, they would pursue it with that patience and courage, which alone would render it successful.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
said, it was quite impossible for any one who had read anything about Ireland to doubt that Boycotting and intimidation had largely prevailed, and had been the weapons largely used by the National League to enforce its decrees; but he also thought the Chief Secretary hardly made fair allowance for the other side of the work of the League. It was in its objects an agrarian society. It had endeavoured to deal with what had been the great evil and difficulty in Ireland—the exaction of exorbitant rents; and in this regard it had undoubtedly been successful in diminishing these exorbitant rents. It had been successful in compelling the attention of Parliament and in securing a limitation of the landlords' demands. They had the well-known evidence of General Buller, quoted by the late Prime Minister, to the effect that the tenants looked to the League for salvation. They had the further fact that in Ulster, where the League was not powerful, there were no reductions. Therefore the Proclamation of the League and this debate must be looked upon as a development of the situation, and as, to all intents and purposes, part and parcel and the continuation of the debates and discussions on the Crimes Act. During the progress of that Bill it was frequently disclaimed by the Irish Secretary and others that the Bill was aimed against combinations, but against crime. The ease for suspending the Constitutional liberties of the subject must be one of overwhelming necessity, of convincing evidence of the wide prevalence and intensity of crime. He thought when the Crimes Act was brought forward they did not find in the speech of the Chief Secretary, or the speeches of other Members of the Government, that a case of this overwhelming necessity was presented. They had now on all sides testimony, including that of the Member for West Birmingham, that Ireland was at present conspicuously free from serious crime, and that that was the case one could see from the evidence of this very Proclamation, because the National League was proclaimed under Sub-section "D" of Section 6—namely, for promoting and inciting to acts of violence and intimidation; and under part of Sub-section 1882 "E," as to interfering with the administration of the law. The Proclamation passed over the first three subsections, which dealt with a question of crime. The Government did not say that the National League was framed for the commission of crime, or carried on operations by means of crime; and, more than that, the Proclamation did not even include the second part of Sub-section "E," and did not say that the National League was disturbing the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. That, he thought, was a very serious consideration for hon. Members when they had to determine how they were to vote on this question. The Government had proposed the Proclamation of the League as encouraging Boycotting and intimidation, and hon. Members had to ask themselves was it likely they would succeed in the object they had in view? It would be absurd in anyone to refrain from regretting and denouncing the tyrannical Boycotting and intimidation that went on in Ireland, and no man could view it with greater indignation than he did. But they had really to look at this point. Was the action which the Government were taking likely to succeed in putting down Boycotting? He believed they had ample evidence to the contrary. They had the evidence of Lord Salisbury in his speech at Newport, the evidence of Lord Spencer, the evidence before the Cowper Commission, and particularly that of Captain Plunkett, who distinctly stated that Boycotting under the Crimes Act of 1882 was as strong as it is now. If they were to get rid of Boycotting and intimidation, they must alter the conditions under which they took place. Then they had to ask themselves, was it likely that the action of the Government would diminish the political power of the League? Here, again, he thought the experience of recent history would give a negative reply. The political power of the hon. Member for Cork and his Friends was more than doubled and quadrupled after the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had put them in prison and proclaimed the Land League. Then there was the further question, was the Proclamation of I the League likely to bring us nearer a final and satisfactory settlement of our Irish difficulties? Would it postpone or hasten it? Here, again, he thought they had only to appeal to recent ex- 1883 perience. There were people in this country who were not keen Party politicians, but who were very effective in bringing about decisions at General Elections. He thought these people would look at the question, mainly from this point of view—they would look at what had taken place during this Session—at the time spent on the passing of the Crimes Act, upon the work the House was now engaged in, and upon the future difficulties which would come in the way of the Government in carrying out the policy they were now embarking upon. Because it was to be blind to all their experiences from 1882 not to feel that the difficulties of the Government were just beginning now that they had proclaimed the National League. It was customary to sneer when politicians put the issue that was now before them as an issue between conciliation and coercion. He put it to hon. Friends on that side, and also to Conservative Members on the opposite side, was it not the case that at the last General Election there was a very general repudiation of any desire to return to the old policy of endeavouring to rule Ireland with the high hand; and was there not also this positive resolution at the last General Election, that, however much they differed as to the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, they all came there with the primary duty imposed upon them of endeavouring so far as in them lay to attain, within certain well-defined limits, under safe and reasonable conditions, a settlement for Ireland which, above all things, should be an amicable settlement? In view of that, what they were now proposing to do, and had been doing, was a fearful commentary. The policy of the Government was not at all likely to bring about any such amicable settlement. He viewed with particular regret the line which had been taken up by his noble Friend near him (Viscount Ebrington) and by several other Liberal Colleagues who, like himself, voted against the Home Rule Bill. They had looked forward as one of their primary duties to arrive at an amicable settlement for Ireland, and they considered that the best means of attaining that would be the influence of these hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords, and particularly of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Harting- 1884 ton), whom they all respected and admired, in carrying out the object which he had so much at heart. He thought it was patent that what was being done now by those hon. Members would hardly tend to increase the power with which they would be able to press their views. He hoped, even at that eleventh hour, that when they were away from the heated atmosphere of that House the noble Lord and his followers would look at it differently, and would yet be found working with the view of obtaining the only satisfactory settlement. He had never before spoken on Irish affairs, but he did not wish to give a silent vote on this question, because it seemed to him that the policy which had been adopted and was being pursued by Her Majesty's Government would undoubtedly indefinately postpone and make infinitely more difficult that amicable settlement for Ireland to which they all looked; because he was convinced the policy of Her Majesty's Government had tended to stir up again the embers of political hatred and animosity, and that spirit of antagonism of which they had so vivid a recollection in the Parliament of 1880. It was for these reasons that he should vote in favour of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian.
