§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
in rising to move the following Amendment:—But humbly to represent to Her Majesty that the relations between the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland have not been seriously disturbed in the cases of those owners who have granted to their tenants such abatements of rents as are called for by the state of prices of agricultural and pastoral produce, and that the remedy for the existing crisis in Irish agrarian affairs is not to be found in increased stringency of criminal procedure, or in the pursuit of such novel, doubtful, and unconstitutional measures as have recently been taken by Her Majesty's Government in Ireland, but in such a reform of the Law and the system of government as will satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the Irish people,said: Mr. Speaker, the Amendment which I propose to move to the Address deals with four points. It states that disturbance between the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland, which is complained of in the Address, has not taken place where suitable concessions have been given to their tenants by 775 owners, and in this connection it will be my duty undoubtedly to attach serious blame to the Government for the rejection of the Tenants' Relief Bill of last Session, which would have effectually prevented or have very much limited the disturbances which have taken place. Then, Sir, secondly, I point out that coercion will fail, as it always has failed, sooner or later, in bringing about a better state of affairs in Ireland, whether between the owners and occupiers, or in that larger field which I may call the international relations between the two countries. If the intention of the Government is to undertake coercion, as is foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne—a coercion which is called by the euphonious name of an alteration or reform in criminal procedure—the result will be that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant will find himself at the top of a very unpleasant inclined plane, and that he will speedily, like Oliver Twist, be found in this House asking for more. Coercion such as the right hon. Gentleman evidently contemplates in the Queen's Speech is coercion against his political opponents in Ireland. He does not claim—in fact, he expressly denies, and rather plumes himself on the fact—that there has been an increase of crime in Ireland during the last few months. He claims, on the contrary, a large diminution of agrarian outrages. What he wants is to tackle his political opponents in the country—the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and the speakers of open and advised speeches. Some of them are Members of this House, and they appear to have entered into a competition with Her Majesty's Government in Ireland as to who should produce the best plan for taking a short cut to the better government of that country. Well, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman gets into this slippery path he will find himself unable to stop. It will only be the beginning of his coercion. All experience in Ireland has shown that when you muzzle your political opponents, and put them in gaol, your work is only beginning; and that open agitation and advised speaking having been stopped, having been thrust under the surface, the Government is immediately face to face with the dreadful existence of secret societies and with the revival of agrarian and political crime in its worst forms; 776 and the Chief Secretary will find himself obliged to come to Parliament, like the late Mr. Forster, and require this House to provide him with newer and stronger weapons to deal with a state of affairs which his own action has brought about. There is yet time; the right hon. Gentleman may even now be dissuaded from entering upon this course of action, and may be induced to rely rather upon the removal of grievances, the amelioration of the condition of the people, and the alteration of the system of government in Ireland, than upon those antiquated methods of procedure—this yoke of coercion, which always has created and always will create fresh obstacles and difficulties. My Amendment, Sir, also complains that the Government have been guilty of unusual, doubtful, and unconstitutional courses in Ireland during the last few months. At first sight, it might be supposed that I was referring to the exercise of the dispensing power, or the pressure which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary boasted at Bristol that he had brought to bear against Irish landlords. This is not the case, although I shall have to deal with that phase of the events of last winter later on. Although I shall have to point out that the Government, by the adoption of their Plan of Campaign and of this dispensing power, have not cleared themselves from the blame which attaches to them for their rejection of the Tenants' Relief Bill, yet I do not propose to criticize the Government for that part of their course in Ireland. It was the best thing, under the circumstances, for the Government to do. Sir, it was a very poor attempt at government; but, although it was a poor attempt, although the authors of the Plan of Campaign had no difficulty whatever in outshining them and in concocting a better plan of action, and one with far greater and more successful results than that of the Government of the Queen, yet it was the only thing that was left for the unfortunate Chief Secretary to do, and he did it with the best materials at his command. Certainly, he was ably assisted by the gentlemen he pressed into his service—Sir Redvers Buller, County Court Judge Curran, Captain Plunkett, and the other officials who helped him in this dispensing power. But the blame is not in 777 that direction; it is rather in the direction of the actions, illegal, unusual, and outside the law, which they committed in their attempts in the other direction—in the direction of upholding what they called the law in Ireland. I will refer to a few only of their mistakes. I cannot go over the whole of their misdeeds within the last few months; I should weary and detain the House too much by the recital. I shall only refer to some of the more leading mistakes as fair examples of the rest. To begin with, let me mention their invocation of the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland against an alleged political offender, my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). They wanted to take a short cut towards the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, and in attempting to do so they did what is without precedent even in the government of that country. It is the first time that what is called the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench has been invoked for the purpose of securing a rule of bail against the offender. The Government were guilty of a mean, unprecedented, and unconstitutional action in attempting to deprive the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo of his liberty. There can be no doubt they thought he would not be able to get bail, and that they would thus be able to shut him up in prison instead of bringing him before the ordinarily constituted Courts of Law and trying him before a Judge and jury. Well, Sir, let me refer also to the proclamation of the Sligo meeting. That meeting was called in a legal and constitutional manner, and for a perfectly legal and constitutional purpose. It was called for two purposes: the first was to discuss the land question and the alteration in the law necessary to settle that question; the second purpose was to protest against the illegal conduct of the Sheriff of the County of Sligo in wilfully breaking the law—Lord O'Hagan's Jury Act—in no fewer than three particulars in the formation of the jury panel for the County of Sligo. These were both perfectly legitimate objects. It was quite right for the people to discuss those questions and the alterations in the law that Parliament ought to make; and it was quite right, while there was yet time, that they should call attention to that illegal action and protest against it before the liberties of innocent persons had been 778 sacrificed. I may mention as a proof of the legality of the complaint that when the Assizes commenced the question was brought before the Judge by counsel for the prisoners. The composition of the jury panel was defended, and Chief Baron Palles, one of the highest legal authorities in Ireland, stated that in three separate particulars Lord O'Hagan's Jury Act had been deliberately broken, and that probably there was not a single man on the jury panel who would have been on it if the panel had been legally struck; and either Her Majesty's Government or Chief Baron Palles did what was equivalent to quashing the panel, and the Assize was postponed. The Government did not want this matter discussed; up to the last the counsel for the Crown supported the Sheriff in his illegal action, and the Government had also supported him previously by proclaiming the Sligo meeting, which was called for the purposes I have mentioned. On the legal question I should like to ask the Irish Law Officers under what statute or authority it is the Lord Lieutenant claims to have power to proclaim meetings called for such purposes? In Ireland we have had examples of the proclamation of meetings by magistrates, when meetings have been prevented, by armed forces; but in a recent decision of the superior Courts of this country, it has been held that magistrates have not the right to stop a public meeting. In your English history a right of public meeting was asserted by the sacrifice of lives and the spilling of much blood at Peterloo. In Ireland we have always on such occasions overwhelming forces of military and police to contend with. We have never been able to assert our right of public meeting in the same fashion. But, I wish to ask, on what authority, by what law and statute, and, if by Common Law, under what judicial decisions did the Government in Ireland proclaim this Sligo meeting? They not only proclaimed the meeting—which, after the Proclamation no attempt was made to hold—but the day before that on which the meeting was to have been held, when the High Sheriff of Dublin, who is one of the magistrates for the division of the County in which the town of Sligo is situate, had gone down to the town of Sligo, and was proceeding to the Town Hall, in company of the Mayor of Sligo, who was also a county magistrate, for 779 the purpose of consulting together with their friends as to the action that ought to be taken in view of the Government proclamation, these gentlemen, and the persons who accompanied them, were violently attached by the police, under the shadow of the Town Hall, while they were waiting for the purpose of securing the key of that building, and a large number of persons were seriously injured, one of them, Mr. John or Nicholas Devine, having had his skull fractured, and being still in a very precarious and dangerous condition, owing to the assault. For this there has been no redress, and I do not suppose there will be any. I should like also to ask the Government why Mr. Devine's skull was fractured. Now, Sir, I also complain of the jury panel in Sligo, which I condemn as one way about as good as could be chosen to induce the Irish people to despise and dislike the administration of the law. What are the facts of this jury panel at the Connaught Winter Assizes? On a jury panel where more than one-half of the jurors—the persons summoned as jurors—were Roman Catholics, and in a province where nine-tenths of the population are Catholics, three juries were struck for the trial of agrarian cases, on which not a single Roman Catholic was allowed to be put. A fourth jury was struck on which there was only one Roman Catholic, who was a bailiff, and under the influence of the landlords, and yet, Sir, the Government expect the Irish people to believe in the justness of the administration of the law, where three-fourths of the population of the whole country and nine-tenths of the population of the county are only allowed one single representative on juries to try political and agrarian cases. No wonder that when by some chance a Catholic or two manage to get upon a jury they should disagree with the Protestant jurors. Now, Sir, there is another example of the meanness—because I cannot invent a less hard and harsh term for their conduct in Ireland—there is another example of the meanness of the Government administration. When, after an interval of two months, they had failed to put the hon. Member for East Mayo into gaol by the short cut of invoking the inherent jurisdiction of the Queen's Bench, and when they had at length taken proceedings to 780 bring him to trial before a Judge and a jury, they initiated these proceedings in the City of Dublin; but after the magistrate had returned the cases for trial the Crown came to the conclusion that they would get a better and more subservient jury in the County of Dublin, the jury panel in that County being very largely composed of half-pay English officers, and other retired Government officials, who might be depended upon to exhibit the least possible amount of prejudice against a man of the political proclivities of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo. Consequently they had recourse to an obsolete statute, which never, I believe, had in modern times been used for the purpose, and removed the case by change of venue from the City of Dublin to the County. All I can say is that if the Crown succeed in convicting my hon. Friend by the adoption of such a mean trick as that, neither the justice of the verdict nor the validity of the proceedings will be recognized by an Irishman worthy of the name. It is one of the shabbiest and most miserable exhibitions of trickery and dodgery which had ever disgraced the carrying out of British misrule in Ireland. I sympathize deeply with a Government which finds itself reduced to such deplorable straits as to be obliged to hit its political opponents below the belt. I have said that I do not intend to condemn the Government for their dispensing action in Ireland. But I have also said that this dispensing action cannot be held to shield them from the consequence of their rejection of the Tenants' Relief Bill of last Session—a rejection which is the source and origin of all their troubles. Was there a necessity for the reduction of rents claimed by the Relief Bill? The Government said that there was not; and they invited their followers, with a light heart, to throw the Bill out. They did throw it out. But will they say so now? Will anybody contend in the face of the Governmental action last winter, so far as we have been able to disclose it as yet; but we have by no means got to the bottom of it—will anybody contend that there was not a necessity for large and general reduction of rent? I do not think that anybody will, because things have been going from bad to worse. The fall of prices has continued, and shown no sign yet of stopping. We are face to face with a 781 Front Bench which has no plan of reform for Ireland, no plan of amelioration for the tenants, no plan for easing the relations between landlord and tenant except their own stumbling, shifting, and broken-kneed processes carried out through the instrumentality of Sir Redvers Buller, Judge Curran, and others, who so distinguished themselves last winter in competition with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo. I proposed in the Relief Bill that this law-and-order Government should proceed legally and constitutionally; that it should first amend the law, where it was shown to require amendment—and they admitted by their action afterwards in Ireland that it did require amendment—that, the law having been amended, they should have gone to work deliberately, before judicial officials appointed for the purpose, and with great experience in dealing with these cases, to decide, after the tenant had paid one-half of his rent and arrears, whether there was really a need for a reduction or a remission as regards the remainder. In that way you would have done something to train the Irish people in that respect for law and order which Her Majesty's Government profess to be so desirous to see instilled in their minds; but the Government tried a short cut again, and sent Judge Curran and Sir Redvers Buller to the County of Kerry. Why were these distinguished people, above all others, sent to the County of Kerry? I suppose it was for the purpose of still further persuading the people of the virtue of the observance of law and order. The County of Kerry happened to be not the most rack-rented County in Ireland; but it was the County in which there had been the greatest disturbance, and the greatest number of agrarian outrages, and in which moonlighting had been rifest and most rampant. This was the County which the Government chose for their operations. I suppose they did so for the purpose of teaching the lesson to the rest of Ireland that, where the tenants had made things absolutely unbearable, as they had done in Kerry, where life and property were unsafe, and where moonlighters were ransacking all parts of the County—this was the place chosen by Her Majesty's law-and-order Government for the purpose of exceptionally favouring the tenants and bringing 782 about reductions in their rents—wholesale and sweeping reductions, as I shall show by-and-by—which, by the rejection of the Relief Bill, they had refused to the rest of Ireland because it was quiet; because there were no outrages, and which they provided special machinery for in the case of Kerry, but had provided no machinery for in the case of the rest of Ireland. The Government have alleged, as an excuse for their conduct in the rejection of the Relief Bill, that it was only applicable to judicial tenancies and leaseholds, and would not have reached the smaller tenants, such as those at Glenbeigh. Well, Sir, I should have been only too glad to have extended the Bill in Committee to the rest of the tenantry. I undoubtedly did err on the side of modesty, and I am sorry for it. I erred on the side of modesty and moderation in making my Bill too small; but that is not an argument which the Government is entitled to use. It was an argument which anybody was entitled to use against them on the Motion for a Second Reading, because the Bill might have been amended in Committee. I should have been only too glad to remedy this or any other blot. It has been said that the condition of the smaller tenantry, of which Glenbeigh affords an example, was so desperate, that they owed so many years' arrears, that they would have been unable to comply with the condition of the Bill—namely, the payment of half the rent and arrears. Now, this is not so. The Bill would amply have met the smaller class of tenants. The Glenbeigh estate, although typical in most respects of the condition of the congested or smaller tenanted estates of the country, is not typical of it in respect of the number of years' arrears which were due. The number of years' arrears on the Glenbeigh estate was owing to exceptional circumstances which do not exist on the great majority of Irish estates. It was owing to the fact that the original owner and the mortgagees had been in contention, and had served notices on each other, and had served notices on the tenants not to pay any rent. Both claimants to this estate had adopted a sort of "No rent" manifesto, and the tenants in this case had obeyed, and did not pay any rent for a number of years. But, as regards the greater number of 783 estates in a similar position, the rents are paid up every year, so far as the tenants are able to pay, and no great number of years of arrears exist. Undoubtedly, the great majority of the tenants, by borrowing and scraping money together, would have been able to deposit the 50 per cent rent and arrears. Therefore, the example of the Glenbeigh estate is not at all applicable. It is said that the landlords had made a generous offer on the Glenbeigh estate. The generous offer made originally was that they should pay the whole five years' arrears with costs. In August, immediately after the present landlord had established his claim to the estate, he issued notices that he had established it. In September he took ejectment proceedings against the tenants in the County Court of Kerry, and in October these proceedings came on for trial, thus only giving the tenants one month to find five years' arrears before he proceeded to pile up costs, in most cases amounting to two or two and a-half years' rent in addition. It was this harsh conduct on the part of the landlord which ultimately prevented a settlement being arrived at. There can be no doubt that the tenants would have accepted the final offer of payment of half a year's rent if it had been free from the condition of paying costs, which amounted to two or two and a-half years' rent; and the infliction of these costs rendered it quite impossible to accept the apparently generous offer which was made. Hence the evictions and house-burnings, and the other features of the case. In this case the Relief Bill would have stepped in; but not even Judge Curran, with all the wide dispensing powers which he assumed, could prevent the tenants from being mulcted in these costs, the decree having carried with it the infliction of costs which they had no power to pay. If my Bill had been accepted, proceedings would have been stopped before the case came into Court by the payment of 50 per cent of rent and arrears, and thus an insurmountable barrier of costs, as in the case of Glenbeigh, would never have been created. It is also alleged, in defence of the conduct of the landlord of the Glenbeigh estate, that it was the action of the National League which prevented a settlement. Now, Sir, the National League never inter- 784 fered with the Glenbeigh case at all until the evictions were in full swing. It was not until five houses had been burnt that the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Kerry appeared on the scene for the first time. War had been commenced by the landlord and trustees at that time, and the atrocities which have fixed public attention in this country had been committed. The Plan of Campaign has not been adopted on the Glenbeigh estate to this very day. But I have no hesitation in saying that if it had been adopted in time there would have been no house burning and no evictions. The essence of the Plan of Campaign—and it has been very much criticized—is that all the tenants should stand together, and those who can pay should refuse to pay until those who cannot pay should get a fair settlement. That is its most important feature, and without it the tenants who cannot pay would be evicted, and their houses would be burned and levelled. At Glenbeigh 25 solvent tenants on the estate have paid, nine of them being members of the Local Committee of the National League. Where, then, is the evidence that the National League has interfered, or that the Plan of Campaign has been adopted? I am not dealing with the rectitude of the Plan of Campaign; I am simply showing that if it had been adopted these houses at Glenbeigh would never have been burnt, the homesteads would never have been levelled, and the civilized world would not have been shocked at this fresh example of the Government of law and order in gaining the affections of the Irish people. Now, Sir, what does General Buller say of the poverty of these people in his letter to Messrs. Darley and Roe on November 29? Why, that most of the tenants are "nearer famine than the payment of rent." I will now return to the Government's proceedings during the winter. They refused the Relief Bill, and, having done so, the Chief Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo hurried over post-haste to Ireland to put into operation their respective Plans of Campaign. The experience of history has too often shown that in Ireland nothing is to be gained by respect for law and order, by reliance upon Constitutional methods, and by looking to Parliament for the redress of grievances. But I confess I was in 785 hopes, at the end of last Session, that a Government which had been returned for the express purpose of showing that Ireland could be justly governed at Westminster would properly attend to her wants. But, instead of that, we have the old lesson that we must not look to this House for justice. But the majority of this House—those who call themselves Liberal Unionists and Conservative Unionists—showed their determination to accept nothing which I brought forward, not because it was bad in itself, but because I had brought it forward. The mere fact of the authorship of that Bill plainly indicated to their minds that it must be a dishonest Bill concealing some deeply-laid plot against the integrity of the Union. Therefore, they rejected the Bill. The Government had then no alternative but the adoption of the course which they followed. They sent Judge Curran to Kerry. Judge Curran is a gentleman against whom I do not wish to say anything; and if I do say anything which may appear to be hostile to him, my excuse must be that I do not intend to be hostile to him. Judge Curran was a Judge who was bound by the exigencies of the office which he held to avoid all communication with either of the parties to a suit which might come before him. He was bound to have no previous knowledge of the particulars of the cases brought before him. But he put aside such antiquated notions and went to the parties to suits. He saw the landlords, and tried to dissuade them from suing their tenants; and, being in some cases successful, he came on the Bench and announced, when the suits came on for hearing, that he had the power to make reductions to the tenants; in fact, exhibited himself as the general saviour of the County of Kerry, and invited all disputants to come to him. Like the man who beats the drum outside an itinerant circus, he called out, "Walk up, walk up, gentlemen, and see what splendid reductions I will give you!" and the tenants flocked to his Court, hoping to get these reductions. In a letter to the Bishop of Kerry, Judge Curran said—I went to Kerry with an honest and determined desire to do justice, and, if possible, to restore the district to its normal state of peace. I was determined that juries should convict in cases in which guilt was brought home to the parties.786 But a Judge cannot give effect to any such determination. A Judge has no power to make a jury convict if the jury does not choose to convict. Judge Curran also said that he was determined to remove the cause of crime by preventing the oppression of tenants who were willing, but unable, to meet the landlords' demands. But