§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, at the end of the 12th paragraph, to insert the words—And humbly to represent to Her Majesty that recent events in Skye and Tiree, and the 1572 general administration of justice in the Highlands, have caused serious concern to the people of Scotland, and demand full inquiry,said, that he had made the scope of his Amendment sufficiently wide, in order that the discussion might not be interrupted by any technical rules. The Amendment he proposed to move covered a wide field; but, as he had a large number of facts to marshal, he would in his observations confine himself to he case of the expedition by Her Majesty's Government to the Island of Skye. That expedition afforded an illustration—by far the most convincing and cogent proof—of all the grievances to which he should have to call attention, and into which he thought an inquiry was needed. Hon. Members who had seats in the last Parliament would recollect that a large portion of the time of that Parliament was taken up in the passing of the Crofters Act, a measure which had been described by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) as having conferred on the crofters of Scotland advantages greater than those enjoyed by the occupying class in any other portion of Her Majesty's Dominions, or in any part of the civilized world. When Parliament passed that Act it knew that rents were excessively in arrear; it knew the circumstances of the Highlands, and that in many cases there had been resistance to the service of writs; it knew that collisions between the crofters and the authorities had been frequent in connection with the service of these writs; and yet, with a full knowledge of these facts, it had passed the Act to which he had referred. Recognizing that the question of land tenure lay at the root of the difficulty, it enacted fixity of tenure subject to fair rent. It appointed a Commission to say what the fair rent should be, and it gave that Commission power to adjudicate on arrears, to remit them altogether or curtail them as it thought proper. In the interests of the landlord, Parliament made bankruptcy a bar to enjoying the benefits of the Act. For the protection of the tenant, however, it placed a provision in the Act authorizing the Commission to stay proceedings for the recovery of rent and arrears until it could commence its operations. But, owing to the defective drafting of the Act, and the absence of any machinery 1573 for calling this power into operation, this provision had been a dead letter; but the fact that it was in the Act left no doubt as to the beneficent intentions of Parliament in the matter. The Act was passed by the authority and with the sanction of both Parties in this House, and he hold, therefore, it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to assist in its loyal administration. Parliament had prescribed a remedy for a chronic state of disorder, and it was the duty of the Government to avoid interference with its operation, especially by applying any counter remedy hostile to its spirit, such as the application of physical force or martial law. But, without excuse, the Government chose the very moment almost preceding the sitting of this Commission to send a military expedition to Skye to assist in the service of writs; the result of which was either to compel the crofters to pay arrears, and thus to withdraw them from the scope of the Commission, or to compel them to become bankrupt, and thus rob them of the benefit of the Act. They put that expedition in the charge of a gentleman whoso antecedents made it clear that he was utterly unfit for the post, and who adopted tactics that were calculated to drive law-abiding subjects to resistance. They exercised that irresponsible power which the law of Scotland entrusted to the Lord Advocate and his subordinates with an ostentatious violence and severity—with a disregard to the Constitutional rights of the lieges—calculated to render law regarded as an engine of tyranny and oppression than as the handmaid of justice and fair play. During a large portion of the time this expedition lasted Skye had been described, and rightly described, as in a state of siege. Whole villages were ransacked by the police—sometimes at midnight—without warrants. The presence of sickness or death was no stop to the proceedings, and constituted no protection. Something akin to the curfew law was established, under which peaceable citizens, going about their business after nightfall, were arrested. Marines were marched and counter-marched throughout the Island, gunboats were manœuvred round its shores, military demonstrations were made, suspected offences of speech and publication were visited by arbitrary imprisonment, medals were promised in 1574 commemoration of the campaign, proclamations were issued, and, in short, a travesty of pomp and circumstance of glorious war was set up. This action of the Government on Skye, to his mind, constituted a most dangerous precedent for the administration of criminal law in any civilized country, and demanded the impartial investigation which it was the object of his Amendment to secure for it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland received a deputation in regard to these proceedings in November last, and as the right hon. Gentleman referred them to the expedition sent to the Island of Skye in 1884 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), the then Home Secretary, he (Dr. Cameron) imagined that would be quoted to-night as a precedent for the expedition of last year. But the circumstances were totally different. What were the principles which the Liberal Government had laid down as applicable to military intervention in civil administration in the Highlands? In 1882 the state of matters in Skye was very bad. Numerous deforcements of police had taken place in connection with the service of writs. Repeated application had been made to Government for military aid, and in November, 1882, the then Lord Advocate (Mr. A. J. Balfour), by direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), the then Home Secretary, wrote a letter to Sheriff Ivory—who was throughout the medium of negotiation for the military—in which was laid down the proper principles which should guide the Government in dealing with such a request. The duty of the County Authority, it said was to provide a Police Force for the service of writs, and recourse should not be had to military aid unless in cases of sudden riot or extraordinary emergency, where the Police were unable to cope with it. The Liberal Government refused to send military aid to the Authorities, stating that if they had not sufficient Police Force they had better increase it. The result was that the Commissioners of Supply at Inverness were obliged to put their hands in their own pockets, and increase their Police Force at a cost to themselves of about £3,000 a-year. Public opinion was aroused, and the proprietor whose obstinacy had caused 1575 so much trouble came off his high horse. The dispute about Benlee was amicably settled in about a fortnight. But in 1884 a Force was sent, and under what circumstances? Papers had been laid before the House which showed the precise nature of the circumstances. It appeared that the Chief Constable of Inverness-shire had reported that for months past the Island of Skye had been in a lawless condition. Grazing grounds had been seized, and secret societies were rumoured to exist for the purpose of committing outrages. On August 18th a terrible incident had taken place in the shape of a visit made by Mr. Macfarlane, then Member of Parliament for Carlow, accompanied by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Richard Power), the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) and Professor Blackie. On the recommendation of the Police Committee, the Police had had 50 revolvers served out to them, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition had been laid in store. A wire fence had been broken, a stack had been set on fire, and a No Rent manifesto had been published; and, finally, a detachment of police had been deforced. Considering these circumstances, the Police Committee came to the conclusion that the Police were incapable of dealing with the state of matters, and they applied to the Government to send a gunboat to be stationed at Portree or some other port in the neighbourhood, with such a number of Marines as would be sufficient not only to protect the Police in the performance of their duty in preserving the peace—there was not a word said about the serving of writs here—but of quelling any riots with which the constables might have to contend against. Sheriff Ivory forwarded that application to the Government. He backed up this application of the Commissioners, for he wrote the letter to the then Lord Advocate of the Liberal Administration, asking for the immediate despatch of a gunboat and Marines to Skye to protect the Police, and assist them in protecting the property and persons of the lieges of the Island—not one word was said about writs for rents For these reasons the Military Expedition was sent. The House had therefore seen that the ground on which the Government refused in 1882 was that it was the duty of the Local Authorities 1576 to provide whatever police might be necessary for the service of writs and the services of summonses by the Supreme Court; that military aid should not be employed unless in cases of sudden riot or extreme emergency. They had seen in 1884 they granted the military assistance on the ground that the utmost emergency existed—that life and property was in danger—that a reinforced and armed police force was utterly unable to cope with the state of lawlessness, and on that ground only. It was nothing to the point, he should remark en passant, that the reports of outrages had been found to be grossly exaggerated. Not one of the thousand rounds of ammunition was ever fired in anger; no policeman received injuries more serious than a kick; and the real motive which had induced the Local Authorities to ask for assistance was almost universally believed in Scotland to have been in order that they might put down the Crofter agitation, and give assistance for the serving of writs. That fact, however, had nothing to do with the principle which guided the Liberal Government in one case or the other. And then, in 1885, the Conservative Government came into power. Now, they had a perfect right to reverse the policy which had guided their Predecessors; they had a perfect right to say that they considered land contracts sacred, and that if rents could not be collected military aid should be afforded. They had a perfect right to do so at that period, because the Crofters Act had not been passed. The Conservatives held Office until February, 1886; but let them see what the Conservative Government did during their tenure of Office. They found Sheriff Ivory demanding military, and the Lord Lieutenant, writing to the then Minister for Scotland, backing up his application. Then they had a letter, addressed by a Mr. Davidson to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) then in Office, in which that Gentleman stated that—From personal observation, he was convinced that since the preceding year—1884—the state of lawlessness in Skye had been intensified. Recently," he said, "there had been instances of incendiarism—a crime until then unknown in the North. The resolution to pay no rent had become almost universal throughout Skye. And while the whole crofter rental of the island was only about £10,000, there were arrears amounting to about £20,000, which the crofters said it was their intention never to pay, 1577 and notwithstanding the police force had been doubled, order could not be maintained.Now, this was the stat9 of matters in 1885. Repeated applications were made to the Conservative Government, but they did not think fit to comply with the applications, and no expedition was sent. After the Election they still adhered to the policy of their Predecessors, but in 1886 the Island of Skye was probably more tranquil than it had been for years. Meanwhile Parliament, with a full knowledge of all the facts, had passed an Act in which arrears were recognized, and a Commission appointed for the purpose of curing the causes that had led to the disturbances in the Island. But now one new condition had presented itself. The landed proprietors were also the Local Authorities. Seeing that it was futile to ask for military aid on the ground of disturbed law and order, or on the ground of arrears of rent, they had set themselves to work to devise a new plea. They determined to bring the Government to its senses by organizing among themselves a strike against the payment of rates, which would bring local public administration to a standstill. Now, there must be two parties to such a strike. There must be the parties who refused to pay and the Local Authority which refused to enforce payment. The refusal of the insular proprietors to pay general county rates affected the pockets of the Commissioners of Supply, and the strike was soon brought to a close by the threat of legal proceedings. But it was a different matter in Skye. The Local Authorities there were parochial boards, and the landlords controlled the parochial boards, and the duty of collecting the poor and school rate devolved upon the parochial boards. The landlords were fortunate in the fact that at the head of these parochial boards was a gentleman named Mr. Alexander MacDonald—popularly known as the "King of Skye." That gentleman was a landed proprietor in the island, and was the factor of most of the landed proprietors, and occupied many prominent posts. He was a member of all the parochial boards in Skye. He was chairman of three out of the six school boards. He was law agent and clerk to the whole lot of them. He was local Clerk of the Peace. He was clerk and treasurer to a number of school boards, a distributor 1578 of stamps, a collector of income-tax, a captain of Volunteers, a banker, solicitor, and notary-public. With a Local Authority so constituted, and an officer so accomplished and many-sided as he had described, it was easy for the landlords of Skye to carry on to a successful issue their ingenious Plan of Campaign. It came, however, to the notice of the Board of Supervision, who, on January 5th, 1886, issued a circular, which pointed out the irregularity of the landlords' contentions that they might refuse the payment of rates because their rents bad not been paid. The Board of Supervision pointed out that it was the duty of the local parochial boards to use every means against the defaulters. Now, 90 per cent of the sum in arrears to those local authorities were due by proprietors and large tenants, from whom a threat of legal proceedings would at any moment have sufficed to extract payment. As a solicitor, Mr. MacDonald must have known that; but it did not suit him to knock on the head the game he was bent on canning out. He (Dr. Cameron) could quote abundant extracts from the speeches of Justices of the Peace, Deputy-Lieutenants, and noble Lords, and the circulars issued by their factors, to show that they made no secret of their policy that they refused to pay rates in order to force the Government to send an expedition to Skye. In a report which Sheriff Ivory laid before the Commissioners of Supply, dated April 27, 1886, he said—Emboldened by the success of their agitation, and the failure of the Government to provide means for the due enforcement of the law, the crofters have now very generally refused to make payment of the poor-rates and school rates due by them. The total arrears of poor-rate and school-rate duo for the year ending 14th May, 1S86, amounts to about £5,000. Numerous applications have been made to me for the aid of police to enforce payment of these rates, but as the police were quite inadequate to perform the duty, unless supported by a Government force, I laid these applications before the late and the present Administrations, stating Die necessity of employing a Government force; but the applications were invariably refused by both Governments. The result of this state of matters, if it be allowed to continue, will necessarily be that the poor will be deprived of the necessaries of life, and many of the schools in Skye will be closed.Now, if language meant anything, this language meant that the crofters. through their refusal to fulfil their legal 1579 obligations, were responsible for the state of matters described and yet a Parliamentary Return giving information up to the very date bad been laid before the House, showing that at the time, out of the total arrears of £5,200 for poor-rates and education rate, the proprietors were in arrear £3,600. The larger tenants—the tenants over £30 a-year—owed £1,000, and the crofters owed £590. In other words, of the £5,200 in arrear, £4,600 was due by substantial and solvent men, whose debts would have been paid immediately Mr. MacDonald, the "King of Skye," allowed his sense of public duty as law adviser of the Parochial Board and Clerk of the Peace to override his leanings as factor and as landlord. The £600 owed by the crofters included a very considerable sum of irrecoverable debts, money owing by dead men and men who had left the district, and it included a larger percentage due by persons so poor that in any other part of Scotland they would have been excused from the payment of rates on the ground of poverty. But were these poor people to be blamed for their arrears into which they had fallen? Why, only a few days before the date of Sheriff Ivory's Report last quoted, Mr. Peterkin, an officer of the Board of Supervision, had penned an official Report, in which he declared they were not to blame. He pointed out that there were no facilities given to the ratepayers for paying their rates. They had to travel many miles, and it was absurd and unreasonable to expect them to go the distance, to suit the convenience of the collector, who sat in his office, and then to accuse them of not paying their rates. Mr. Peterkin said he thought it hardly fair to censure ratepayers for non-payment of rates until more facilities were afforded for paying; and he laid it down as the duty of collectors of those rates to make personal demands for them, and if they did not make those demands, it was impossible to say that proper or any diligence had been used. As to the case of the landlords, Mr. Peterkin showed that the total rents received from Skye was £44,000 a-year, the arrears due from crofters only £15,400, those only which were payable £28,600, and that in respect of these, as well as of the others, the landowners refused to pay their rates. Before any expedition had 1580 been determined on the right hon. Gentleman ought, at least, to have informed himself as to who were the persons in arrears of rates to the Local Authorities. He (Dr. Cameron) had asked the right hon. Gentleman a question the other day intended to extract from him the information as to how much was due from the crofters when he determined to send the expedition? In answer to questions put by him (Dr. Cameron) and the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), as to how much the expedition had squeezed out of the crofters; but they were told that it was no use to ask further questions, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland said he had no information to give. It was his duty, before sending the expedition, to ascertain how much was owing by persons from whom the arrears could have been extracted by the threat of legal proceedings, and how much was due by the crofters, who might require to be made to pay by means of the expedition. However, he (Dr. Cameron) thought it was an important point, and he got the best information he could. He was told that, in the interval between the date of the return from which he had quoted, and the time of the expedition, the larger tenants had practically wiped off their arrears, that the crofters had largely reduced theirs, and were not owing more than about £300, and that the landowners alone carried out their No Rate policy.
§ DR. CAMERON
The date on which the right hon. Gentleman decided on sending the expedition, or before the expedition was sent.