said, that for several reasons he should have preferred to give a silent vote on this occasion; but after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), at the close of which the right hon. Gentleman made pointed reference to a speech which he (Mr. T. W. Russell) made in this House, he found it absolutely impossible to give a silent vote as he had desired to do. Now, the Irish National League did some work of which he cordially approved, although he objected very much to its methods; it did another class of work of which he totally disapproved. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian quoted him as a witness of the good that the League had done in Ii-eland. The right hon. Gentleman called him a hostile witness; and what were the words which he quoted? They were words he made use of in the debate on the second reading of the Irish Land Law Bill, and the substance of them was as follows:—"In the Provinces of Leinster, Munster, 1885 and Connaught intimidation and outrage had done their work, and abatements of rent had been given in these Provinces; whereas, in the Province of Ulster, where intimidation and outrage had not been prevalent, little or no abatement had been given." And that was what the right hon. Gentleman chose to call a character for the National League! What did it mean? He had never dared to say that the National League was the author of that intimidation and outrago—that was left for the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman took him a long way further than he went, and upon his shoulders must lie the responsibility for that journey. There was another point on which he desired to join issue with the right hon. Gentleman. If the National League were an organization to protect the Irish tenant farmers from unjust rents, and prosecuted that work by fair means, he should join it and be an active member. Taking it to be an association with that object in view, what were its admitted methods? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian talked about "exclusive dealing" as the method of the National League. When, and by whom, was this phrase invented? That was not the phrase the right hon. Gentleman used in 1882 when dealing with this matter. For himself, he objected to the phrase. The methods of the National League involved exclusive dealings and very much more. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1882, when he dealt with this very subject, used very different language. Speaking on the 24th of May. 1882, in this House, the right hon. Gentleman asked this question—"What is meant by Boycotting?" They had never heard then of the phrase "exclusive dealing." They had the honest name put upon it—Boycotting. "In the first place," the right hon. Gentleman said—It is combined intimidation. In the second place, it is combined intimidation made use of for the purpose of destroying private liberty of choice by fear of ruin and starvation. In the third place, that being what Boycotting is in itself, we must look to this—that the creed of Boycotting, like every other creed, requires a sanction; and the sanction of Boycotting, that which stands in the rear of Boycotting, and by which alone Boycotting can in the long run be made thoroughly effective, is the murder which is not to be denounced."—(3 Hansard,  1551.)That was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke when he, as 1886 Prime Minister, had to deal with this very evil. Now, what were the facts which the House had before it to-night? They had it stated by the responsible Minister of the Government that there were 5,000 people Boycotted in Ireland in this inhuman way. What did it mean? Not exclusive dealing alone. It meant what the hon. Member for Cork called it in the town of Ennis when he invented it and set it afloat. It meant moral leprosy. It meant that where it did not mean outrage and intimidation and murder. Now, he was told that the Primrose League in England practised exclusive dealing. It was absurd for grown men to be talking stuff of this kind—literally absurd. He admitted the charge of exclusive dealing as freely as they liked—he would make hon. Gentleman below the Gangway a present of it. But what stood behind the exclusive dealing of the Primrose League? Was there the bullet of the assassin? [A Home Rule MEMBER: Stuff !] Was there the marching of the midnight marauder? Was there the trampling out of all human freedom if one did not obey its orders? Nothing of the kind. He repeated that it was absolutely farcical for grown men to compare the Primrose League or any other political organization in England with the National League in Ireland. He objected to its methods in toto. It was an organization for literally stamping out all human freedom. He did not object to combination; very far from it; but he did object to men combining to prevent him doing what he had a right to do. The National League was an organization the main object of which was to produce a dull level of uniformity by absolute force. It would not be possible to establish such an organization in any part of the Empire where free-born men lived, and it was only possible in Ireland, where the virtue of obedience had been taught as the one supreme duty of life. [An hon. MEMBER: Obedience to authority.] Obedience to authority! He was not going to bow down to any such authority. Let them look at its operations. He would quote some cases from National League newspapers, arid if they were wrong, on the League be the responsibility. The Munster Express on the 9th of July reported the proceedings of a branch of the League at which attention was called to the fact 1887 that a Mr. Edward O'Brien had had in his employment for three weeks a stonemason (Paddy Norris) who was one of the most notorious Emergency men in that part; and the secretary reported that he had called the employer's attention to the fact, and had received from him a note stating that the man was prepared to join the League, and if the League would not have him as a member he should be dismissed on the completion of his contract. This stonemason, he contended, had a right to follow his occupation without any profession of political faith being extorted from him. It was this stamping out of human freedom that had kept many from supporting the work of the League in other directions. He was for convincing men that they were wrong; but the League represented coercion of the meanest and most detestable kind. Another instance he would quote would show cause and effect. The Clare Advertiser of the 27th of June last reported the usual fortnightly meeting of the Kilrush branch of the National League, at which Mr. John M. Nagle delivered an impassioned address on the necessity of drawing the line of demarcation between real, puresouled Leaguers and the execrable class of rent-warners, whom the speaker denounced as worse than Judas Iscariot; that was the cause, and the effect was found in The Irish Times of the 19th of August, which stated that printed notices were posted in the district threatening Ned Kennedy, a rent-warner for Mr. J. Vesey Fitzgerald, D.L., that he would be shot if he did not give up a farm from which a widow had been evicted. This was a literal instance of cause and effect, and it was childish to say that the Primrose League or any English association carried on proceedings of this kind. If it did, how long would it exist? The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had said there were 500,000 members of the League in Ireland, and no doubt he was right; but perhaps the House would like to know how the membership was made up. In June The Munster Express reported the meeting of a branch, at which a resolution was passed to the effect that all farmers' sons already admitted be expelled unless their parents became members of the League. What did the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) think of this stamping out of all human freedom? A Sligo paper of the 9th of July recorded the passing at a 1888 League meeting of a resolution that each member of the committee was strictly required to furnish a complete list of those in his district who had not joined the branch, and it was significantly added—"Those outside our ranks will please take note." [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Hear, hear !] If the right hon. Gentleman the Monitor for Derby, instead of being what he was, wore an Irish peasant, and had got a notice of that kind served upon him, he was quite certain the effect would be that he would join the League, or, indeed, any League under Heaven; for any man getting a notice of that kind would know perfectly veil what it meant. That was the way the membership of the League was made up, and for the Secretary to stand up in the House and declare that no compulsion was used and that the central bodies saw that none was used was to go against facts piled mountains high.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