Judge Curran had no power to do this. Parliament might have done it, but he could not. He said that he was powerless, except in cases in which tenants came before him and explained the position. He was, however, powerless in all cases except by the consent of the landlords. Without their consent he had no power to reduce the rent, or to strike off a penny of the costs. He had no real power to do anything, except postpone the execution of decrees for a very short period. But he assumed greater powers. In his letter he intimated that he should not stoop to deny that he was not acting in league with the landlords, or by the direction of the Government; but as he admits in a subsequent part of his letter that he has had interviews with Sir Redvers Buller, on the subject of the remission of rents, I may leave the House to judge of the worth of this denial. As this letter shows throughout the belief of Judge Curran that a large reduction of rents in Kerry was urgently needed, I wish to ask the Government whether they still think that they did right in rejecting the Tenants' Relief Bill, and whether they still hold that they were right, when that measure was before the House, in suggesting that no reduction of rents was needed? Judge Curran actually attempted to do things which he had no legal power to do. I do not blame him, because the emergency was great. Parliament had just made a great mistake, and the Government a terrible blunder, and it was his duty, as their loyal officer, to do what he could to cover these errors. With regard to the proceedings and sayings of General Buller, the greatest secrecy has been maintained, and whenever any awkward fact came out, it was stoutly denied till the proof became so positive that the denial could be no longer maintained. Some light, however, has been thrown upon his action. There was first the publication of a telegram from the Sub-Sheriff of Cork to County Inspector Moriarty, who was with Sir Redvers 787 Buller in County Kerry, asking for extra police protection. The reply of Mr. Moriarty to this request was known; he refused to send the constables, saying that 10 days' notice must be given before such a demand could be entertained, and that information must be sent as to the nature of the proceedings, the names of the parties concerned being given. By this it is plain that before police protection would be granted, General Buller required to know whether the proceedings were for the eviction of tenants on account of arrears of rent, or for the recovery of ordinary debts; also the names of the parties to be evicted, so that he might ascertain whether there existed any circumstances of hardship justifying the exercise of a dispensing power. We have next a portion of General Buller's evidence before Lord Cowper's Commission, and this is very remarkable as showing the need for the Relief Bill and the lunacy of the Government in rejecting it. The account of the witness's evidence was published in the newspapers, and purported to have appeared in a letter written by one of the Commissioners to a friend in London. It represented General Buller as saying that the tenants were over-rented, that they could not pay the rents, that the law was all on the side of the landlords, that he had been obliged to intervene to save tenants from hardship, that the National League was the saviour of the people, that before its existence the tenants had no friends, and that a stop should be put to unjust evictions. From the day of the publication of this account to the present nobody, so far as I know, has denied that it is correct. When examined in the recent proceedings before the police magistrate in Dublin General Buller excused himself from replying to questions upon this subject by saying that he had not yet received a copy of the shorthand writer's notes of his evidence. I am afraid that since his connection with Dublin Castle, General Buller has learnt not to be quite candid. Association with the Irish officials has apparently done him no good. We have lately received trustworthy information, of which we challenge the contradiction, that General Buller is now being asked by the Commission to amend his evidence, and that this portion of his original evidence will not appear in the official Report. The next thing we know about 788 General Buller is disclosed in the correspondence with Captain Plunkett with reference to a tenant in Limerick, who was president of the local branch of the National League, and who, when about to be evicted, appealed to General Buller for protection. General Buller recommended him to Captain Plunkett's care, and shortly afterwards a letter appeared in The Times signed "Erigena." The agent of the estate complained that Captain Plunkett had called upon them to urge them to give the tenants a receipt for the three and a-half years' rent due, and to forgive the costs incurred on payment of one year's rent. And they said they were given to understand that should they refuse to grant these terms they would not be given police protection at the evictions. In another letter he urged the landlord to accept the rent offered, said that the majority of the tenants were nearer famine than the payment of rent, and that unless the landowner agreed to a settlement, he could not support evictions. There can be no doubt that General Buller and other officers and Government officials had repeatedly led landlords in Ireland to believe that protection would not be given in cases where unjust evictions were made. It was unquestionably the opinion of the Chief Secretary, from the speech which he recently made at Bristol, that strong pressure was necessary to induce many landlords to do what was right, and he spoke of the pressure he was exercising. I think the phrase about the exercise of pressure was an unfortunate one to use, because if it is legitimate for a Minister who has deliberately rejected an alteration of the law on the ground that no pressure is necessary, that the landlords will do of their own accord what should be done, to go over to Ireland to exercise pressure on the landlords, and to prevent them doing what is in their strict legal right to do, then I say there may be other men more interested, in the welfare of the Irish people than the right hon. Gentleman, men who are more disinterested, because they have not to prop up the miserable attempts at government which have been made in Ireland; there may be Irishmen who may be pardoned for thinking that they too are justified in exercising pressure on the landlords to do what is right and just. It has been alleged or suggested 789 in Her Majesty's Speech that the relations between landlord and tenant have been disturbed by the Plan of Campaign. Now, as one who is in no sense responsible for the bringing forward of this Plan of Campaign, I am inclined to speak freely and fairly with regard to the matter, and I deny, in the strongest terms, that there is any foundation whatever for that statement. I believe, on the contrary, that had it not been for the Plan of Campaign many poor tenants who have now roofs over their heads would have been cast out on the bare hillside as the Glenbeigh tenants were. I believe that the reduction in the number of evictions from 1,100 to 666 in the last quarter has been mainly due to the action of the Plan of Campaign. No doubt, in a secondary sense, it has also been due to the exercise of a dispensing power on the part of the Government. These efforts on the part of the Government, and on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), have induced many unjust and hard landlords to make concessions who would not otherwise have done so, and therefore, Sir, so far from the Plan of Campaign having disturbed the relations between landlord and tenant, the fact that up to a very recent time there had not been a single eviction on any estate where the Plan had been adopted by all the tenantry, is very good testimony to the circumstance that instead of leading to outrages it has pacified the country. It is evident, indeed, that the Government and the authors of the Plan of Campaign are aiming, and have been aiming, at precisely the same thing, only the Government have not been quite so successful as their rivals. It is a remarkable fact that for nearly two months after the Plan of Campaign had been published the Government refrained from taking any action against it or expressing any opinion that it was illegal. The Plan was published on the 23rd of October, and it was not until the week before Christmas—two months later—that the Government moved in the matter. That was the first intimation which was given to the Irish people that the Plan of Campaign was illegal. Did the Government know before this that it was illegal? Had their Law Officers informed them before this that it was illegal? If not, why did they not do so; and if they did, why did 790 not the Government communicate their information to the public? If the Government believed that the Plan of Campaign was illegal, knowing that the general opinion in Ireland was that the movement was perfectly legal, and that it was held that that opinion had been confirmed by their own Attorney General, I say it was their duty to speak out at once and to warn the tenants. Why did the right hon. Gentleman wait for two months before he issued his proclamation? It is useless to point to the proceedings against the hon. Member for East Mayo, because these were not proceedings against the Plan of Campaign, but against certain speeches made by the hon. Gentleman; and I believe that to this day no proceedings have been taken against any tenant under the Plan of Campaign. But why this delay? Is it that the Government felt that they could not fully rely on their own pressure on the landlords, and wanted the assistance of the hon. Member for East Mayo; and that the exertions of Judge Curran and Sir Redvers Buller in the exercise of their dispensing power to reduce rents—which, by-the-bye, they had no right to reduce—were insufficient? Was it that the righ hon. Gentleman felt that without the aid of the Plan of Campaign his pressure on the landlords would not have been strong enough, that evictions would have increased, and that he would not have been able to come back to the House of Commons and say that his policy had been successful? Are those the reasons why he winked at the Plan of Campaign? If not, what are the reasons? If they had determined to intervene with the strong arm of what is called the law in Ireland, they should not have let the Irish people commit themselves to all the consequences of the Plan. Sir, as far as I can make out, the Government and the authors of the Plan of Campaign are aiming at one and the same thing; and I can assign no other reason for the late action of the Government in Ireland in this matter, at the eleventh hour, than that they got jealous of the hon. Member for East Mayo and Mr. William O'Brien because they were more successful in their efforts than they were themselves. And, Sir, there is evidence to show that the Plan of Campaign was worked with more moderation by its authors than the course adopted by the 791 Government in imitation of it; and those who worked that Plan took up no case in which there was not a clear necessity for reduction in rent. Moreover, they tried to bring about a settlement in every case in which there was a fair offer of reduction. There was no imitation of the helter-skelter, harum-scarum, slapdash proceedings of Judge Curran and General Buller on the part of the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and all cases were carefully investigated before action was taken. Let me direct the attention of the House to the estates of Lord Dillon and Lord Dunsandle. The Dillon estate is about the best instance of a congested estate on a large scale. It is tenanted by a great number of small tenants who used to come to England every year for the purpose of earning a few pounds to meet their annual rents. At the time of the passing of the Arrears Act the estate was in a condition of frightful confusion, with several years of rent owing. Fortunately, the Arrears Act was passed, and that afforded the poor tenants some means of escape from the predicament in which they were. If this estate had not been taken in hand by the authors of the Plan of Campaign, and a settlement forced on the landlord, the horrors of Glenbeigh would have been repeated on them a thousandfold. The class of tenants is almost the same as at Glenbeigh, but fortunately we have been spared that. The same thing may be said of Lord Dunsandle's estate, which is also inhabited by very impoverished tenants, although their condition is not quite so desperate. These, and some 20 other cases in which a settlement has not been arrived at, are fair examples of the necessity which existed for pressure of some kind or other on the landlord; and they are also examples of the moderation with which settlements were effected as soon as landlords showed any disposition to come to a settlement. As regards the legality or illegality of the Plan of Campaign, I have said that the Irish public are entitled to know, without loss of time, whether, in the opinion of the Government, the plan is legal or not. I can attach no weight whatever to the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, or the Government Proclamation, under the circumstances of the case. The Government action has been so clouded by dodgery and by subterfuge that I reserve to myself the 792 right to wait until I see what the decision as to the legality of this Plan is in the trial which is about to take place. The legality of the Plan is a matter on which, if I had been in a position to concern myself about it, I should have desired to be satisfied first of all. I should have thought it necessary to take the opinion of counsel myself; and I am informed that counsel has given an opinion in favour of the legality and Constitutional principle of the Plan of Campaign. But, however that may be, the conduct of the Government stands condemned, first of all for waiting two months before expressing an opinion; and, secondly, by removing the case out of the Court in which it was originated to one in County Dublin, where they expected to get a subservient jury; and, thirdly, by attempting to take proceedings by a short cut before the Queen's Bench, thus enabling that Court to express an opinion on certain speeches, and upon the Plan of Campaign, which was not before the Court at all, and with regard to which there was no evidence whatever. Now, some hard words have been used towards the Gentlemen who are concerned in this rival attempt to bring pressure to bear upon the Irish landlords. Lord Salisbury, and Conservative and Liberal Unionist speakers, have likened them to robbers and embezzlers. They do not do well or wisely who talk of robbery or embezzlement in connection with the Irish Land Question. Those Gentlemen who talk so glibly forget that almost every title to Irish land is founded on wholesale robbery and embezzlement. They forget that a great portion of the land of Ireland has been confiscated no fewer than three several times over. They forget that all improvements in the land, with very few exceptions, have been made by the tenants, and that so far as the land has derived value from such improvements, that value should by law be the property of the tenants. They forget that for centuries the landlords have been coolly robbing, confiscating, and embezzling the increased value of the land. It is not well or wise, therefore, that the supporters of the Irish landlords, whether in or out of the House, should talk about robbery or embezzlement. These unwise words may give rise to unpleasant recollections. My next proposition involves a condemnation of coercion as a remedy for the 793 troubles of Ireland. I have said that resort to coercion is announced in the Queen's Speech in the direction of increased stringency in criminal procedure. We are informed that the proposed coercion will give power to stipendiary magistrates to convict for intimidation, and that it will give power to empanel special juries, and to change venues. It is admitted that the coercion is to be used against open agitation, and public speaking and writing. The right hon. Gentleman, like all other Chief Secretaries before him, has thought that once he gets his political enemies into gaol, and keeps them there, he will be quite happy. I wonder that he has not been warned by the case of his Predecessor. The late Mr. Forster commenced by only wanting an Act—it was rather the converse of the case of the right hon. Gentleman; but the two situations became similar in the end—for dealing with village tyrants and dissolute ruffians, whom, he said, the police knew all about, and could lay their hands upon at a moment's notice. He wanted to put these men into prison, and keep them there as long as he wished. He got the Act, but he failed to find the tyrants and ruffians—at least, he failed to put them into prison; but instead of that he put into prison 1,000 of the popular leaders of Ireland, including two clergymen, seven Members of Parliament, several town councillors, many Poor Law Guardians, and a large number of substantial merchant s and traders, shopkeepers, and farmers. And, when he had done all this, he found that he wanted more power, for the exasperations, fed and nurtured by those high-handed proceedings, produced their inevitable result. A secret conspiracy had grown up under the very nose of the Chief Secretary armed with all those great powers of summary arrest and imprisonment—a conspiracy directed against his own life, which he knew nothing about, and which he was unable to cope with, and similar conspiracies existed throughout Ireland against the lives of landlords and Government officials. Those conspiracies did not come into existence until Mr. Forster had commenced his career of coercion to stamp out Constitutional agitation. But the inevitable result of driving discontent under the surface, whether in Ireland or elsewhere, followed. Mr. 794 Forster appealed to his Cabinet for increased powers. They refused. Then came the terrible tragedy in the Phœnix Park, and it was followed by the passing of the Crimes Act, the most stringent coercive enactment, both against political agitation and crime, ever passed against Ireland by England. This Act was administered under the most favourable circumstances of a partial revival of agricultural prospects by Lord Spencer with great determination, but with very partial success, and its administration was answered from America by dynamite and other attempts at assassination and conspiracy. Dynamite was repeatedly exploded in the crowded streets of your City, your public buildings were also threatened, and attempts were made to destroy them. Even in this House the Ministers of the day were not safe from violent attack and attempts to assassinate by the discharge of explosive bombs from the Strangers' Gallery, and exasperation and international animosity reached a most deplorable height, of which I think you would have to go back to 1798 to rind any example. And, after all these terrible events, after all this loss of life, some upon the scaffold, many more the victims of the wild justice of revenge, after all this peril to your citizens pursuing their lawful occupations in the streets, after all this danger to your most distinguished Ministers, what was the result? A Tory Government came into Office, and abandoned coercion. There can be no "betwixt and between" in this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman may depend upon it that, although he may get his Coercion Act to strike down his chief political opponents, he will not be able to stop murder. You will be hurried on from one step to another. Your first coercion will necessitate more coercion, and you will have to make your choice between such measures of repression as the Czar of Russia employs, or you will never be able to administer it so long as you keep the Irish Members here. I trust that Her Majesty's Government, who are at present free agents as to their future conduct, will, before they embark on this course, ponder these facts. I have not sought to make any appeals to their fears. If I have referred to ancient history, it has been to point a moral as to the uselessness of 795 the course on which they appear resolved to embark. I believe that if they will refrain from a policy of exasperation even now at the eleventh hour, and stop the infliction of injustice in Ireland, but stop it by legislative measures, and not by the exercise of a dispensing power, which I believe to have demoralized the Irish people, and especially the Irish tenants during the last winter, more than all the exertions of the Fenian agitators from New York to San Francisco; if the Government are warned in time, and do what is just and right in a just and right way, they may devise some scheme for the self-government of Ireland—which, from the declarations they have made, they evidently have not either the time or the inclination or the ability to do—which will meet all the legitimate wants and wishes of the Irish people. A self-governed Ireland, when she makes her own laws, will show by her tranquil and peaceful character how unfairly she has been treated, and how libellous are the assertions that the Irish are not a law-abiding people. I beg, Sir, to move the Amendment that stands in my name.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD (Sligo, N.)
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that he desired to call attention to the violent and unconstitutional action of the Irish Executive and police in forcibly suppressing a legal meeting at Sligo, which was called for two legitimate objects, and the proclamation of which by the Government had aroused a feeling of indignation, not only in the County of Sligo, but throughout Ireland generally. It was proclaimed at a time when the state of the country was peaceful in the extreme; when there was scarcely any crime outside a few agrarian crimes—if they could be called such—in County Galway. On hearing of the proclamation of that meeting, he (Mr. McDonald) and two Colleagues in this House went to the town in order to advise the people as to the conduct they should pursue. They arrived the evening before the meeting, and, on approaching their hotel, found a cordon of police at each end of the street, by means of which the whole street was kept clear, so that any idea of addressing people from the windows of the hotel was frustrated. Under these circumstances he took counsel with the Mayor, who very properly offered 796 them the use of the Town Hall for the purpose of consulting with their friends. They went thither, and while waiting on the stops for the key to be fetched, a posse of police fell upon them, and used their batons upon everybody within reach. A blow was aimed at him which, if it had reached his head, would have led, he fancied, to a vacancy in the representation of North Sligo, and have necessitated a new election for the High Shrievalty of Dublin. The blow fell, however, upon the head of an old friend of his, the Chairman of the Tubbercurry Board of Guardians, who he (Mr. McDonald) was sure, when the Town Hall was opened, had suffered much from the brutality of the police. Such a scene would have been impossible in England, where, indeed, no such system as was adopted by the Irish Constabulary would be tolerated for a moment. Brutal though the onslaught was he believed it would advance the cause, they had at heart in showing to the world how Ireland was governed. That was not, however, the only outrage that the Government had committed. At the trials which took place before Judge Palles several jurors were told to stand aside, solely on the ground that they were Roman Catholics, and against this bishops and priests, representative men, and even Protestants, had protested. Strong as was the protest of their fellow religionists, that of the Protestants of Sligo was, if possible, stronger. They said that "they wished to express their dissatisfaction with the systematic exclusion of Catholics from cases in which the Crown was anxious to obtain convictions. They were the neighbours of those Catholic jurors; they lived in peace and harmony with them, they had business relations with them, and always found them conscientious and able men. They accordingly united with them in their repudiation of the indignity cast upon them by the Crown, which they considered could only give rise to discord and contempt." With regard to the Plan of Campaign, he (Mr. McDonald) endorsed every word that had fallen from his Leader the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) in reference to the good work that had been accomplished by it. But for that Plan the evictions would probably not have been confined to Woodford and Glenbeigh, but would have been general throughout the West 797 and South of Ireland. He knew every mile of Lord Dillon's estate; he knew the circumstances of the people upon it; he had witnessed their poverty, and was aware of their inability not merely to pay a fair rent, but almost to pay any rent at all. The rent that had been raised by them was not got out of the soil but from the men and boys who went across to England during harvest time, and who brought back English money to pay off the liabilities of their Irish holdings. Their labour in England last autumn was not profitable, and consequently they went back with almost empty pockets. The people were willing to pay what they could, and would cheerfully have done so, but when the Plan of Campaign was introduced reason prevailed with the agents, with the result that they accepted the reduction proposed, and that 80 per cent of the rents was collected by his hon. Friends who were engaged in that benevolent occupation. Those Gentlemen had proved themselves to be the best rent collectors that had ever taken charge of Lord Dillon's estate. He thoroughly and entirely accepted and endorsed the principles of the Plan of Campaign, and had on every platform, on every public occasion where duty called upon him to speak, so expressed himself. As four of his Colleagues and one ex-Colleague were now being arraigned in the Superior Courts of Dublin, he could only say that if they were guilty so was he. It was not, however, by prosecutions such as those, not by gagging Coercion Acts, not by police batons, not by the crowbar or the petroleum can that Ireland could be pacified. She could only be brought into harmony with England by giving her the right to govern herself, to make her own laws on her own land, and thus secure not an enforced union, but the union of the hearts of the people, now severed by unjust laws, and bring the two countries into lasting harmony and peace.
