§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]—[See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the task he had to discharge was an easy one, because he believed the cause he had to plead was a just one, and because he had invariably experienced great indulgence from all quarters of the House when he had addressed it. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite would admit that he had every reason to desire the happiness, 171 the peace, and the prosperity of his native land. He had the honour to be an Irishman, and he had the misfortune to be an Irish landlord. As an Irishman he wished to see Ireland peaceful and happy; and as an Irish landlord, from his desire to be in prosperous circumstances, the House would believe that it was to his interests that Ireland should be happy, rich, and contented. At present he was sorry to say that none of these adjectives applied to Ireland; the country was again in a crisis. Unhappily, they were accustomed to go through crises from time to time in Ireland, and now a crisis in that country had become the rule and not the exception. But crises in Ireland varied very considerably in their nature and character. There was the crisis of famine, due to climatic influences, perhaps the most terrible of all; then there was that crisis which appeared to be of a spontaneous character, and which manifested itself from time to time in crime and outrage, showing that under the surface of Irish society there was a smouldering fire ready at the first opportunity to break forth. But there was a third kind of crisis—a manufactured crisis, and that was the nature of the crisis from which Ireland was now suffering. Some years ago—in 1881 and 1882—there was a crisis of that description, and he then ventured to read to the House an extract from a speech made by the Leader of the Irish Party. That hon. Member was present in the House when it was read, and he did not then, and had not since contradicted it, and therefore the House might take it to be correct. In that speech, delivered in America before the present trouble arose in Ireland, the hon. Gentleman stated "that he intended to go over to England and make the situation a hot one for the English Government," although he (Colonel Saunderson) must admit that at the end of the speech he said he hoped the agitation would pass by without much bloodshed. Well, the hon. Gentleman went over to Ireland, and, with the assistance of able coadjutors, now probably sitting below the Gangway, he manufactured that crisis, and it was a matter of opinion whether there was much or little bloodshed on that occasion. Perhaps the House would allow him to read the butcher's bill of the Land League for two and a half years, in 172 order to show that the manufactured crisis did not pass in a bloodless manner. Prom January 1, 1880, to September 30, 1882, there were 57 agrarian murders in Ireland. That was carrying on the hon. Gentleman's special mode of argument with the Government of England. There were 145 attempts at murder during that period. He would call that a large amount of bloodshed. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and those who sympathized with them had the habit of describing such unfortunate crimes as "the desperate attempt of an unhappy people to vindicate their rights—the desperate remedy of revenge." If that were so, one would naturally expect that among the victims of those 57 murders in two-and-a-half years, and 145 attempts at murder, a large proportion would be found to be exterminating landlords. Nothing of the kind. Among the 57 murdered persons only four were landlords. The landlords came off very well. Equally so, among the 145 attempts at murder only 10 were made on landlords; and, therefore, the blood was not shed in order that the Irish people might take revenge upon their oppressors, but to establish permanently in Ireland the yoke of the Land League, a yoke which was still unbroken, and a yoke which, if Ireland was ever to be happy, rich, and contented, must be crushed and destroyed. This crisis was not unexpected. They had had a very fair warning. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), and other hon. Gentlemen opposite, made speeches in which they predicted that we were about to have a crisis in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was under the very painful impression that, owing to the fact that the weather was threatening and the crops indifferent, there would be poverty and its concomitant distress in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman must have been very well satisfied that, on that one occasion, he had not prophesied in vain. The weather last autumn was not absolutely faultless; but he (Colonel Saunderson) would take it that it was better than the average weather in Scotland. Then as to the crops, as to the agricultural resources of Ireland, they had not, on the whole, a bad season. The right hon. 173 Gentleman the Member for Derby founded his prognostication on two facts,—first, on the letter of Sir James Caird, which struck him very much as it struck everybody, and then on a letter he had seen written by a commercial person who had travelled in the South and West of Ireland, and who had in the month of September seen the stalks of the potato withered and brown. But if the right hon. Gentleman had consulted some more bucolic authority—for instance, the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere)—he would have learnt that in September, when the stalks got withered and brown, it was a sign, not of the death of the potato, but that it was ripe for gathering. Then came something more serious than either of those prognostications, a