Does the hon. Member mean to say that I stated in this House what I did not believe to be true?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, that for the hon. Member to stand up in the House and state that no man was compelled to join the National League, and that the central branch prohibited that sort of thing, was to go in the teeth of evidence piled mountains high. He objected to the National League.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he had no doubt they objected to him very much. He objected to the National League because it usurped the functions of the law. He had heard it denied that League Courts were held; but The Leinster Leader of the 11th of June last reported the meeting of a branch at which it was resolved to summon to the next meeting some turf-bank grabbers to explain their conduct. [Mr. WALLACE: Hear, hear! A man who was described as a grabber was one who had taken a turf bank and paid for it; and no organization had a right to summon such a purchaser. The hon. Member who said "Hear, hear !" came from the same county as himself, and knew that nothing of this kind would be tolerated in Scotland for a moment. The Wexford People of the 9th of July reported the meeting of a branch at which the conduct of a man was described as reprehensible, because he had violated an important 1889 resolution of the New Ross Convention, and yet had the audacity to attack a respectable member of the committee who reported him; and he was required to attend and apologize or to take the consequences. He had quoted these examples out of hundreds he had in his possession, and all had occurred since June, 1887. On every Sunday 1,800 meetings were held in Ireland, and they were attended by men who investigated the affairs of the neighbourhood and pronounced and executed judgment upon the people. He should oppose the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, and for more reasons than one. One reason was that he supported the Crimes Bill. He did so because he thought the Government had made out a case for it, because he knew the facts from his own knowledge, and because he believed that Bill to represent the least that any responsible Government could do. But he wished Parliament had not been called upon to give its sanction to this Proclamation. He wished the Government had seen their way to rely upon the Summary Jurisdiction and the other clauses of the Act to repress disorder. He wished they had given the Land Act, such as it was, a reasonable chance, instead of asking the House to take a seat on this switchback railway to be driven Heaven knows where. But the Government asked Parliament for authority to act if it were necessary, and they had larger knowledge than an individual Member, and were responsible for the peace of Ireland. He, at all events, having voted for the Crimes Act, did not see his way Constitutionally to refuse them the powers they asked for. He could not say he should vote in favour of the Proclamation with a light heart; very far from it. He saw nothing but clouds and darkness all around. We had lost a golden opportunity which was granted to us as by miracle, and the Chief Secretary might possibly need this power and more. He, however, gave his vote without any hesitation. He believed the National League to be a competitor with the Government of the Queen in Ireland. We could not have two Governments in any country; the people could not serve two masters. As he was not prepared to hand over the people he represented to the tender mercies of the League he should give his vote against the Motion.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, that a great part of the discussion had been, if not irrelevant, at all events superfluous. Too much stress had been laid upon that portion of the debate relating to Boycotting; too little on the connection of that with the present Proclamation under Section 6, sub-sections (d) and (e) of the Coercion Act. So far as Boycotting was concerned, it could be punished under Section 2, and the Proclamation was unnecessary if Boycotting was the evil sought to be reached. Boycotting was not the invention of the National League, nor of the Land League which preceded it. Boycotting was not the invention, of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), as had been alleged. It had formed part of the history of Ireland for a long while, and had been introduced by the English. Not one at all conversant with the history of our connection with that country could fail to know by what varied forms of law we had tried to exterminate the Irish people—by the most scientific processes of legal Boycotting. He was not now referring to the later and most infamous Penal Laws by which Catholics were Boycotted, but to our earlier legislation. We had, for instance, forbidden marriage or trading with the Irish. Boycotting was not quite unknown in England. Since he had been referred to personally in the debate, he might obtrude a personal matter upon the House, and point out that he himself had had some experience of it during the past seven years. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had quoted the case of one Justin M'Carthy, Boycotted because he was the son of another Justin M'Carthy. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) had seen on the Books of the House for months a proposal to Boycott his own two daughters, a proposal to prevent them from earning their livelihood as teachers at, South Kensington, because they were his daughters; and that was actually formally moved in that House. Attempts had even been made to Boycott the voters and traders in the town which he had the honour to represent, because it had returned him to Parliament. Those who had voted for him at Northampton had been Boycotted, and paragraphs had been sent round asking the leather sellers not to deal with his supporters; and yet he 1891 had never heard a word of blame from hon. Members opposite with regard to any of these cases, although the effect had been to saddle him with nearly £3,000 of debt. He certainly should not now defend Boycotting; he had suffered too much from it personally. But the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) said that there was a difference between the Boycotting of the Primrose League and the Boycotting of the National League, because there was not the bullet of the assassin behind the former. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary think that the bullet of the assassin was behind the Boycotting of the National League? If he did, why was he so half-hearted, and why did he not proclaim it under Subsections a, b, and c as an association for the commission of crime, or for procuring and abetting crime and outrage? The right hon. Gentleman asked the House to be a party to what, for his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) own part, he would call a criminality against the Irish people; and if they were asked to accept as evidence the statements which had been brought forward, it should, at least, be made clear to them that these things were now being done by the League. The question before them was this—Were they, or were they not, to acquiesce in and endorse the Proclamation which the Government had thought fit to issue at the present moment? The House could not acquit itself of the responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had alleged that the House was ignorant of the facts which, if they existed, and if the House knew them, might warrant such a Proclamation. The Chief Secretary had answered by a statement founded in part upon Press paragraphs, and partly on some Returns to which he had not specifically referred, but chiefly upon official information, the sources of which were peculiar to himself. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that his sources of information were, in the main, accessible to Members of that House; but it was hardly possible for them to obtain all these scissors-and-paste cuttings from various Journals. The evidence which had been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman was not the kind of evidence upon which, as judges by their sentence, they 1892 ought to be called upon to take away the liberties of a people. He protested against this light-hearted method of dealing with so great a question. This evidence was not, in the main, accessible to them; it was only accessible to them through the right hon. Gentleman himself. The right hon. Gentleman told them that if the Returns had been laid on the Table, those Returns would have had the same authority, and would have been the same.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It happened that I quoted certain facts upon official information, and hon. Members below the Gangway jeered. I reminded the House that if the Returns had been laid on the Table, they would have been derived from the same authority as that which had been attacked by hon. Members below the Gangway.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that was practically what he had said. What they now wanted was to examine this evidence at their leisure. It was impossible to follow and judicially weigh it as delivered in the speech of the Chief Secretary. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had made an astounding statement as to a matter which had occurred on the 10th of November, 1884, which he had brought down to the present time. The right hon. Gentleman had used the expression that he had carried the matter through for eight months consecutively; but it was difficult to make out where these eight months came in, according to the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had named no year with regard to this matter except the first; and he thought, also, that the right hon. Gentleman had said that he did not intend to take any case except those of the present year.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said that the Boycotting had begun in 1884, but had come down to the present date.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, that in some cases the right hon. Gentleman went back years before the National League existed. ["No, no !"] The Government had had this information when they wore in Office before, and had declared that they only intended to enforce the ordinary law; therefore they had either kept back facts which would have then warranted a Coercion Bill, or else they had no right to go back to them now. Some of the vague cases he quoted 1893 were not sufficient evidence to hang a cat on, much less to take away the liberties of a people. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, referring to the evictions which had taken place, had said some of the hardships were real, some of them invented, but that the evictions themselves had all been the result of the action of the National League.