At the end of the 8th paragraph, to insert the words, "But humbly to represent to Her Majesty that the relations between the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland have not been seriously disturbed in the cases of those owners who have granted to their tenants such abatements of rents as are called for by the state of prices of agricultural and pastoral produce, and that the remedy for the existing crisis in Irish
agrarian affairs is not to be found in increased stringency of criminal procedure, or in the pursuit of such novel, doubtful, and unconstitutional measures as have recently been taken by Her Majesty's Government in Ireland, but in such a reform of the Law and the system of government as will satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the Irish people."—(Mr. Parnell).
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. BAGGALLAY (Lambeth, Brixton)
said, the Amendment to the Address which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had just Moved was very widespread in its wording, but it might practically be reduced to three heads. The first with which he (Mr. Baggallay) did not intend to deal was the vote of censure upon the landlords in Ireland implied by the early words of the Amendment. With regard to that, the Government might really admit the truth of the statements contained in it, and upon it the hon. Member for Cork had said but little. The most important part of his Amendment undoubtedly was the charge which he made against, and which was, in fact, a Vote of Censure upon, the Government for their recent conduct of affairs in Ireland. With regard to that charge, the hon. Member for Cork had given instances in which he said the Government had behaved in a novel, a doubtful, and an unconstitutional manner, and he had called attention most particularly to the proceedings taken against the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and to the action of the Government at Sligo. As to the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo, there was not the slightest doubt that he was the great promoter of the Plan of Campaign, and that he and two or three other hon. Members were, if not the originators, the publishers of the Plan. The hon. Member for Cork had said that he was not responsible for the Plan of Campaign; but certainly from his speech that evening, it was apparent that he had entirely endorsed the procedure under that conspiracy. He had gone further and had said that speeches made by hon. Members of that House in Ireland had been advisedly made. He should like to call the attention of the House to what those speeches were. The hon. Member for Cork had said that the Plan of Campaign was legal, that it was moderate, that it had been 799 successful in its objects, and that those objects were the same as Her Majesty's Government were endeavouring to attain by other means, but with less successful results. He thought that by a few references to the speeches of hon. Members in Ireland he should show that their conduct was what the hon. Member for Cork had described that of the Government to be—perhaps novel, certainly doubtful, and far more than unconstitutional, for it had been criminal and immoral. The author of the Plan of Campaign—the hon. Member for East Mayo—speaking in that House in the debate on the Relief Bill, had said they could trust to nothing but the same means to which they resorted in 1880. As far as he remembered, the means resorted to after 1880 were dynamite and outrage. [Cries of "No, no!"] Perhaps hon. Members below the Gangway would say to what the hon. Member for East Mayo did refer. He had said, further, that as long as life and liberty were left to him he would tell the people of Ireland to continue in their course of persistent and determined resistance. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. Harrington) who, he believed, was the Secretary of the National League, had sent out a circular stating that the organizing committee of the League had made arrangements under which they intended to devote the subscriptions exclusively to the benefit of evicted tenants in those localities where the tenants made the best fight, and where, in the discretion of the committee, the tenants were most deserving of support. Thus, even before the Plan of Campaign was promulgated, a project was put forward under which those who obeyed the behests of the National League were to receive payment—in other words bribery—for doing so. That statement did not stand alone. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. P. McDonald), who had just sat down, speaking on the 23rd of November, said that he was authorized by the National League committee to state that the tenants who followed the Plan of Campaign would be paid far more than they could earn by the profit of their labour on their farms and lands. Did hon. Members mean to deny that that was a distinct promise that the tenants should benefit in their own pockets by following 800 the Plan of Campaign? Now, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), whose proceedings were so legal, who had been so moderate and so Constitutional in the course that he had taken, had found it necessary to put the Plan of Campaign into action, because it was seen that the prophecies of the hon. Member for Cork during the debate on the Relief Bill were in danger of being falsified. He had prophesied that the rejection of that Bill would bring about a state of revolution in Ireland. But instead of that it appeared that crime and outrage were decreasing, and that, with winter approaching, the country was, owing to the successful action of the Government, quieter, and the tenants were paying their rents. So in the month of October the Plan of Campaign was published in United Ireland, and by the hon. Member for East Mayo in all parts of the country. He desired to refer to some of that hon. Gentleman's speeches in support of the Plan of Campaign. He had said that the National League intended to lay down a rule that no estate should be bought on which any tenant had been evicted since 1879 unless such tenant were restored to his holding. Were hon. Members opposite below the Gangway prepared to support the law as it existed in Ireland or were they not? If they were anxious to support the law how could they support the declaration made by the hon. Member for East Mayo? If, however, as he believed, they were not prepared to support the law or the Courts in Ireland, one could easily understand the proceedings which they took and the speeches which they made. The speeches of the hon. Member for East Mayo showed that in his view the object of the Plan of Campaign was to defeat the law of the country. The proceedings to which the Parnellite faction had been a party had been going on for some years. Those proceedings formed part of one conspiracy founded 10 years ago and first brought prominently before us six years ago. They were part of a conspiracy carried on at one time with outrage and dynamite, and at another with what hon. Members opposite pretended was a legal and a proper combination for the purpose of defeating the landlords. But whatever means the Parnellite faction might use for the purpose of promoting their object, there could be no doubt that that object 801 was to separate entirely the country of Ireland from Great Britain. The hon. Member for Cork in his Amendment suggested that there should be such a reform of the law and of the system of government in Ireland as would satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the people. There was, however, no explanation of what reform was required. What did the needs of the Irish people really demand? A wide field would be open if they were to inquire into that question; but he hoped that this Parliament might yet be able to pass such a reform of the law, and, if necessary, such alterations in the system of government as would satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the Irish people. Still, there was no doubt what the feeling of Great Britain was upon this subject. The decision of England and of a great part of Scotland was diametrically opposed to the decision given by the constituencies of Ireland. After the decisive verdict of the country with regard to the main question, he, as an independent supporter of Her Majesty's Government, hoped and expected they would be equally decisive as to the course they would take with reference to this important question. He (Mr. Baggallay) did not expect, however, that this question could be settled and happily terminated in a short space of time. The Government would, however, have the support of the country as long as they endeavoured to frame a good Local Government Bill for Ireland and a measure to amend the law so that the relations between landlord and tenant might be ameliorated. In time he hoped such an amelioration would take place in the condition of Ireland that they might once again speak of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland—united not only in name, but in heart and soul.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
said, he thought that until hon. Members opposite regarded the Irish Party as being something more than a faction, they would do little to settle the questions in dispute between the two countries. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) had described the Irish crisis of 1879 and 1880 as a manufactured crisis; but it would be remembered that at that time Committees, composed of Protestants, Presbyterians, and Catholics alike, used 802 their utmost exertions to relieve the hundreds and sometimes the thousands of cases of destitution which arose. Misrepresentations like that of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh used to go down with the House of Commons and the English people, but he was glad to know that the English people were now better informed on the subject of Ireland. The prosecutions, or rather, persecutions, which had recently been instituted in Ireland would certainly never gain the good will of that country for Great Britain; and as certainly they would not terrorize or intimidate them. But conciliation had a wonderful effect upon the Irish people, and the effort of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had done more to bring the people to the side of law and order than all the Coercion Acts which had ever been passed. As to the Plan of Campaign, there might be doubts of its legality; but no one who knew the circumstances of the Irish tenants could have the smallest doubt of its absolute necessity. To those who doubted the honesty of the tenants, it was a sufficient answer to point to the Seeds Act and the loans made under it, 95 per cent of which had been repaid; although in many cases the poor people were charged more than double the value of the seed which had been distributed to them. The promoters of the Plan of Campaign had been more successful in their application of pressure to the landlords than the Government had, for it was a noteworthy fact that not a single eviction had taken place upon any estate upon which the Plan of Campaign had been adopted. One of the petty meannesses to which the Government had descended in Ireland was the prosecution of a newspaper, the Roscommon Herald, for publishing reports of meetings which had appeared in a number of other papers, and these reports had appeared six months previous to the institution of the prosecution. Not satisfied with instituting the prosecution, the Government so framed the jury panel as to provide a jury of 12 Protestants to try the case. Notwithstanding the employment of these means, the jury disagreed, and it was an open secret that 10 were for acquittal and two only for upholding the Government. In many cases the Plan of Cam- 803 paign was resolved upon by the tenants themselves, without the intervention of any of the Irish Members.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
I have been thrust from the jury box in my own country as unworthy of the confidence of the Crown; but I have the confidence of the people in Ireland. There are many rumours of war abroad, and, in the event of war, owing to the small proportion of land under cultivation, the food supply will be insufficient. The United Kingdoms are not independent of other nations in the matter of food supply. Indeed, I was much struck the other evening with the statement of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), that we import three-fourths of our bread-stuffs from abroad. That shows the absolute necessity of providing for the protection of our carrying ships by a strong Navy. That was proved by the case of the Alabama, in which great damage had been done to American trade by one vessel.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is making use of an argument which is not, in any sense, relevant to the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. BLANE
Then, Sir, I will address myself to the Amendment. I submit that if the Government allowed the land of Ireland to be brought more largely under cultivation, it would help the country in the case of war, by giving an increased food supply, and rendering it unnecessary to depend on other countries. In old times the duty of providing this defence was imposed on the landowners, who had transferred the burden to the occupiers. But in these days of falling prices even the English occupier is going to the wall. If that is the case in England, how much worse is the position of the unfortunate Irish farmer. In Ireland, the rights of property have been allowed to swamp the natural rights of man, and the landlords have been harsh and merciless taskmasters. To such a pass have matters come now, that the English administrators of the law have actually been compelled to violate the law so as to prevent widespread desolation. I advocate Government expenditure upon the cultivation of lands which the owners allow to remain uncultivated, for money so spent will be more profitably expended than in any increase of our naval armaments. The Government 804 propose to amend criminal law procedure in Ireland. I will give an instance from my own county, the County of Armagh, of how the criminal law is administered in Ireland. A man was charged with bring at a policeman, and, having been convicted, got seven years' penal servitude. That man was one whose political opinions differed from those of hon. Members on the opposite Benches. In the very same district another man was convicted for having fired at a district Inspector and a party of police, and he got only eight weeks. That man enjoyed the confidence of hon. Members on the other side of the House, and the other did not. I suppose the intended amendment of the criminal law procedure will be that one man will get seven years and the other man will get two months. I brought the cases under the notice of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland and the Chief Secretary, and I was told there was a dissimilarity between them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention where the dissimilarity lay, but I know that it consisted in this—that one man was ready to vote for the Member for North Armagh, and the other was ready to vote for his National opponent. From this it appears that there is good reason to fear that repressive measures will not be administered impartially, that opponents of the Government will be treated with great severity, and their supporters with unmerited leniency.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
The hon. Member for South Armagh (Mr. Blane), who has just spoken in this debate, has, in common with other hon. Members on the opposite side below the Gangway, impugned the action of the Courts of Justice in Ireland, and has cast reflections on Protestant jurors which are quite undeserved. If I may be pardoned for referring to a personal matter, I can bear my testimony to their perfect impartiality, from the fact that I was once arraigned before a jury, on which there were several Orangemen, and found guilty. I am satisfied that Protestant jurors in Sligo, and in other parts of Ireland, will be mindful of the solemn obligation which attaches to them in the discharge of their duty. I, for one, believe that hon. Members, if they desire to cultivate good relations with the Protestants of Ireland, will do 805 well not to impugn the motives which actuate them when they act as jurymen, but will give them credit for having due regard to the solemn responsibility of finding a verdict according to the evidence. I rejoice to see the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) back in his place in this House. He has often been referred to in the course of recent proceedings, and no doubt we shall soon have from him an attempt to justify the Plan of Campaign, of which, if he was not the originator, he has been the most eloquent exponent. With the Plan of Campaign itself I do not propose to deal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), who will probably speak this evening, will deal fully with the legal aspects of the question. Nor have I any particular desire, in addressing the House, to deal generally with the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and the Amendment he has introduced to the House; but I desire to protest most emphatically against the threats which have been used if justice is attempted to be done, and if the law, not being found sufficiently strong, is attempted to be amended in order to protect the lives and liberties of those who are threatened in Ireland. The hon. Member for South Armagh (Mr. Blane), whose integrity of purpose, and whose entire honesty, no one can doubt, told us what he believes to be the weakness of the position of the law; but I believe he will find that the Protestants of Armagh would do perfect justice to him if ever he had the misfortune to be returned to trial for any breach of the law. While I do not wish to follow hon. Members by impugning the impartiality of Roman Catholic jurymen, I am sure that they are not rightly advised when they imagine that every Protestant juryman violates his oath when he returns verdicts of "Guilty" which meet with the disapprobation of hon. Members who sit below the Gangway. A juryman has to discharge his duty, and find a verdict according to the law as it stands, and not to find verdicts that may suit the convenience of hon. Members opposite. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan), the other day, rightly imagined that we are all greatly interested in the development of the resources of Ireland; and, thinking that I was about to follow him in the course 806 of that evening's discussion, the hon. and gallant Member appealed to me to say whether I did not sympathize with him. Sir, the industrious and loyal Protestants of the Province of Ulster, a portion of the Metropolis of which I have the honour to represent, would cordially co-operate with the rest of Ireland in developing the industrial resources of the country; and if hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will set themselves to do that, and will give up the phantasmal follies to which they seem to be devoting themselves, and will endeavour to join with us in fully developing the resources of the country, they would obtain the benediction of their fellow-countrymen, and the hearty assistance of those who entirely disagree with them in their political views. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway told us, in the course of his able speech, that while he was anxious to see the farmers of Ireland their own landlords, and to see the dual ownership of land abandoned and terminated, as if that result were brought about, so far from being looked upon as a settlement of the Irish Question, it would not put an end to the demand for Home Rule. I could not help thinking that that was a complete refutation of the sanguine hopes of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), expressed in the speech which he delivered a few nights ago. My hon. and gallant Friend said—He had always held that the final solution of this Irish Question could only come from the Irish people. No one could hold that opinion more strongly than he, and he had always intimated that the way was to give the tenants of Ireland a stake in the country.The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway has disposed of the happy delusion of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. I have always believed that to root the tenants of Ireland in the soil, and to take away from the landlords, who are for the most part Protestants, and attached to England, the possessions they now enjoy, and to hand over those possessions to the majority of Roman Catholics, would not be the best way to establish in that country peace and order, but that it would give an impetus and an increased stimulus to the demand for national independence and the establishment of 807 Home Rule. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad that those sentiments are cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway. I always thought that they were honest enough to avow their opinions; and those hon. Members on this side of the House who thought that by making the tenants of Ireland the proprietors of the soil, and rooting them permanently upon the land, by giving them the possessions which now belong to the landlords, they would, by that means, make them loyal to England, are altogether living under a delusion, and may some day find themselves bitterly deceived. The hon. Member for East Waterford (Mr. P. J. Power) made use of words which may form a commentary on the desires of those who look to the establishment of local self-government in Ireland in an extended form as a cure for existing evils. The hon. Member said—The establishment of a mere Vestry Board would never meet the national demand. They would never accept it as a final settlement. They could only accept it as a platform from which to demand a greater measure.I am aware that some hon. Members on this side of the House entertain the belief that if such a measure of local self-government is granted to Ireland as is granted to England and Scotland, the Irish people would be satisfied. I am glad to find the hon. Member for East Waterford has disposed of that view of the question, and has courageously told the House that it would only be used as a lever to overthrow the English Government in Ireland, and obtain further concessions. The majority of the Irish people, we have been told, will never rest satisfied until they have, at least, tried to secure their independence. [An hon. MEMBER: And have succeeded.] An hon. Member says, "and have succeeded." Well, I do not think they will succeed. They have to reckon, not only with the Unionists of England and Scotland, but with that disparaged and despised body, the Orangemen of Ireland; and, although we have not recently been talking much on the subject, our resolve is as firm as ever to maintain the integrity and unity of the Empire under the British Constitution. Sir, very extreme utterances have recently been made by hon. Members opposite, and their followers who are connected with the National League in Ireland. The Rev. Mr. Cantwell, at a meeting of 808 the Dublin National League, held on the 23rd of September, 1886, said—With regard to the closing sentences of Mr. Parnell's appeal to America respecting the Irish tenants, I will say that all our action with regard to this intermediary question of landlords and tenants is only a step towards the great goal of Irish Nationalists, towards the establishment of our Native Parliament here.The hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) stated at a meeting at Clondalkin, in February, 1885, that—Until the Irish National flag floated over a free Parliament in College Green, there would be no peace or contentment in Ireland.That means that in this, the jubilee year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, notwithstanding the turmoil and trouble that exist in Ireland, every effort of those who desire to bring about peace and contentment in Ireland will be frustrated until the green flag floats over a free Parliament in College Green. Before that day arrives, there will be battles to be fought and contests to be engaged in. Hon. Members have one style of oratory for this House and another and quite a different style for America. Here they talk in peaceful and dove-like accents of the happy times that are in store for us if we only listen to "the voice of the charmer." But we, who have read the history of Ireland other than backwards, know that this state of things is not to be brought about by listening to the counsels of hon. Members below the opposite Gangway. I, for one, honestly confess—and I speak the voice of many of the Protestants of Ireland— that we should not like to trust our destinies to the unfettered power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Sir, we have been told by an hon. Member in this House that he is quite satisfied with the Plan of Campaign, because it has been blessed by Archbishop Walsh. Can we doubt that the same Archbishop, who has told us that Trinity College must belong to the Roman Catholics, and who is bound, by the oath which he took at his consecration, to suppress heresy, when it is in his power to do so, will, if he has control over an Irish Parliament, and such disloyal Members as the hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred, use every exertion to establish the entire domination of his Church in Ireland, and to suppress the civil and religious liberties which the Protestants now en- 809 joy in that country, and for which our ancestors suffered so much in other days. We have read history, it is to be hoped, with some advantage, and we are not prepared to sacrifice our rights, and abandon the privileges we possess under a free Constitution. We are not prepared to abandon the position we hold in a United Empire, ruled over by our Gracious Sovereign, for such patronage as would be extended to us by a Parnellita Parliament commanded by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The other day a rev. gentleman from the United States, who rejoices in the name of James Carey, said—He would simply tell them that he voiced, he was sure, the sentiments of the great hulk of the American people, when he said that their heart and soul was with the people of Ireland in their battle for liberty. He would tell them more—the people of the United States especially, that the people born there understood everything, but they did not understand why they did not fight here at home.Will hon. Members below the Gangway explain to this patriotic priest the reason why his compatriots would not fight? Is it because they thought that they would gain their objects without fighting; or, because there were, among those gentlemen, a number of persons who enjoy the peaceful instincts of the Quakers? This gentleman evidently implied that, unless something in the shape of fighting was undertaken, the Americans will withhold their dollars.