§ DR. CAMERON
The right hon. Gentleman then has information on the point. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman candidly tell us he knew when we asked him the question? The landed proprietors paid at last. They had a meeting when their object had been served—when the expedition was in sight of their shores—and then they paid. On September 10th there was a meeting of the Parochial Board. The question of Lord Macdonald's arrears came up for discussion. They were £126. A question was raised as to the propriety of enforcing pay- 1581 ment; but Mr. Alexander Macdonald, the agent, the "King of Skye," the factor of Lord Macdonald, chairman of the Parochial Board, said Lord Macdonald would only pay when his rents were paid; and that if the Board took proceedings apart from the rents arrested in the hands of the crofters, the only effects belonging to his Lordship which could be laid hold of were his household furniture, and if that were seized what a stir it would make in the country. He owed £126, a fourth of the total amount owed by the crofters in March. That amount could be recovered by the mere threat of legal proceedings, or by the seizure of the furniture, but the tender-hearted local authorities would not inflict so much pain on his Lordship's feelings; and yet at their request the right hon. Gentleman sent a military expedition, by means of which a few hundred pounds were raised out of the seizure of the effects of hundreds of families. Hundreds of houses were invaded, and the last farthing wrested from the unfortunates who were called upon to contribute. By way of contrast to refusing to seize Lord Macdonald's furniture, he would read one or two extracts to show how the result of the expedition, in which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to take great pride, as clearing off all the arrears in Skye except £60, was brought about. He quoted in all these cases from the correspondent of the Glasgow Herald, who accompanied the expedition, and he quoted that gentleman because the paper with which he was connected had betrayed a strongly anti-crofter bias. The first case was that of a widow Mackintosh, against whom and her son—the joint tenants of the croft—they claimed for 9s. 8d. When the officer knocked at the door it was opened by a young woman, who stated that her mother died the week before, and the only money in the house was 10s., which bad been sent for the purpose of paying for the old woman's coffin. The young woman, with tears, banded over the money in payment of the arrears. Again a distressing spectacle was witnessed at the house of widow Flora Nicholson who owed£1 1s. The woman—who was very old—was found lying on the ground in front of her house, and said she could not move in consequence of an accident to one of her legs, and her husband had been 1582 dead for 16 years. When the writ was handed to her the woman cried bitterly, and she was left lying on the grass with some of her neighbours beside her. Then there was the case of the Widow Stewart, an old and terribly emaciated woman, who was asked to pay 31s. 6d., who pleaded, in a weak piping voice for mercy, being 87 years of age. A paper was, however, handed to her. A terrible picture of poverty was presented at the next house—that of a man named Donald MacInnes. He said he had had no money for nine months; that everything bad gone all wrong since his wife died, and that his "bonnie lassie," as he termed his daughter—a young girl 18 years of age—was insane. The whole family were starving. The only asset he possessed was a dun cow which was seized. He (Dr. Cameron) asked the House to contrast the leniency of treatment dealt out to Lord Macdonald in respect of his arrears with the Shylock-like severity meted out to these four families in respect to arrears, amounting in all to under £3. Having decided that this expedition was necessary, he (Dr. Cameron) supposed the Government had no choice but to send at its head Sheriff Ivory. To his mind, the system was a most execrable system, under which a Judge, in whose Courts trivial cases arising in connection with the expedition must be tried, should be allowed to act as accuser, arrester, and hunter-up of evidence. Sheriff Ivory—on a former occasion—had been tried, and found wanting in every quali6cation requisite for such a post. He had not only arrested men without warrant or instruction, but he had written to the Lord Advocate condemning as guilty men who were subsequently proved innocent. He had published his libels broadcast in the newspapers, and he had been a party to a gross breach of the law in order to obtain evidence against persons he suspected, and had committed many other unjustifiable acts. Any Administration worthy of the name would have known that the mere fact of Sheriff Ivory being placed in charge of the expedition was sufficient to arouse indignation and distrust throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. The expedition started. The first thing that occurred was a quarrel with the Chief Inspector, who was dismissed. A correspondence had taken 1583 place on the subject, and it had been stated that the Government had reprimanded Sheriff Ivory. In reply to a Question the other day, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland had stated that the communication of the Government did not amount to a reprimand—
§ DR. CAMERON
said, they now knew something negative, and should like to know something positive about this communication. Sheriff Ivory, having dismissed the Chief Constable, took personal command of the expedition. He renewed his promise of a medal to every policeman engaged in the campaign who captured a crofter. He (Dr. Cameron) would like to know whether that was done by the authority of the Government? [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] If it was not so, then he (Dr. Cameron) would like to know what the Government thought of the proceeding from a strategical point of view? Sheriff Ivory misconducted the expedition in a manner that led to the most cruel, the most unconstitutional, and the most exasperating results. One of the officers in the expedition was a Mr. M'Donald—a man of notoriously rough methods. A few weeks before he had burnt down a house after an eviction under circumstances officially pronounced unwarrantable, and according to which he had committed a crime, from the consequences of which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate absolved him by a reprimand. He is also reported to have been reprimanded by his employers for having served a writ upon a woman an hour after she had given birth to a child, and having threatened her that if she did not pay he would burn her house down. Yet this man who had made himself so unpopular in Skye was allowed to go out serving writs in remote districts, without an escort, when the police and military sent to protect him were lying idle. The result was that the man was mobbed. He was not ducked in a pond, as he would have been in law-abiding England. He did not suffer any bodily harm, but a threat was made by the husband of the woman whose house he had threatened to burn down, that he would break his head with a stick; and this was made the excuse for a series of armed raids upon the vil- 1584 lage, one of them at least at midnight. The men who had been forewarned of these expeditions fled to the hills, but the houses were entered and every room ransacked—in every case, so far as he was aware—without warrant. He (Dr. Cameron) desired an Inquiry into the irregularity of these proceedings. The offence for which these men were wanted was a trivial and technical offence, which occurred entirely through the neglect of those in charge of the expedition to use the force provided for their protection. He did not want to excuse the action of the people; but it was unjustifiable to make this paltry offence the excuse for a series of armed raids on the villages. He wanted an Inquiry into the question as to the authority upon which these proceedings were taken. It might be said that these domiciliary visits amounted to nothing; but he maintained that they were no light matters. There was a case in which a sick woman was subjected to gross indignities; and another case in which an old woman was frightened, by a midnight visit from the police, into a protracted swoon. In another case another man on his deathbed had his last hours embittered by one of these unauthorized intrusions; and these were not the only proceedings against which he protested. A man named M'Kay was arrested and sent to prison on a charge of slandering Sheriff Ivory. It appeared that the man called Sheriff Ivory a "liar." He (Dr. Cameron) knew that the word "liar" was not a nice one, but it was one that Sheriff Ivory was fond of using, and he had never been called to account for it. But what in a Sheriff's but a choleric word, that in a crofter is rank blasphemy. M'Kay was arrested and sent to prison. Another man wrote a letter to the Secretary for Scotland, calling Sheriff Ivory a "judicial monster."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Does the hon. Member mean to say that a letter, privately written to me, was sent by me to the newspapers?
§ DR. CAMERON
No. The letter was sent to the right hon. Gentleman, and was published in an Inverness paper. I never imagined it was published by the right hon. Gentleman. Very probably it was sent by the author. This letter was published in the newspaper The Highlander, in the same way that 1585 Sheriff Ivory's confidential reports to Ministers were published in the newspapers. Well, while nothing was done to Sheriff Ivory, this man was sent to prison. There was the case of the Rev. Mr. M'Callum, Established Church minister, and of John M'Pherson, a leading man among the crofters. They were present at a meeting in October, and a report of that meeting appeared, in which it was stated that a resolution was adopted inciting the crofters to resist the administration of the law. A month after the alleged offence these gentlemen were arrested by warrant. They were not invited to surrender; yet an expedition of gunboats, Marines, and police were sent round to Mr. M'Callum's manse. The rev. gentleman was not at home. They found he had gone to preach elsewhere. The police ransacked his papers. The rev. gentleman complained that they did not read his sermons, from which they might have derived much benefit. Mr. M'Callum was gone to preach somewhere else, so the expedition turned tail and steamed after him. Mr. M'Callum was arrested on the Saturday night, and they took him 20 miles to prison, where he was kept until he was bailed. Mr. M'Pherson was arrested in a similar manner, and was kept in prison for seven days. He was denied access to his solicitor. He was liberated at 10 o'clock on Saturday night, and left to find his way as best he could to his home, a distance of 34 miles. It was only after the arrest that it occurred to the authorities that it would be well to look up evidence, and about two months after these proceedings they thought it necessary to procure the manuscript of the report which appeared in The Highlander, and which formed the ground for the arrest; and when they got the manuscript they found it so manipulated by the editor before insertion that it was susceptible of a considerably different interpretation from that put upon it. It was not only of these arrests that he (Dr. Cameron) complained. He complained of the way the accused persons were treated in connection with being brought to trial. Accused persons in Scotland had none of the safeguards that existed in England, where the accused person was allowed access to his solicitor, and had the safeguard of the Grand Jury, and could only be convicted by the unanimous verdict 1586 of the jury who tried him. In Scotland, on the other hand, a man might be kept in prison for a week, and was denied during the whole of the time access to his friends or his legal adviser. He had not the safeguard of the Grand Jury, and the verdict of a majority of the jury was enough against him to suffice for his conviction. In Scotland the criminal authorities exercised an autocratic power which was not allowed in England, and which in Ireland was only conferred by some Coercion Act. They had a power of secret investigation. They decided the Court where the cases were to be tried, and they had power to change the venue, and could do it in such a manner as to debar poor prisoners from bringing forward evidence for their defence, and that was practically what the right hon. Gentleman did in connection with these trivial cases. Not one of these cases involved life or limb or property. In the case of no single one of the prisoners had a blow been struck. These are precisely the sort of cases that should be tried before a local Court, so that the poor could be afforded facilities for bringing witnesses. Local courts had ample power of punishment. In only two or three cases was this course pursued in regard to Skye prisoners, while from Tiree and Skye some 30 men and women were dragged to Edinburgh for trial. They were so poor that it was absolutely impossible for them to organize a proper and well-arranged defence or to bring witnesses, and in some cases sentences were imposed that he was perfectly certain would never have been imposed if the prisoners had had fair play and been able to bring forward evidence for the defence. He had, for example, that day asked a question regarding the case of Myles Martin, who was imprisoned—along with others—for rioting, a certificate was sent to show that the man was an imbecile by the Free Church Minister, who had known from his birth that he was an imbecile. The certificate was handed to the Crown Authorities, who, if they had been moved by any feelings of equity, justice, or humanity, or if they had had any care for their own reputation, would have withdrawn the man from trial, but they handed over the certificate to the prison doctor, who pronounced him to be fit to take his trial. The certificate was never produced at the trial, and no evidence 1587 was given on behalf of the prisoner as to his imbecility, and he was condemned to the same sentence as those along with him who were of sound mind. He (Dr. Cameron) would next mention the case of Garalapain. He interested himself in that case, because some of the arrests appeared to be conducted with absurd and unnecessary severity and cruelty. He thought the proceedings showed the prisoners would not get fair play, and he instructed a solicitor that if he believed them innocent to defend them. The solicitor reported that in three of the cases the prisoners appeared to him to be innocent, and these were defended accordingly. There was no time to bring witnesses from Skye, and the solicitor reported that witnesses were afraid in this case, as he believed had been stated in connection with another case, to come forward lest they might be arrested.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J.H. A. MACDONALD)
Does the hon. Member mean to say that that was stated in Court by any responsible person on behalf of the prosecution?
§ DR. CAMERON
said that was his impression, but he would not insist upon it. The case came on. One woman, who was arrested under exceptionally hard circumstances, was placed in the dock, but not proceeded against. Two of the men who, he believed, were innocent, and who were defended, were proved by the Crown witnesses not to be in the mob until some time after the deforcement had taken place, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman withdrew the case against them. Although their counsel was debarred from replying, and the Lord Advocate had made an eloquent speech in prosecuting—fancy the right hon. and learned Gentleman wasting his eloquence on such a paltry case—the jury acquitted the whole batch. Two other persons were connected with this deforcement. They were tried locally, where evidence could be easily obtained, and where they could be tried fairly. One of them was acquitted, and one it was thought sufficient punishment to send to prison for one month. Here they had an example of a community subjected to a series of domiciliary visits. They had 11 people arrested out of this village. Nine were dragged to Edinburgh. The cases were tried by two separate counts—one by a jury, and one 1588 by a Judge sitting alone—and the only conviction was followed by one month's imprisonment. Did that manifest any careful administration of the law in these matters? In the case of the men tried locally, he had no doubt that full justice was done, while the cost to the prisoners and the State was nothing. The cost of the defence of the prisoners tried in Edinburgh was £30, which it was impossible for 10 crofters to have produced, even though they had had to be hung, drawn, and quartered. Was there any necessity for the severe sentences imposed in the Edinburgh Court? Before the expiration of their sentences, eight of the prisoners had been released. About 30 altogether stood their trial. One-third, who were fairly defended, were acquitted; one-third sentenced to unnecessarily long periods had been set free; and the rest remained in prison—one the most heavily punished was an idiot. That, surely, was sufficient to raise grave doubts as to the justice of the sentences. Meanwhile, other cases were pending. One was that of a man who was charged with libelling a Judge. There was the case of the Rev. Mr. M'Callum, and the case of John M'Pherson. His (Dr. Cameron's) Amendment asked for inquiry into a system the effects of which he had given only in a few cases. He feared that in stating them he had trespassed on the time of the House; but his excuse must be his conviction of the importance of the subject. To his mind, these matters affected nothing less than the decent and impartial administration of justice in Scotland, the maintenance of the methods of civil administration as against the methods of military law, and the securing of the Highland population in those rights and privileges which Parliament, by its recent legislation, unquestionably intended them to enjoy. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ DR. R. McDONALD (ROSS and Cromarty)
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he must compliment the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) on having traversed the ground so fully. There was one point he (Dr McDonald) wished to specially press It was this. Under the Crofters' Act if a crofter became bankrupt, he loss not only his house, but all the improvements he had made upon it. It was the 1589 ambition of the crofters at this moment not to become bankrupts; but the Law Officers of the Crown and Sheriff Ivory had gone behind the Act, and had decided that all arrears due to the landlords from the crofters were payable before the Commission had time to deal with the cases, and that the ordinary processes of law could be employed to enforce the decrees of Court. What would be the result of dealing in this way with arrears? The result had already, to some extent, become apparent. Decrees had been granted in the Court at Portree for £1,700, and on the Duke of Sutherland's estate decrees were given for a very large amount. The consequence was to render the Act null and void in a large number of cases. Let him call the attention of the House to the way this matter had been conducted. The Crofter Commission had decided that all Skye should be included as a crofting parish. Rumour said the Secretary for Scotland took three weeks to decide whether that should be allowed, and on the 18th of November the Secretary for Scotland decided that Skye was all a crofter parish. But on the 21st of November a Court was solemnly held at Portree to decide about arrears of rent, and that Court decided the Act did not apply to Skye. Decrees were given at that Court for £1,000 arrears of rent. He (Dr. R. McDonald) and his Scotch Colleagues in Parliament maintained that those decrees were illegal; and he himself had publicly advised the people not to pay a penny of those arrears if they could help it, because Parliament had decided that their rents should be fixed by the Crofters' Commission, and not by any local Court. But Sheriff Ivory refused to allow a mere Royal Commission to deal with cases of arrears. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) recently said, could anything be more monstrous than to appoint a Royal Commission to ascertain whether people could pay their rents, and immediately allow the people to be turned out? That was exactly what was going to take place in the Highlands if the landlords were allowed to enforce their rents before the Commission had time to consider the cases. The Commission had already intimated that, in deciding what were to be fair rents or not fair rents, they would, in 1590 making allowance for tenants' improvements, have to consider the benefits already derived from these improvements. But surely that was neither sense nor justice. The Crofters' Commission had no right to take that into consideration. He would give the House one or two instances of the reductions of rents granted by the Commission. John Bruce, Ormisdale, was formerly rented at £6. The present rent, fixed by the Commission, was £4 2s. 6d.; and, although the Commission decided that he had been paying about £2 more than he ought to have been paying, they insisted on his paying the arrears that he owed. In another case—that of D. Mackenzie—his old rent was £7 10s.; and the Commission, after inquiry, reduced that to £2 10s.—only one-third of the original rent. Did the House suppose that he had his arrears forgiven? Nothing of the sort. They saw this man owed £13, and he must pay £5, although, by their own admission, he was paying three times what he ought to have done. He did not see how such proceedings as those could be called just; and he thought it desirable to lay it before the House and the country; for if the Commission went on in this way, half the crofters would soon be made bankrupt, and would lose the benefits of the Crofters' Act, and they would have to emigrate, or something of the kind. With regard to Skye, he was a native of Skye himself, so that he knew what he was talking about. As to the non-payment of rent, he knew, and could assert distinctly, that it was a common practice for the factors there to include the rates along with the rent, so that, in a great many instances, the arrears of rent given were fictitious. That was how it appeared that the Skye crofters were made to appear to owe so much. In some parishes no one knew how affairs stood, because the nominal collector of rates ran away, and nobody knew what had been received. He could give many instances where rates had been demanded from people who did not owe them at all. In one case the Sheriff Officer asked payment of rates against a man named John Stewart, who for many years previously had been in New Zealand. In another case, at Waternish, the officer had a writ against a man for three years' arrears of rates. The man maintained that he was only owing two years' 1591 rates, which he was willing to pay; and, on looking over the books, the collector confirmed his statement that there were only two years standing against him. With regard to the alleged defaulters, he found that in the parishes of Upper and Lower Hamara, among 42 crofters, there were only four defaulters; and when the rate collectors went round three out of those four produced their receipts, and only one out of the 42 was found not to have paid, and this was a woman of over 80 years of age. With those instances before them, he thought the House would see that a great deal more noise than was necessary had been made on the subject of arrears of rates; and it certainly was not necessary to send a fleet to collect rates from people who had paid them, and who did not offer any resistance. He would also point out that not one single case could be brought forward in which the Sheriff had been attempted to be deforced for the collection of rates. If, then, the expedition had been confined to its proper purpose the collection of rates, so much could not have been said about it; but when it came to the collection of rents, he thought the Government would find they had made a very serious blunder indeed. There had been a great deal of trouble and noise made about the expedition; and he thought they had brought a hornet's nest about their ears in order to collect £200 for two or three landlords. That was all the expedition had done, while the cost to the country was more than the people know of. After quoting one or two other cases to show the character of the people from whom rates were demanded, the hon. Member said the subject might be dry in detail; but he hoped even on the other side of the House people had hearts to feel for the poor, as they had on this side. What he wanted them to do was to assist in getting the Government to grant an Inquiry to look into the matter, to see that justice was done to those poor people. If the facts which he and the hon. Member for Glasgow had given were true, how was it possible for the Government to withstand an inquiry? He said it was the bounden duty of the Government to grant the inquiry, and to see whether something could not be done to see that nothing but justice was meted out to those poor people—to see that they should be treated as rational human 1592 beings, and not as cattle, to be surrounded with police and driven to gaol. He thanked the House for having listened to him, and would second the Amendment with much pleasure.