said, he was sorry that he had not caught the limitation in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. But how many of those evictions were consequential on the action of the League? If only some of them, it would surely have been better to specify the cases so that they might be examined. Why was the League now proclaimed? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) considered that the Proclamation was unnecessary; but he (Mr. Bradlaugh) did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to give effect to his speech in the Lobby, or whether he meant it as a phrase to soften himself with the electors. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had stated last Saturday that it was an open secret that the Liberal Unionist Leaders—and presumably this included the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale—had protested against the intention of the Government to proclaim the League. The Chief Secretary spoke of the verdict of that House, and of the verdict of the country. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) quite admitted that the verdict of the House of Commons would be against them; but the verdict of the country was declaring itself in an opposite direction. The Times had been pressing for the Proclamation of the League for a long time, and why did the Government proclaim it now? Bight hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench said that they waited until the Land Act had been passed; but did they not rather wait until they had been compelled by certain circumstances to proclaim it? Did the right hon. Gentleman anticipate that the Government would proclaim the League when he said that he did not expect that he should have to make such an announcement? If, when he made that statement, he did expect to make such an announcement, there was certainly a Machiavellian use of language 1894 which he (Mr. Bradlaugh) did not anticipate from the right hon. Gentleman. It showed that the right hon. Gentleman's language, to an untrained mind like his, meant one thing, and to the right hon. Gentleman's subtle mind meant something else. He believed that originally the Government did not intend to proclaim the League; and it was not until lately, when elections had gone against them, when they found that the Liberal Unionists did not count for much, but were being rejected one after the other, and that real, true, old-branded Toryism might figure the best after all, that they turned round, and had determined to pursue their present policy. The great Unionist Party was breaking up rapidly; but there were enough of them in that House at present for mischief. The verdict of the House would be, no doubt, what the Chief Secretary anticipated; but the verdict of the people was being formulated. There was no great town in the whole of England, Scotland, or Wales, where they could get a mass of people together—untrained, rough, and poor, if they chose to call them so, but earnest and liberty-loving, as he would declare them—who would not say that the Government had got a measure from the House of Commons under the pretence of preventing crime, and were now using it to try and crush a political organization to which they were opposed, and of which they were afraid.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON) (Bute)
The present position of the debate affords a satisfactory explanation of a problem which must have attracted the curiosity and surprise of those who read the Notice Paper. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has not in his Motion challenged the grounds or the merits upon which the League has been proclaimed. He has not asked the House to assert that there did not exist grounds upon which it ought to be proclaimed. But he has cautiously confined his Resolution to this one point, that no information has been furnished to Parliament to justify the issue of the Proclamation. So far as the terms of the Resolution are concerned anyone would be entitled to vote and might be induced to vote in favour of it who knew by ocular demonstration and by the 1895 testimony of his own oars that intimidation and incitement to violence are the daily rules of the National League. It is upon a mere question of etiquette that the Souse is asked to pass this Resolution, or at all events, that weak-kneed Members may be induced to vote for it upon the mere point of ceremony. It happens that in the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman has put upon the Statute he has plainly erred. The right hon. Gentleman has asserted that the Statute entrusted not to the Government, but to the Government conjointly with Parliament, the duty of determining whether a society ought to be proclaimed. That is not the case.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
What the Statute prescribes is that it shall be the duty of the Executive Government to exercise the power of proclaiming a society as dangerous, and that the right of Parliament should be only to intervene by way of protest or veto if and when they are satisfied that the Executive has gone wrong. That, I assert in the presence of any hon. Members who are conversant with the Statutes, to be not merely the Statute Law, but the Constitutional Law of the question, and I mention it not for the purpose of evading what is the ultimate question of debate—the demerits of the National League—but rather because I see that the form of the Resolution has been adopted for a more subtle and definite purpose—the purpose of endeavouring to show that the Government was bound to put on the Table of the House demonstrations of the guilt of the National League, of inducing the House to suppose that unless and until that formal condition of things has been satisfied, the House was not entitled to go on what I will call the notoriety of the case. Now I propose to make good certain definite and grave charges against the League. I shall do so by one kind of evidence and one only, and I shall confine that evidence to one period and one only. The kind of evidence I shall use will be the evidence of local newspapers published in the centre of districts affected by the transactions recorded in those newspapers, some of which newspapers are in the interests of and some under the inspiration of the National League. The right hon. Gentleman has 1896 such political relations with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that no proprieties would have been violated if he had endeavoured to ascertain directly the facts of this matter. It would not have been beneath the dignity of a statesman to ascertain whether the concourse of evidence from all parts of the Provinces infected with this crime does not show that week by week it was published, not as matter of contrition, but as matter of pride and proclamation, that the League was actually using these powers of intimidation which the Government now seek to bring home to them, These transactions have been taking place day by day down to date. We do not desire to ransack the period when hon. Gentlemen opposite were using measures quite as stringent against a similar organization; but we need only refer to the records of the last few months. The records of the past few months have a certain element of especial value. The progress made with the Criminal Law Amendment Bill through Parliament before the month of June was such that it was pretty certain what was coming, and it is one of the few features to the credit of the National League that I know of that they continued to let their organs promulgate their decisions. Those who condemn the Proclamation of the League are bound to found themselves upon the facts of the case. They have not done so.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The National League has been proclaimed upon certain definite grounds. A selection of the grounds on which it might be legally proclaimed has been made, and it has been proclaimed on some of these grounds—namely, that "it promotes or incites to acts of violence and intimidation and interferes with the administration of the law." Will any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite deny that, week after week, the Nationalist papers contained reports of resolutions enjoining the Boycotting of individuals? The fact cannot be denied, and was, indeed, admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. The accusation against the National League, then, is quite specific, so specific that the League is thereby put upon its defence. The headquarters of the League are in Dublin. Let its resolutions be 1897 produced condemning the Boycotting which it knew that its branches throughout the country were carrying out. I have been struck with the remarkable ingenuity of the defence that has been set up by the League, upon which the task of demonstrating its innocence is thrown by the strong primâ facie case that has been made out against it. That primâ facie case having been made out by the puplished records of its proceedings, it is for the League to make out its defence No one knows this better than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman with the closest attention, and I was struck with the proportion of time which he allocated to different topics of his speech. He devoted half-au-hour to declaiming against the Act under which this Proclamation is issued, introducing much that was altogether irrelevant to the subject, and he closed with a most eloquent and impressive adjuration to Irishmen to undergo the trials imposed upon Ireland by the wickedness of Parliament, and also with an admonition to Parliament to mend its ways. In the middle of these magnificent passages he interposed 10 minutes devoted to what he apologetically described as "the delicate subject" of the National League. No doubt, it was a very delicate subject to the right hon. Gentleman; but it was the only subject of this debate. The hon. Member for West Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington) next undertook the defence of the League, and what did his defence amount to? The Chief Secretary had brought forward instance after instance of cases where the branches of the National League had passed resolutions recommending the Boycotting of certain persons, and punishing people for not complying with them. The answer of the hon. Member was that the local papers were unreliable.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