§ An hon. MEMBER: So they ought to do.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
It is the Protestants of Ireland who possess the larger proportion of the wealth, and enjoy the greatest amount of intelligence in the country, and we should not be afraid, in any competitive examination, to hold our own against our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. For my part, I have never desired to see the Irish Protestants occupying a position of ascendancy. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says "Hear, hear!" Now, I have never desired to see an ascendancy on the part of the Protestant people of Ireland. I am prepared to concede to my Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen perfect religious and civil equality, but we are determined not to allow this platform to be made the means of obtaining an ascendancy on the part of those who are predominant in the Home Rule Party. 810 May I ask the indulgence of the House while I quote a passage which is contained in the Tenth Report of the Historical Manuscript Commission, and which is certainly ancient history. In one of the manuscripts of the Earl of Fingall there is an interesting document headed A Light to the Blind, which gives an account of the contest between William III. and James II. The writer states what his idea is of the best way of regulating the affairs of Ireland, and I quote his sentiments because I believe they are the sentiments of those who desire, at the present moment, to see Home Rule established in Ireland. The document says—And to render Irish Catholicks effectually potent for this end; it will be requisite for the King to restore unto them their antient estates, which the Protestant usurpers have retained in possession these forty years past; to make the Parliament of Ireland absolut in enacting lawes, without being obliged to send beforehand the prepared Hills which are destined to pass into Acts by the consent of both Howses of Parliament, for the King's precedent approbation of them.…. to make the Judicature of the nation determin causes without an appeal to the tribunals of England.…. to putt allwayes the Viceroydom into the hands of an Irish Catholick; to conferr the principal posts of State and Warr on the Catholick natives; to keep a standing army of 8,000 Catholicks; to train a Catholick militia; to maintain a fleet of 24 warlick ships of the fourth rate; to give the moyety of ecclesiactical liveings to the Catholick Bishops and parish priests dureing the life of the present Protestant Bishops and ministers, and after the death of these to conferr all the said liveings on the Roman clergy.This, I think, is an illustration of the objects and aim of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the opposite side—namely, the restoration of the land and the ancient estates held by the Protestants to the Roman Catholic peasantry of Ireland, together with placing the whole power and control of the military and police under the Irish Executive. The exceedingly moderate tone which has been adopted by the hon. Member for Cork to-night must not deceive hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, because the tone which is assumed here for the purposes of debate is entirely different from that assumed by the hon. Gentleman when he addresses those American Fenians across the Atlantic who are the paymasters of the Irish Party. I thank the House, and especially those who are naturally hostile to the sentiments I have ex- 811 pressed, for their courtesy in listening to me on this occasion. I trust that, in so doing, they will have felt that I have honestly desired to express the sentiments I hold for the good of our common country. I desire to protest against the severance of the link that binds Ireland to England, and in this, the jubilee of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty, I ask the House and Her Majesty's Government to do what in them lies to restore peace and prosperity to Ireland, and to maintain unbroken and unimpaired the integrity of the British Empire.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway)
said, the speech of the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) reminded him somewhat of the month of March, which came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. The parallel, however, was not quite exact, for the hon. Member began his speech in a lamblike tone and towards its close had emitted a lion-like roar. The hon. Gentleman claimed to speak on behalf of the Irish Protestants, and of the uprightness and impartiality of Protestant jurors of Ireland. He (Mr. Pinkerton) denied this. He hoped the case of the Walkers had not escaped the recollection of the hon. Member. The Walkers were caught red-handed in the act of shooting down a policeman and a soldier, yet the Protestant jurors at the recent Ulster Winter Assizes refused to find them guilty of murder, although requested by the Judge to do so. The hon. Member for South Belfast protested against threats which he said were used by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell); but that hon. Gentleman had simply pointed out the result which followed the disastrous rejection of ameliorating measures before, and also showed that the adoption of a policy of coercion could have but one end. The hon. Member for South Belfast had stated that the people of Belfast would do all may could to ameliorate the condition of the people of Ireland; but he (Mr. Pinkerton) might point out to them that the people he represented were those who had shown their good-will by tarring and feathering their Catholic fellow workmen, shooting down inoffensive Catholics at the corner of streets, and turning on those who represented the Government and were endeavouring to uphold the law. The hon. Member for 812 South Belfast had also said there would be no peace and contentment in Ireland if the green flag floated over an Irish Parliament. But he (Mr. Pinkerton) said the want of peace and contentment in the North of Ireland was largely due to the outrageous conduct of those who took part in the Orange display of the 12th July, and celebrations of a like character. The hon. Member for South Belfast said the Protestants of Ireland were not in favour of Home Rule. He (Mr. Johnston) was speaking on behalf of the ignorant and bigoted section which he represented; for speaking as an Irish Protestant himself he (Mr. Pinkerton) could assure the House that the bone and sinew of the Irish Protestants were strongly in favour of Home Rule. The hon. Member for South Belfast had also referred to the Catholic clergy, and said he could not trust to the Roman Catholic clergymen, or to a Parliament controlled by the clergymen of that denomination. He (Mr. Pinkerton) had had the opportunity recently when engaged in advocating the Plan of Campaign in the West of Ireland, of meeting with more independence and of seeing more truly independent action on the part of the Catholic population in a week than he had ever seen among the Protestants in half a year. The action of the Catholic clergy would bear favourable comparison with that of the Rev. Ranting Roaring Hugh Hanna, and others of his stamp. He was proud, as a Protestant, to pay a tribute to the conduct of the priests in the South and West of Ireland. The hon. Member for South Belfast had also spoken on behalf of the landed interests. He (Mr. Pinkerton) contended that by the creation of a peasant proprietary the national demands of the people were not stifled. On the contrary, the more firmly the people were established on the soil of Ireland, the more sympathetic they would become with the claims of the National Party. In his opinion, landlordism had done more to separate the people than all the secret societies which had existed from the Riband and Whiteboy Societies down to the present day. But the people of Ireland were now more loyal to the English connection than ever they were, a fact which was due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Reference had been made to the circum- 813 stance, and the tenants twitted with, the charge, that they did not avail themselves of the Land Act. He had an opportunity the other day of hearing-several reasons for that. He might mention that on the estate of the Marquess of Londonderry, the present Lord Lieutenant, the tenants who had been into the Land Courts were bound down to pay their rent to the hour, minute, aye, the second, and if they did not do so they were met at the rent office with a writ. With regard to the meetings which had been held in the West of Ireland in connection with the Plan of Campaign, he had himself assisted in the collection of Lord Clanricarde's rents, and could honestly say—and he viewed the matter very impartially—he was much struck with the great moderation which marked the demands of the tenants. In some cases, where reductions varying from 25 to 40 per cent were asked for, they would not have exceeded the necessity of the case had they demanded a reduction of 70 per cent. The ton. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) asserted that there was an absence of the Plan of Campaign in the North of Ireland; but the fact remained that the Plan of Campaign was running there as well as in other parts. He had himself had the opportunity of attending several meetings in the County Derry, and of assisting the Drapers' and Skinners' tenants, in resisting tyrannical exactions on the part of their landlords. He had anticipated the action of the Government in proclaiming the Plan of Campaign by about seven or eight hours by writing to the people of Draperstown, saying that as the Government appeared to be feeling somewhat uneasy respecting that movement, it would be well for them to substitute a Tenants' Defence Association. It was said that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;" but the new societies appeared to be as unsavoury an odour in the nostrils of the Government as the Plan of Campaign itself. The tenants then formed Mutual Assurance Societies, to which they paid their contributions, in spite of the presence of the Inspector General and some 80 or 90 policemen; and as a result these Companies lowered the terms as regarded the purchase money on their estates. The demand on the part of the tenants of Lord Londonderry occurred on the 814 very day of the proclamation of the Plan of Campaign; and he did not hesitate to say but for the action of Lord Londonderry's tenants the Plan of Campaign might have gone on for another fortnight; in fact, he could assure the House that there was not a single estate in the North of Ireland where a demand for a reduction of rent had not been made by some of the tenants. It was a remarkable thing that the tenants of Kerry who were engaged in "Moonlighting" outrages should be granted reductions, and that in the North, where the people were quiet and law-abiding, no reduction had taken place, and that wherever they had offered their estates for sale they had demanded 21 or 22 years' purchase. Then, there was the case of Lady Harberton, who appeared to have her attention occupied more with the advocacy of the divided skirt than with the affairs of her tenantry. An application was made to her the other day by some of her tenants for the purchase of their holdings at 16 years' judicial rent, and in reply they received by return of post a most contemptuous refusal. Was that fair treatment, he asked, to the tenants of the North of Ireland? Personally he had no desire to rob the landlords of one single penny which they could justly call their own, but it was now a well-known fact that the tenant's interest in the land was fully equal to, if it did not actually exceed, that of the landlord. The tenants were willing in the North of Ireland to accept from the landlords the same purchase money as they tendered themselves, and surely this was in itself a wholesome check upon the demands of the tenants and the rapacity of the landlords. Where the landlord had the audacity to ask upwards of 20 years' rent as purchase money, the tenant should be able to sell his goodwill to the landlord on the same terms. Then there was the important question of leaseholders. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had secured a place for the introduction of a one-clause Bill dealing with this subject. When the Tenants' Relief Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) last Session, it was said that its great merit was its simplicity—in fact, the hon. Member for Tyrone appeared to have become so enamoured with the idea that he had 815 actually filched his one clause Bill from the measure of the hon. Member for Cork. However, so strongly did he feel the necessity for the introduction of a Leasehold Bill, that he eared not by whom it was introduced. Leaseholders in Ireland, he was sorry to say, were, to a great extent, Unionists; and he would remind the Government that if they refused much longer to admit them into Court, they would very materially strengthen the position of the hon. Member for Cork. Unless something real and tangible were soon given to the people of the North for all their loyalty, the Government might take it for granted that they would begin to compare the attention they received with that which was accorded to the Nationalists. In conclusion, he (Mr. Pinkerton) wished to say, if the Government wished seriously to remove the discontent from Ireland, they would allow the Irish people to legislate for their own affairs, since the English House of Commons had proved itself so incompetent for the task, and they would also strive to pass a Leaseholds Bill upon a fair and equitable basis. When the Land Question was settled, as had been said, they would be able to take up the question of self-government in its entirety. But the Nationalist Party had no intention of severing the connecting-link between Ireland and England. ["Oh," and laughter.] There was not a Member of that Party who did not wish rather to connect the countries together by stronger bonds than had ever existed before, by the sense of right and justice, and with the idea that the Democracy of England was fighting on their side, and that it was only a privileged class in the one country bolstering up a privileged class in the other ["Hear, hear,"] which was depriving them of their just rights.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
The hon. Member who has just sat down misrepresents both the Leader of his Party, and some other important Members of it, when he says that separation is not their object. The Amendment is most ingeniously worded. Indeed, it seems to be the fashion in this House so to word Amendments as to get as many hon. Members as possible to vote for them, and to commit such Members as little as possible. The hon. Member in his Amendment, says that he advocates "such a reform in the law 816 and the system of government as will satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the Irish people." Many Members on this side of the House would go as far as that; but a great deal depends upon what is meant by "satisfying the needs and securing the confidence of the Irish people." Does the hon. Member mean to satisfy their political aspirations about which we are certainly not unanimous, or does he mean their material and social needs; and by "the Irish" people does he mean the whole people of Ireland or the political agitator, or the average Irishman in that country? Does he mean the people living in Ireland, or Irishmen living in America, or Paris? But the Amendment, although ingeniously general in its terms, at least contains two valuable admissions—first, that, after all, the Land Question is the one question which is causing the present crisis in Ireland; and, secondly, the further admission that a good deal has been done, even by the landlords themselves, to remedy the defects of the Land Laws. But when the hon. Member said that the conduct of the Government has recently been novel, unconstitutional, and perhaps doubtful, he can hardly, I think, have meant to attack the Chief Secretary for acting in a manner which must meet with the approval of most persons of any humanity in trying to divest himself of the character of a hard-hearted official, and to alleviate the miseries of those tenants who were liable to eviction. I certainly think it would be curious if hon. Members on the other side of the House were to condemn the Chief Secretary for that, and at the same time to resist him when he brings in a measure which is not to punish the poor tenants of Ireland, but those who have been notoriously and openly breaking the law. I fancy that there are a number of law breakers in Ireland whom even the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) himself would be glad to see punished. One of the great troubles of Ireland is that moonlighting, connected, in the first instance, with agrarian disputes, has passed now beyond the power of the Land League to check or control, and is taking the form of vulgar and ordinary crime. But whether the cause of crime be agrarian or not, I think that the people of this country are determined to uphold the 817 law in Ireland so long as it is the law. They see that it is the poor and the defenceless who suffer most from breaches of the criminal law. The civil Code is, to a great extent, the Code of the rich man. The poor man is not able to avail himself of it as much as he ought to on account of the cost; but, from the criminal law, he feels that he can get redress, and if the mass of the people feel confidence in the justice of the law, they will be determined that it shall be carried out. But saying this, and feeling it as strongly as I do, I feel that there are conditions which the people of England would attach to the introduction of new criminal legislation. In the first place, I think they would not wish to see any special legislation applied to Ireland. If we are going to amend the criminal law, let it be amended for England, Scotland, and Ireland alike. I believe that the people of this country are not prepared to inflict punishment on Ireland which they are not prepared to inflict on themselves. Then, again, it should not be a temporary, but a permanent law. At temporary law is more calculated to be a severe and stringent law than one which is intended to be permanent. Hon. Members, if they knew that a law was only to be imposed for one year, might make it exceptionally stringent; but they would be very careful indeed not to make it too stringent if it was intended to be a permanent law. Then, again, a temporary law which might be good for 1887, but not at all adapted to the circumstances of 1888, would not, therefore, carry the same moral sanction with it as if it were made a permanent law. Further, it is not enough—and I hope to hear the admission on this side of the House—to enforce the law. The fault we have so often committed in past times is, that we have been firm at one time and just at another, but we have seldom seen a Government combine firmness and justice together. That is why I find fault with some portions of Her Majesty's Speech. While I see that there is to be at once an Amendment of the criminal law, I do not see it put in equally emphatic terms that there is to be that redress of grievances which ought to accompany an amendment of the criminal law. The redress, I am sorry to see, is to depend upon the reports of two Commissions and a hypothesis. We are told that there is to be 818 local government if the circumstances render it possible. But the question of local government was put in the forefront at the General Election. It was the alternative policy on every Tory platform. Lord. Salisbury has spoken of 20 years of firm government. Let us have 20, or 100, years of firm government if you like; but let us also have 100 years of justice. Then, again, as to the Commissions which have been appointed, I do not myself quite see—it may be owing to my ignorance of official life—why it is necessary that we should wait for the Reports of these two Commissions. These are questions which the officials of the Government ought to be perfectly well acquainted with. There is a large staff of permanent officials in Ireland, and is it possible that these men, who have been in the office for years, and have been receiving large salaries, know nothing about these two most important questions—that of the land and that of the material needs of Ireland—and that it is necessary to go through two long and dreary Commissions? Then, again, I do not believe that we in this House are in as impartial a position to form an opinion upon the Irish Question as the public outside. When we once come into this House, the spirit of Party sits heavy upon us; but we are bound to recollect that Parties in the present day are very much in a transition state. In regard to Party questions in reference to Ireland, we may be quite sure of this—that the one thing the people feel about it is, that hitherto the great curse of Ireland is that it has been treated too much as a Party question. Ireland has been made the shuttlecock of Parties. We are likely to be influenced by the types of extreme men we have in this House. If all the landlords outside were of the same good type as those in this House, my opinion is that matters would be different from what they are; but you have the pick of the landlords here, and they do not represent the average landlord. As to the question of property, the people of this country feel that there is other property as well as land, and that the tenants' property has just as much right to be considered as that of the landlords. Then we have the Orange Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston), who spoke recently from this seat. I cannot believe 819 that these Gentlemen adequately represent the Protestant opinion of Ireland. I, myself, represent a Lancashire constituency, which is in the peculiar position of containing within it nearly one-third of Roman Catholics. So far as English Roman Catholics are concerned, I find them ready and willing to work with their Orange and Protestant fellow-countrymen; and in Lancashire, Roman Catholics and Protestants combine together for every good work. There is a general feeling that what is good for England and Wales, where there is a Protestant majority, and a Catholic minority, should be equally good for Ireland, where they have a Catholic majority, and a Protestant minority. Then, when I come to deal with hon. Members opposite, who represent the people of Ireland, it appears to me that with regard to them there, again there is a difficulty. I do not believe that the average Irishman is by any means the extreme politician that we are accustomed to meet in this House. I do not believe that in the mind of the average Irishman there is that bitterness of feeling which exists towards the English Government on the part of hon. Members sitting below the Gangway opposite. I know that, from my own experience in the employment of Irish harvestmen and labourers, I find among all of them a kindliness and consideration for England which I wish we could more often hear expressed on the Benches opposite. I believe that in this country we are becoming somewhat sick of politicians and political remedies. Sensational Acts may have brought glory to individual Statesmen, or opened avenues to office for political Parties, but the people whom they were supposed to benefit have got very little from them indeed. We have had too much of Party questions and political considerations, and if we want to legislate we must do it both for Ireland and England, not with the view of satisfying the aspirations of politicians, but of meeting the real and material wants of the people of both countries. I believe that the people of this country have a real sympathy for Ireland. They feel and know that just as they desire to have their own trade and social wants satisfied, so the Irish men also desire to have their's satisfied. I believe there is genuine self- 820 confidence among the people of this country, and they are not going to throw up the game in despair, or admit their own incompetence to deal with the question. The people of this country have come of age, and they are not going to throw up their inheritance either in disgust or despair. The more we assert that the Irish Members are not the adequate Representatives of the Irish people, the more it becomes our bounden duty to see that the people of Ireland do not suffer in consequence; and the more we may decry mere political remedies, the greater is the necessity that we should attend to their material wants. Is there any trade question that can possibly interest the people of this country as the Land Question interests the people of Ireland. Unfortunately, and to a large extent, by our own fault, we have destroyed every other industry in Ireland, and it has come to pass that the people have been wholly thrown upon the land. Even the hon. Member for Cork admits that the Land Question at the present day is the most important question of all. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), and all history, tell us the same tale. It is to be hoped that the Land Commission of which we hear does not mean delay in dealing with the question; and above all, I hope that if it is to be dealt with, it will not be dealt with on any new and fantastic principles. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham has, apparently, got some new theory of his own as to rent—namely, that no rent is to be paid until after the occupier of the land has got a reasonable return for his labour. The objection to this is, in the first place, that it would not meet the necessities of the poorer tenants in Ireland, who suffer most under the present condition of the Land Question; and, in the next, that any dealing with the question upon this basis would postpone till an indefinite period the settlement of the Land Question in Ireland, because it would open up the question of rent in England and Scotland, as well as in Ireland. Although I entirely agree with many of the views of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), I confess that I was surprised the other day to hear the observations of the noble Lord on this subject. The noble 821 Lord seemed to think it possible to return to the days of political economy and of free contract, and he asked why it was more hard to evict the tenants in Glenbeigh than in London. The answer to that is very clear indeed. When you have destroyed every industry throughout the length and breadth of England, and there is no resource left but to go back upon the land, the cases will be similar, but not till then. We in Lancashire are not inclined to blindly worship the principle of freedom of contract; for we know what the Factory Acts have done for women and children by abolishing contract. The women and children protected by the Factory Acts were not a bit more helpless than these unfortunate Irish tenants. Hard commercial principles applied to the land have been the modern curse of Ireland; and when you have the landlord an absentee, managing his property through an agent, you have commercial principles in a doubly aggravated form. The old kindly dealing due to the friendly intercourse between landlord and tenant, and which in this country has affected the relations between them, no longer exists on the estates of the mere merchant in land, who purchased as a speculation under the Encumbered Estates Act. If such kindly feeling could be re-established, I believe it would do much to smooth matters, even where the people are less warm-hearted than in Ireland. If it is unwise to alter the principles on which the Land Act is based, how do we find ourselves now in regard to the Land Act itself? That Act proposed that the Irish tenants should have fair rents, and that they should have an absolute right in their own improvements. It is difficult for an Englishman to understand exactly how far the tenants have got the benefit of these Acts. It strikes me as a curious fact that whereas there are 700,000 of those tenants in Ireland, no more than 200,000 of them have got judicial rents fixed at all. I do not know the cause of that; but, if fair rents were intended to be given to them by the Land Acts, we ought to see that justice is done, and that the Acts are carried out, both in the letter and spirit. Although I found myself utterly unable to agree with the hon. Member for Cork last Session, when he introduced his Bill to bring down rents tem- 822 porarily by 50 per cent; yet I do think that it would be a wise and permanent settlement of the question if, having promised the tenants a fair rent, you could introduce a sliding scale which would adjust itself according to the price of produce in Ireland. Then, again, as to the tenants' improvements. I understand that in the last Land Act the tenant was not to be rented on his own improvements. If that is not the law, then the law ought to be altered. There is also another question about which I am not clear, and upon which I should like to receive some information in the course of this debate. In England, if we evict a tenant, two things happen. In the first place, the tenant has somewhere to go to; and he gets full compensation for his improvements, although the improvements are not done on anything like the same scale as in Ireland. What I want to know is, whether in Ireland, when a tenant is evicted for non-payment of his rent, which might be £10, does that lead to the forfeiture by the tenant of a tenant-right which may be worth £100 or £200? [Cries of "Yes!" from the Home Rule Benches.] If that be so, the Act certainly requires amendment. It seems clear that, at any rate, it is not working as was originally intended; and if we want to put an end to endless agitation, we ought to have these Land Acts settled once and for ever. I want to know who is responsible for the bad working of these Acts? Is it due to the ambiguity of the phraseology of the Acts? If so, let us apply a remedy. Is it due to the impossibility of the tenants finding their way into the Land Courts? If so, let us make it cheaper for them to go there. I have heard it said that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not wish them to go into the Land Courts, and have the question settled; because it would be the means of stopping the land agitation. Then, I say, it is the duty of the House to protect people against such agitation, and to say, whether it is the fault of the law or of the agitation, that the tenants do not get the full benefit of the Acts. I may be told, in answer to the remarks I have made—"Oh, but, in the first place, the tenants of Ireland are a great deal richer than you generally give them credit for. They have got money in the savings banks." Yes; but I know that not long ago, at the General Election, 823 Conservative speakers were pointing to the increase of deposits in the savings banks, not as showing increased prosperily, but the lack of confidence and the small scope for safe investment that existed. It was said that when other means of investment decreased, the people put their money into the savings banks. Then it is said that enormous sums are being paid for tenant-right. Is not that owing to the fact of the bitter competition for the possession of land? Naturally, now that the rent has been reduced, the tenant right has become more valuable than it was. In raising this point, I have been sometimes met by this somewhat contradictory answer—"Oh, these people are so poor, that if you were to give them the land for nothing they would not be able to live upon it." Now, it strikes me that that is a curious argument in justification of enforcing rack-rents. The very first thing we have to do is to settle the Land Act, and see that it is carried out thoroughly, both in the letter and in the spirit. Let us settle these matters, step by step, and when you have done so, you will at any rate have settled the difficulty between landlord and tenant. You will have given the tenant absolute security for his improvements, and the landlord absolute security in his possession of the land; and if, when a fair rent has been properly fixed, the tenant does not pay it, then not even in Ireland should we allow robbery. We are told that ejectments will still happen. I know they will, and why? Because we come back to the old question that there is nothing for the people to live on in Ireland except the land. If the small tenants have nothing to live on except their small holdings, they cannot live upon them. Then what are we to do? We may do a great deal by strictly carrying out the law in the first place, because if the law is carried out, and the landlord is protected, and is so able to live on his land, the landlord will be able to find employment for the small tenant as harvestman or blacksmith, or in some other way, as is done in England. A good many of the men with these small holdings formerly managed to get a good living by coming over here in harvest time. I believe it is a fact that, owing to the bad harvest of 1879, the earnings 824 of Irish harvestmen were £250,000 less than it had been in more prosperous years. And I know that now-a-days many Irishmen are unable to find employment of this kind, on account of the antipathy to Irish harvestmen among the English agricultural labourers, who, rather than work with them, prefer to do the work themselves. Then, again, there would be some finality, and the Irishman would be free to settle down to his daily work. If the law were vindicated and strictly carried out, you would have capital flowing back again to Ireland; but it will never do so under other circumstances. I cannot agree with some of the remedies which I have seen suggested for this Irish Question. I, for one, do not believe in emigration; I, for one, do not for one moment believe in governing a people by getting rid of them. And then, how about our Colonies? Are you going to send away these men—the young, and the strong, and the best among the people of Ireland—to the Colonies, with their hearts full of bitter hatred of England? Suppose that, in a place like Glenbeigh, you send 50 persons out of the country. What will happen? A low ideal of life will still remain. It is a remarkable fact in Irish history that the prosperity of Ireland was not increased with the decrease of population; and I say that until you have done your best to raise the ideal of life among the Irish people, you may emigrate 50 out of every 100, but those who are left will only increase and multiply, and will do nothing to improve their condition. I believe that we English people have to face this matter boldly. It is we who destroyed the industries of the people of Ireland, and the people themselves are, to a large extent, what we have made them. I believe that the people of this country will have to put their hands into their pockets, and do what they fairly can to replace their Irish neighbours on a sounder footing. I believe that you will have no peace or contentment in Ireland until you give these people something besides the land to fall back upon. And as we treat them they will be grateful to us for anything we do to help them. I know that Irishmen, under fair and equal conditions, are as law-abiding, and even more law-abiding, than the people of this country. Put an Irishman into the 825 Army, or into the police, and you will find no braver or more loyal man in your service. Even in regard to ordinary crime, it is a notorious fact that if you put agrarian crime on one side, the Irish are more innocent of ordinary crime than other people. We are sometimes told that the Irishman is not a provident man. I am bound to say that my experience does not bear out that assertion. The pauperism of the Irish people at this moment, in proportion to the population, is less than that which exists in England. We are told that they enter into early and improvident marriages; but I find that the percentage of early marriages, and indeed of marriages altogether, is less in Ireland than in England and Scotland. We are told that the Irishman is not industrious. Not industrious! Why, I should like to know who has made our railroads and canals in England, in America, and Australia? It is the Irishman who has carried out these works. Why is it that the Irishman is industrious in other lands, and not in his own? It is because he has not got the same hope that he has in other lands, the same chances of, and the same reward for, honest industry. If you gave him the chance to be industrious in Ireland, I believe he would care far less than he does about mere political aspirations. It is his own material wants which touch him most. Then I say give him hope and opportunity, by restoring the Irish industries you have destroyed. It may be true—I do not admit it—but we are told sometimes that the Irishman longs for political institutions more than anything else. But if he does so, why is it? It is because we have taught him to look to political agitation as his only trade, except the land—it is because political agitation is the only trade in which he has ever seen a ray of hope. Then, I say, try to restore Irish industries, and lot him see hope from his industry in the future, as he has seen it in political agitation in the past. I am anxious that full justice should be done to the material wants of Ireland, for two reasons—first, because I believe that the masses of the people of England attach more importance to questions of trade and industry than they do to schemes of political agitation; and, secondly, because I believe that the first and greatest necessity is to uphold the 826 law in Ireland. But you can only uphold the law in Ireland or elsewhere if you have a clear conscience and clean hands, and I would have you say to the people of Ireland that, while you are determined to uphold the law, you also intend to do something even better, and that you will dispense absolute justice, and give a ready and an attentive ear to the admitted injustices and the material wants of a people whom I believe to be as justice-loving as any on the face of the earth.
§ MR. WODEHOUSE (Bath)
said he could not gather from the hon. Member who had just addressed the House whether he intended to vote for or against the Amendment, or not vote at all; but no one who had listened to his speech would be surprised to learn that there were a good many Irish voters in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), against which he should vote without hesitation, presented for discussion both a political and an agrarian side; and as the connection between agrarian and political projects in Ireland was universally admitted, to be very intimate, the Amendment virtually raised the whole Irish question. It called for such a reform of the law and system of Government as would satisfy the needs and secure the confidence of the Irish people; and even if they had not heard the speech of the hon. Member for Cork, there could be no mistake about the real meaning of those words when coming from him; they meant an Irish Legislature and an Irish Government. The hon. Member for Cork did not stand alone in this interpretation of the imperative and immediate wants of Ireland; by his side stood a greater than he, the late Prime Minister of England. These circumstances must govern the consideration of the Amendment, and for his own part he approached it as an opponent of the Irish policy of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the hon. Member for Cork. He must leave many points of law and administration to which the hon. Member had referred to be dealt with by the Attorney General for Ireland; but he would like to say a word or two with regard to the so-called dispensing power which was alleged to have been exercised in Ireland. It was certainly an untoward incident when an eminent Judge noted for impartiality, 827 found, or thought he found, occasion to pass something like censure on the Executive Government in connection with the enforcement of legal proceedings. Such an incident would be regrettable anywhere, but especially in a country like Ireland, where respect for the law of the land was, to say the least, imperfect, and where the most just and laudable actions of the Government were daily liable to deliberate misconstruction by those whose avowed object was to make all government impossible. The discretion of particular officers might, perhaps, in some cases have been at fault; but a Minister in the arduous post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, who exercised his legitimate moral influence to moderate differences and assuage strife in so troubled a condition of society, did not deserve the disparagement and carping criticism of the hon. Member for Cork. He deserved rather the approval and support of the House. And when the action of the Chief Secretary was placed on a level with the Plan of Campaign, when counsels offered to landlords to be lenient in the exaction of what was legally theirs, were likened to instigation addressed to debtors to withhold from their creditors what they owed and defy the law—the parallel and juxtaposition were a monstrous confusion of plain right and wrong. How far cases of serious disturbance in the relations of landlord and tenant had been due to refusals of reasonable abatements of rent, and the rejection of the Tenants' Relief Bill of the hon. Member for Cork; or how far they had been due to the authors of the Plan of Campaign, he would leave hon. Members to discuss who had more detailed knowledge of the agrarian situation in Ireland than he had. The House required accurate information, and there were few spots on earth where it was harder to got at the real bare truth than in Ireland; exaggeration thrived there, and the Glenbeigh evictions were a typical illustration of this. No one could be insensible either to the pain or or public mischief of such scenes, or could fail to yearn for a remedy which should make them cease. But the attempt made by those who would extirpate all landlords from Ireland to inflame prejudice against a whole class by affixing a stigma of atrocious inhumanity upon one particular landlord, had been a signal failure. When all the modern arts 828 and artifices of sensation were employed to dress up a particular case in flaring colours, it was as well to remember that the worst sufferings in this world were not those about which most noise was made. Could no saddening pictures be drawn of the indigence and privation into which persons had been plunged by the refusal of tenants to pay rent when perfectly well able to do so—persons whose suffering was all the more acute because they had not been reared in hardship from their birth? And if the degree of suffering could not be accurately measured even by the cries and the clamour of those who felt it, how much less could it be measured by the clamour of those who did not feel it, but who utilized it for their own selfish or political objects. These evictions might, however, be of use to remind the House and the Government of the necessity of dealing with those districts where the occupiers could not thrive, even if they paid no rent. The problem of the congested districts pressed for solution, and he clung to the hope that the wisdom of this Parliament might devise a scheme of migration or emigration, or of both combined, to deal with those districts in such a manner as would be just to the landlords, and considerate of the future welfare of the transplanted occupiers. With regard to the reduction of judicial rents, and the extension of the Land Act of 1881 to leaseholders, the House was awaiting the Report of Lord Cowper's Commission, which might, perhaps, present a strong case for such changes. Should it do so, these amendments of the Act must be made. But, looking at that Act as intended to be a modus vivendi, pending the substitution of single for dual ownership, he could not contemplate disturbance of so important a provision as the term for which judicial rents were fixed without regret or disquietude. The Land Act of 1881 was no common Statute. It was passed with wonderful dexterity and energy by a great Minister in the plenitude of his power, and it had been lauded to the skies as an imperishable monument of his constructive genius. Its author fondly described it, even in its cradle, as an infant Hercules strangling powers of evil. He spoke of it as granting, with a liberality unknown in the history of landed legislation, privilege and security to the cultivator of the soil, 829 and he told them that the prosperity and happiness of Ireland might depend upon its working for generations and even for centuries. Faith in legislation would be rudely shaken, and a sense of insecurity would spread, if it were found that this memorable historic Statute, intended to be a sort of Charter for generations yet unborn, could not bear the ordinary, reasonable wear and tear of four or five short years. He said the reasonable wear and tear, because it was incredible that a great Statesman, when framing so exceptional and drastic a measure, should have overlooked such obvious possibilities as vicissitudes of seasons and developments of agriculture in other parts of the world, with consequent fluctuations of prices. When, however, such measures as the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, the Arrears Act of 1882, and Lord Ashbourne's Act, had been passed by Parliament; when legislation had paid regard to improvements made by tenants; when the Irish tenant had been invested with privileges and advantages unknown elsewhere; when, in short, to use a phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the land law of Ireland had been purged of any taint of injustice, surely it was essential that remedial legislation should have fair play, and that its beneficial operation should not be marred or destroyed by combinations or conspiracies which arrogated the right to stand between the people and the law. And if this increased stringency of criminal procedure which the Government proposed was intended to protect and guard the laws and those who would profit by them, such reform of criminal procedure should certainly have his support. Why was the hon. Member for Cork put into Kilmainham by the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian? Because he tried to stand between the Land Act of 1881 and the Irish tenantry; because he put the Act in jeopardy at its out-set. That was what was called coercion. Coercion was a very misleading and inappropriate term; it was nothing more nor less than a nickname invented for use in Party warfare; but for brevity's sake he would use it. No one could have listened with indifference to the sinister prophecies of the hon. Member for Cork as to what would follow recourse to coercion; prophecies which 830 that hon. Member had it so much in his power either to disappoint or fulfil. But when the hon. Member for Cork contended that coercion was harsh and hateful, and that it had always failed, he must submit that there was another side to these propositions. For his own part, when he remembered the many eloquent vindications of coercion which had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and Lord Spencer and the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt); and how these high authorities had assured the House that coercion had no terrors or inconveniences except for law breakers and evil doers, and that it was really a shield and defence and safeguard to peaceable and law-abiding citizens in every rank, he could not work himself up to the pitch of righteous indignation which appeared to be required now against Coercion Acts. Moreover, when he called to mind all the honest, well-deserved panegyrics which Liberals had lavished upon Lord Spencer and Sir George Trevelyan for restoring law and order, and ruling Ireland well by firm use of a strong Coercion Act, he could not readily subscribe to the doctrine that coercion had always failed. What had failed was the intermittent application of this so-called coercion in obedience to the exigencies of political Parties. Whenever the time had come to determine whether one of these temporary Acts should be renewed or not, the question had not been settled by the merits of the case, but by the exigencies of political Parties at the moment. The hon. Member for Cork had passed in review the events of recent years, and he would follow his footsteps. In 1880 the late Mr. Forster went to Ireland, relying on the ordinary law, and full of benevolent intentions towards the Irish people; but the Land League arose with its gospel of plunder, and Mr. Forster soon found that he wanted a Coercion Act. Then he was denounced in language which would have been exaggerated if applied even to Nero. Next came the Kilmainham Treaty, when the prison doors were opened, to be quickly followed by the Phoenix Park tragedy, and another Coercion Act, which Lord Spencer administered amid tremendous difficulties and under torrents of ferocious abuse and calumny. When that Act was about 831 to expire, the late Prime Minister proposed to renew some of its "valuable and equitable" provisions; but ere he could do so his Government fell. Then Lord Carnarvon appeared upon the scene with his mellifluous utterances, and the Maamtrasna debate occurred, with its shameful scandal—the repudiation of Lord Spencer's acts by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill); repudiation in view of a General Election. After the Maamtrasna debate the ordinary law resumed its sway, and the National League extended its organization and influence so fast and so far over Ireland that about a year ago the situation was ripe, in the judgment of right hon. Gentlemen now occupying the Treasury Bench, for the suppression of the National League. But they also, like their Predecessors, passed away from Office, before they could carry their coercive projects into effect. Now, he was convinced that, if they went on in this fashion constantly subordinating regard for law and order in Ireland to their own Party and electioneering exigencies, Home Rule would unquestionably win the day, and he, even he, would probably become a convert to Home Rule. But should he ever embrace the faith of Home Rule he should embrace it in a very advanced form, too advanced to be satisfied by the rejected Bill of last year. It was, however, not too late even now to try what effect a little more firmness and fixity of purpose would effect. If the measures contemplated by the Government to render the vindication of law more prompt and effective were, as he supposed they would be, of a permanent rather than a provisional and temporary character, he for one should rejoice to support them. It seemed to him that the whole issue which had been submitted to the country at the last General Election was virtually wrapped up in mild terms of this Amendment. There were some, he believed, who claimed the verdict then pronounced as irrevocable and irreversible; but he held no such language. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had recently concluded what was called a very clever speech—that is, a speech calculated to excite general admiration of the dexterity of the speaker, but hardly calculated to inspire either confidence or 832 attachment in a single human breast—with an appeal to Cæsar—that many-headed Cæsar to whom the noble Lord paid such assiduous court. He was not one of those who ascribed infallibility to this Cæsar; he regarded him rather as a potentate of good intentions and generous instincts, who not infrequently required a good deal of shaking and shouting to arouse his attention, and who certainly was not always of the same mind. When, therefore, the late Prime Minister and his followers confidently assured them that they would soon prevail on Cæsar to change his mind about Home Rule, and reverse his last decree, or rather mandate—to use the favourite term of his votaries—he did not presume to find fault with their confidence; but if those who were defeated in the last trial of strength were entitled to entertain sanguine expectations, surely they who belonged to the Party then decisively victorious had at least an equal claim to feel confidence in their cause. And if they Unionists—on which ever side of the House they sat—[Ironical Home Rule Cheers]—he understood those derisive cheers—but as long as the votes he gave were what he conceived to be conscientious and patriotic, he for one cared not very much on which side of the House he sat. If the Unionists were now to waver in their attitude or falter in their path, if they failed to know their own minds, if they were not resolved, as he believed they were, to hold fast and vigilantly guard the position won by their success of last year, they would be simply contemptible; and as an earnest of their determination and stability of purpose, he trusted that the Amendment before the House would be rejected by a large and an overwhelmimg majority.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