At the end of the 12th paragraph, to insert the words—"And humbly to represent to Her Majesty that recent events in Skye and Tiree, and the general administration of justice in the Highlands, have caused serious concern to the people of Scotland, and demand full inquiry."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
said he claimed to have a peculiar qualification to speak to this Amendment. Their contention was that justice in the Highlands was not administered in the same spirit as it was administered in England and the Lowlands of Scotland. Unfortunately, in the Highlands, those who had the dispensing of justice belonged to a different social class from those to whom justice was dispensed; and it was their interest to interpret the law so as to give the advantage to the class they themselves belonged to, and with whom they were associated. Last September, when a debate was raised on this question, they foresaw, and he, himself (Mr. Sutherland) pointed it out to the Secretary for Scotland, that, in the then state of matters, there was bound to be a straining of the law, and they wanted an assurance from the Government that so far as they had control over the Executive, they would see that the law was administered in a spirit of fair play and justice to all concerned. The House would remember that at that time the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland stated—and his statements were then the cause of some complaint—that one of the reasons why he was anxious that the Crofters Act should be passed was, that it would furnish him with an excuse for enforcing the law as it is at present stood. It would be readily understood that from the important position the right hon. Gentleman occupied as Secretary for Scotland, the remainder of the Executive would take their action from the note he sounded on that occasion; and what he (Mr. Sutherland) and other hon. Members had foretold would happen had actually come to pass, in the disturbances in 1593 Skye and Tiree, and other parts of the country. He contended that, had they been listened to on that occasion, and the Government done what they were frequently advised to do, they would have been saved a good deal of the, no doubt to them, unpleasant work they had to perform since Parliament last sat. Now. there had been disturbances at Tiree and Skye; but the people he represented on the main land had had some troubled times as well. He did not mean to say that disturbances had occurred in Sutherland of the same character as those which had taken place in Skye; but the House would remember that last year the Secretary for Scotland said—"Even in Sutherland crime is rampant." He (Mr. Sutherland) repudiated that statement at the time, and he was glad to be able to say now that there was less crime in Sutherland than in Skye and Tiree. Still, they had had troubles in Sutherland, and though they had not been so unfortunate as to have such a valuable judge as Sheriff Ivory, still they had had men who tried to emulate him in their own little way. There was one case he must mention in that connection. There was a meeting held at Bonar Bridge, in Sutherlandshire, the object of which was the perfectly legitimate purpose of calling attention to the unfortunate state of the Land Laws in the Highlands. In the neighbourhood of the place there had previously been a most iniquitous eviction, in which two women were turned out of a house which belonged to their father, who built it. They had all the resources of civilization which had been called into force at Glenbeigh. They lacked the petroleum and the lucifer matches, certainly; but, at any rate, the house was levelled to the ground, and he believed that the women, who refused to leave, improvised a dwelling in the ruins. The farm and farmhouse, which was in the state he had described, was taken from them, and added to the farm of the factor. A number of people from a distance, who attended this meeting, went in procession to see this illustration of the beneficent operation of the Land Laws, and some of them were arrested, and brought before the Sheriff-Substitute at Dornoch; and, though the substance of the Chief Constable's evidence was that he saw nothing like a riot, yet the men were nevertheless convicted, and sen- 1594 tenced to pay fines of 30s., and bound over to keep the peace for six months. Indeed, so eager was the Sheriff-Substitute to convict that he went farther than his power justified, and bound over one man for twelve months; but an appeal was taken, when the decision was set aside, and it was held by the Court of Session that the Sheriff had gone beyond his powers, and could only bind over for six months. It was a notorious fact that the Procurator-Fiscal of Sutherlandshire was physically incapacitated for the office he held, being over 80 years of age. Although there had not been such flagrant cases in Sutherlandshire as in Skye and Tiree, they were not without cause of complaint; for in the administration of justice the Sheriffs throughout Scotland had undoubtedly taken their cue from what was said in the last Parliament by the right hon. Gentlemen the Secretary for Scotland. Extracts from the Report of the Crofters Commission served to show that the members of that Commission—and especially the Chairman of it, Lord Napier—were conscious of the possibility of Sheriffs being embarrassed and prejudiced in the discharge of their duties by the exercise of social influence. The House had heard many allusions to the crofters; but, in old times, there were no crofters in the Highlands. There was no such word in the native language. The crofters and the position which they at present occupied were the result of the bad Land Laws. It was all very well for the Secretary for Scotland to protest his affection for the crofters; but he (Mr. Sutherland) was not aware of it, and the crofters and their friends would like to see his affection translated into action. He appealed to the Secretary for Scotland and to the Lord Advocate to use their influence in this House on behalf of their unfortunate countrymen. If they would only show that there was a determination on the part of the Government to do justice, the Highlands would be the most law-abiding portion of Her Majesty's dominions. No part of Her Majesty's dominions had furnished so many soldiers to the British Army to build up the British Empire, and what was the result? They were tied hand and foot, to be used in the way that the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had just described to the House. If Her Majesty's 1595 Government were emulous of the fame of Irish officials, and wanted a similar result in the Highlands to what had been brought about in Ireland, he could see no better way of bringing about that result than to continue to pursue the course that they had hitherto adopted. On the other hand, the demand of the Amendment was a very moderate one, and he hoped the Government would agree to the facts being investigated. He was as anxious as any Gentleman on the opposite side of the House could be, that the people of the Highlands should retain their character for orderliness and lawfulness; and it was for that reason that he should like to see the obstacles that stood in the way of their being law-abiding removed. In the meantime, that could only be done by Constitutional agitation. There was no doubt in his mind that the object of the Government in the course they had pursued, was to put down a lawful and Constitutional agitation; but if the Government thought that, at that time of day, they were able to put down a Constitutional agitation, they reckoned without their host. The people of the Highlands would no longer submit to be the play and the sport of the landlords, who had removed them from the districts they formerly inhabited, and put sheep and deer in their place. It was notorious that the present disturbed state of the Highlands had arisen from the power that had been placed in the hands of the landlords. Let it be seen that that state of matters was going to be reversed, and he would give his personal guarantee to the Lord Advocate that lawlessness would cease in the Highlands. He was not prepared to admit that lawlessness had existed to the extent that some people would have them believe; indeed, he was very much surprised that greater acts of lawlessness had not occurred. But he appealed to the Government to grant the Inquiry asked for in the Amendment, if they wished to allay the ill feelings that they had raised against them in the Highlands of Scotland, and to avoid future troubles in those districts.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
My only object in rising to take part in this 1596 debate is to express my sympathy as an Irish Member with the Scotch Question which the Scotch Members have so ably brought before the House. I do not see how an Irish Nationalist Member who represents the people of Ireland can possibly refuse his sympathy in respect of the scenes which have been depicted to us this evening. Why, Sir, if the names were omitted, we might have fancied throughout the whole of the evening that this was an Irish debate, and that we were hearing a description of scenes that have taken place in Ireland. But besides the actual description of the scenes themselves there are many points of similarity between the grievances from which the Scotch crofters have suffered, and the grievances from which the tenant-farmers of Ireland have suffered. The present position, as I understand it, of the Scotch Crofter Question is mainly due to the fact that the Government, last Session, refused to listen to the advice or to heed the warnings of Scotch Members who understood the question. Exactly the same state of things has prevailed in regard to Ireland. Her Majesty's Government have refused to listen to the advice or to heed the warnings of the Irish Members, and then as regards the actual legislation from the effects of which the crofters are at present suffering, exactly the same course has been pursued as that in regard to Ireland. We are suffering from the defects of the Act of 1881, and why are we suffering? It is because the advice of the Irish Members who understood the matter was not taken. Why are the crofters suffering in Scotland from the defects of the Crofters' Act? It is because the advice of the Scotch Members who especially understood the question was not taken at the time the Crofters' Act was passed. When that Act was before the House class influence made itself felt in the Highlands of Scotland as it has done for 87 years in Ireland. Then, again, the Crofters' Act has failed in its administration. The Courts of Law in Scotland have given decisions as I understand, which are entirely contrary to the spirit of the Act. Exactly the same thing has happened in Ireland the greatest benefits which the Act on 1881 was intended to confer upon the tenants have by the decision of the Law Courts which have interpreted the provisions of that Act been held to be in- 1597 direct contradiction to the opinions of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who framed and succeeded in passing that Act. Then there is another point of similarity between the condition of the Scotch crofters and the Irish tenants, especially in regard to the condition of the poor tenants of Mayo, Donegal, and Galway. Although they got the Act to improve their future condition they were still left with a millstone of arrears of rent hanging round their necks. Impoverished as they are by circumstances over which they have no control, by falls in the price of their mountain stock they are utterly unable to cope with that millstone of arrears which the paternal Government has left hanging round their necks, and unless those arrears are dealt with the benefits both of the Crofters' Act and of the Irish Land Act are only a delusion and a snare. Then we have had another picture drawn in regard to these Scotch peasants, very similar to what we have in Ireland. We have seen wretched peasants dragged up from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh for trial, just as wretched peasants have been dragged up from Galway to Sligo in order to be tried by packed juries. I cannot help appreciating the manner in which the grievances of the crofters have been brought forward this evening by the Scotch Members; but in spite of the moderation of their demands, and this is merc4y a demand for inquiry into the matter—how have they been met by Her Majesty's Government? Have they been met with a single expression of sympathy? No; for my part, I do not expect any expression of sympathy, and if they do get it I do not think it will amount to any remedial Act that is likely to be carried out by a Tory Government. If the Scotch crofters do not realize that fact yet, they will in the future. I can assure them that they will receive no sympathy from the present Government—a Government which is founded on class prejudices, and which derives its power from the propertied and privileged classes of Society—those classes who do not know what the struggle for existence means, and who have no means of manifesting their sympathy. Indeed, no chord of sympathy exists between them and the great mass of the people. If they do possess any such chord, it is a somewhat 1598 curious fact that they have exhibited so little interest in the debate to-night. For a considerable period in the course of the debate there were only 9 Members on the Benches opposite, from which Benches the government of the country is at present supposed to proceed. At the time those 9 Members were seated on the Benches opposite, there were 29 on these Benches. The 9, however, a a little later on in the evening dwindled down to 3, and, of those 3, 1 was a Liberal Member. That is the amount of sympathy which the present Government and their Supporters have shown, as yet, for these grievances. My belief is that the Scotch Members must make up their minds that they will get no sympathy from the present Government, and that they will have to appeal, as we have had to do, to the democracies of Great Britain for sympathy and support. They must lay their case before the people before they can bring it to a successful issue; and if they do so I can promise them support of the most hearty nature from the people of Ireland; and from my experiences of the people of England, I believe they will get their support as well. I am certain that they will receive the support of the people of Wales. They must know themselves that they will obtain the unswerving support of the people of Scotland; but in order to do so they must lay their appeal before the people, so as to reach the masses, who have human hearts and are touched by human sympathies, who know what the struggle for existence means, and who will be able to show sympathy for the poor people of the Highlands who are struggling to eke out the means of subsistence by their own industry. To my mind, the Government have treated the Scotch Members in a manner which is most discreditable. Although many Scotch Members have spoken this evening, and although they have entered fully into their case—although their demands are of a most moderate nature, no single Member of the Government has risen to express the slightest opinion upon the subject, or to give them a single word of comfort. That being the case, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I beg to second the Motion, and I do so on the principle which has been shadowed forth by my hon. Friend who has just sat down 1599 (Mr. Mahony)—namely, the manner in which this debate has been treated by Her Majesty's Government. Although there are three Representatives of the Government who specially belong to Scotland—namely, the Secretary for Scotland, the Lord Advocate, and the Solicitor General for Scotland—not one of them was in the House to listen to the early part of the debate. I moved, early in the evening, that the House should be counted, in order to afford the Government an opportunity, if they were so willed, to put in an appearance and learn what the nature of the grievances brought forward by the Scotch Members was. I do not propose to go into the merits of the Crofter Question, but I do think that the crofters are a class who require attention and consideration at the hands of the Government. They have only recently inherited the franchise; they live at a distance from the seat of government, and they have no means of knowing the advocacy which is brought forward on their behalf. I do not think that the Government should show such utter callousness to the claims of these unfortunate people, because they are a class who, to judge from the men who represent them in this House, ought to be heard; and I have no doubt that their influence will be more widely felt as time goes on.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Mahony.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I have heard with some surprise that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Meath (Mr. Mahony) is of opinion that the Government have not treated the House or the hon. Member who moved the Amendment with sufficient respect. Now, the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) sat down only a few minutes before 8 o'clock. You, Sir, shortly afterwards went out for a few minutes; my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland had both been here watching the debate with the closest attention, and with the intention, when the House is filled, of making the statement on the part of the Government which the hon. Member wishes to have made. But, 1600 Sir, the House and the hon. Member himself must feel that it is far better that that statement and that answer should be given when the House is full rather than when it is empty. Under these circumstances, I hope the hon. Member will not put the House to the trouble of a Division on the question of adjournment. If the Division took place, it would take place on a perfectly side issue. I feel that the question is one of great importance, and one which demands the fullest consideration from Her Majesty's Government.