I pointed out that the Chief Secretary had on previous occasions stated that they were not reliable.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The hon. Member will not now admit that he said the local papers were unreliable. Then he admitted that they are reliable. The hon. Member, following the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, next attempted to argue that if the National League 1898 offended it had a consuetudinary right to offend, and that it had been so long in existence that its defects might be treated with leniency. That was also the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, who was "to its faults a little blind, and to its merits very kind." "Considering the enormous advantages which it confers on the country," the right hon. Gentleman seemed to argue, "you must submit to a little percentage of disadvantage." The next point of defence urged was that certain rebukes had been administered by the Central Body to the county branches. It would be interesting to know a little more about these rebukes—to know in what spirit they were given, and in what spirit they were understood. Then the last resource of a bad case was brought forward, and it was said that "other people do the same." [Laughter.] I am surprised to find the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) resorting to that peculiarly antiquarian form of defence. The Government, I think, had good reason to congratulate themselves that at last, in the full light of discussion in this House, it is admitted on all hands that the National League did incite to intimidation. I have not heard it denied by any hon. Member on the opposite Benches that the National League did incite to acts of intimidation. That is a fact upon which the people of this country will form their judgment; they will be guided not a little by the fact that both sides of the House are agreed that it can be affirmatively asserted that the League does promote intimidation. I challenge any hon. or right hon. Gentleman to deny it. They may say there is only a little of it; that it is more than counterbalanced by the good that is done; that other people do the same thing; that otherwise the League has a most excellent character; but as to the fact itself they must plead guilty. No hon. Member, either above or below the Gangway, has gainsaid the assertion of intimidation. The system of intimidation pursued by the League is this. In the first place, each branch of the League coerces the people of the district into membership with it. Then it coerces those who disobey its rules and regulations. But what of those who stay outside? Their names are read at the meetings of the League. I will 1899 show presently that the vague class called "objectionable persons," or "obnoxious persons," constitute a special category. I will make another assertion as to the proceedings of these branches of the League, upon which I challenge contradiction. The meetings are generally held on Sunday. The better the day, the better the deed. They began by a sort of commination service for obnoxious persons. The Wexford People of August 30, 1887, stated that at the meeting of the branch of the National League at Gorey "the usual list of objectionable parties was read, and then the meeting proceeded to business." Now, I will ask the House if that complete separation of the sheep and the goats has not some sort of effect upon persons in the latter category, and whether it does not induce some sort of compliance, and bring them into what the Americans call "the third class," included among the sheep, goats, and alpacas? Accordingly, some further development of the species took place until the transformation was complete. I propose to offer for the consideration of hon. Gentlemen opposite certain authorities in support of my statement. I am dealing with the composition of the National League, and I assert that coercion was the first means by which the National League was recruited. I am going to show afterwards—I hope I am not intruding too much on the attention of the House—what they did with their Members when they got them inside. I should like to offer hon. Gentlemen opposite some evidence in support of what I say. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant brought forward a mass of evidence, as to which I will say that hon. Gentlemen opposite who listened to it candidly must admit that it was very grave evidence. But a cavil has been raised from the Bench opposite upon what is represented as a Constitutional principle, that some of the documents ought to be accessible to Parliament. Encouraged by that, and by the hon. Member for West Kerry, who certifies to the reliability of the local newspapers, I propose, by the citation of two or three extracts, to support the propositions I have stated. In the first place, I maintain that it was by a well-organized system of compulsion and threats addressed to those who remained outside that the National League 1900 was recruited. I will give the name of the branch and the newspaper from which the extracts are taken.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
May I ask whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is quoting from the newspapers themselves, or from a collection of extracts made by third parties?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I am quoting from a collection of extracts from newspapers made by third parties. That is not a matter on which the issue between myself and hon. Members opposite is to be decided by a snap observation of that kind. The country will judge between us. I will in every instance give the date of the newspaper, and hon. Members can look up the extracts. The Munster News of July 13, 1887, says that a resolution was passed at a meeting of the branch of the National League at Ballingarry calling upon Members of the branch who have been previously enrolled to rejoin at once, as a stringent resolution similar to that of last year would be enforced—that is, that the people were not to have any communication or dealing with any persons holding aloof from the National League at this crisis. The next paper I will quote from is The Anglo-Celt of June 18; "Labby" was the name of the branch. A resolution was passed calling on members to pay up the new subscriptions, and adding—"We must regard those who are not with us in the coming hour of trial as against us." Then there is a resolution which has been already quoted from The Tipperary Nationalist of July 23, 1887, to the effect that the branch—Would strongly impress upon its members who may have occasion to employ an auctioneer to give their business to those who are members of the National League,adding that—He is no patriot, and unworthy of the name of an Irishman, who would support the enemies of his country in preference to its friends.The Dundalk Democrat of the 20th of June, 1887, contains this passage in reference to the Tallanstown branch—We believe the Irishmen of to-day who in times to come will be unable to show his card of membership for 1887—for the year memorable for campaigning and struggling for life of the unfortunate Irish peasantry—for the revival of priest hunting and the suicide of landlordism—we believe such delinquent must; in future be regarded as a traitor and a coward, 1901 as worth being shunned, and unfit to be ever trusted.The hon. Member for West Kerry made a suggestion—indeed, the hon. Member assorted nothing, everything was by way of suggestion—that, after all, hard words do not break any bones, and that these resolutions were not followed up; but I want to show what is the effect on the daily life of these persons. I think that hon. Members who heard the speech of the Chief Secretary will not accept that view of the matter. One other instance I will give. In The Sligo Champion of July 2 appeared the following announcement from a local branch of the League:—We respectfully call upon all strangers coming to reside in this parish during the summer months not to lodge with any householder who cannot produce his card of membership for 1887.The organization of the League is so zealously worked by those who are at the wheel that it grinds to powder those who come within reach. The League has its Courts which issue citations and treat as defaulters those who do not appear to answer. These Courts copy the subtleties and even the mannerisms of Courts of Law, and they actually have a civil side and a criminal side. On the civil side they fix the rents of holdings, and there is a case recorded in which a Court sanctioned the sale of an evicted farm upon most peculiar conditions. They fix the rents for particular holdings not by arbitration; but the ordinary cursus curœ is to settle the rent and compel payment. [An IRISH MEMBER: Give the figures.] As to that, I shall use my own discretion. On the criminal side these Courts punish as criminals persons who do certain things which the law allows them to do, and they even treat as crimes things which the law not merely allows, but actually enjoins. To take a farm in contravention of the rules of the League is an offence, and it is even an offence to take it with the consent of the evicted tenant. But this system of jurisprudence has arrived at a state of still greater refinement, for it may even be an offence for a man to retake his own land. In case the Central Authorities in Dublin may wish to rebuke those who are responsible for this particular development of the League law I will name the source whence my information was derived. It 1902 is The Munster Express of July 30. [An hon. MEMBER: A landlord's organ.] Well, the matter is easily susceptible of a verification. The cases are reported, and it can easily be found out if they are true or not. I will go on with my catalogue. It is superfluous to say that so grave an offence as herding on an evicted farm is heavily punished. It is also a punishable offence to send cattle to graze on the lands of A. B., even when the reasons why A. B. is objectionable are not stated. To use the machine of an obnoxious individual is, of