After the desultory and aimless discussion to which we have now listened for several nights, it is satisfactory that we have at length before us a substantial Amendment, although its terms may be somewhat vague. I think that the best way in which we can show our satisfaction in the matter is by considering the Amendment in the light of the language of the hon. Member who has introduced it. It seems to me that if the House accepts this Amendment it will be binding itself to three proposi- 833 tions—the first being an approval of what is called the Plan of Campaign; the second, the disapproval of the Government using the means which the law placed in its power to check lawlessness, or, if those means are insufficient, seeking additional means to enable it to do so; and thirdly, that the only remedy for the state of affairs in Ireland is that the House shall pass the Government of Ireland Bill which was rejected last year. Now, it is because we on this side of the House cannot accept any of these propositions that we oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork. If we go through the argument which the hon. Member for Cork has laid before us to-night, we shall be struck by his want of knowledge of some of the matters going on in Ireland during the past three or four months which has characterized the hon. Member's speech. It may have been owing to circumstances which we all regret that he was unable to visit the country. The hon. Member had told us, through the Press, that he knew nothing of the Plan of Campaign until it was launched upon the country, and that the movement was not his own conception; and then he promised to visit the country and ascertain the facts for himself. I do not know if this visit to Ireland on the part of the hon. Member for Cork was carried out or not; but I must say that the hon. Member's consultation with his Friends on the question must have been very brief indeed, otherwise he would have boon prevented from falling into so many historical errors, which those who are fully acquainted with the facts were able at once to perceive. The position taken up by the hon. Member for Cork is this. He says—"I introduced a Bill last year which you rejected, but which was necessary to preserve Ireland from disorder, and to prevent a disturbance of the relations between landlord and tenant." But when we examine the dates a little more closely, it will be seen that the rejection of the hon. Member's Bill had nothing to do with the disorder that has since prevailed in Ireland, but that the disturbance of the relations between landlord and tenant in that country has arisen directly from the action of his Colleagues. We meet his arguments by alleging that the action of the landlords generally was not of an unfair and an inequitable character. The argument of 834 the hon. Member was that, if his Bill were rejected, there would be an enormous number of evictions; but, as a matter of fact, there have been fewer evictions during the past few months than has been the average during the past seven or eight years. [Ironical Home Rule Cheers.] I understand that ironical cheer—it means that hon. Members opposite attribute that fact to the Plan of Campaign. I ask hon. Members to pay attention to dates. As a matter of fact, the only set of evictions that hon. Members opposite can point to as having occurred since the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork is that of Glenbeigh. The evictions at Glenbeigh would not have been prevented by the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. Indeed, they were evictions that would not have been prevented by any form of agrarian legislation that has ever been suggested. The unfortunate persons who occupied the lands were, it was said, so poor that they could pay no rent whatever; they were indebted to shopkeepers and others as well as to their landlords; and they were living in a state of squalid misery. Several of them are stated to have been without the necessaries of life; and there were some who had not paid any rent for the last, five or six years. If these statements were true, what form of agrarian legislation could have benefited these tenants? They have had the land rent free for five or six years. Surely these evictions cannot be brought up as showing anything defective in the agrarian system, or anything against the landlords? Then, there has not been the development of crime and outrage with which we were threatened; and that fact in itself ought to be gratifying to us all. It shows that the predictions by which the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork were recommended to us have not been verified by events; indeed, the events have quite falsified those predictions. So far from the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork having produced strained relations between landlords and tenants, it appears, from the course of events, that any strained relations that have been brought about have been entirely due to the action of the hon. Member or of his Friends. The House rose towards the end of September. In October rents were collected with greater ease and rapidity than they 835 had been for six or seven years. There seemed to be no disposition to refuse the payment of rents, and landlords made reasonable abatements, which were willingly accepted by the tenants. Up to the first week of November no difficulties or disturbances were heard of. Yet many of the persons who so paid their rents were those of whom it had been said that they were too poor to pay them. This shows that the statements that had been made did not accurately represent the state of the country. There was ability to pay rents, and, where the whole could not be paid, reasonable reductions were made. It seems to me that if the tenants had been allowed to go on by themselves, if there had been no agitation, there would have been none of the disturbances that occurred in the last month of the year. Much has been said about the property of Lord Dillon. It has been repeatedly stated in Ireland, and it cannot be contradicted, that out of a rental of £16,000, in October £5,000 was collected in the ordinary way from all classes of tenants. But in November there was a change, and it came from agitation, and from the movement set on foot by the Colleagues of the hon. Member for Cork. That movement is known as the Plan of Campaign. The hon. and learned Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace), with something of metaphysical haziness, argued that the Plan resembled a combination of workmen to induce an employer to change the terms on which they had been employed, and to enter into a new contract. But that does not seem to me to be a parallel case. The hon. and learned Member seems to have an imperfect idea of what the Plan of Campaign is. Nor does the hon. Member for Cork seem to have learnt what it is from his Colleagues. He said, in the mildest way, that it simply came to this—that some tenants who could pay rent told the landlords that they would not pay until they made what the tenants who could not pay the full amount considered reasonable abatement. What the Plan of Campaign is may be illustrated in this way. Suppose a number of people in England, for some reason, took objection to certain persons engaged in the banking business; suppose the objectors considered that the bankers were hostile to the interests of the coun- 836 try, and desired to see them driven from the country; and suppose they summoned a meeting of the debtors to the banks, and said to them—"You are very poor; you are badly off; it will oppress you to pay your debts to the banks; at the time you borrowed the money you expected to make more out of it than you have done; therefore, offer the banks 40 or 50 per cent less than you owe; and if the offer is not accepted, hand over the money to someone else, so that it shall not be paid to the bank until the reduction is assented to." In addition, suppose that every form of possible intimidation is resorted to against the bankers to induce them to accept the terms, and that the debtors sell off their goods, so that if execution be issued against them it may be impossible to realize anything, and that when steps are taken to seize any tangible property the Sheriff is resisted, and it is made impossible to enforce the law. Will anyone tell me that such a course of action is moral or legal, and that it is not criminal? The persons engaged in this movement were not satisfied to endeavour to obtain concessions by withholding money; but they used various forms of intimidation against the landlords. Take, as an illustration, the case of the Marquess of Lansdowne. It was said, at one time, that he had made abatements, and that others might well follow his example. Then it was asked why, having made concessions in one part of the country, he did not do so in another. Referring to this complaint, Mr. William O'Brien, speaking at Maryborough, on the 24th of January, said—We will carry the war into Canada. We will meet him at his palace-gates. We will track him night and day the wide world over, and from one end of the Dominion of Canada to another. I promise him on the part of the Irish in Canada that wherever he goes he will find Irish hearts and Irish throats that will hoot him and boycott him and hunt him with execrations out of that great and free land.This is an example of the form of intimidation practised towards a landlord who does not make the concessions demanded from him. Similar intimidation is applied to the tenant who says—"I have got money, and I am quite willing to pay." He is Boycotted and persecuted so that he cannot be honest, even if he would. More than that, if a tenant who has entered into the Plan of Campaign 837 comes to the conclusion that it is better for him to pay, what is to happen then? The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) speaking at Eyre Court on November 28, said—If any man went behind the back of his neighbours and paid, what would happen? The trustees would close on the money and use it for the benefit of those who stood out. The man who had paid his rent would get nothing, and the money would be kept for the purposes of agitation.And on October 5, Mr. William O'Brien, speaking at Inchiquin, said—I tell you that, under this Plan of Campaign, if an individual tenant desired to pay it is impossible to do it.That strikes at the root of all honesty in the country. But, Sir, the Plan of Campaign goes further than that. Have we not been told that tenants ought to sweep their stock from their farms, so that there would be no means left for the landlord to realize his rent by distress? I can hardly imagine anything more disastrous to the agriculture of a country than for the whole of the stock on the farms to be converted into money, and the money to be placed somewhere out of the power of the tenant. It is not to be wondered at that some hon. Members, who advocate this Plan, should come here and tell us that some of the tenants have not even sufficient seed with which to plant a crop in the coming year. I think it would be very difficult for hon. Members from Ireland to convince other hon. Members of this House that advice such as that is not in its nature essentially illegal. It has been suggested again and again that those who are engaged in this Plan are just as much anxious to benefit the landlords as the tenants, and that it is much better for the landlords to accept a reasonable rent which can be paid than to strive after rents which cannot possibly be paid. But I submit that what lies at the root of this Plan of Campaign is an attack upon all landlordism, and that the intention is to drive landlords out of Ireland altogether. To show that I am not overstating this matter, I will quote one of the very first speeches made on this subject by the hon. Member for East Mayo, delivered at New-townsandes, on the 25th of October. Having referred in outline to this Plan—not then very fully developed—he said that after they had succeeded in getting 838 the reductions they asked for, they should wipe out and crush landlordism altogether—When we have succeeded in doing that, we can then turn our exertions towards making Ireland what she ought to be—a free and prosperous country.The hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond), speaking on the 30th of November, said—What will be the result if you do this? You will reduce the rents and you will beat landlordism once and for all to its knees.On the 5th of October, Mr. William O'Brien said—Together we will march shoulder to shoulder, from victory to victory, until we shall have liberated this land from the two curses of landlordism and English rule.A more elaborate exposition was given at a very important meeting held at the town of Castlereagh on the 5th of December, and there were there the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. M. Harris), and the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond), and the hon. Member for East Galway said—I am not going to indulge in a No-rent manifesto; that was put to the people of Ireland before, and if they had adhered to that programme there would be no landlords in Ireland to-day; but they had not the courage to do that. That great programme drove terror to the hearts of our enemies; but it broke down, and therefore we cannot put forward such an advanced programme again. But we put before you a programme that will lead to that result—that will first take one slice, then take a second slice, and we will keep slicing it till nothing remains.That is very much like what was said by the hon. Member for West Kerry (Mr. E. Harrington), on the 19th of December last. He said—We had an old traditional belief that landlords are the English garrison in Ireland. We can annihilate them with the Plan; when we have annihilated them the Government of Ireland will be in our own hands. It is the great thing we have to look to; it is not to make Lord Kenmare give us a reduction of rent. It is not for these things merely that we waste our energies.Well, Sir, I have given some reasons which I think will induce some hon. Members of this House to believe that this Plan of Campaign is not the legal and innocent thing which it has been represented in some quarters. It is illegal and criminal. It has been asked why, if this Plan of Campaign were 839 illegal to the knowledge of the Government, did they allow two months to elapse before taking any steps to put an end to it? That is only one instance among many of the faulty chronology of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)—those two months existed only in his imagination. The Plan of Campaign first appeared in United Ireland on the 23rd of October. But a mere publication in a newspaper is not enough to make a Government institute a prosecution until they see what is coming out of it. For a fortnight after that there was nothing done except that a few speeches were made in remote parts of the country. The first speech that brought the Plan forward in a prominent way was on the 7th of November, and it was not until the 21st of November that anything like active operations took place. Then the dates of the Assizes were such that it was impossible to have any of the persons whom the Government thought it desirable to prosecute, returned for trial at an early date, and the earliest time that a trial reasonably could he had was in the beginning of February. The Government were anxious at the very earliest moment to test the legality of the statements of the hon. Members. The hon. Member for Cork has found fault with the invocation of the inherent jurisdiction of the Queen's Bench, and has said there was no precedent. I am happy to inform him that there is a precedent in this country in which an application was made to the inherent jurisdiction of the Queen's Bench.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
The application to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring was made under a statute of Charles; the application of the present Government was made under no statute, but to the inherent jurisdiction of the Court.
§ MR. HOLMES
Of course I can quite understand the interruption of the hon. Member, because it is hardly to be supposed that he should be conversant with legal questions. It was the statute of Charles by which procedure in exorcising the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench was regulated, but that jurisdiction existed before the statute was passed. For a fortnight or three weeks we were told that this Plan of Campaign was perfectly legal. The Government of the day, however, knew no way in which 840 its legality or illegality could be declared except by a Court of competent jurisdiction, and the Court of Queen's Bench decided that the hon. Member for East Mayo should be put under rule of bail because he had encouraged others to go into the Plan of Campaign. Yet the Government have been blamed because they appealed to the only Court which they could recognize as an authority to lay down the law. I will rot trouble the House with any further observations in regard to the Plan of Campaign; but I desire to make one or two remarks in reference to the statements which have been made about General Sir Redvers Buller and Judge Curran, and what the hon. Member for Cork describes as the dispensing power. I was under the impression that the hon. Member for Cork believed and sought to convey to the House that General Buller and Judge Curran were sent to Kerry for the purpose of carrying out the policy of the Government as regards the dispensing power. Let me remind the House that in this the hon. Member for Cork is entirely at fault. General Buller was sent to Kerry within one week after the present Government came into Office, when there was no talk or thought or idea that this agitation would be raised about the inability of the tenants to pay rent. He was sent there because there had been disorder and outrages and "Moonlighting" in Kerry, and his duty was to reorganize the police, and to deal with those matters. About the same time Judge Curran was transferred from another county to Kerry. The Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had selected him as a County Court Judge who would fearlessly carry out the law. The present Government, finding Kerry in that state in which it was thought necessary to send General Buller to the county, also deemed it desirable to have a County Court Judge there of courage and firmness. Judge Curran accepted the transfer to that county, because he said he was willing to go to any county where his services might be useful; and, with the exception of this communication, there was never a communication of any kind between Judge Curran and Her Majesty's Government. What Judge Curran did in Kerry he did out of his own motion. From the beginning 841 to the end of the letter which has been read by the hon. Member there is no suggestion that Judge Curran did anything that was in the smallest degree illegal. Then a great deal has been said about General Buller exercising a dispensing power. I ask the House to consider on what slender testimony all those statements have been made. Well, I have followed carefully the speech of the hon. Member for Cork, and he adduced four proofs of the interference of General Buller in this direction. The first was a telegram sent by Moriarty, an Inspector of Constabulary, to the Sub-Sheriff of Cork—I think it was—asking for the assistance of four or five constables at an eviction. That telegram was sent at 10 o'clock at night, and the eviction was to take place at four or five o'clock the next morning. In pursuance of instructions given years and years ago, the Sheriff was informed that it was necessary, for the purpose of meeting the police arrangements, to give a 10 days' notice. So much, therefore, as regards Moriarty. A good deal has been said by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) about striking below the belt. I believe there are some suggestions of the hon. Member's that do strike below the belt, especially those in reference to General Buller, and the evidence which that officer gave before the Land Commission, which sat under the presidency of Lord Cooper. They are suggestions which may well be characterized as a blow below the belt. On this subject a letter appeared in a newspaper which purported to be written by some member of the Commission to a friend in London, and which purported to give the effect of the evidence of General Buller. The hon. Member has asserted that no contradiction has ever been made in regard to that letter. Now, in the first place, a member of the Commission—Lord Milltown—at once gave a direct contradiction to the statement that he had written it; and the secretary of the Commission—writing in the name of all the members of it—distinctly denied that any member of the Commission had written that letter. It is suggested now that General Buller did give the evidence, and that he has now changed it; and that he has been engaged recently in altering and amending his evidence. Could there be a greater 842 reflection on an hon. and gallant officer than that those who composed a Royal Commission should have invited him to amend his evidence, and that he should have done so? The evidence itself will shortly be published; but I am informed by a member of the Commission that General Buller was not invited to alter his evidence. A printed proof of his evidence was sent to him, as it has been sent to every other witness; and it was returned without any material alteration. Anyone who knows anything about the proceedings of a Royal Commission will be aware that, as soon as a proof of the evidence is ready, it is sent to the person who has given it, with an intimation that he may correct any errors of the Press, or any part of it which does not touch the materiality of the evidence. The hon. Member has stated that General Buller, when asked if he had given evidence, said that he would not reply to the question, because he had not yet corrected it. Now, I was present on that occasion, and the answer which General Buller gave was that he had given evidence to the Commissioners, that it would be published in due course, and that he did not know that he would be justified in publishing it prematurely. This question was asked him, "Have you received a proof in the ordinary way?" and General Buller's reply was that it had not reached him. The charge, therefore, so far as General Buller is concerned, I think the House will feel disposed to regard at its proper value. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the case of an individual tenant and Captain Plunkett. It was stated by the hon. Member, in his speech, that an effort was made by Captain Plunkett to induce the agent of the property to accept a reduced rent—in fact, one year's rent out of three. That is not so. The offer by the tenant was that he should pay one year's rent at once, and that the rest should stand over for a short time, until it could be adjusted. Captain Plunkett states that he used no compulsion whatever towards the landlord. Then is it not absurd to base upon two or three instances of this kind the sweeping allegations against Her Majesty's Government, that through their officers they were exercising dispensing power? My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, a few nights ago, challenged any hon. Member to prove 843 a single instance in which any person desiring to exercise his legal rights was refused protection. He asserted, on the other hand, that in every case where legal assistance was asked for it was voluntarily and cheerfully given. I now challenge any hon. Member to show that where any application has been made for protection in executing legal process, it has not been afforded. I will now pass briefly over the remaining allegations. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) referred to what he called coercion and coercive legislation; and looking at the paragraph in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech in which She speaks of the amendment of the procedure of the criminal law, he said, again and again, that the criminal law was to be enforced against political offenders. Now, it would be both premature and unbecoming for me to say what the provisions may be of the measure which Her Majesty's Government may submit to this House. But this I may promise, that whatever amendment of the law can be suggested our object will be to take action, not against political action, but against criminal offenders. If we find that the law at our disposal is not sufficient to enable us to reach criminal offenders, we shall fearlessly ask Parliament to amend and extend it. The hon. Member for Cork threatened Her Majesty's Government with dynamiters, who were to come from America.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to accuse me of having used threats?
§ MR. SPEAKER
What I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to mean was that the hon. Member had intimated his opinion that in a certain contingency dynamiters would come from America.