§ DR. CAMERON
I also rise to express a hope that the hon. Member for North Meath (Mr. Mahoney) will not put the House to the trouble of a Division upon the question of adjournment, although I think he was quite justified in criticizing the fact that the House has not heard any reply from the Government as to the specific statements which have been made from these Benches. It is not as if Scotland was simply represented on the Front Bench by one official Member of the Government. There are several Ministers there who are quite able to speak upon the question, and it appears to me that the Government by allowing the debate to go on without indicating what their defence is will encourage a great amount of irrevelant talk. If the Government would only put forward their case, I have no doubt that a good many observations and arguments which may be otherwise brought forward will be rendered unnecessary. As there are several Scotch Representatives in the Government, I hope some one or other of them will come to our assistance and show us what the course is which they propose to take.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I suppose that I am one of the Ministers connected with Scotland who ought, in the opinion of hon. Members opposite, to have taken part, before this, in the debate. Let me point out to hon. Gentlemen that the course which has been taken by the Government has really been the most convenient for everyone. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate and myself have 1601 listened with the greatest attention to the whole course of the debate. It has been confined strictly to the limits of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron). It has, so far, entirely dealt with the legal aspects of the case, and, therefore, the proper person to reply is my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, who will do so in the fullest and most complete manner; but I would ask whether it is convenient to hon. Members that my right hon. and learned Friend should make that reply in an empty House, or will it hasten the conclusion if the adjournment which the hon. Member for North Meath advocates is carried. My opinion is that it would only lead to a waste of time. If my right hon. and learned Friend were to get up in the course of half-an-hour or an hour and reply to all the allegations which have been made, leaving me to say something further by way of closing the debate, I think the convenience of the House would be perfectly consulted. Therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Meath will withdraw his Motion. The convenience of the House will certainly not be consulted if the proposal of the hon. Gentleman is carried. On the contrary, the House would be put to considerable inconvenience; and, as far as I can see, neither the crofters nor the advocates of the crofters would have gained any advantage whatever. Therefore, I will add my appeal to that of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury to the hon. Member for North Meath, in the interests of the crofters themselves, to withdraw the Motion which he has made for the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I desire to say one word upon this subject. I think it would only have been a courteous proceeding on the part of the Government to have made some reply to the statements which have been made by the Scotch Members. Surely, in a case of this kind it will be necessary that more than one Member of the Government should take part in the debate. I desire to show why it is that we support the crofters upon this question—I desire to bring their civil rights strongly before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must remind the hon. Gentleman that 1602 the Question before the House is the adjournment of the debate, and that the Main Question is not at present under discussion. Does the hon. Member for North Meath withdraw his Motion?
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
If the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate would at once rise for the purpose of addressing the House, I see no reason why the Motion for the adjournment of the debate should be pressed; but I think that a very powerful case has been presented to the House, and one that it may be very difficult for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to answer. I think it is most objectionable that the Scotch Members should have been required to sit here for all these hours without having received any answer at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland has adverted to the condition of he Benches behind him.
§ MR. HUNTER
Who is responsible for the state of the House? Unless some right hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench is prepared to make a defence for the Government at once I shall certainly support the Motion for adjournment.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
I think that I owe an explanation to the hon. Member who moved the adjournment of the debate of the fact that I was not in the House at the time he made it. It is impossible, I am afraid, for any Member to be in this House all night long, listening to the debate, and being prepared to discharge his duty, without partaking of some slight refreshment. I may state that I experienced some little difficulty, during the temporary retirement of the Speaker, in obtaining refreshment in the dining-room, a particular waiter having forgotten me for a quarter of an hour. I am sure the hon. Member and the House generally will sympathize with the exigencies of the position I occupy. Having to answer on behalf of the Government the very strong case stated by the other side, I certainly required some physical sustenance in order to enable me to do it. There has been no desire on my part to display the slightest discourtesy towards hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. MAHONY
I never accused the right hon. and learned Gentleman of discourtesy to me, because I never supposed that I had a claim to be heard on a Scotch subject; but I said that the Government had displayed a considerable amount of discourtesy towards the Scotch Members generally.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I can assure the hon. Member that there has been no question of discourtesy either to him, or to the Scotch Members as a body. It is obvious that the reply to a Motion of this kind, pressed as it has been upon the attention of the House by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), should be made by a Member of the Government; but it would have been most unsatisfactory if I had risen to make a reply in a House which was practically empty.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
No doubt, Members of the Government are naturally anxious to speak in a full House; but I think it ought to strike hon. Members opposite that the advocates of the crofters are animated by a similar desire. They certainly wish to have a fair audience to hear the remarks they desire to make in the course of this debate. Under these circumstances, considering that the few Ministers left upon the Front Bench would require a certain amount of sustenance, I think it would be for the convenience of all Parties—both the Government themselves and those who advocate the claims of the crofters—that the debate should be now adjourned to some more fitting opportunity—to some occasion when a full attendance can be secured. It must be quite clear to everyone in the House that, in the present state of the Benches opposite, the House is not fairly able to grapple with this most important question. Hon. Gentlemen who have been sent here to represent the crofters know what grievances they have to bring forward, and they wish naturally to advocate them in a fuller House on both sides. At this period of the evening it is quite impossible to get a fuller House; and, therefore, I think the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for North Meath ought to be acceded to.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
When the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) rose to address the House I noticed that there 1604 was no one present who represented the Government of Scotland. I understand now, from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, that he is not prepared now to reply to the case which has been brought forward against the acts of the Government in Scotland. If the Government are ready to reply, I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for North Meath to allow that reply to be made at once. A very strong case has been made out; the Scotch Members have brought that case before the House, and naturally we want to hear what can be said by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in defence of the action they have taken. We do not propose to go further. Therefore, unless the Government are prepared to speak now, we might as well adjourn the debate until they are ready to make their reply.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now seemed to consider that the arrangement for carrying on the debate to-night has been somewhat out of the usual course. Now, it is perfectly well known to hon. Gentlemen that there is an interval when the House is by no means full, during which it is never expected that Ministers should get up and reply to a strong case made in a full House. As I understand the arrangement this evening, the Scotch Members worthily occupied the full time of the House up to about 8 o'clock, and the fact that they made so extremely strong a case is an argument in favour of the reply being also made when the House is equally full. As far as I understand, that is the opinion of the Government, who are only anxious that they may be allowed to reply to the case which hon. Members opposite have put forward when the House is full. As far as the Government are concerned, they desire no adjournment of the debate, but are perfectly prepared to make their reply The arrangement, as I have said, is by no means an unusual one. Hon. Gentlemen who have had experience of this House know that between half-past 8 and half-past 9 or 10 o'clock the House on both sides is generally remarkably thin. There has been no exception to the rule to-night. The thinness on one side of the House has been equalled by 1605 the thinness on the other. [Cries of "No!"] Well, at any rate, it was mentioned by the hon. Member for North Meath that there were only 29 Members on that side of the House. If there were only 29 Members of the House who expected that a Minister would rise to make a reply, I think that is a sufficient answer to the complaint. There can be no hon. Member who would desire that the answer of the Minister of the Crown should be made in a House of 29 Members. If the Motion for the adjournment of the debate is withdrawn, the Government are perfectly prepared to go on with the debate.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 112: Majority 25.—(Div. List, No. 8.)
§ Original Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, Camlachie)
, in resuming the debate on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), thought he expressed the general opinion of the House when he said that the consideration of the Address had lasted long enough, although it must be admitted that Scotch Members had not occupied much time. Looking at the question calmly and dispassionately, he thought his hon. Friend and Colleague the Mover would have been justified in bringing forward the question even if he had used language of a much stronger character than found its way into the Amendment. But hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House were surrounded by difficulties of no unusual character, seeing that the naval and military expedition to Skye was initiated by a Liberal Government. Yet, though they were opposed by what he might term officialism in that House, he believed that they had not only Scotland, but England and Ireland, in their favour upon this question. There existed a consensus of opinion in favour of using every means at their disposal for ameliorating the condition of the crofters of Scotland. As a good deal was said in that House with regard to the maintenance of law and order, he was glad to be able to state that the crofters were essentially a law-abiding, honest, and industrious people. Until within the last few years they had well sustained those characteristics; and, as 1606 an illustration of the fact, he might mention that one might walk through many miles in the Highlands without seeing a policeman. After the interesting speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, it was not to be wondered at if a crofter, after toiling from sunrise to sunset, handing over the last shilling to the owner of the land, and leaving his family in a state of starvation—if, when a writ was put into his hand, the smouldering flame of rebellion should be aroused. Such had been the case during the past few years, no doubt; and it might with some truth be said that the crofters were no longer law-abiding. Such a state of things was much to be regretted; but it was a curious and significant fact that every measure of reform had had to be preceded by a period of agitation, lawlessness, illegality, and such like. As a Party man, he was sorry to say that the crofters of Scotland looked upon it as a matter of small moment to them whether a Conservative or a Liberal Administration was in Office, for the simple reason—as a crofter remarked the other day—that almost every Member of every Administration was a landlord, or more or less connected with the landlord interest. He would like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) upon what impartial, circumstantial, and reliable information or evidence he decided the necessity of despatching a naval and military force to Tiree? Impartial authorities almost unanimously asserted that the sources of information in Tiree were more or less tantamount to information derived from the Duke of Argyll. In a letter which he had received from a crofter there occurred these words—Why does the British Government not at once hand over the administration of law and justice in Tiree to the Duke of Argyll? We would be no worse off. That is impossible, and the Government would relieve itself from the gnus of taking any active part in a course of procedure morally guilty, if not actually worse.What considerations, he would like to ask, had induced the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) to adopt a policy for Scotland diametrically opposed to the policy recently carried out by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who had stated that the Government had brought 1607 pressure to bear on certain landlords to give abatements in rent? Was it because the present Government was of opinion that it could ignore or crush the just claims of the crofters of Scotland? During the past decade many measures of reform and alleviation had been passed for Ireland; but what measures had been conceded to the crofters? It was true, the Crofters' Bill was passed in 1885, with a view of assuring just rents in consideration of the agricultural depression; but the Government had taken advantage of a naval and military expedition to enforce rents upon the very eve of the sitting of the Crofters' Commission. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland would, no doubt, agree that Scotland had not been dealt with as liberally in the past as Ireland had been. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would state whether there was any valid reason for that, and whether the Government would adopt for Scotland a Bill similar in its provisions to what was generally known as Lord Ashbourne's Act to enable crofters to become peasant proprietors? The result of the Commission on the Crofters had been reductions of from 30 to 50 per cent. He thought he might, therefore, fairly maintain that the crofters' grievances had been established so far as the Commission had gone. Provided the Government were prepared to inaugurate a policy similar to that adopted for Ireland, with moderate rents, fixity of tenure, and reasonable interest on loans, the crofters at present on the soil might live and thrive, or, at all events, live. As to the congested condition of portions of the Highlands, landlords had long maintained that emigration was the only remedy; but he did not think that was a time, when millions of men were being armed on the Continent, to talk of emigration, and endeavour to drain the country of a peasantry which had done so much in years gone by to maintain the honour, prestige, and position of this great country. He did not think that of late years so much had been heard on that point. There was one thing which he thought had never been urged against the crofters of Scotland; and that was that those who were able to pay their rents declined to do so. It had been said that the sentences on the Tiree and Skye crofters were calculated to bring the administration of law and justice in 1608 the Highlands into ridicule and contempt; and he would assert this—that the remarkable proceedings against the crofters of Scotland would result in drastic legislation which would be proportionately disastrous to the landlords of Scotland. There was no doubt that owing to the depression of prices in agriculture the landlords in recent years had been severe sufferers; but would anyone say that capitalists had not been equal sufferers? He did not sympathize with the landlords whose incomes had been reduced, because it did not put them in a necessitous position. He had more sympathy with the poor crofters, who for several years had been in a starving condition. While he had been in Parliament he had heard a great deal of talk as to the vindication of law and order; but he confessed that he had more faith in the qualities of mercy, and the reciprocal blessings which flowed therefrom. He would, therefore, support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment (Dr. Cameron) has done, I think, well in bringing it forward, because he has taken numerous opportunities, in various places throughout the country, to express similar views to those he has expressed to-night, and even in stronger terms than he has done in the course of this discussion; and it is only fitting—and I thank him for it—that he has given the Executive of Scotland an opportunity of responding in the only place where, with due regard to their own dignity and position, they could respond to the charges which he and his Friends have made. An hon. Member, speaking a short time ago on the Motion for Adjournment, said that the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow had made out a very strong case. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for the College Division always makes out a strong case; and he made out a strong case to-night by taking s course which I never heard has been taken by any Scotch Member before and which I shall be very much surprised if any other Scotch Member even takes again—that is, to attempt to make out that the system of justice and the administration of the Criminal Law 1609 in Scotland is a bad system, as compared with the system of other nations.