course, a cognizable offence, and the reciprocal act of lending a machine to an obnoxious individual ranks in the same category. Selling cattle to a land corporation is in certain circumstances a cognizable offence, and I find that it is a high crime to drink with the son of a grabber, and equally culpable to court his daughter. My authority for making these assertions are The Kerry Sentinel of August 5, The Kilkenny Journal of July 20, The Munster Express of July 23, The Leinster Leader of July 10, The Tipperary Nationalist of July 16, The Tuam News of August 5, The New Ross Standard of July 25, and The Wexford People of July 9, and a paper which reports the proceedings of the Carrick-on-Suir branch. I have, I think, fulfilled my promise to supply the House with a reference to every case I have cited. It is beyond the power of hon. Members opposite to contend with any degree of success that the cases to which I have referred, and for which I have adduced authorities, are mere isolated eases, or are the result of action unauthorized by the National League. I shall be able by-and-bye to show that not only was the organization between the different branches of the League complete, but that there was constant supervision from aboye—a fact that is perfectly well known to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite. Under such a state of things it can scarcely be denied that personal freedom is, to say the least of it, greatly abridged. Neither can it be denied that the law of the land allows people to do that which the National League forbids them to do. Hon. Members may, perhaps, think that it is a small and trivial thing that a man is forbidden to graze his cattle upon particular land; that he cannot use farm machinery belonging to a particular person; or that 1903 he cannot hire a gig unless it belongs to the right people. But these comparatively small and humble matters become of the greatest importance, when they are the beginning and the end of a man's existence, and when the denial of his right to act as he chooses constitutes a total eclipse of his liberty in Ireland. What would have been said if action of this sort had been taken, not by an. anonymous and impersonal association like the National League, but by a tyrant, or, to suppose the most invidious case, by a landlord? I think that in the circumstances I have pointed out it is quite time that the State should interfere to protect the individual. The National League, however, have gone still further, and have forbidden what the law enjoins. The law requires in Ireland, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, the payment of rates; but the National League has undertaken to regulate and to determine what rates shall or shall not be paid. The Wexford People of July 23, 1887, tells us that—The Ramsgrange and Sutton's parish branch met on Sunday, the 17th instant, Canon Doyle in the chair. The collection of the rates occupied some attention, and the strictest vigilance is requested from all who make the collection impossible.I now come to another and a separate point, which appears to me to be of paramount importance. One of the duties which the law enjoins upon a citizen is that he shall give evidence in a Court of Law when he is called upon to do so; but the National League have felt it necessary to remind the people of a particular district that they have confidence in them that, should the occasion arise, no one will be found who will give evidence, under any circumstances, against any of their countrymen. That is not an isolated case by any means. That is taken from The Wexford People of the 13th of August, 1887, and it is not an isolated case by any means.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
I wish to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether, previously to that resolution being passed, a discussion had not taken place with regard to the secret tribunal to be created under the Crimes Act?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I am glad to hear that the hoc. Member is so intimately acquainted with the circumstances of the case to which I am re- 1904 ferring, as it is proof of the reliability of the newspaper from which I am quoting. In another case, which appeared in The Roscommon Herald of the 13th of August last, the Legan branch of the League appears to have passed a resolution binding its members to refuse to take any sort of oath under the provisions of the Crimes Act. It adds—That any member taking such oath shall be looked upon as unworthy of the cause of freedom.[Cheers from the Irish Members.] The importance of those cheers will not be lost upon the House. I understand, then, that it is part of the case of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that the League does enjoin a refusal on the part of its members to take any oath under the provisions of the Crimes Act. In that case, I think there is ample justification for issuing this Proclamation. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and the remnant of the Liberal Party who act with him, approve of those resolutions of the National League? Is it a fact that the National League, by their branches and their Parliamentary Representatives, have enjoined the peasantry of Ireland not to give evidence before the legal tribunals? That fact alone convicts the National League of being a body which interferes with the administration of the law. I have been struck with the very remarkable absence of any definite expression of opinion as to the grounds on which this resolution is to be supported. I cannot discover whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite are agreed in supporting hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in justifying the National League in these extreme acts, or whether they deny those acts altogether. I suspect that the latter alternative is no longer open to them, and that the evidence brought forward by the extracts quoted, and, most important of all, the cheers just given, show that the facts are past praying for, and that it must be some collateral reason which induces them to oppose the Proclamation of the National League. The Government does not at all shut its eyes to the gravity of the duty which it has undertaken; but, at the same time, we shall look for support in this crisis to a spirit somewhat different from that which animated not the 1905 least eloquent part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The right hon. Gentleman was eloquent; but he put the bridle on the back of his eloquence when he was denouncing the law; he was precise, cautious, guarded, when he was rebuking what was illegal; there was not the slightest tendency to exaggeration or amplitude of statement when he was explaining—what certainly required to be explained—that he was opposed to Boycotting. But no language was too strong for him to inform the House and, let ma add, the people of Ireland, what he thinks of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and also the law as it has hitherto prevailed in Ireland. I was struck when I heard the right hon. Gentleman say of the Crimes Act that it was a most dangerous and a most disgraceful assumption of power. I could quite understand the expression of that opinion at the right time; but it hardly fits in with a pathetic admonition to the Irish people to undergo what is to be put upon them. The right hon. Gentleman said, further, that law itself in Ireland has been made an outrage on the people, and that the law itself has a character to retrieve, as much as the Moonlighters and Boycotters; and he said, further, that in Ireland the law is still upon its trial. Does he wish well to this disgraceful assumption of power, to this outrage upon the people? I confess that I am glad that in the coming crisis the people of Ireland, in their ultimate and highest interests, will have better support than those expressions of a doubtful and half-hearted hope that law will pass through this trial. I believe that the people of Great Britain and this present Parliament will represent the ultimate judgment of those whose consideration will ever be applied to this question in deciding that, not merely by way of resenting an affront on law and its dethronement, but by securing the ultimate welfare of the country, the duty which the Government has undertaken is not only justifiable but indispensable.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I have to congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down upon the excellent spirit and the pleasant humour in which he has defended the abrogation of the liberties of the Irish people. The hon. and learned Gentleman has advocated 1906 the tremendous and terrible scourge for the country. I must say with regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman that his intervention in the debate rather augments than decreases the question which many of us have been asking ourselves in the course of the last and the present Session. Several times in the course of the present Session there have been Scotch Bills before this House. With regard to these Scotch Bills the hon. and learned Gentleman has been obstinately and modestly silent. Whenever a Scotch Bill has been before the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman has not been satisfied with maintaining silence with regard to it; but, as a matter of fact, he has removed himself as far as the limits of the Treasury Bench would allow from his right hon. and learned Colleague the Lord Advocate, so as to show that he would not have hand, act, or part in the legislation. I do not suppose that the reason for his non-intervention in Scotch debates is a want of self-esteem; hut I would make this suggestion to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he has not even learned to pronounce Irish names. Has the hon. and learned Gentleman ever been in Ireland in the course of his life?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