§ MR. PARNELL
I never made use of such a threat, and I never predicted that such a thing would happen. What I said was that those things had happened. I submit, Sir, with great respect, that nothing which I said was capable of the interpretation put upon it by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. HOLMES
I will at once relieve the hon. Member. I never used the words in the sense of which the hon. Member complains. I will at once put it in another form, and what I say is, 844 that the reference which the hon. Member made to the dynamiters and the conspiracies to assassinate Members of the Government of that day will not prevent Her Majesty's present Government from asking for those powers which they might think necessary to amend the criminal law. It is necessary now to say a few words, and I will endeavour to make them as few as possible, in reference to the procedure to which the Government have had recourse. The hon. Member for Cork has brought several accusations against the Government. The first, I think I have already disposed of—namely, the application of the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench. His second complaint has reference to the proclamation of the meeting at Sligo. Now, why was that meeting proclaimed? It was proclaimed because it was an obvious attempt to interfere with the administration of justice at the coming Assizes. There were several cases to be tried at Sligo in connection with the Woodford evictions, where the tenants had fortified themselves in four places, one of which was called "Saunders's Fort," and every means of violence which could be suggested was practised to resist the forces of the law. The proceedings were altogether illegal and violent, and it required a large force not only of police, but military, to execute the Queen's writ, and obtain possession. That was a crime, and whatever hon. Members may assert, any Government that would have tolerated it, or that would not have acted as we did, would be unworthy of their position. The cases were to be tried at the coming Assizes in Sligo, and a few days before they were to be tried the following telegram was posted up in Sligo:—John Dillon, O'Kelly, and myself ask the Nationalists of Sligo to assemble in their might in Sligo town next Sunday to appeal to Sligo jurors to express their condemnation of efforts of Government to assassinate liberty of Press and victimize the gallant defenders of Saunders's Fort. We will attend.—WM. O'BRIEN.That was a meeting for the purpose of telling the jury that they were to express their condemnation of the Government in prosecuting the defenders of "Saunders's Fort." According to the law administered in this country and in Ireland alike, a meeting assembled for such a purpose would be an illegal assembly, and it is not merely the right 845 but the duty of the guardians of the peace in either country to disperse a meeting of that kind. I have been asked if there is a precedent for such a proceeding. Yes, Sir, there is a precedent, and I am glad that I can find precedents for all these things during the Government of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The hon. Gentleman has heard of the case of the Queen against Parnell and others, which occurred, I think, somewhere about January, 1881. A short time before the case came on a similar meeting was called, the object of which was to intimidate jurors in Dublin; but a proclamation in the very terms of the Sligo proclamation was issued by the right hon. Gentleman who was then Chief Secretary, and the meeting was suppressed. Then comes the allegation of what is called "jury packing." A Motion in reference to that subject has been placed on the Votes of the House. No doubt it will be fully discussed; and I can assure the hon. Member who has put down the Motion that no Member of Her Majesty's Government will shrink from the discussion. The hon. Member for Cork complains that in forming the first panel the Sheriff had wilfully infringed the law. Now, that question was raised and tried in the only legal way in which it could be tried—namely, by two triers who happened to be a Protestant and Catholic, and the answer given by those who tried it was that it was not a case of jury packing. The Lord Chief Baron stated that he entirely approved of the finding. The Lord Chief Baron, under the circumstances, caused a now panel to be prepared; but he did so in order to prevent any question or doubt with regard to its legality. The new panel was prepared under his own eyes and direction, and he has stated that he saw it prepared in precise accordance with the Act of Parliament. It was from that panel so prepared that the jury was selected. Whoever conducted the prosecution would have been guilty of a serious dereliction of duty if they had not exercised, under the circumstances, the full power they possessed. Another objection made by hon. Members opposite is that the Crown exercised the right of challenge, and asked certain Catholics to stand by. Let me remind the House that the Crown Solicitor was 846 a Catholic; but at that time a largo number of people in Sligo—Protestants and Catholics alike—were subjected to the most serious intimidation, and were warned as to the consequences that would happen to them if they were to serve upon that jury. The Crown was, therefore, bound to secure men of independent thought; it would otherwise have been impossible to secure a fair trial. Let me ask of what injustice the Crown were guilty after the jury was empanelled? The Lord Chief Baron repeated, again and again, that he entirely agreed with every verdict returned. The first case was one in which the jury found it necessary to record a special verdict. They found it impossible to acquit the prisoners, but, having regard to the circumstances of the case, they returned a special verdict, which the Judge ruled to be a verdict for the Crown. This shows that they were not determined to find verdicts for the Crown per fas et nefas. They acted with great judgment and great impartiality, and with, a leaning towards mercy. Not only was an attack made upon the juries, but upon the Judge himself. The Judge who, a fortnight before, was declared by the Nationalist Members of Ireland to be the most impartial Judge who ever sat on the Bench, was denounced in the most violent terms. This is an example of what has happened in Ireland again and again, and if the Crown is not to exercise the right which the law has given with a view to the impartial trial of cases, it would be impossible to have cases tried in Ireland. Perhaps I have replied to the allegations which have been made by the hon. Member for Cork at too great a length, but I felt bound to follow him in the remarks he has made. I notice the hon. Member has said very little about the last part of his Amendment, with reference to the reform of the law and system of government. I say that if this Amendment were carried it would be an affirmation of the Home Rule Bill of last Session, because we know that the least that hon. Members opposite will accept in the direction of Home Rule is the Bill of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). We on this side of the House take up the position of opponents to that Bill. We are here for the purpose of resisting the demand for Home Rule, 847 and for this reason alone we must at once resist this Amendment. Something has been said about remedial legislation. The Government do not desire to avoid the question of remedial legislation, and such legislation will be submitted to the House at the proper time. We trust that it will be accepted, and that it will do good; but whatever the nature of it may be, we are determined that it shall be consistent with the maintenance of the union between the two countries, and with the enforcement of law and order in Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened with considerable interest to a speech which, it seems to me, would have been better reserved by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for the time when he will have to open my prosecution on this day week. A few sentences towards the close of that speech dealt with the wider and greater issues which ought to have occupied the attention of the House, but the greater part of the speech was devoted to a diatribe which I think came very ill from Her Majesty's principal Law Adviser in Ireland, for prejudicing my trial before a jury which the right hon. and learned Gentleman intends to pack. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about the panel in Sligo, and he endeavoured to induce hon. Members in this House to believe that the hands of the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland are guiltless of what I can only characterize as the heinous offence of jury packing. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman passed over in silence the fact which is undeniable and undenied—that in placing these men on their trial at Sligo, they being Catholic peasants from the County of Galway—and their crime was regarded as a very light one, as any hon. Member who has read the history of Ireland will know—tho Crown has exercised the most oppressive, and as some think, illegal power—a power which, no doubt, they have always arrogated to themselves—of making the jurors stand aside without cause until in every instance they succeeded in securing a jury that was nearly all entirely Protestant. In every instance these poor men were tried before a purely Protestant jury, and in most cases every single co-religionist of the accused was ordered to stand aside. How can the population of Ireland be expected to have any 848 respect for a law which was enforced by such means, and by a jury so shamefully packed? [Cries of "Oh!"] I cannot understand how hon. Members, even although they be Conservatives, can stand up in defence of such a system as that, or how they can believe for a single hour that the people of Ireland can ever be induced to respect or submit, except by force, to such a law. If you want to know why the people of Ireland have no confidence in the law, and do not believe in justice as administered there by the English Government, I would ask you to contrast the case of the Woodford prisoners—whose crime was light, because in the defence of "Saunders's Port" not a single drop of human blood was shed—with the treatment of the two Waters, murderers who were taken red-handed in the act of shooting a policeman. They were placed upon their trial, charged, not with defending their homes, but with shooting down a policeman in the streets of Belfast, one of whom shot him in the back. There were witnesses who swore that with their own eyes they saw the prisoners commit the murder; but what did the Crown do in the case? They never exercised their power by ordering a single man to stand aside. In spite of indignant protests from a Protestant Judge, they allowed these murderers to be tried in the county of Tyrone by their brother Orangemen, who allowed them to go scot-free, and they are walking about the streets, at full liberty, to this very day. But the Galway peasants are now lying under a sentence of 12 months' imprisonment, because they defended their fathers' homes. Let me pass away from the subject of packed juries, although it is a delicate one with me, as I expect, in the course of a few weeks, to taste, myself, what a packed jury is. I desire to direct attention to the reasons and causes which have made English law, and the makers of it, hateful to the Irish people. In my case the Crown did not think that a City of Dublin jury could be packed sufficiently; they, therefore, shifted the venue and moved the case into the County of Dublin, because they knew that the suburbs of Dublin are full of broken down land agents and others, who imagine that they have been ruined by our agitation. For 100 years the practice in Green Street, Dublin, has been to return on 849 the long panel about 80 names—it never exceeded 100—but now the Government have returned to the long panel 250 names. This, Sir, is what we know as equal law and justice in Ireland. I have no doubt the Crown will take good care that no Land Leaguer shall sit upon my jury. Allow me, now, to turn to the history given by the Attorney General for Ireland, as to how the present agitation and disturbances in Ireland arose. A more misleading statement, I do not say deliberately misleading, was never made in this House, and I ought to know something about it. The Attorney General said that these disturbances had nothing to do with the rejection of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, and as an evidence of that extraordinary assertion he pointed out that during the month of October rents were paid in Ireland with considerable freedom and regularity. That is perfectly true, but those hon. Members who have followed the course of events in Ireland will know what the reason was. When the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork was brought forward in this House it will be in the recollection of hon. Members that there was delivered from the Front Bench by the Chief Secretary, a speech in which the right hon. Gentleman maintained that there was no case for the reduction of the rents in Ireland. He did not confute our arguments, but he asserted that we had made out no case for reduction of rents in Ireland. At that time the Irish landlords and agents reflected the tone of the speeches of Lord Salisbury and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that there should be no reduction of rent that winter. Now, I assert that if that attitude had been attempted to be maintained in Ireland, a condition of things would have been arrived to which I look forward with considerable alarm, and what has occurred in Ireland would have been mere child's play compared with what would have happened. We had only returned to Ireland a few weeks when we became aware of a total change in the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and a condition of things was brought about of so peculiar a nature that I do not think a counterpart of it can be found in the whole civilized world. The position which we occupied in Ireland was a most peculiar one. We did not enjoy the confidence of our 850 governors; we dare not be seen talking to them, or be seen going to their official residences, and we were obliged to grope about in the dark and obtain our information from outside sources. It was not, therefore, until after some three weeks had elapsed that we discovered through certain secret channels that the Government had abandoned the attitude taken up by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in this House, and had entered upon a course which we had frequently recommended to successive Irish Governments, although it had always been indignantly repudiated here—namely, that of putting pressure upon the Irish landlords to do their duty. I have repeatedly urged Irish Governments to do that, and so far from blaming the Government for the pressure which they did place upon the Irish landlords I give them all credit for it. I say, further, that they have reaped the reward of what they did, because the difficulties they have to contend with now are as nothing compared with what they would otherwise have been. In that fact you have a reason why the present circumstances did not arise sooner than they did in Ireland, and that when they did arise they were confined to isolated localities. After a certain time it became manifest that while the Government were putting very great pressure upon the Irish landlords to substantially reduce their rents, and even to reduce judicial rents which Lord Salisbury said could not be reduced—and while large reductions were made by many landlords headed by the Duke of Devonshire—it became evident that there was a considerable body of landlords who would not listen to reason, but who insisted upon having their pound of flesh. Are we told here that because certain Irish landlords refuse to listen to reason that that is an argument for destroying the relations between the two countries? No doubt, it was an argument for us to advise and put forward the Plan of Campaign. We discovered that a very considerable number of Irish landlords would neither be coerced nor persuaded by the Chief Secretary, and that they were determined to have their pound of flesh. We then decided to recommend the policy since known as the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Helmes) says that the prophecies 851 dulged in by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), as to the probable consequences of the rejection of his Bill, have not been fulfilled in Ireland; and that, consequently, fewer evictions have occurred than usually take place at such seasons. It is true that fewer evictions have occurred, but why is it that fewer evictions have occurred? Why, it is owing to two things—first, the tremendous pressure put upon the landlords by the Government; and secondly, to the action of the Plan of Campaign. I think I can prove, to the satisfaction of every intelligent man in this House, that what I say is true—namely, that on those estates where the landlords were pressing their tenants, pressure was put upon those landlords by the Government, with the result, practically, of putting a stop to evictions altogether. I wish to direct the attention of the House for a few minutes—I will not dwell long upon it, because I know that a good deal has been said on the subject already—to this question of the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, at Bristol, in November—a time when he seemed to be under the impression that he had solved the Irish problem—
§ MR. DILLON
That has been the impression of a great many of his Predecessors, but it has always ended in disappointment. He said in the speech to which I allude, that—The County Courts had exercised their power under the law with firmness and with justice, and the Government had brought what pressure they could,and that is very strong language—acting always within the law, to bear upon those few landlords who would not follow the example of their more generous fellows.Well, I will say a few words in reference to the action of the County Court Judges, and then I will make a few observations as to what, from my own knowledge, I can say has been the pressure brought to bear on the landlords by the Government. The Chief Secretary, afterwards, when under examination in the Dublin Police Court, said, thatHe always had in his mind, when he spoke of the firmness and justice of the County Court 852 Judges, the action of County Court Judge Curran, in the county of Kerry.I will ask the House to listen to me attentively whilst I go into the question of the "firmness and justice" of County Court Judge Curran, because I maintain that if ever there was anything done by the Irish Government calculated to bring law in Ireland into disrepute and ridicule, it was the action of County Court Judge Curran in the county of Kerry. I think that when I have read the few extracts I have here in reference to Judge Curran's proceedings—his parody of all law in the County Courts of Kerry—most hon. Members on both sides of the House will be ready to agree with me. First of all, I will take the case of an agent named Fitzgerald against Michael Meehan, tenant, heard at the Tralee Quarter Sessions last November. It was a yearly tenancy; the tenant owed £94 10s. up to the 25th March. The County Court Judge said to the landlord's representative—who was a Mr. Hill—"Have you the remotest chance of recovering this big sum due?" "A portion of it," said Mr. Hill. "What portion?" asked the Judge; "£4 10s. out of £94?" "Half, at least," replied Mr. Hill. "If the arrears are cleared within a reasonable time, the landlord will give a 25 per cent reduction of the rent." His Honour—"If the arrears are paid within a reasonable time! Where is the use of talking nonsense? The arrears could not be paid within a 'reasonable time,' unless you can get blood out of a turnip." The Judge then let off the tenant with the payment of a gale of rent, which amounted to one-fifth of the whole sum due. I take up another case—that of a tenant on Lord Headley's estate, who had lent money to the landlord and had got the estate into his own hands, and was proceeding as mortgagee in possession. The tenant was a lady named Mary Moynihan, who came up decreed for a year's rent. Now, the year's rent was £40, and Mrs. Moynihan admitted that she had lent Lord Headley £500, the whole of which she had not succeeded in getting back from him until the other day. She admitted that Lord Headley had returned her the sum she had lent, and yet her application to the Court was to get the abatement which for throe years had been allowed to the other tenants, but which Samuel Hussey re- 853 fused to her. Those abatements, it was pointed out, if now allowed, would cut down her rent from £40 to £19. Mr. Hussey opposed the application to the best of his ability; but his Honour said that he would bring the rent down from £40 to £19. Mr. Hussey thereupon exclaimed—"It is all over now, but it is the lowest farm in Kerry." Remember that she had accommodated her landlord to the extent of £500, so that there is little question as to her ability to pay. And yet one of the greatest crimes urged against us is that some of the tenants whom we have asked to join the Plan of Campaign could pay if they liked. Those are only two examples of the manner in which Judge Curran attempted to administer justice in Kerry. Here is his method of dealing with "Moonlighters." Two or three men were brought before him charged at the Tralee Sessions with "Moonlighting." Judge Curran addressed these men in this language—I am satisfied from the evidence and from your appearance that you are the ringleaders for everything had. Now, as you are the ringleaders for everything bad, I am going to make you the ringleaders for everything good. What I do now is to affirm the conviction and sentence. I will sentence you to three months' imprisonment with hard labour, but will let you out on your recognizances; and if, within three months, no "Moonlighting" takes place within 15 miles of Tralee, you will never be called upon to put in an appearance.I ask hon. Gentlemen, is not this almost incredible? Would they believe it if they had not here his own words? His words were—"I am satisfied from the evidence that you are the ringleaders for everything bad." These men were accused of midnight marauding—they were leader's of a band of Moonlighters—and yet Judge Curran set them at liberty on their own recognizances! Is it any wonder that Mr. Townsend-Trench should write to The Times, and ask whether these Moonlighters would not agree with him in wondering "whether cowardice, incompetence, and shame can suggest tactics more insulting to the British Constitution?" Such was the course adopted by the County Court Judge Curran, and what was the sequel to this extraordinary story? These unfortunate men—if they were unfortunate—were called up at the last Tralee Quarter Sessions, and, as ill-luck would have it, the night before the three 854 months expired, 12 miles away, in a district with which they had no connection whatever, a case of moonlighting took place, and this Judge, therefore, sent the men to prison to serve out their sentence, and they are now in gaol serving it out. The district in which the men resided had been quiet; but 12 miles away from their dwelling-place an out-rage took place, and the beautiful inconsistency of the Judge's mind is made manifest by the reflection that if the people who perpetrated the outrage were in any way connected with the men about to be sentenced, they would, have waited until the next evening before going upon their maurauding expedition. I have said so much about Judge Curran because the subject is a serious and important one, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—who is responsible for the government of Ireland—having boasted, as part of the means on which he relies for the restoration of law and order in Ireland, and for instilling a respect for law in the minds of the people, that he has sent this extraordinary Judge into the moonlighting district of Kerry. And now I would give a short extract from a letter in which this Judge indignantly describes his good deeds to the tenantry on the Glenbeigh estate. He says, describing his own action, and speaking in his own defence, that after he had given the decrees in the Killarney Court House in reference to the Glenbeigh tenants, he put the decrees into his pocket unsigned, went down to Tralee, and wrote to Colonel Turner and Father Quilter, asking them to meet him; and told Colonel Turner and General Buller that he would not sign the decrees because he meant to alter them if, on consultation with Father Quilter, he found the necessities of the case warranted it. And he says triumphantly—in the tone of a man entitled to be proud of his own feeling for the tenants—I wrote to General Buller that I was convinced the landlord would agree to any alteration I thought fit to make.I put it to the House, was such a system of administering justice ever heard of outside some Eastern land? We might almost imagine Judge Curran sitting under a palm tree in the dress of an Eastern cadi. So much for Judge Curran. I now wish to speak for a few 855 moments about the pressure put upon the landlords by the Government, as to which so much has been said. I do not see what object can be served by burking matters of this kind, or shutting our eyes to facts that are absolutely patent to us in Ireland. We have been obliged to grope in the dark for evidence of the pressure exercised by the Government of Ireland upon the landlords, but as to its existence we have not the slightest doubt. What occurred in the case of that man on whose behalf Captain Plunkett, the well-known Resident Magistrate, interfered? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), in trying to defend the Government in relation to the matter, stated that Captain Plunkett simply wrote a letter to Messrs. Guinness and Mahon, the agents; but has anyone read the letter which Messrs. Guinness and Mahon wrote, and which no attempt has been made to contradict? I will ask the House to listen to the statement made by Messrs. Guinness and Mahon as to the interview which took place between them and Captain Plunkett—the statement made by them in a letter published in The Times. It reads:—Dec. 6, 1886.My Dear—I send a short statement and a copy of a letter from Mr. Plunkett, R.M., of which I do not complain. But he called afterwards, and pressed the matter much further, and did it cautiously.He conveyed that unless the landlady accepted a year's rent instead of three and a-half years', and gave a clear receipt, and paid costs, £50, protection would not be afforded to her caretakers"—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
Will the hon. Gentleman do Captain Plunkett the justice to read his reply to that imputation?
§ MR. DILLON
I will read his reply to the accusation, if I have it; and, if the right hon. Gentleman desires it, I will read some of his evidence in the Police Court.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Captain Plunkett wrote to The Times immediately he saw the letter to which the hon. Member refers, distinctly contradicting the accusation.