§ DR. CAMERON
I did not intend to infer anything of the sort. I complained of the administration of what, when well administered, may be a very excellent system.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
The hon. Member probably said something which he did not intend to say, and has forgotten what he said; because I noted down at the time that he had a very strong objection to having a verdict by a majority in criminal cases; and he contrasted that with the necessity in England for having a unanimous verdict. He also made a statement against our not having the benefit of a Grand Jury, which I am quite sure the great mass of Scotchmen would be sorry to have; and he further made a statement against the power in Scotland to change the venue, which he knows very well is a change merely to the City of Edinburgh from distant parts of the country where there is no Circuit. Further than that, it is of the greatest possible value to the prisoner that he should be tried at a place where there is no local prejudice against him. ["Oh, oh!"] I challenge contradiction of that statement. The hon. Member will find it difficult to show cases in the criminal administration of Scotland in which a change of venue to the City of Edinburgh has been made for any other reason than that which I have mentioned. We all know that, in the celebrated case of Dr. Pritchard, it would have been fatal to his having a fair trial to have had the trial on the spot where the offence took place. In addition to that, the hon. Member knows very well—for he knows all about the law of Scotland—that in the case of the offenders in Tiree and Skye, unless we had brought them to Edinburgh for trial, we should not have been able to have tried them in the Supreme Court of Scotland until the month of April next. It was also bettor for the prisoners themselves that they should have been tried in Edinburgh; because, in that city, there is the best legal skill available for their defence, and they are tried before Judges whose character for justice and impartiality is unimpeachable, and by juries of intelligence and education. Therefore, when the hon. Gentleman accuses the Executive of doing injustice 1610 to those men, by bringing them to trial with a rapidity and expedition quite unknown in England, and evidently in Ireland, he makes a very unfair and futile attack on the administration of justice in Scotland. Then, says the hon. Member, you should not have tried them before the Supreme Court at all. You should have tried them before the Sheriff, with a jury, or, summarily, before the Sheriff of the county where the offences took place. I make two answers to that. In the first place, if we had tried them before a Sheriff and jury, we would have had a much greater outcry against the prosecution; because, in the ordinary course, they would have been tried before Sheriff Ivory.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I am coming to that. I am speaking of a Sheriff with a jury, and the proper officer would have = been the Sheriff of the county, with a jury in Inverness or Portree. I do not think the hon. Member and his Friends would have thought that a very proper course to take. But then, says the hon. Member, they ought to have been tried summarily. Well, I need scarcely say that, in that case, we should have had a great outcry that they were being tried by a Sheriff Substitute whose decision, without a verdict of their own fellow-citizens, would consign them to 60 days' imprisonment. In fact, whatever course we might have taken, it would have been equally open to the animadversion of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow. That was obvious. But I give another reason for trying them in Edinburgh. Cases of mobbing, rioting, and deforcing officers of the law are so rare in our country that, when they do occur, they ought, as I said before, to be tried where the best legal talent can be got for their defence, and the best judicial officers to try them from the Bench. I go further, and I say that I prefer the opinion of Lord Young—the Judge upon the Bench—to the opinion of the hon. Member. However skilled the hon. Member may be in debate, and however well he may know the affairs of Skye and other places, at least he will grant 1611 that a Judge of the High Court of Justiciary—a distinguished lawyer such as Lord Young—knows better what the practice of the Courts should be in this country, and the duties of the Executive in such circumstances. Lord Young, in the last case tried, distinctly announced his opinion in open Court that the Lord Advocate of Scotland would have been guilty of a gross dereliction of duty if he had tried these cases in any other Court than the Supreme Court of the country. I think that these observations of mine entirely dispose of the point where, and in what Court, the cases ought to have been tried; but we are told by the hon. Member opposite that the object of the Government in instituting these prosecutions has been to put down lawful agitation. [Expressions of dissent.] Yes; those were the very words—I took them down at the time. If hon. Members think that is our object, they surely will concur with me that, in the test of our conduct, it is well that we should have the highest Judges of the land to lay down the law, and the best and most experienced juries of the country to give their opinion upon it. I could not believe it possible that such a statement would be made in this House, although it had been made out of it; but, since it has been made, it is the strongest confirmation of our having done our duty in getting the highest Judicature of the land to try the case. The hon. Member says the sentences pronounced in the case of the Skye prisoners show that the prisoners must have been tried in different and inferior Courts altogether. Well, as regards the sentences pronounced—and light some of them were—they were pronounced for this reason—that these crimes have been extremely rare; and, in the next place, that, in the opinion of the prosecutor, of the jury, and of the Judge, those crimes would not have occurred at all unless ignorant men had been misled by the suggestions of agitators. For that reason only was a small sentence pronounced in these cases. The hon. Member who has spoken last asked why it was that, in the Tiree case, such high sentences were pronounced as from four to six months' imprisonment? The Judge who tried that case, before pronouncing sentence, consulted the whole Judicial Bench as to what was the 1612 proper sentence to give in the circumstances of the case. Having done so—that Bench consisting of men above suspicion—he came to the conclusion that the sentence he pronounced was a proper one, and the reason why he came to that conclusion was this—that while it was true that no violence was suffered, and no injury inflicted upon those who were doing their duty on that occasion by those who were carrying out the mobbing, rioting, and deforcing—they not requring to use any violence—yet there was an overwhelming force, indicating most distinctly their intention not to be defeated, and, undoubtedly, that they would, by force and violence if necessary, prevent the execution of the writs. Upon this matter I have only to say—that when you find a mob stating that they will not allow the ordinary course of the law to proceed, except" at the point of the bayonet," and a crowd cheering a sentiment of the kind, that is the most dangerous kind of mobbing and rioting which can possibly be; and when you find, further, that they threatened to throw the carriage and horse, and the man himself, who was only the driver of the officer, over the cliff—not a mile, but only 50 yards off—it is no answer to say that no injury was inflicted. If the officer upon that occasion, and the constables who were with him, had taken the course which they might have taken—although I do not think it would have been a proper course—and had fought out the battle with their batons, there would have been a great deal of injury, and a scene of bloodshed and violence. But these 200 men stated their intention by force and violence to prevent the service of the writs; and the officer was not only justified, but, in my opinion, right, in declaring himself deforced, and not allowing a riot. Every constable examined on that occasion declared his conviction that, if the officer had proceeded to do his duty, there would have been bloodshed to a very considerable extent. And that was the reason why the sentence in the Tiree case was a different sentence to that pronounced in the subsequent cases—because there was reason to believe, in those later cases, that the people would not have resorted to dangerous measures. But what was the Tiree case? I was not at all surprised that the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, who 1613 knows a great deal better about that case than some other Members who have spoken, scarcely referred to it at all, except to make one or two statements, which I will refer to presently. The Tiree case was a case in which there was no question of rent at all. There was no question of exacting anything at all from these people of Tiree. The facts were simply these—that a farm having become vacant in the Island of Tiree, a large number of crofters seized it by force, put their own cattle upon it, and defied the authority of the law to turn, them out. Therefore, their case was very different from that which might have been put for other people, who, suffering from distress in their own crofts, and being asked to pay rent on their own crofts, were inclined to resist payment. It was a case in which, without the shadow of a title, these people seized land to which they had no right whatever, and defied the authority of the law to put them out. And what was the writ that was to be served upon them? It was a writ for no other purpose than this—to give them notice that they must appear, and give answers in Court, otherwise, unless they could show a good answer to the accusation of taking possession of the property without title, they would be ordered to give up possession and leave as trespassers. There was no personal attack upon them of any kind—no idea of an eviction, or anything of that sort. It was simply a question whether they were to receive a notice, without which they could not be turned out of possession, even if they were guilty of trespass. Just let hon. Gentlemen consider what that means. If you are going to allow people to resist service of a writ, which charges them with going on ground to which they have no title—if they refuse to receive the writ, without which the owner of the property cannot take possession and the course of law cannot take effect—what is the necessary consequence? The necessary consequence is that every man must defend his own property, or that we must turn every person, who can be sworn to be a trespasser, into a criminal. The law in this free country says "No" to that. It says that if a man trespass on the property of another, he can only be turned out on the operation of a Civil Court, and the owner of property has to suffer any 1614 damage done that may occur during the time necessary for that operation, because this is a free country, and because we believe that everybody will submit to the jurisdiction of those Courts. Without that, we would have no basis for our liberty at all. I presume the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow will not suggest a complaint against this Government, because we did not take the course of informing everybody that the law was that they are entitled to walk into other people's property and turn their sheep and cattle upon ground to which they have no title; or that a benevolent Government is to back them up against a Court of Law in their illegal possession. The hon. Gentleman will never suggest anything so monstrous as that. The case of Tiree was simply a case of people trespassing without the slightest ground of title, and preventing the course by which alone the law could deal with their case, by refusing to receive the summons of interdict which was to bring them into Court. Now, where was the oppression, and where was the wrong there? I can understand it may be suggested on the part of the crofters that, some hundreds of years back, these people were robbed of their land, and that there may be some plausible tradition for a case of that kind; but surely that is not practical politics? Neither is it practical common sense. And, therefore, as regards the Tiree case, though there may be ideas in the minds of hon. Members, who have no experience of mobbing and rioting, that the sentence was too long, I say that the sentence was a just sentence, and that the conviction was a just conviction. That leads me to say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow, with reference to what he called the horrible oppression put upon the people of Scotland, as compared with their fellow-subjects in England, by verdicts being taken by a majority—
§ DR. CAMERON (interposing)
I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. What I said was simply that, in the present day, the prisoner does not get the same amount of latitude and fair play shown him in Scotland as in England, and, therefore, that the administration of the law requires to be much more careful in order that it may be just.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
Very good. But then my hon. Friend forgets the very important matter, which he knows historically—having well studied the history of all these cases—that every verdict of conviction which has taken place against these crofters has been a unanimous verdict. [Dr. CAMERON dissented.] My hon. Friend shakes his head at that. I suppose he will admit that the Herbusta one was unanimous. He does not shake his head at that.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
No; it was the Garalapin case that was a case of acquittal, and we will come to that presently. But in the Borniskitaig case there was a unanimous verdict. He does not shake his head at that. But I know why he shakes his head at the Tiree verdict. The hon. Member has evidently got hold of a cock-and-bull story out of the newspapers that the jury were eight to seven—being 15—for the conviction; but it turned out that there was not a word of truth in that, for the foreman of the jury, being attacked by a member of the jury, wrote and explained that there were 10 for a verdict of guilty of the whole charge, three for a verdict of guilty of the deforcement only, and two for a verdict of acquittal. I do not say I am giving the very exact figures; but, if not, they are, as far as I can recollect, very near it; and so clearly was the majority of the jury—a majority amounting to as many as would have sat and tried the case in England—of opinion that there was no ground for acquittal of the whole charge, that, doing what is done in every English jury, where otherwise there would be no verdict at all, they used the powers of persuasion of the majority as regarded the evidence on the other members of the jury, and the jury came to the conclusion to return a unanimous verdict, on the footing that if the verdict was unanimous they would also be unanimous in their recommendation to the leniency of the Court. But the hon. Member for the College Division says that in the case of Garalapin the jury also acquitted. I do not think he would have said that if he had known the facts as well as I know them. On the morning of the trial we balloted the jury, and the Crown did not order anybody to stand by. ["Hear, hear!"] But if 1616 we had had information that there was any individual on the jury who would not have considered the case honestly and fairly, and given an honest verdict, we should have challenged. [Renewed cheers.] The Crown in Scotland has a right of challenge; and I remember long ago, when I first came to the Bar, occasionally the Crown did challenge a juror, not on grounds of objection to him at all, but simply to keep up their right to do so. [Opposition laughter.] Yes. Hon. Members, perhaps, do not know—even some of my hon. Friends from Scotland may not know—that in Scotland any law, whatever it is, may perish by not being used. Now, Sir, we did not challenge any jurors on that occasion; but the prisoners, exercising their proper right, challenged a large number; and, speaking of that, I will recall the fact to the hon. Member's mind which he very well knows—that the unanimous verdict in the Tiree case was obtained in spite of the prisoners having exhausted every challenge in their power, and the Crown not having exercised any challenge at all. On the morning of the Garalapin case we balloted a jury for that; and as I did not expect it to take a long time, and it did not—probably in England or Ireland it would have taken three or four times as long—I told the Judge we had another case for the afternoon; but for the sake of the jurymen who had not been balloted, I was willing, if both parties assented, to take the same jury. Accordingly, they agreed to that. It is perfectly true that the first jury acquitted the Garalapin mobbers and rioters, and that for a very simple reason, because the only man who was capable of identifying them—formerly a ground officer to Lord Macdonald—had not seen the men doing anything particular. Well, they were acquitted, and nobody blames the jury for that; but that plainly showed they were not a jury packed to obtain a conviction. In the afternoon we put up eight prisoners, who were from Herbusta, and by 7 o'clock the same jury had unanimously convicted the whole of them. We have heard lately that nothing is law until the law, as laid down by the Judge, has been sustained by the verdict of a jury. That is a view which to me is strange indeed; but, taking that to be the law, we have here the law of the Judge sustained by the fact that 1617 every jury which has sat upon these crofter cases has been unanimous in convicting the prisoners brought before them of the offence with which they were charged. So much for the administration of the law in Scotland. I think the attack made upon it was not a worthy attack, because it was not based upon any reasonable or tangible grounds. Then, one hon. Member suggested that the Judges who sat in the Courts did so to servo the interests of themselves and other classes; and that that is a strong reason for not taking Judges of the Supreme Court into Scotland to try the cases; but I hope he was not serious, for it is an accusation which no one acquainted with the Scottish Courts, or Courts of Justiciary, is base enough to suggest here or outside this House. Well, it does not finish here. One hon. Member suggested that, in the Tiree case, the witnesses for the defence were not examined, because a threat was held out by the prosecution that, if they gave evidence, they would themselves be put upon their trial. I think the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow said he had heard something to that effect from Mr. Angus Campbell, who was agent for the prisoners. But I am quite sure Mr. Angus Campbell would not have lent himself to a statement of that kind. I will read a few lines from a letter written by that gentleman to another gentleman interested in obtaining the release of some of the Tiree crofters, with which we are now taunted. The writer says—I more than approve and appreciate the efforts made on behalf of the men, and the manner in which you have acted. Personally, I dissociate myself from the action of certain so-called friends of the men, because I can scarcely be expected to approve of any application in mitigation of sentence, which is accompanied by an attack on the Executive, on the Judge, and on the jury, and by a universal tirade against existing law, not only in relation to land, but to criminal prosecutions. Indeed, to be candid, I think the worst possible friends of the men were those who, whilst professing every desire to secure their liberation, were indulging in words and acts making it impossible for the Chief Secretary or the Lord Advocate to re-entertain the notion of liberation.And now, Sir, not only that; but it so happens that I have also got by me a note of what was said by the counsel for the defence of the prisoners on that occasion—the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow knows he is 1618 one of the most ingenious lawyers we have, and one of the ablest staters of defence I ever came across—I mean Mr. Rhind. Now, Mr. Rhind was asked whether he proposed to lead any defence with his 43 witnesses—although we were told by the defence that they could not afford to bring witnesses to Edinburgh—and he said—After consideration with my learned friends, we have agreed that we have obtained sufficient evidence from the witnesses for the prosecution for our purposes. We, therefore, propose not to call any evidence.Now, I leave Tiree and the public prosecutions that have taken place. In doing so, I may say that I am quite prepared to accept responsibility for my share in them, and I am convinced of this—that there is no man who was present at the trials, however much he may be in sympathy with the crofters, who will not say they were conducted with the greatest possible fairness and consideration for the prisoners. No doubt, the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, through an organ with which he is said to be connected, told the public, the day after the trial, that if the jury had gone upon the evidence, and not upon the summing-up of the Judge, the prisoners would not have been convicted. That is a suggestion no man should make in this country, where it is well known that the law laid down by the Judge is the law of the land; and all honest men hold that while the jury, after they have sifted them, say whether the facts have occurred or not, and whether they are sufficiently proved, the Judge tells them what constitutes a criminal offence, and no suggestion can be entertained that the jury should listen to their own fancies of what the law should be. But it is not confined to this, for we find reverend gentlemen, at meetings presided over by the hon. Member, not ashamed to stand up in their place in public and say that Lord Mure summed up right dead in the face of the evidence. Will the hon. Member ask the agent for the defence (Mr. Campbell)—for whom he seems to have some respect—will he ask Mr. Rhind, the counsel, whether or not there is any ground for saying that Lord Mure summed up dead in the face of the evidence? [Dr. CAMERON: I never said that.] No; but the words were used at a meeting over 1619 which the hon. Member presided. The Rev. T. M. Cruickshank said Lord Mure summed up dead in the face of the evidence—that The North British Daily Mail said that if the jury had attended to their own views, and not to the charge of the Judge, the jury would not have convicted the prisoners. What I say is this—that that statement, made at the meeting, did more harm to the crofters of Tiree, both those convicted and those unconvicted, than could possibly have been done by any other means that could have been devised. These words were addressed to people whom the hon. Member insists are ignorant people and easily led, and yet, by these statements, made at meetings and in newspapers, people are induced to believe that the law has been unjustly administered, and that no honest man could hold up his face and justify the verdicts. All this, observe, is a prelude, forsooth, to a petition for the release of these men! In what way, as Mr. Campbell pointed out in his letter, could they have acted more against the interests of these men as regards release than in making these statements? Another meeting was held in London, at which they were told that Exeter Hall was well filled by 350 people. And we find that the people who are there are people—I do not know to which of the Three Kingdoms they belong, but I am certain it is not Scotland—who, when the Queen's name is mentioned, receive it with hoots and hisses and groans. We are told that this is a representative meeting of Scotsmen and of the Highlands. We have been told to-night, several times, that the Scottish, and particularly Highlanders, are a loyal race. I am perfectly certain that these prisoners from Tiree and Skye would rather have served twice their time than be supported by men in this House, or anywhere else, who would be parties to being present at a meeting at which the name of the Queen was hissed. And, observe, at this meeting the object is not to allay excitement, not to induce a state of peace. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), at that meeting, said he rejoiced at what was going on, because he believed that this excitement was only the beginning of a wave which, he hoped, would spread over the length and breadth of the land. These are the guides of ignorant people, and 1620 these are the men through whom it is expected that peace will be given to the districts in Scotland in which the crofters reside. The hon. Member who addressed the House last (Mr. Watt) was present and spoke at this meeting. Did any dissent come from any gentleman as to what was said at this meeting—a meeting at which, be it observed, the effort was to get a mitigation from the Executive of the decision of the Supreme Court of Scotland? So far as I am concerned, I should be ashamed to belong to any Executive that would be a party to mitigating any sentence where those who supported it did so upon such grounds; and I venture to say that if the Tiree crofters, for mitigating whose sentences we have been sneered at, were to be let out only on the grounds of such petitions as these, they would be doing their term of imprisonment still. Let me glance, for a moment, at the attacks made not only on the administration of justice, but on the administration of the Executive; and I was told to-night, for the first time of my holding of the Office—and I think it will be new to my right hon. and learned Predecessor—that there is an irresponsible power entrusted to the Lord Advocate and his assistants. Now, the Lord Advocate of Scotland has for many years been, as a matter of ordinary routine, a Member of this House, and I have never yet heard any attack of that kind upon his proceedings in the conduct of criminal business, or in his assistance to the general administration of the country. I have not heard it to-night; but I have heard a statement made that I possess in my Office irresponsible power. I have not yet heard, however, what it is I have done with my power of which the hon. Member (Dr. Cameron) complains. I shall be glad to hear it. Of course, the Lord Advocate is an official having a certain and a serious responsibility; and he is responsible to this House and to the country for it. If there is any act of mine which can be shown in which I have offended against the principles of justice—by which I do not mean the justice that Members of this House imagine for themselves, but that justice which necessarily is embodied in the law of the land, which alone I have the duty to administer—I say that, if anything can be shown in which I have in any way offended against the law of the 1621 land, which it is my sole duty to uphold and maintain, I shall be very glad to have it pointed out, and extremely sorry to have offended. But this is the first time I have ever heard it expressed that the Lord Advocate is an irresponsible official; and I should like to know in what way is the Lord Advocate more irresponsible than any other Minister of the Crown? He may have, in some respects, more difficult and more delicate duties to perform. In some respects he has duties to do which require the exercise of care and attention such as few offices require. He is the sole responsible head for all public prosecutions in Scotland. Can you have a better proof that the system under which the Lord Advocate is responsible for prosecutions of crime in Scotland is a system which proves itself satisfactory to the sense of the country than that no man in this House now living, however old, can remember one real instance of private prosecution? It is open to any citizen of Scotland to institute a prosecution if the Public Prosecutor will not do it; but no such thing is known in the history of Scotland in modern times. The Lord Advocate has to consider, in many cases, whether he will prosecute or not; in many cases, how far he will carry prosecution, and how far he will abstain. These necessarily are difficult duties; but they are not made easier by the kind of things which have been said about his office to-night. At all events, they are not made easier by suggestions that he is exercising an irresponsible power, and is doing his work so as to serve the interests of himself and of a class. It has been the proudest boast of all connected with the system of working the criminal administration in Scotland that there justice has been administered without fear, favour, or affection; and nothing that has occurred in this House to-night has convinced me that my Predecessors in Office have had any ground to be ashamed of the part they have taken; and nothing has occurred, I think, to indicate to any Member of this House that I have any cause to be ashamed. A great deal has been said also about the military expeditions which have taken place to different parts in the Western Islands. Is it astonishing that military expeditions are necessary, when hon. Members of this House tell us, as the hon. Member for 1622 Boss and Cromarty (Dr. R. McDonald) did to-night—he said he would be frank about it, and he was frank—that he had advised people to resist the operation of the law until they got what he calls justice? Where are he and his Friends going to get justice? Is it the ordinary mode of getting justice to refuse to go to the Courts of Law for its administration? I perfectly understand that if everybody is to settle for himself what is to be justice, perfectly conscientiously and perfectly fairly, with the aid and advice of gentlemen like the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, I perfectly understand the position. But how long will society go on upon that footing? Because, if he is entitled to his opinions, and his interpretation of what constitutes justice, then, equally, every rascal who possesses property is entitled to take his own view of what is justice; and when the hon. Gentleman abuses the landlords of Skye for having declined to pay their rates when they could not get their rents—
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
Well, it was their idea of justice that a man who got nothing out of his property should not be called upon to pay the burdens upon that property. They were entirely wrong in that. But if the hon. Member thinks it was a new thing in the end of 1886 to tell these proprietors that, he is very much mistaken; because information was given to them upon that matter a long time before; and, in my opinion, they acted foolishly and wrongly in their resistance. But how will that act upon other people? The hon. Member says these landlords in Skye endeavoured to get this military expedition sent for the exaction of their rents by this refusal on their part to pay rates. I beg to tell the hon. Member and this House that when this expedition was sent to Skye it was upon the express condition that it should be used equally as regards all for the enforcement of the law; and I beg also to tell him that it was put in operation in every case in which it was necessary for the recovery of rates, and it was put in operation in an extremely small number of cases in which the object was to get writs served for the recovery of rents. It is an extraordinary fallacy, and one 1623 which I must here refer to, that runs through a great part of the arguments used on the other side, to suppose that these expeditions of force, both military and police, were sent to these islands for the purpose of exacting rents. They were sent to these islands by the Executive for no such purpose. The Executive had nothing to do with the question what the Civil Court is about in its operations. It has a duty, and one duty only—to see that the Civil Court shall not be defied. These expeditions were sent because the people, urged on by Members of this House, were refusing to allow the Courts of Law to exercise their jurisdiction.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
An hon. Member whom I do not see in his place; but who told us frankly, to-night, that he had advised the people to resist.
§ DR. R. MCDONALD
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. I did not refer to ordinary rents; but 1o arrears of rents that the Crofters, Commission should be allowed to settle.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
You must pay these rents if Parliament has decreed that they should be paid. I take it that the interruption of the hon. Member more plainly indicates the utter hopelessness of his case; because is he or this House to decide what is the meaning of the Crofters' Act as between man and man? Is this House to be turned into a Court of Justice? If that is to come about, God forbid that any of us should be living. If this House is to decide upon ex parte statements and upon stories told, and is to decide the meaning of its own Acts of Parliament, it is a thing never heard of in any civilized country; and the hon. Member, whose extreme anxiety is to bring his friends to a state of real civilization, is teaching them deliberately, though not intentionally, to go against the first principle of civilization, which is that the Courts of the country have a duty to decide what the law is, and that no Parliament can interfere with them in that decision. Hon. Members opposite are very fond of referring to the Constitution of America; but there is no place in which it is more firmly and clearly laid down that the Courts of Law are to decide what the law is. If it turns out to be a 1624 bad law or badly made, this House may be asked to alter it; but the House will not be encouraged to alter the law by hon. Members teaching that the way to get it altered is to resist the operation of the Civil Courts. A great deal has been said also about the system of the Sheriffs' Courts; and the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow told us that it was a bad system. It has not been found so in Scotland.
§ DR. CAMERON
I beg pardon again. What I said was that it was a bad system that the Judge of the county in whose Court the cases were to be tried should act as the arrester, accuser, and hunter-up of evidence.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
That is what I said. The hon. Member said it was a bad system for the country. Well, it has not proved a bad system. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members may say "Oh;" but where will they find in the history of our country a complaint of its being a bad system until now? It is all very well to complain of a particular system mixed up with an attack upon a particular individual who happens to be one of the officials of the system. But where will you find, throughout the length and breadth of the world, a system that works better than our system of criminal investigation? The investigator in all these cases—and the hon. Member knows it—has nothing to do as to deciding the where or how they are to be tried. The hon. Member knows as well as I do, that in every case of criminal investigation which comes before the Sheriff, he does not decide how the case is to be tried, or the Court in which it is to be tried. Every case, as the hon. Member well knows, after the investigations have been made, is sent to the Crown Office in Edinburgh, and I and my Colleagues there take the responsibility of deciding in what Court the case is to be tried. In so far as the investigations are concerned, the Sheriff is simply and solely an administrative official. He is simply making investigations to discover what witnesses shall say on the subject in order to report. Is there anything bad in that system? Can the hon. Member point to anything in the administration of justice which has occurred in Skye or Tiree, during the time that these cases have been happening, which shows that the system is a bad one? I know of none; and when 1625 am accused of having an irresponsible power entrusted to me and my assistants, it is extremely strange that no complaint on that matter has ever reached me from any hon. Member before it reached me in this House. But the statements of the hon. Member from beginning to end are the best refutation of what he said. They are all based upon small points got from reports in newspapers, and from excited gentlemen like the Rev. Mr. Cruickshank at the meeting that has been referred to, and who used very strong and very unjustifiable language—language that can never do any good in the administration of this or any other country. Then hon. Members sit by at meetings in the Highlands where gentlemen get up and say that if a certain Sheriff had done a particular thing to them, as he had done to somebody else, they would have sent him down reeking hot to hell. Expressions of that kind are received with loud applause, and no single Member of Parliament gets up to make a protest against it.
§ DR. CLARK
May I inform the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I was in the chair at the meeting, and deny that at the whole of the conference at Bonar Bridge any such statement, or anything approaching it, was used by any speaker there. I say that the insinuation is perfectly untrue so far as the Bonar Bridge convention is concerned.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I am extremely glad to hear it. It is only a strong indication of how foolish it is of hon. Members like myself and others believing all that we see in the newspapers. I was not aware that my hon. Friend was at the meeting, else I should not have quoted that expression without asking him beforehand if it was made. But there was a meeting held at Bonar Bridge, and pretty strong things were said there against the administration of justice; and I presume the chairman of the meeting will not be inclined to demur, when I venture to tell that chairman and the other members who spoke thus of the administration of justice that that is not the way to get anything which is wrong in the administra- 1626 tion of justice put right, and it is not the way to increase the respect of those, who know the administration of justice in this country a good deal more than they do, for the opinions that they hold. Upon all this stuff we are asked to grant another Government inquiry, I suppose by Royal Commission. We all know perfectly well that if I, under the authority of the Government, were to stand hero and say that we were about to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into these matters it would be received with loud laughter. When we were last in Office there was nothing that was more consistently thrown in our teeth than that we were a Government of Royal Commissions. But what would this Commission of Inquiry have to do? Is it to inquire whether the statements made by the hon. Member for Ross-shire, and whether the statement made about the administration of justice by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, along with his friend, Mr. Cruickshank, were correct? If that is the object of the investigation, then the investigation is not in the least degree called for, because the Government know already that these statements are not facts. There can be no use of an inquiry, unless it is to be followed by action on the part of the Government. There can be no use for inquiry in the case of gentlemen who know all about it already. There can be no conceivable use for an inquiry, if it is based on the idea that the Government are to interfere with the operation of the Law Courts of the country. Something has been said to-night about the proceedings of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and about his using pressure upon the landlords not to be hard upon the tenants, and we were asked why we did not take the same course. I do not think the way the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been treated in the House this Session can be any encouragement to us to take a similar course. There is no question about it. It is not the duty of the Executivo—there is no obligation upon them—to be making inquiries into the details of particular cases. If details of particular cases come to their knowledge in which they can convey these details to the landlord, and endeavour to get him to exercise kindness to his tenants, they may do so if they like. But when a question comes up whether a land- 1627 lord or a tenant, or anybody else, has gone to a Court of the country and got a summons, for the purpose of bringing the matter into Court to be discussed there, this Government, and no responsible Government, could ever dream of taking steps by their own action to interfere with that proceeding; on the contrary, they would know it to be their absolute duty, by all the powers at their command, to prevent the summons of that local Court from being refused in service by the party to whom it is presented. Further, hon. Members want an inquiry into the administration of justice in Scotland. [An hon. MEMBER: The Highlands.] Well, the Highlands. The Government are not going to accede to that request. The Government themselves are not only aware of the facts in regard to the state of the country; but they are also aware of the facts as to the administration of justice. And there is no need for any inquiry; because the Government have already satisfied themselves that they have no action to take beyond what they have taken already. But this I want hon. Members to understand—that it is in vain to appeal to us by saying, as the hon. Member for the College Division said—"You spend a large sum of public money and get very small return for it." In the first place, I say that does not apply to the case of the expedition to Skye, because I fancy the rates which were in arrear at the time that expedition entered the county were £3,130 15s., of which there only remained due when the expedition left the island £60 15s., and the proportion in which these sums were due was £1,769 due by the landlords, and £1,365 15s. due by the tenants. [Dr. CLARK: The crofters.] Well, the crofters. The law lays down that the crofter is just a tenant. But they were not all crofters that were in arrear. That is the result of the expedition as regards rates. The result of the expedition as regards rents was that only in a small proportion did the landlords take advantage of the expedition being there to proceed in the service of summonses for rents; and in almost all cases they have succeeded in making a settlement with their crofters, some of the settlements being final, and some of them being dependent upon the results of the Crofters' Commission. That expedition—I do not care what it 1628 cost—established this—which my right hon. and learned Friend's expedition in the previous Government established also—that we have not yet got a responsible Government in this country that will hesitate to give all the power of the law, at whatever expense it may be, to prevent the diligence of the Courts of Justice being defeated by lawless people. And we were certain—and I think my right hon. and learned Friend will agree with me—that neither of these expeditions would ever have been necessary, if it had not been that ignorant and ill-informed people, egged on by others, took courses which could only lead to establishing anarchy, and which could never lead to securing any satisfactory results to themselves or to others.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he was much disappointed at the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, who had not touched upon one-third of the case presented by his hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), but replied instead to newspaper reports made outside. Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman now refused them a Committee of Inquiry, the probability was that he might yet be glad to consent to grant one. He (Dr. Clark) might call his attention to the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Predecessor refused an inquiry into the condition of things in the Highlands; but six months afterwards he was glad to issue a Royal Commission to inquire, and that Commission substantiated every assertion that was made by those who took the crofters' side. Then facts were denied; inquiry was refused; and then, when lawless acts occurred, they were glad to grant an inquiry; and then the jury of landlords admitted that all their facts were true. Now, in the Report of that Commission—which was only to inquire into the condition of the Land Law—there was a special paragraph regarding the administration of justice in the Highlands; and amendments were suggested in the mode of administering justice in the Highlands. That Royal Commission not only took up the question of the condition of the crofters and the laws affecting the tenure of land, but they put a special paragraph in their Report regarding the reforms wanted in the administration of the law in Scotland. It was, therefore, quite plain that 1629 they were not now raising the question for the first time. He thought that in Scotland the powers given to Public Prosecutors and Crown officials were greater than they ought to possess. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had scarcely alluded to the case of Skye, which was the most important one brought forward by the Mover of the Amendment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman paid more attention to the case of Tiree, because he thought it was one that would tell against them. In regard to Tiree, he (Dr. Clark) would frankly admit that the men broke the law, though they did so under great provocation; but still the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not fairly represent the condition of things in that island. During the last 40 years there had been a great many evictions.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
inquired whether the hon. Member meant evictions for the non-payment of rent?