How long? How many days? How many weeks? Have his visits to Ireland and his residence there even reached the magnificent total of the seven days of the Chief Secretary for Ireland? I would make this suggestion to the hon. and learned Gentleman—that if he should be mute with regard to a country which he does not know, and eloquent with regard to a country which he does know, he would understand his Parliamentary duties a little better. In the course of my observations I propose to take up several of the cases which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to; but I intend first to make a few observations upon the manner and method in which this Proclamation has been produced. I wanted to know why the Proclamation had been so long postponed. Why was it that the Government did not bring their Proclamation forward until the dying days of an already protracted and prolonged Session? There is no necessity for bringing it forward. I will admit the 1907 whole case of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and yet say that there was no case made out for this Proclamation. I start with this proposition, and that I admit the whole case which the Chief Secretary for Ireland tried to make, and did not make, and the whole case which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland tried to make, and did not make, and still this Proclamation would remain without cause and without excuse. All the cases of alleged or real intimidation, Boycotting, and interference with juries could be dealt with under other sections of the Coercion Act. So far as the case of the Government is concerned, even if their whole case was admitted, there is no case and no necessity for the Proclamation of the National League. But I will tell the House what was the necessity for the Proclamation of the League. It was a purely political necessity. I cannot give the political necessity better than in the language of one of the organs of the Tory Party. Last week there was published an article in The Saturday Review, and this article said of the Government—It is impossible to deny that the Ministry has both in its earlier and its later tenures of Office disappointed the expectations of its friends and given occasion to the enterprize of its enemies. It is quite true that it has not done much that is particularly bad; it is 'the undone part,' not 'the petty done' which threatens in turn to undo it. The attempts to 'oblige Benson' in a new way by cooking up, or allowing to be cooked up, hybrid Liberal-Conservative measures like the Irish Land Bill and the Allotments Bill were, perhaps, inevitable in the circumstances, for the labourer and the Liberal Unionist are alike worthy of their hire. The miserable blunder of the Cass case, which has been a scandal, and which must, however it ends, almost certainly involve a miscarriage of justice, has been an example in little of the whole conduct of the Government. They form, it may be, a tolerably wise decision at first, then somebody applies pressure on the other side; then they hesitate, then they secede, and then they blunder; the conduct of business, the revision of judicial rents, the insignificant but disastrous matter just referred to, the management of tumultuous public meetings, the Horse Artillery affair, a dozen other things, have all been instances of this wobbling squeezableness.It might have been thought that the first maxim of the political copy-book was "Stout sinning is better than ricketty righteousness;" but in the Government copy-book, at any rate, the maxim seems either not to exist or not 1908 to have been learnt. The Proclamation of the League was the "stout sinning" which the Government was prepared to adopt. The Coercion Act was a month or two in existence—they had tried two cases of intimidation under it. In one case they succeeded; in the other they failed. The Government have recently issued a summons against one of the most respected Members of the Irish Party. I wish them well of the struggle they are going into. They have issued a summons against my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), for addressing a meeting in his own constituency. Well, the hon. Member for North-East Cork has struggled with many people in his time, and has never come out second best. If any other public man proves himself as formidable to the Government as my hon. Friend, they could prosecute him under certain sections of the Crimes Act without proclaiming the National League. No case for the Proclamation of the League has been made by the Chief Secretary or the Solicitor General for Scotland. They had all the newspapers in Ireland to quote from, and all the confidential Reports of the Government to quote from, yet all the cases these right hon. Gentlemen could collect to suit their purpose out of an organization with 1,700 branches, and between 200,000 or 300,000 members, were eases of intimidation, real or alleged. Is there any organization in the country in which they can find the proportion of offences so small in proportion to the number of its members? The Chief Secretary has challenged us to make any comparison between trades unions in England and the National League in Ireland. I accept the challenge. The Solicitor General for Scotland read to the House a resolution of a branch fixing the amount of rent to be paid for a certain farm. He considered that the resolution should be received with shouts of condemnation from the Irish Benches. Now, I approve of the resolution. It was a perfectly legitimate and most necessary resolution. Is it a greater crime for a number of tenants to join together and pass a resolution filing the rent they think themselves able to pay for a farm of which they are part proprietors, the house and improvements of which have been made by themselves, than for the men of Newcastle-on-Tyne 1909 to fix the wages they consider themselves entitled to? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says that trade unionism in England is not accompanied by the violent intimidation existing in Ireland. I should be sorry to say that intimidation is used mainly and largely by the trade unions of England; but when you have a large organization like the trades unions wrestling with the capitalists, it is inevitable that a certain amount of crime should be committed. I see by the papers this morning that at Cradley Heath, where a chain-makers' strike is going on, two men have been brought up for intimidation, and though the case has been proved against them, they were not disgraced by being sent to gaol, but were let off with a fine, and no one thinks of standing up in this House and branding the union to which these men belong as a criminal association. In Bolton recently there were some severe and bitter riots, which necessitated the calling out of the military; but did the Chief Secretary propose that because, during a bitter struggle between master and man in Bolton there was a certain amount of disorder, that the trades unions of the whole country should be proclaimed—that everyone who called himself a trades unionist would commit an offence against the Constitution, and render himself liable to six months' imprisonment? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the amount of misery endured by a land-grabber in Ireland. In England a "knobstick" is the exact English equivalent for land-grabber, and means one who, in the face of a struggle between master and employer, deserts the cause of his fellow-workmen and goes to work for a lower wage. I can tell the House that it is as bad to be a "knobstick" in England, when a strike is going on, as a land-grabber in some parts of Ireland. When a branch of the League travels outside its proper function it receives the reprobation of the central branch; but a branch is not suppressed because it passes a resolution condemning land-grabbing. The central branch would be untrue to its principles if it suppressed a branch for passing such a resolution. I do not deny that such resolutions have been passed. We glory in it. One of our rules is that no man should take a farm from which there 1910 has been an unjust eviction, and at the same time remain a member of the National League. Everyone acquainted with the land war in Ireland should recognize the expediency and justice of such a rule in the organization. What has been the great weapon of the landlords in reducing, with the aid of the Government, the population of Ireland from 9,000,000 to 4,250,000? It was this—that as soon as a landlord evicts a tenant, justly or unjustly, he is always able to find someone else to take the farm. It was not until land-grabbers were put down that the weapon of eviction was a broken weapon, and that the tenants were enabled to live in peace. I could give many instances in which branches of the League which have Boycotted a man unjustly, and otherwise acted illegally or wrongfully, have been suppressed. I observed that the Chief Secretary alluded to none of these. Surely a man in his position should have left mere Nisi Prius advocacy to the Scotch Solicitor General. Where the National League is strong there is very little crime. Where the National League is weak there is much crime. If we had a map showing the proportional strength of the League in Ireland, we could not have a better guide as to where crime is rife; and where crime is rife is Kerry and the portion of Cork next to Kerry, but especially Kerry. Now, Kerry is one of the counties in Ireland in which the National League is least strong; and one of the reasons is that the Central Executive, by way of marking its reprobation of the outrages that have marked that portion of Ireland, have refused to sanction or propagate branches of the League there, and even further grants have been refused to most deserving evicted tenants in Kerry, where outrages have taken place, on the ground that these grants might be tortured by the Government, or by the people themselves in their ignorance, into a mute expression of approval of those crimes. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has declared, with more than Tory fervour, that it is nonsense to denounce the Primrose League in the same breath with the National League, because the Primrose League does not back up Boycotting by the bullet of the assassin or the marauding of the midnight murderer. I brand that statement 1911 as a foul calumny on the National League. It is the kind of statement with which the hon. Member, in his speeches through the country, tries to inoculate the mind of the people, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. Brunner) and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) can testify. Well, is it the case of the Government that the National League Boycotting is followed up by the bullet of the assassin and the marauding of the midnight murderer? It is not, for they have deliberately omitted from their Proclamation the sub-section relating to crime and incitement to crime. If the Government have abandoned that statement, it should be abandoned in the country by the supporters of the Government. They are disgraceful weapons of political warfare. At the present moment Ireland is the most crimeless country in the world, even under the most terrible provocation. In County Cavan, with a population of 129,416, there were at the last Summer Assizes three offenders for trial. In Donegal, with a population of 206,036, there were four persons for trial. There was not a single person for trial in the City of Kilkenny, with its population of 12,299. In Louth, with a population of 77,000, there were four offenders for trial; and in Mayo, with a population of 245,000, there were in all, great and little, 14 persons for trial. Yet Her Majesty's Government can talk about the bullet of the assassin and the midnight marauder ! In Meath the National League is strong, and yet, out of a population of 87,000, there were only three cases to go before the Assizes, and the Judge congratulated the Grand Jury on the peaceful condition of the country. I take these facts from a pamphlet, "Coercion without Crime," which gives the charges of the Judges in the 32 counties in Ireland, and which I will commend to the attention of hon. Members. The League is strong in the County of Kilkenny, which has a population of 99,000, and at the last Assizes, Baron Dowse, addressing the Grand Jury, said—I am very glad to say there are not many cases to go before you. The number of bills is six, which only represents five cases. I have to congratulate you on the tranquillity of your county.In Kilkenny City, where the League 1912 are also strong, Judge Harrison was presented by the Grand Jury with a pair of white gloves, and in addressing them he said—I have very great pleasure in receiving this emblem of the innocence of your city, as I may call it. I think it not merely an emblem of its present state, but it clearly represents the general condition of this fair city of Kilkenny.This is the country which we are told is overrun with assassins and midnight marauders. Mr. Justice Holmes is partly responsible for the passing of the Coercion Act, and the first place he went to after his elevation to the Bench was Drogheda, where the Grand Jury presented him with a pair of white gloves. Mr. Justice Holmes said—It is indeed a matter to me of great satisfaction on this the first occasion I have been called upon to preside in the Court of Assizes to find the calendar a blank, and to be able to congratulate you heartily on the freedom from crime which exists in the county of the town of Drogheda.And yet this is one of the towns which have been already proclaimed under one of the provisions of the Crimes Act, and every inhabitant who remains a member of the National League after a further Proclamation has been issued by the Government will be liable to six months' imprisonment, and I am afraid Mr. Justice Holmes will get no more white gloves. I am going to join my words to those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in counselling the Irish people to refrain from outrage and crime; but, at the same time, I cannot help asking the House whether it is not testing the endurance and patience of the Irish people beyond human power when, in the face of facts like these, the country is represented by paid calumniators to be a pandemonium of intimidation? I will take some of the cases brought forward by the Government. I do not excuse some of the resolutions which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has read; I think they were unjustifiable and unjust. I do not propose to justify every single word and act and resolution passed by an organization of this immense size in these terrible times; but what are the Irish people fighting for just now? Hundreds and thousands of them are fighting for their homes, their wives, and their children. This organization is the great weapon which stands between them and destruction and starva- 1913 tion. They are fighting besides what I believe to be the last great fight for their liberties, and I challenge any man to say that in the history of the world there has ever been a people engaged in a struggle so vital who have been so absolutely free from crime. The right hon. Gentleman quoted many cases from the counties of Waterford, Wexford, and Louth. I think he quoted the resolutions of three branches in the County of Wexford. Now, what I want to say is this—that I condemn those Resolutions, and that I consider them unjustifiable and illegitimate; but I ask if the right hon. Gentleman can show that those Resolutions have led to injury of person or property? I say that the National League has a right to expel a member of a branch who violates the rules of the branch, provided that those rules are necessary and legitimate. Now, anyone who has studied the history of Ireland, and who has read John Stuart Mill's work on the cottier tenancy in Ireland, will know that the great evil of Irish tenant life has been that the price of a farm, worth perhaps £40, has been sometimes run up to £240, because the people look to the tenure of land as the one rock in the sea of starvation surrounding them. Any organization, therefore, which will interfere with this recklessness on the part of the tenant will not only protect the tenant, but also work a great economical change in Ireland. The Government were bound to show that the resolutions of the League branches have been followed by outrage on person or property, and I have quoted Wexford, because the worst cases of the Government were taken from that county. What is the state of crime there? There is a population of nearly 124,000, and out of that number there were just two offenders for trial at the last Summer Assizes. I should like to be shown any county in England which has a population of 124,000, and which has only two offenders for trial at the Assizes; and yet this is the very worst case the Government can bring forward. There is, however, no use in blinking the fact. The limit of the National League is conterminous with three of the Provinces of Ireland. Every grown Irishman in those Provinces, with the exception of a miserable minority of Tories, is a member of the National League or an 1914 active sympathizer with it. When you proclaim the League, you may talk as you like about the eclipse of the liberties of Ireland, but I say you are pronouncing war against the Irish people. The Government have thrown down the glove; we will take it up. I tell the Government that we are not afraid. You have begun a war already by bringing before a Police Court my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien). Do you think he is going to be frightened with that? I tell you that all your law, and all your prisons, and all your scaffolds, will avail nothing to make a man like him to swerve one jot from the course which patriotism dictates. I tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that we have beaten a stronger man than he is, and that we have beaten better men than he is in the hours of the darkest night of our history. I wish to speak in terms of respect for the late Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). He had the courage of his opinions; but we defeated him with the Land League. The Land League organization, as compared with the National League, is as a child compared with a giant. We have more branches, more people, and all the priests of Ireland at our back; we have the Bishops of Ireland at our back. That was not the case in the Land League days, when some of the most violent attacks upon the Land League were made from the Archiepiscopal Palace in Dublin. A very different spirit reigns there now. If the right hon. Gentleman can carry this first line of defence, we have another line of defence which the Government have never had the courage to attack. It is the chapel yard and the sanctuary. But we are stronger than we were in England also; the tide is rising in our favour all over the country. We know that the country would have returned a Liberal Government if they had been relieved of the incubus of the Primrose League. I advise hon. Gentlemen, if they want a case of Boycotting in England, to read The Daily News of this morning, and they will see how a lady was able to frighten all her servants. I say that there is more Boycotting and more intimidation in one county in England than there is in the whole of Ireland; and I say, further, that it is no longer a question whether we have a majority of 1915 the people with us, because that is an established fact. The question we have to discuss with ourselves is whether the majority of the constituents will be able to defy the threats and the action of the Primrose League against their property, their employment, and their peace of mind, and give the vote which their consciences dictate. I believe that the people of England are on our side, and that they are more and more so every day; and I say that the reason why we have won the recent elections is because the Government carried their Coercion Act. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland think that we, who contended with Cromwell, with James, with Charles, and with William, are afraid of a niminy-piminy Bismarck of the nineteenth century? If against my countrymen you carry your Coercion Act into operation, I beg and implore of them from my place in Parliament to remember the saying of the greatest of their liberators, that "He who commits a crime gives strength to the enemy"; and I ask them in this struggle to quit themselves like men, and to be buoyed up with the knowledge that coercion is the shortest road to the liberties of a people.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir George Trevelyan.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.