§ MR. DILLON
Although I am no friend of land agents, I am perfectly willing to take the statement of Messrs. 856 Guinness and Mahon against that of Captain Plunkett. I would give Captain Plunkett full credit for his denial; if I bad his letter I should be most happy to read it, but I fear it is not amongst my papers. I wish to finish reading the letter of Messrs. Guinness and Mahon. They say—Under these circumstances she is disposed to strike and surrender her rights, and take anything she can get. Her income is very small, not more than is absolutely necessary for her support, and she is coerced.That is the account of the landlord's own agent. I find I have here the letter of Captain Plunkett, in reply to the statement I have read. He says:—My attention has been called to a letter in your issue of th 13th inst. signed 'Erigena.' As it is evident that I am the divisional magistrate referred to as having called on the firm of land agents, and stated that, unless the landlady accepted a year's rent instead of three and a-half, protection would not be afforded her caretaker, I beg to give this statement the most unqualified contradiction.Yes, but unfortunately, I think the position is made very much worse for the Government and Captain Plunkett, because I would direct attention to the fact that he denies especially calling on the land agents, and stating that "unless the landlady acepted a year's rent instead of three and a-half years." He explained afterwards, in the Court—he tried to get out of this statement by saying that he only asked the landlady to accept a year's rent instead of three and a-half years, "pending a settlement," wishing thereby to avoid an eviction. Therefore, his contradiction was practically quite consistent with the statement made by Messrs. Guinness and Mahon, that unless the landlady accepted a year's rent instead of three and a-half years' rent, and gave a clear receipt, and paid the costs, protection would not be afforded to her caretaker. I have not in my own mind a shadow of a doubt that Captain Plunkett did make that representation to the land agents. Now, to show hon. Members the value of Captain Plunkett's word—and if the question of credibility between himself and Messrs. Guinness and Mahon has to be considered it is necessary to do this—I would read a word or two from some sworn evidence given by Captain Plunkett in the Police Court. He was examined, amongst others, by Mr. Adams, and he said— 857It was not in consequence of representations made to me by General Buller that I went to Guinness, Mahon & Co.'s office. General Buller forwarded me a letter which he had received, about which I went to Guinness and Mahon's officeThat is to say, he swore, first of all, that he did not go to Messrs. Guinness and Mahon's office, in consequence of representations from General Buller; and when the letter was produced out of counsel's pocket, and handed to him, which letter he received before he went to the office of those gentlemen, a visible tremor passed through him, and he said he went to Messrs. Guinness and Mahon's office and did his best to effect a settlement. He said—It would not he accurate to say I did my best to bring about a settlement, because I might have done better.Then the letter was produced, and in reply to questions then addressed to him, he said—The statement in my letter, that I did my best to bring about a settlement, was substantially true.He did not admit that he had over said this until he was confronted with the statement in his own handwriting. He was then asked whether he had interfered in a deserving case, and he said—"I do not know what is meant by a deserving case."It is true," he said, "that I was ignorant of most of the circumstances of the case. I heard that three years' rent was due. I did not know whether the tenant was able to pay or not. I suggested the acceptance of one year's rent, pending a settlement. I did not suggest a composition. I never saw the tenant or his farm, and do not know where his farm is, or how near I was to it. I could not say if I was told by anyone that the tenant was unable to pay. I do not know if he was unable to pay. I do not know what was in this case to distinguish it from that of any other tenant. I do not know how much land he had, or if he had any farm at all.Now, I ask hon. Members, is it not the merest folly and nonsense to tell us that when an executive officer of the Government swears in the Dublin Police Court that with him lay the power to give or refuse protection to the caretakers of the farm, to give more men or withdraw those who were there whenever he thought fit, and then goes to the land agents in Dublin, and asks that a settlement should be arrived at in order to avoid eviction, is that not putting pressure upon the landlord? If that is not pressure, I do not know what pressure is, or what it 858 possibly could be. I know the landlords themselves consider it as much pressure as I and my friends have ever put upon them. This much I will say—that I have been accused by influential gentlemen of engaging in one of the most immoral conspiracies that have ever been carried on in any civilized country; but if I did engage in that conspiracy I never undertook to defend a case in Ireland yet in which I did not satisfy myself, as far as I could, by inquiry, that justice was on our side; and I never yet went to put pressure on a landlord when I could stand up—or would be obliged to stand up in Court—and, under examination, admit that I knew nothing about the circumstances of the case, that I did not know whether or not a man could pay, and that I did not know whether he had a farm at all. Well, that is one ease which bears upon that question of pressure about which we have heard so much. With the permission of the House, I will, just for a moment, bring under its notice another case—and a very interesting case—in which pressure was put upon a landlord. The case is all the more interesting because I think it has not yet been made public—I refer to the case of Mr. John Madden, of County Monaghan. On that gentleman's estate the tenantry are in a condition of the greatest possible poverty, owing to circumstances over which they have no control; because I am convinced that a more honest and deserving people do not exist in Ireland. These people are reduced to extreme poverty owing to failure of their small stock, and the fall in prices of butter, and the decline of an industry in which the women used to engage. The agent has been in negotiation with the tenants for a considerable number of months, endeavouring to come to some settlement, but the terms he offered the tenants they could not accept. On the 9th October, in writing to the priest, the Rev. P. McKeon, the representative of the tenantry, he used language which I will read—I have all his correspondence. He wrote—Rosslea Manor Estate.Dear Sir,—lam in receipt of your letter of the 8th inst., for which I am obliged. Hitherto all overtures for a settlement have come from the landlord, as the tenants have not made any proposal.Then he goes on to say— 859I would suggest that you should see or communicate with the tenants named in the list which I sent you, and that they should make some proposal, stating what sum they would he prepared to pay down in cash on or before 1st prox., on getting a receipt in full up to 1st November, 1885. If they do this, as I have already stated, any proposal made will receive most careful consideration; and I feel sure the entire matter will he settled to the satisfaction of all parties.Accordingly, the priest assembled the tenants, and put the agent's terms before them, and a certain, number agreed to offer one year's rent, with costs. A hundred and fifty tenants were under decree of eviction. On a subsequent day the agent came down, and the offer agreed upon was made to him, but he refused it, saying that he had no authority to accept such terms. Then he writes a letter, in which he says—I expected to see you on last Friday. Several of the tenants against whom decrees have been obtained attended and asked for a clear receipt up to the 1st November, 1885, on payment of one year's rent, stating that they were under the impression that I had made this offer in my correspondence with you.He had used language open to that interpretation. He continued—I stated that such was not the case, and that I had no authority to accept any less sum than that stated in the list I forwarded you some time ago, but that I would communicate with Mr. Madden.We now come down to November, 1886. The next stage in the proceedings was this: The tenants appealed to me, sending a deputation to Dublin, and I declare most solemnly that until that deputation arrived there and asked me to take their case up I had never even heard the name of the estate, and did not know there was any trouble existing on it. They came up to me in my own house in Dublin, and asked whether I would encourage them to adopt the Plan of Campaign. I talked the matter over with them for an hour, feeling extremely reluctant to move in the matter, as it was in Protestant Ulster, and I was afraid the tenants would not join together. However, it seems that the district in question is a mountainous one, and is chiefly inhabited by Catholics, who were determined to go into the Plan with me if I would help them, but without me if I would not. Ultimately I agreed to help them, and they adopted the Plan. The Government 860 now appears on the scene, and on the 2nd of January I received a most remarkable letter from a priest of the district. He wrote—I had a long conversation to-day with the County Inspector, Mr. Lynch. He wanted to know from me the true state of affairs before the evictions are carried out. Athol Dudgeon wrote a very long statement of the case to the Government, part of which he read to me. He (Mr. Lynch) said to me that even yet, if any understanding could be arrived at between Mr. Madden and the tenants, that it would be better for them than undergo the hardships of eviction at this time of year; that the worst feature the Government saw in the case was the tenants going to Mr. Madden and saying to him, 'Accept this for a clear receipt or we will not pay.'But that was the very thing which the tenants were invited to do by the agent. They went on to say—Would it not be better for them to offer whatever rent they were able, say three-quarters of a year's rent, and let the evictions pend over, say, for 12 months?It has been told you that the Sheriff applied for 1,000 police, and that the evictions were very soon to have taken place; but I suppose that the Government did not like the look of the job, and from what I have seen of the district I think they will like it less than they did. This was the first suggestion; but the proceedings broke down. But the workhouse in the district was noticed to receive 650 human beings, and in January last the police were concentrated to turn out these 135 families—when the snow lay six inches deep in the fields. I went down to Rosslea; the Chief Secretary for Ireland proclaimed the meetings, but I held four meetings, and the evictions have not yet taken place. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that if he proceeds to have these cruel evictions carried out against a people who are anxious to pay what they can, as I am certain they are, against a people reduced to poverty in spite of hard and incessant industry, the whole of England, as well as Ireland, will cry "Shame!" Are we to see the evictions at Rosslea carried out? Are we to see 1,000 armed men gathered I together, at an enormous expense to the country, to turn out these families, until it is proved that they have refused to pay? I have heard it said, forsooth, that I am responsible for the Rosslea evictions and for the Glenbeigh evic- 861 tions. These men say what suits their arguments. When it suits their purpose they accuse Irish Members of inciting men not to pay who were able to do so. The Attorney General for Ireland has told the House that the Glenbeigh evictions would not have been saved by the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), because the people would have been unable to take advantage of it, and yet their houses have been burnt down over their heads. But I say I never heard of the estate at all until the houses wore burnt down; I never knew that Mr. Rowland Winn had an estate in Ireland until I saw it in the newspapers. Before I dispose of this case of Rosslea I wish to say a few words more, because it is one which will be often heard of in this House. I shall read particulars of a few cases which have been placed in my hands by a local priest. Here is a list of town lands. The rent of one group in 1856 amounted to £46 12s., and the present rent is £85 15s. In the next case the rents amounted in 1854 to £53 15s., and the present rents amount to £113 14s. These rents have, in some cases, been doubled, and more than doubled; and I observe in the list one case in which the rent has been raised from £4 to £16. Here, then, at all events, we have a case of real inability to pay. I say that I have had no hand or part in stirring up trouble on this estate. It was only when I was sent to at Dublin and told that the tenants were determined, as a last resource, to fall back on the Plan of Campaign, that I had anything to do with the matter. I wish, by way of warning and appeal, to say to the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he should pause before going on with another case, for, as sure as he does so, it will be quoted again and again in this country and in Ireland as a shameful act of injustice and oppression. Then, Sir, I come to the case of Bodyke, in the County of Clare, where Colonel O'Callaghan has been at war with his tenants for upwards of five years. His estate was notoriously one of the most rack-rented in the South of Ireland, and, if hon. Members have patience, I will read some examples of the reductions which have been made in the rents on this estate by the Land Court. These are some of them— 862
and so on. These judicial rents have been left at a much higher rate than the Government valuation; the tenants asked for a reduction of 25 per cent, and Colonel O'Callaghan refused to make any reduction. Well, Sir, these tenants are impoverished by long continued rack renting, the most cruel that has been carried on in the South of Ireland. And what is the state of the case to-day? Will the House believe that on Tuesday last about 1,000 men were concentrated in order to carry out those evictions, and came with all the implements of war, prepared for a prolonged campaign of a fort-night, which it was considered would be necessary for the purpose; and the workhouse were asked to be ready to receive 32 families? This armed force of 1,000 men, and even the whole armed force of England, is to be placed at the disposal of the Sheriff, and loss of life, perhaps, is to take place, because of the madness—the insane action of this man. I said that last Tuesday was fixed for carrying out these ruthless and barbarous evictions; but I understand that they are postponed, in consequence of the feeling of the people, until a larger force is got together to carry them out. If you do carry them out, I say that it will make the whole of England and Scotland ring with the shame of the thing. I will not longer weary the House with this story of evictions. I know that more will be heard of it hereafter; and no doubt the time will come in this country when the conscience of the people will be awakened to the crime that has been perpetrated in allowing these immense masses of men to be placed at the disposal of persons so dead to every sense of Christian charity and every principle of right. If I wanted to say more on this subject I might read a long statement in The Times, written evidently by an enemy of the Nationalist cause, who laments that the proceedings of Colonel O'Callaghan have been viewed with concern, "especially by persons of his own 863 class," a statement which I think ought to be enough to carry conviction to every mind. One or two words with reference to the latest contribution which we have had from a very distinguished parson on the Irish Question. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) made a speech the other day at Newcastle, which was repeated in this House this evening by a Liberal follower of the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess, speaking on this subject, with a never failing spring of hope, announced to an enthusiastic audience that he had at last found the solution of the Irish Question. He invited all classes of the people to assemble at the Round Table, and finally to close up the Irish Question by some system of migration or emigration. The noble Marquess, growing enthusiastic over the question, said—
Old Rent. Judicial Rent. £83 0 0 £46 10 0 80 0 0 57 0 0 40 0 0 24 0 0 28 0 0 22 0 0 31 0 0 23 0 0 43 0 0 30 0 0 7 0 0 3 15 0 12 0 0 6 0 0We have here indeed, in my judgment, a problem to solve upon which all Parties—the Irish Party, the British Party, Liberal Unionists and Liberal Home Rulers and Conservatives—might meet together to see whether some remedy cannot be applied to this, the great and pressing and the immediate problem, which hinders the recovery of Ireland from its past misfortunes.With reference to the congested districts which the noble Marquess is sanguine enough to believe that he could uncongest, and so bring the Irish Question to an end, I ask the House to view the facts I have here in connection with the growth of this question of the congested districts and the mal-distribution of the population of Ireland, which, so far as I know, have never been under the attention of this House. It is perfectly untrue, and notoriously untrue to the mind of any traveller in Ireland, to say that the country is over-populated. Ireland is crowded in the poor districts and it is depopulated in the rich districts. I ask the House to listen to some facts which I will bring to their notice, and which are familiar to us from childhood. They tell a story which is simple, which accounts for the congestion in some districts, and which if you Englishmen had learnt by suffering, would have sown the same hatred in your hearts as it has in the hearts of Irishmen. I will take four of the richest counties of Ireland, and I ask you to compare the populations at three periods. 864
Thus we see that in 40 years the population of Tipperary has decreased, by 236,000, or by more than half the entire population! Can you wonder now why Tipperary became famous for the shooting of landlords when you recollect that every single man was driven out by main force from the home of his fathers? Take some poorer counties, the populations of which at the same periods were as follow:—Mayo, population in 1841, 388,887; in 1851, 274,499; in 1881, 245,212. The population of Kerry in 1841 was 293,880; in 1851, 238,254; in 1861, 201,800; in 1871, 196,516, there being a small increase over those last figures for the year 1881. Kerry is the only county in Ireland in which there has been any actual increase of population. These figures are eloquent to the mind of the man who reflects on them beyond anything which we can say, and they show that the congested state of some districts in Ireland is the result of the operation of evil laws and an evil system, and until you destroy that, to talk of emigration restoring prosperity to Ireland is mere moonshine. I say, further, that it will end in disaster and defeat; that it will end in the waste of English money and in widespread demoralization in Ireland. I will quote a few statistics for one county, the county of Galway, which is peculiar in this respect, that in the eastern portion of it there is some of the finest land and in the western portion some of the poorest in Ireland. Taking first the poor baronies:—Aran has an area of 11,288 acres; valuation in 1881, per acre, 3s.; the population from 1841 to 1881 has only increased by 10 per cent. Ballinahinch has an area of 194,584 acres; valuation per acre, 2s.; the population has decreased 26 per cent in a few years. Moycullen has an area of 220,233 acres; valuation per acre, 1s. 6d.; the population had decreased 19.44 per cent between 1841 and 1881. Ross has an area of 98,631 acres; valuation 1s. 3d. per acre; the population had decreased in that period 15.35 per cent. Mark that in some of the poorest 865 baronies there has been an actual increase of population in the last 10 years. I now come to the rich baronies. Athenry has an area of 25,782 acres; valuation per acre, 9s.; the population, which in 1841 was 8,179, had decreased in 1881 to 3,793, or 53.62 per cent. Dunkellin has an area of 83,372 acres; valuation per acre, 8s. 6d.; the population, which was in 1841 28,207, had decreased in 1881 to 11,958, or 57.60 per cent. Kil-connell has an area of 64,819 acres; valuation per acre, 10s.; the population, which was 17,162 in 1841, had decreased in 1881 to 7,569, or 55.88 per cent. Longford has an area of 99,504 acres; valuation, 10s. per acre; the population in 1841 was 33,069, and in 1881 it had declined to 13,137, showing a decrease of 60.27 per cent. Finally, Loughrea, with an area of 65,179 acres, valuation 7s. an acre, had a population in 1841 of 18,797, which in 1881 was 8,597, there having been a decrease of 54.26 per cent. Well, Sir, I ask if the House can have a tale more instructive than this? You talk about the evils of Ireland. What has been the result of this system against which we have struggled, and for struggling against which I am to stand on my trial next week—the system which has driven from nearly every acre of good land in Ireland as fine a population as ever put spade into the earth; driven Irishmen to America to become dynamitards and generally haters of English rule, or driven them to become torments to you by congesting the mountain sides of Connaught? Listen to what the statistics relating to the levelling of houses in the baronies of Galway tell us. In the barony of Athenry 700 houses were levelled in 40 years; in the barony of Dunkellin 2,200 houses were levelled in 40 years; in the barony of Kilconnell 1,700; in the barony of Longford 3,300; and in the barony of Loughrea 1,500 houses. I ask any English Member, be he Conservative or Liberal, whether, in view of the facts I have stated to the House, can you wonder that you have disorder, crime, and outrage in Ireland? Can you wonder that this is so, especially when you remember that probably not one of these 6,000 or 7,000 houses levelled in Galway in 40 years, was levelled without leaving a family as a curse to your rule? To hear at this time of day 866 men talk about solving the Irish Question by migration or emigration, or by any of the other pacifies which have been preached, investigated, and tried before and failed, is ridiculous. I have always entertained a strong view on the question of migration, and it is this—I have never altered it—that the migration of the population of Ireland must be a gradual, a slow, a very slow, process to be a successful one. It must arise from natural causes just as the crowding of the population of bad districts arises from the operation of the law. Give the people fair play, give them a little assistance, where assistance is seen to be useful; but above all things give them liberty. They will find their own way back to the rich land of their own country without the assistance of the most noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), or the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who now governs Ireland; and I warn the Chief Secretary that if he attempts, no matter how good and humane his intentions may be—if he attempts any policy of migration—it used to be emigration, but now it is migration which is to cure the ills of Ireland—if he attempts any policy like that, to be carried out by an English Executive, while the power exists of evicting Irish peasants, it will be treated as a policy of extermination. He will meet with nothing but disaster, with abuse from all sides, and he will leave Ireland, like many of his Predecessors, cordially cursed by all sections of the Irish community, though he himself may be firmly convinced that he is the most deserving and most ill-treated of men. Before I sit down I wish to say another word, though I know it is not of the smallest use. [Interruption.] I am not likely to trouble the House again for a fortnight or three weeks, because I have some particular business to attend to in Dublin, and, possibly, if the Attorney General for Ireland succeeds in his present plans, I may not trouble the House for a year; but what I want to say is this—I have read, and read with care, the speeches delivered by the Liberal Unionists during the autumn, and what puzzles me most is this—that all of them, whether they be of the Chamberlain wing or of the Hartington wing, seem to base their whole attitude towards Ireland upon 867 suspicion and distrust; they say you must guard yourselves against all danger from Ireland. If you believe that, why do not you say it honestly, and govern us as a Crown Colony at once? If there is never to be peace and good fellowship and love between the Irish and English people, throw the mask away altogether and let there be open war. We do not want that, and we have said so honestly; but so long as the present Executive exists in Ireland—aye, if it were to exist for 200 years—so long will the present state of mutual hate and distrust continue. But what I cannot understand is why hon. Gentlemen persistently shut their eyes to the fact that the basis, the foundation, the only foundation, of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) is that he proposes in the future to trust, not to suspicion, not to safeguards, but to the hope that there will be another future; a future in which a condition of things which, recollect, has never for a single hour, with the exception of a few brief years, existed between Ireland and England for 700 years, a condition of things in which it will not be necessary to provide, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) would, against every possible method of annoyance we could inflict upon England or England inflict upon us, but in which the two nations can agree to reside together; in which there shall no longer prevail between England and Ireland suspicion and distrust, and hatred on the one hand, and misunderstanding and dislike on the other. I take it that the main object of the remaining years of the life of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) will be to do away with that which he considers to have been a cursed and hateful condition of things in the past. He bases his future policy, and bases all the future relations between the two countries, upon the faith which seems strong in him—that it is not impossible to bury the past in oblivion, so far as it is one of hatred and mutual distrust; and to trust that whatever arrangement is to be arrived at between the two countries, it shall be worked on both sides with good faith, with trust in each other, and with an honest and mutual desire to carry it to a successful issue.
Pop. Pop. Pop. 1841. 1851. 1881. Kildare 114,488 95,723 75,798 Limerick 281,638 208,684 142,069 Meath 183,828 140,748 87,451 Tipperary 435,553 331,567 199,602
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.