§ DR. CLARK
replied that he did. There had been cruel evictions of the worst possible kind; and on that point he would refer the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the Report of the Royal Commission, where he would find that during the time the present noble Duke had held the islands evictions of the most cruel character—unequalled even in Ireland—had occurred. A branch of the Land Law Reform Association was established in Tiree, and was presided over by a local agitator. When a farm became vacant, as the district was so congested, the crofters wished that that farm should be obtained for enlargement of their holdings; and, acting under their leader's advice, they agreed that no individual should personally make a tender for the farm, but that the Duke should be asked to give it for the good of the entire crofting community. Their leader, knowing that no personal application would be made by the crofters, made a personal application to the Duke for the farm; and in spite of the fact that he and his brother had three farms already, he got this new one, although the crofting population were starving owing to the congestion, and their children growing up under conditions which led to disease and premature death. When the people found they had been betrayed 1630 by the man who acted as their leader they felt indignant, and endeavoured to prevent him getting into the farm. They took illegal action, the result being that the Commission was sent, and two men were committed to prison. Mr. Angus Campbell certainly stated at Glasgow that some of the witnesses were privately informed that they would be made defendants. He said the prosecutor told him so, and this was one of the allegations which they desired to have investigated. It was not at all to the credit of the Duke that he aided and abetted that man in getting this additional farm, considering the condition in which the crofting population was situated. The result of the illegal action on the part of the people was the expedition to the island; and the imprisonment of two men because they were supposed to be local leaders and aiders and abettors. There was no doubt that in the Highlands there was a feeling that they were not always fairly treated by the Lowlanders, who did not like the Highlanders, as occasionally they became competitors in the labour market and accepted smaller wages. That feeling existed, whether there was any justification for it or not. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had ignored the case as regarded Skye. He(Dr. Clark) contended that the expedition which was sent to Skye caused all the trouble, and that the Parochial Boards should have put their ordinary powers in force. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been wise he would have requested the Crofter Commission to go to Skye. The high-handed proceedings of Sheriff Ivory, he thought, resembled those of a Turkish Pasha in Macedonia, who vented his personal spite and used his power for personal purposes. There were some men in Skye whom Sheriff Ivory did not like. In particular, he would refer to the case of a minister of the Established Church, the Rev. Mr. M'Callum, who, although a State-paid parson, was a leader of the people. On various occasions that gentleman had come into collision with the Sheriff, who sent him to prison on some pretence. They wanted to know what the pretence was, for the Lord Advocate had refused to give them that information. Then, his friend, Mr. John Macpherson, was also a local leader. On different occasions the Sheriff had expressed his desire 1631 to get him into his power. He did so, and kept him in prison from one Saturday night until another. John Macpherson was taken in a gunboat to Portree. He was not allowed to communicate with any of his friends, and on Saturday night he was turned away to walk home, a distance of 34 miles. Mr. Macpherson had never been tried, and never would be tried; and what he (Dr. Clark) begged and prayed of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was that these men should be tried. He and his Colleagues all declared that they had no confidence in the administration of justice in the Highlands. Every Crofter Member except one would make that statement. When they had persons administering the law who were servants of the landlords and the Crown, and who had been defeated politically, he thought there was a right to claim an inquiry. He asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether it was legal to poind babies in Scotland? If a man came to his house, assaulted his wife, and poinded his baby, he would give him something more than law—he would knock him down at his feet. Blaming the Government for refusing an inquiry, he would warn them that they were simply playing into the hands of a small dynamite faction which existed in the Highlands. ["Name!"] They were not crofters. This small dynamite section in the Highlands advocated the destruction of grouse as a protest against the illegal official outrages that had been committed by Sheriffs and Sheriffs' officers. He hoped the Government would consider this question more seriously than it had hitherto done. He (Dr. Clark) tried some time ago to show that in the Highlands there was a dangerous class of people; but the Government took no action, and, indeed, turned round and tried to throw the blame upon himself and his friends. Up to the present time he and his friends had been able to prevent any outrages in the Highlands of Scotland. All those which had been committed had come from the landlords and their agents. It might, however, be that a change would take place, and that this agitation would be stained by crime; and if it was the responsibility would rest on Her Majesty's Government for refusing this reasonable inquiry. The result of sending crofters to prison was to make them 1632 good land agitators. As the Lord Advocate had been thrown over by the Government before, he hoped he would be thrown over again now, and that in the interests of justice the inquiry demanded should be granted.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) must, so far as its terms went, be regarded as referring to the general question of the administration of the law in Skye and the Highlands, and he (Mr. Haldane) would, therefore, vote for it; but if it were to be interpreted as a Vote of Censure upon the present or the late Governments he should decline to support it. It had been urged that, where the local authority had failed to do its duty as a local Executive, the general Executive of the country ought not to interfere. In his view, that failure, whatever it amounted to, could afford no such reason. The duty of the Executive was to enforce the law as declared by Parliament, whatever that law might be. The Executive had no discretion in the matter. He dissented from the apparent opinion to the contrary, when it was advanced by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, and in so far as it was put forward by the present Chief Secretary; and he dissented from it most emphatically when it was put forward as an opinion maintained and upheld with regard to recent events in Skye. The second point that appeared to him to be plain was that it was impossible, at the date at which the recent expedition was sent to Skye, to enforce the law by the ordinary means. If it were necessary to bring testimony in aid of this, he could call in the testimony of no less distinguished a person than John Macpherson, of Glendale, who had admitted, during the expedition, that, but for the military, nothing belonging to the crofters would have been carried off. In that state of affairs, it appeared to him beyond all doubt that it was the duty of the Government to take active steps to have the law put in force, though those steps might, in ordinary circumstances, have been deemed unreasonable; and it further appeared to him, as established by the facts, that the expedition was not an unreasonable one. Yet it appeared to be put forward, as a charge against the judicial functionaries of the island, that they ought to have put off 1633 the execution of decrees until the Crofters' Act, which was about to come into operation, should have done so. That was a proposition from which he wholly and entirely dissented. The local judicature had no discretion in the matter. He thought it was a grave slip in the Crofters' Act that it was not framed in such a fashion as to be put in operation to defeat the exaction of the last pound of flesh on the part of some of the landlords of Skye. As he had stated at the outset, he would vote against the Amendment if it were a Vote of Censure. He thought that neither the late Government or the present one was deserving of censure. It appeared to him that they only took steps to enforce the law, steps which might be clumsy and unreasonable in ordinary circumstances, and the nature of which might have been, and probably was, due to the fact that the law, as it existed in Skye, did not sufficiently provide for the enforcement of decrees; but, at any rate, they were steps which were necessary to be taken, and which it was the duty of the Executive to take. So far as he could judge, the foolish proceeding of issuing medals was not the only foolish act done by Sheriff Ivory in the course of his career there; but he believed him to be a man who honestly strove to do his duty; and he did not think those were times in which they should be ready lightly to cast Votes of Consure on the Executive and judicial officers of the Government who were only trying to carry out the functions committed to them by law. The state of the crofters was, no doubt, an unenviable one. The conditions of life had greatly altered for them. They belonged to a race the time for which had long passed; and it was only natural that they should feel discontented when they looked around and saw the more favourable conditions under which other classes were living. The Crofters' Act doubtless had done some good, but it had not met all the exigencies of the case; and, consequently, there were still a large number of crofters living in a state which sorely needed amelioration. The question before the House was not that of a Vote of Censure; but the terms of the Amendment were such that they might be interpreted to mean that the general system of the administration of justice 1634 in the Highlands, and in Skye in particular, was not satisfactory. He did not think it could be contended by anyone that it was satisfactory; and he was fully persuaded that there was room for inquiry as to whether amendment might not be made. It seemed to him, for instance, that it was not desirable that the functions of a Judge should be united in the same individual with other duties, and an alteration should certainly be made in that respect. It was because he believed the existing state of things, not merely in Skye, but throughout a considerable portion of the Highlands, was by no means satisfactory, that he was prepared to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron).
§ MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, &c.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to take part in this debate because I believe the issue is a very serious one. Certainly, I do not rise for the purpose of making any attack upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald), or upon any judicial officer in Scotland; but merely to invite an inquiry into the matters which have been raised, and which have not as yet been answered. I must congratulate the Lord Advocate upon the great ability and humour of his speech. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was admirable from several points of view; but it was specially admirable for this—that in it he answered and defended points which were not attacked. The speech which I thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman set out to answer was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), in which charges were made certainly deserving an answer; but the Lord Advocate devoted a great part of his speech to answering the case with respect to Tiree, which is but of secondary importance, though I admit it had been referred to in the course of the debate. He did not answer the question of the hon. Member (Dr. Cameron) as to how much was due by the crofters. Was it because the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not think the point is of sufficient importance to make inquiry respecting it, or was it because, having inquired into the facts, he found they will not bear the light? How is it that up to the present time we do not know how much 1635 was due from the crofters when this military expedition was sent?
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
There is no means of ascertaining how much was owing by the crofters.
§ MR. SHIRESS WILL
Surely there is such a thing as a rate book, from which the information can be got. With the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour), I assert he is wrong in saying there is no means of finding what was due by the crofters. Having been appealed to to say how much was due, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate has given figures. He says that £1,769 was due by landlords, and £1,369 by "tenants;" and so he mixes up, or rather his subordinates who get information for him mix up, the amount which is due by tenants of large holdings with the amount due by the crofters. Now, there is a practice in America which is known as jerrymandering. I believe it was practised in France during the last Empire; and what has been done in this case—namely, the mixing up in the figures the large tenants with the crofters, by which it appears that a large sum was due—is really a jerrymandering resorted to in order to justify the expedition. But what did the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate himself say as to the necessity of the expedition? He said the expedition had been sent because the crofters had been induced to withhold the payment of their rates by the advice given by some Members of this House. I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether the landlords were not owing the larger sum? Was it any Member of this House who dissuaded the landlords from paying their rates? One thing we wanted to know from the Lord Advocate in answer to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Cameron) the Mover of the Amendment is this—How came this expedition to be sent; who authorized it and was responsible for it; and upon what facts did it proceed? Surely the authority who ordered the expedition must have been satisfied that the crofters had been withholding the payment of their rates. Surely that authority must have been satisfied as to the amount due before they sent the expedition. Now, Sir, the expedition was sent; but just before it arrived the landlords undoubtedly paid 1636 their part. Who was the authority to decide whether or not the expedition which was justifiably sent in the first instance was any longer justified after the landlords had paid the larger amount of that which was due? According to the figures given by the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) the amount then due by the crofters was only some £600 at the outside. Did no one exercise his judgment as to whether the expedition should be further continued upon that state of facts? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate takes credit for the fact that only £60 of the whole amount which was due remains unpaid. But how was recovery obtained from the crofters? Why, by taking the poultry of some, by taking the peat stacks of others—in fact, by depriving these people, who were in the direst poverty, of the last sticks they had by them. The money was paid, but under circumstances which I do respectfully think require some inquiry. But how was it that this authority, after sending forth this military expedition, did not make themselves acquainted with this fact, that of the amount that appeared upon the rate books to be due a large portion was really not due, at all events could not be recovered, because some of the people were dead, others were receiving parochial relief, and some were abroad—one man had been abroad three years? How was it that no one inquired into these things, and that the rate book or the statement of some person was accepted as final and sufficient authority upon this matter? But the matter does not rest there. If the expedition were legal in its origin, how did it proceed? What were the warrants of distress that were sent to be served upon the people? Let me remind the House of what takes place in England. In England, if people are in arrear with their poor rates a large number are gathered together and put in one warrant of distress. A complaint is then made embracing 10, 20, 50, or 100 people or more; and then under the 12 Vict., passed in 1849, a particular summons is issued to each person calling upon him to show cause why a warrant of distress should not issue against him and he had thus an opportunity of being heard. If such a course had been followed in this case there would have 1637 been no warrant sent against persons who were dead, against persons who had paid, against those who had counter claims for work done for the Parochial Board, although I admit in form there is no legal set-off in that matter. If that is not the law of Scotland probably the Lord Advocate will explain; but certainly that is the law of England. Well, thou, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate makes an attack upon my hon. Friend the Member for Ross (Dr. McDonald), which I cannot allow to pass unnoticed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said the hon. Member for Ross had declared that he had advised some persons not to pay rent under certain circumstances. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is totally mistaken in supposing that my hon. Friend (Dr. McDonald) had advised tenants generally not to pay rent. [The LORD ADVOCATE dissented.] I am quite ready to accept the disclaimer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but he will allow me to repeat—in case it should be misunderstood by others—what I understood the hon. Member for Ross (Dr. McDonald) to assert, and the only thing I understood him to assert, was this—that the Crofters' Commission being charged with the power of examining into the arrears of rent, and of saying whether they should be paid in whole, or in part, or at all, the landlords—in anticipation of their coming, which would be in a very few weeks—brought actions in the Sheriff's Court to recover the arrears, and took steps to enforce the decrees. The Crofters' Commission had authority to deal with the payment of the money, and it was pending the decision of the Commissioners that my hon. Friend recommended the withholding of payment. And now I should like to say one word with reference to what the Lord Advocate said as to the change of venue. It is perfectly true that the Court of Justiciary is the highest Criminal Court in Scotland, and that the best lawyers and the best legal practitioners are to be found there. But, Sir, what was this crime? What was its magnitude? Not a blow struck, not a stone thrown, not a stick applied to the head or body of any human being, simply the assembling of a few women and other people, due to the excitement of the time, provoked very largely by the presence of the mili- 1638 tary. In one case the offence was held to be deforcement; in another it was held not to be deforcement. But, while I do not dispute the righteousness of the verdict as to deforcement, what was it after all? It was a crime which could well have been tried by the Judges who presided in the Sheriff Courts in Scotland. What is said is this—and I do not quite understand the Lord Advocate has answered it—that instead of taking these people up to Edinburgh, where their witnesses could not follow them on account of the expense, they might have tried the prisoners in one or other of two places—at Portree in the Island of Skye, or at Inverness. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say that a fair trial would not have been had in Inverness? Does he mean to say that a jury in Inverness—
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD)
What I meant was that no Court could be held there until the month of April.
§ MR. SHIRESS WILL
If I be wrong I should be glad to be corrected. What I assert is that these prisoners might have been tried in one of two places out of Edinburgh—they might have been tried in Portree with or without a jury; they might have been tried in Inverness with or without a jury, by the Sheriff or by his substitute. Very well, then; here we have the fact that this learned Sheriff, against whom I say nothing—I am not going to condemn a judicial officer until the facts are inquired into; all I do is to join my hon. Friends in asking for an inquiry into the circumstances—here we have the fact that either this Sheriff might have tried the prisoners with or without a jury—if he had any hesitation he could readily have had a jury—or he might have obtained the services of the Sheriff Substitute, who is always a gentleman of judicial experience and legal training. Instead of that, the prisoners are taken to Edinburgh, and our case is that these people were so poor that their sticks were taken and their peat stacks were sold in order to meet the payment of the rates, and that they were totally unable to take any witnesses to Edinburgh. Unless I am misinformed, no witnesses were taken up from Skye, and the suggestion is that the change of venue to Edinburgh was a harsh proceeding. I am quite certain of this—that the right hon. and learned 1639 Gentleman the Lord Advocate would not intentionally do anything that was harsh or unkind, and I make no attack upon him personally. Now, the Lord Advocate addressed to my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) a great many observations with regard to the Scotch law; and perhaps I may, in a few words, tell the House what my reading of the law in Scotland upon this important point is. In England, if a man is suspected of any offence, he is served with a summons—by that summons he is taken before a magistrate and the case is inquired into. The accused may be let out on bail, and he has every opportunity of being defended and of clearing himself. But in Scotland, if one of these crofters is suspected—of deforcement for instance—he is immediately arrested, and then taken a distance of from 20 to 30 miles. He is taken to Portree, for instance, and there examined by the Sheriff or magistrate. The Sheriff also examines the accused's witnesses. I am not complaining of that system, and I do not understand my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) to complain of it; but what we ask the House to bear in mind is that that is a system which is apt to work harshly unless its operation is closely watched and jealously guarded. That is the sole extent of the charge made. I should like to give two or three illustrations of what did happen. It was supposed that somebody or other had put stones in the road to upset the Sheriff's officer when driving along. For the sake of my argument I will assume that supposition to be true. The law has to be vindicated. Two boys were seen in the neighbourhood, and they were at once suspected and arrested. The boys were carried off in what is described as a machine to Portree, a distance of 20 or 30 miles—I forget which. And what happened there? They were positively held to bail in £15 each. These poor fellows had not 15s. or 15d. each; but, fortunately, the landlord of the hotel at Portree became bail for them. The nest day, or very shortly afterwards, three other boys were arrested by the Sheriff's officer, or rather by the constables with him, and they were also taken to Portree. These prisoners were kept at Portree some time, and they were told they might go home. There was no evidence against them, yet they were arrested and kept imprisoned. I am stating the case within the facts, be- 1640 cause I do not wish to exaggerate in the slightest degree. These boys were taken up absolutely without any evidence at all to justify their arrest; they were carried 30 miles, kept in gaol some time, and then were told they might go home. I am told that in the case of the arrest of the first two boys there was no warrant; but for that I cannot vouch. Then there is the case of the poor woman, Mrs. Macmillan. She was arrested by the Sheriff's officer who has been so often mentioned in the course of the debate. She came down to the road, whereupon the officer said—"Oh, this is one of the deforcers." First of all she was taken out to the gunboat Seahorse, kept there some time, then conveyed to Portree, and ultimately carried up to Edinburgh upon the charge of deforcement. She was discharged without even being put on her trial, and she has been so ill in Edinburgh that I am told by an hon. Member sitting on this side of the House that he has only lately seat her a small contribution towards her subsistence. This is another instance in which I say the practice or the machinery of the law in Scotland, though I do not complain of it as bad, is machinery which requires to be closely watched and guarded, or else you have cases of injustice such as I have mentioned constantly recurring. Mr. Speaker, there is one other matter which I wish, with your permission, to refer to. It is said that a midnight raid was made. Why was the dead of night chosen for the search? The men could be seen better in the day; and as to finding them in the night, it is well known they were not found, though searches were repeatedly made. This, however, is not the matter I wish to refer to. The point I desire to mention deserves inquiry, and I should be glad if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) will give me his attention, for I feel sure he will not sanction what is said to have taken place in this instance. A search warrant, in order to be legal and justifiable, must be issued against an individual or individuals by their individual names and for individual offences. It cannot be a general searel warrant. Everyman's house is his castle and it cannot be entered unless the search warrant is lawful. Now, what happened in this case was this—the officers of the law, with a search warrant for some 1641 person or persons, proceeded to search every house in the village. Anything more unusual—I will not characterize it by any harsh word—cannot be imagined. It is said you are justified in breaking into the house of a neighbour to search for some person. That I do not deny. If you have reasonable cause to believe that a man is in his neighbour's house you may go in and take him. But for a body of policemen with a search warrant to begin with house No. 1 and go right through the village is certainly a circumstance which requires inquiry. I forgot to mention another instance of unlawful arrest. One day a poor cowherd was seen on the skyline. The officers were searching for deforcers. and I suppose there was no one else in sight, so they charged the cowherd and captured him. Of what they did with him I happen to have a record. They carried him, of course, to Portree and kept him in prison for four days. His offence was nominally deforcement; but, in point of fact, it was that he was seen on the skyline and had not run away. Upon his arrival at Portree, he was searched—possibly to see whether he had any weapons of deforcement, such as pitchforks, in his pockets—then they took off his shoes and put him in a bath. [Laughter.] I do not suppose that the prisoner or any Member of the House objects to a bath; but a prison bath is, no doubt, another matter. Well, after he had been kept in gaol at Portree for four days he was told he could go home. No charge was brought against him; and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate whether it was ever intended that any charge should be brought against him? I am sorry for having occupied so much of the time of the House; but I must say that whatever may be said about the agitation, whatever the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate may say about the Exeter Hall meeting, I shall not be deterred from taking, up to a certain point, a sympathetic part in asking not for a judgment of condemnation, but merely for an inquiry. I ask it on behalf of people who cannot ask it for themselves with the same facilities with which we can, because they are a small folk, a poor folk, and a distant folk; and because it is only by enlisting the sympathies of just men, amongst whom I include the Lord Advocate, that they can hope to get their grievances redressed.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Mr. Speaker, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) did me the honour to refer to me in the course of his speech, I may, perhaps, be allowed a word in explanation. The Lord Advocate referred to the meeting held in Exeter Hall—that is to say, in the small room, not in the great room, of Exeter Hall. As I understood, there were a few friends gathered together to express sympathy with the crofters; and, so long as I was at the meeting, there was certainly no sound uttered that could be considered as disloyal to Her Majesty. True, I was not present during the whole of the proceedings; but, so far as I have been informed, nothing took place at all like what has been mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. With regard to the remarks he ascribed to me, I may say I did say—and I repeat here fearlessly—that the agitation amongst the crofters is but one small part of a very large question—I have said the same thing before in this House—and I added that I did trust the excitement caused by the sufferings of the crofters would result in a reversal not only of the crofters' wrongs, but also of the wrongs of all similarly situated. I did say I thought that down to a very recent period only the rights and privileges of the landlords had been considered, while the needs, the sufferings, and the wrongs of the tenants of all grades, but especially of the smallest tenants, had been cruelly neglected. I did say I thought I saw signs of a peaceful revolution which would change all that, and in the hope of that revolution I rejoiced. I cannot help believing that the debate which has been raised this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) will aid towards that peaceful revolution. I do not think that the criticisms, good humoured and pointed as they were, of the Lord Advocate really touched the essence of the case that was presented by my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron). The Lord Advocate, like other Gentlemen speaking on the same side, was very strong indeed about law and order. Law and order are continually mentioned together, as though they are identical, or as though they were inextricably connected; but a state of things does often arise in which the law is the most fruitful cause 1643 of disorder, and in which, until the law is changed, you never can have order. The only remedy for such a state of things, apparently, in the opinion of the Lord Advocate, is to enforce the law continually, whatever the consequences may be. He spoke of hon. Gentlemen coming to this House with notions that he regarded as groundless; he spoke of the justice which Members of this House imagined for themselves, instead of the law of the land. Well, Sir, unless there is possible a justice higher than the law—a justice more perfect than anything that is administered by the law at the present time—I hardly suppose that many of us would take the trouble to come to this House. It is for the purpose of securing a higher justice than that which is furnished by the law, as it at present exists, that I suppose we come here to try in our small way to be legislators. The fact is that if you think of nothing but law you often fail altogether to do practical justice. We are told by ancient authority that the law is good if used lawfully; but the same authority adds that the law is not for the righteous, but for the ungodly and for sinners. Now, it does often happen, not only in the Highlands of Scotland, but in other parts of the United Kingdom, that the law presses most hardly not upon the wicked, not upon criminals, but upon good, peaceable, industrious, and thrifty citizens, who only wish to live their lives in peace, and have a fair opportunity of making a livelihood. It is in such cases that the law is found to irritate, and to cause our peaceable and virtuous citizens to revolt. Has it not been found to be so in Skye, in Tiree, and other parts of the Highlands? Are not the men who have been dragged up as criminals known to be men of the most excellent character? Are they not sympathized with by all the men of excellent character around them? If that is the case, I think it is, so far as it goes, very strong evidence that an inquiry is needed to show why it is that discontent and irritation arise. I may refer to certain words—most suggestive and impressive words—which appear towards the end of the Report of the Crofters' Commission, and which were approved by the Chairman and the majority of the Members of the Commission. After referring to the disorders which had taken place in the Highlands pre- 1644 vious to the appointment of the Commission, and after urging, as gentlemen in their position might be expected to do, that the law must, if possible, be maintained, the Commissioners went on to say—But collisions between proprietary rights and popular demands are to be deprecated, for they leave behind them lasting traces of resentment and alienation. The mere vindication of authority and repression of resistance would not establish the relations of mutual confidence between landlord and tenant, in the absence of which the country would not be truly at peace, and all our inquiries and counsels would be expended in vain.This Report was, of course, written some time before the Crofters' Act was passed. It was in the hope that the aspirations of Her Majesty's Commissioners might be realized, and that a genuine peace might be established, that a number of us strove most earnestly to obtain the enactment of a more thorough-going measure than that which was passed. We considered that the measure introduced by the Government would never meet the case, and experience has proved that that is so. But not only has the measure itself proved to be insufficient, but the spirit in which it was administered—at any rate in Skye at the beginning of the period when it was expected to come into operation—was most disappointing, and was, I consider, most irritating to the people of Skye and the Highlands and Islands around. Take, for instance, the proceedings at the Sheriff Court in Portree towards the beginning of November—November 10 or 11 was, I think, the date. They are reported in The Glasgow Herald, a newspaper not very favourable to the cause of the crofters. There we find that the Sheriff, against whom personally I wish to say nothing whatever, presided. I deprecate—I lament—the violent language that has been used about an official holding so high a position, and I shall be the very last to say anything against him. I speak of him simply as the embodiment of the policy of the Government, as which, I suppose, he may fairly be regarded—at any rate, in the temper in which he administered the law. He asked repeatedly, and, as I cannot help thinking, in a somewhat irritating manner, whether the Commissioners were constituted a Court? He refused to allow that it was possible for the crofters to appeal to the Commissioners, and he 1645 asserted that the Commissioners could not possibly override the Courts of the Realm, in which, for all I know, not being a lawyer, he may be perfectly correct. But I do not think that was the tone in which he ought to have spoken to people who were suffering so acutely as the people before him were—people who were at their wits' end to find a meal. When the advocate of one of the defenders said his client was unable to pay the arrears, the Sheriff asked, "Has he no cattle?" and all the time there was an Act on the verge of coming into actual operation to deal with precisely such cases, so as to avoid the hardship involved in depriving a struggling tenant of his little capital. Moreover, the Sheriff went on to say—I suppose we all know how the arrears have arisen. I think any person who reads the newspapers must know the reason. The arrears have all arisen since 1884, particularly since a certain speech was made in Parliament stating that no assistance would be allowed to collect arrears of rent. Ever since then non-payment of rent has been on the increase all over the island; but the question really for consideration is this—the proprietors have made a reasonable proposal, and I think you should be prepared to state whether you think it a reasonable proposal, and whether you will recommend your client to adopt it. It seems to me a reasonable proposal on the part of Lord Macdonald, and I think you should consider twice before you decline to accept it.I do not think that is the way in which we have a right to expect the law to be administered; and then, considering the amount of reductions that have been made where the Crofters' Act has come into operation, the case of these poor people who were refused justice in the Sheriff's Court appears to me all the harder. We were told in this House not long ago that we on this side know no difference between good government and bad government, except that good government is government which is conducted and founded upon the assent and consent of the people; that if a Government is alien to the sympathies, the wishes, and the wants of the people, that Government breeds discontent, which, in its turn, leads to illegal conduct and illegitimate proceedings. This language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) seems to me to be especially applicable to the case of the suffering people of Skye and the islands around. We cannot be maintaining a just system of law if we 1646 find that its operation causes bitterness and discontent and indignation on every hand amongst those upon whom it is brought to bear; and, therefore, even if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) is able to show that, point by point, the law has been literally and drily carried out, I do wish the Government would show a little kindly consideration towards people who have been disappointed in the operation of the reforms that they desired, and would offer some kind of inquiry to see whether the people have any just cause of complaint.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) made some reference to a meeting which was held in Exeter Hall. I was chairman of the meeting, and perhaps it is as well I should state exactly what occurred. The Lord Advocate seems to think that because only 300 people were present the meeting was not a large one. There are several halls in Exeter Hall, and we were in one of the small halls. The meeting was an open one. The Memorial to Her Majesty was moved by Miss Helen Taylor, a lady entitled to every consideration, and, although an amendment was proposed, the resolution was carried. So far as I am aware, nothing occurred which could be interpreted as in any way disrespectful to the Queen. My hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) has, in a most able speech, asked for an inquiry into the administration of justice in the Highlands. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) has made no reply to the distinct allegations which have been made. We want to know why the military expedition went to Skye? All we know is this—that a combination—to use a mild term—existed on the part of many landlords in the Outer Hebrides not to pay their rates. Early in 1886 the landlords refused to pay their county rates, and at a later period they would not pay the local rates. Things were brought to a dead lock owing to the proceedings of the landlords. Now, what happened? A military expedition was sent for the alleged purpose of recovering rates, and not rents. There was nearly £5,000 of rates due in Skye at that time, of which 90 per cent was due by the landlords and by large 1647 tenants. The moment the expedition arrived the landlords and large farmers paid their rates. Now, if the island had been under proper administration instead of under that of Sheriff Ivory, the expedition would not have remained. All the suffering which has been described took place entirely in consequence of the action of the landlords. We make several demands. We make no attack upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate; but what we complain of is excess and abuse in the administration of the law. Before the Union of Scotland and England bail was fixed at a small sum; but at the close of the century it was enormously increased. To a nobleman the sum of £1,200 would be comparatively nothing; but to a crofter £60 is an enormous sum to be required for bail. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says it is the maximum; but I complain that the maximum was enforced in many cases; and the fact is that some of those who could not find this extreme bail were discharged or acquitted after being kept in prison for some time. I ask if no compensation is to be given to those persons? I say that the matters which have been detailed demand an investigation and reply on the part of the Government. With regard to Sheriff Ivory, I am convinced that as long as he continues to hold his present position there will be no peace in the district. Why can he not be removed or even promoted? I assure the Lord Advocate that the question of the administration of justice in the Highlands and Islands is one which we cannot allow to remain in its present position.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Hunter.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Before assenting to the adjournment of the debate I should wish to know from hon. Members opposite whether the debate will terminate to-day (Wednesday)?
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I point out that any understanding as to the termination of the debate must depend on the reply of the Government. The Scotch Members do not intend that it should terminate unless they have a 1648 satisfactory statement from the Government. They are determined to obtain some redress for the grievances brought forward.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.