speech from the hon. Member for the City of Cork, in which he said he shuddered to contemplate the future before Ireland—there were to be evictions. Landlords, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, had two desires—one to get the utmost farthing out of their tenants, and the other to turn those tenants out and to level their houses. Persons knew but little about landlords if they imagined that they desired to enter into possession and to farm their own estates. But according to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who shuddered at the contemplation, there would probably be crime and outrage in Ireland. Well, he (Colonel Saunderson) was happy to say that, as far as crime and outrage were concerned, at the present moment there was comparatively little. Certainly, there were crimes occurring in Ireland of an unhappy agrarian character; but they were confined to one or two localities, and to him, as an Irishman, that was a matter of deep satisfaction. Then they had the crisis predicted by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who was perfectly certain there was going to be a crisis, and a prophet who could fulfil his own prophecy was always the most certain and successful at the present time. There were few Members in the House who could have forgotten the speech of the hon. Member last year. He (Colonel Saunderson) had listened to it with great attention, and to its conclusion with admiration. The end of it was almost still ringing in his ears. In that speech the hon. Member appeared to take up a challenge which 174 England had thrown down; he was going across to Ireland to show to Great Britain and the world that there was still some fight loft in the Irish race. He (Colonel Saunderson) said to himself, as he listened, that at last, after a course of centuries, we should see an Irish patriot on the war path. But what happened? What did those prophecies of future deeds of valour degenerate into? They would have to go to a town in the West of Ireland to see the result of the crisis manufactured by the hon. Member for East Mayo, a town on one side of which sat an agent, in his office, waiting patiently for his rents, which were never to appear; and at the other side of the town the hon. Member collecting those rents from the tenants as they passed by, and then getting up on his car—which, he believed, afterwards upset—with his pockets full of money, and himself filled with delight at having succeeded in becoming possessed of the landlords' money, which was to fight the enemies of the people and the National League—in short, that heroic patriot of the House of Commons, that eloquent Irishman, when he went over to Ireland, turned himself into a garnishee hero. The object which induced him (Colonel Saunderson) to trespass on the attention of the House was to try to get hon. Members on both sides to lay down clearly and distinctly what they believed the rights of property really meant. He maintained that, at the present moment, the question in Ireland was not between landlord and tenant—whether the landlord made too much money, and whether the tenant could not pay. The battle, in which they, the unfortunate Irish landlords, occupied the front rank, was whether the law of the land—that was to say the law of the Crown—or the law of the Laud League should be the law in Ireland. Was the Crown going to protect the rights of the landlords? They, the Irish landlords, up to the present, desired to remain under the law of the Crown, which admitted the rights of property. It had curtailed those rights; well, he did not object to that; but it established certain rights clearly and distinctly. Now, he wanted to know whether the House intended to sweep those rights away? Did it intend to permit the law of the League to be superior to the law of the Crown? The 175 law of the Crown prevented the landlords from tyrannizing over their tenants; and it laid down, by its Courts, certain conditions upon which, and upon which alone, the landlord could receive rents. The Irish tenant had rights possessed by no other tenant on the face of the earth. He (Colonel Saunderson) challenged hon. Members to go to America, their happy hunting-ground, to find out what the condition of the tenant was there. He did not mean to say that all landlords were good men. He supposed many of them were bad men. ["Oh, oh!"] Bad men were to be found everywhere but in the House of Commons. Was it because there were a few bad landlords in Ireland that the whole class of Irish landlords were to be swept into one category of condemnation? He should say he admired the astuteness and the ability of those who had designed the special mode of attack upon the landlords of Ireland involved by the Plan of Campaign.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
No; because he lived in Ulster. There was an organized attempt at the present moment to render the government of Ireland by the law of the land impossible, and one of the instruments to bring about that object was the Plan of Campaign. It was a plan preconceived, by whom he did not know, but carefully carried out with an object. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had denied that he was the author of it. That was stated in the course of an interview with the representative of a paper (The Pall Mall Gazette) that indulged in slight flights of imagination. The hon. Member, it was also stated—and he (Colonel Saunderson) was sorry to hear it—was suffering from a complication of diseases—whether political or personal he could not say. [Cries of "Order!" and "Shame!" from the Irish Benches.] Well, he only gave what appeared in the papers. He knew nothing about it; but, whoever conceived the Plan, he should give him credit for astuteness in mounting the law upon the most unpopular and weakest horse in the country. By it the law was to be upset, and the government of Ireland was to be rendered impossible. To show 176 that he did not exaggerate in that, and that the Plan had been long conceived, and had been deliberately carried out, he would ask the House to allow him to read extracts from two speeches delivered by the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. J. E. Redmond), who he supposed was in his place. [Cries of "No!"] Well, at least there was a Relative of his in his place, who was eminently capable of speaking for him. This was what the hon. Member for Wexford had said at the Chicago meeting—I assert here to-day that the government of Ireland by England is an impossibility, and I believe it to be our duty to make it so. Were our people tamely to submit to the yoke which has been once again placed on their necks they would be unworthy of the blood which they have inherited from their fathers, who preferred poverty to dishonour, and death to national slavery.Therefore, it had been decided at Chicago that the government of Ireland by the Crown was to be rendered impossible. On January 25 the hon. Member for Wexford, speaking in Ireland, made a speech in which he used the following words:—I do not believe that in the past 100 years of English rule in Ireland there was ever a time when the Irish people were more thoroughly disaffected, or at which the English Government was more thoroughly hated and despised by Irishmen, and rightly too. This Government that came into power with the boast that they would be firm and resolute have exhibited the most extraordinary cowardice and weakness. They have been confronted by the Irish people; in every step they have taken they have been thwarted, baffled, humiliated, and weakened. Why, their decrees are literally danced upon by the Irish people, their Proclamations from Dublin Castle are treated as waste paper. To-day the whole of the people of Ireland are against them.The latter extract showed that the Chicago policy was still carried out in Wexford. The hon. Member also reminded his hearers that he had said at Chicago—That the very laws of nature themselves would prevent the possibility of a peaceful winter in Ireland this winter.And it was a Plan of Campaign involving this principle that had more or less commended itself to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The Plan of Campaign was supposed to be intended to protect tenants who could not pay their rents from the greed of their landlords; but its effect had been to enable tenants who could but who would not pay 177 to keep their rents. [Home Rule cries of "No!" and cheers.] Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite cried "No!" but he would show them that he was right, out of the mouth of one of their own Leaders. On the 24th of January the hon. Member for East Mayo, speaking at Glenbeigh, said—I will show Mr. Roe, if he has any stomach for such work, men who can pay and will not pay, because I tell them not to pay. I will show him men who avow that they can pay and refuse to pay, because they are in the Plan of Campaign.Five or six years ago the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had manfully attacked and had crushed down the very organization which he had now taken under his protection. Then it had taken the form of a plan by violence; but violence was not found to pay, because it involved the possibility of being hanged, or of picking oakum, which were too disagreeable possibilities for Irish patriots to have to encounter. The Plan of Campaign was far superior to the "No Rent" Manifesto, because it prevented the landlords from getting the rents; it prevented the tenants from keeping it; and it poured it into the National till, the pockets of the League; and he imagined that after hon. Members had gone round collecting money which did not belong to them it was hardly to be doubted that, to some extent, somebody went shares in it. It had been said that the Plan of Campaign had not been put into force in Glenbeigh; and perhaps it had not been put into force directly, but it had undoubtedly been put into force indirectly, because it was quite in accordance with the Plan of Campaign that poor tenants should be evicted just before the re-assembling of Parliament in order that capital might be made out of the alleged rapacity of Irish landlords. [A Home Rule MEMBER: Exactly so.] So he imagined. The rapacity of the landlords in the Glenbeigh case might be judged of by the fact that there being six years' arrears of rent due by the tenants, amounting to £6,177, the landlord had offered to wipe out the whole debt if the tenants would pay a half-year's rent, amounting to £865. He had no personal acquaintance with the landlord in question; but he challenged hon. Members below the Gangway opposite to point out any landlord in England or Scotland who had 178 dealt more generously by their tenants. But there was better testimony than anything he could urge—that of the parish priest. He would call the attention of the House to the letter of the parish priest, the Rev. Thomas Quilter, to Colonel Turner, the landlord. The parish priest very naturally and very rightly had interfered on behalf of his people, and obtained what he looked upon as most generous and satisfactory terms from the landlords. Then the hon. Members for both East and West Kerry came and held a meeting in the locality on the 15th of November, and the arrangement was thrown to the winds. Then the parish priest, like an honest man, washed his hands of the whole concern. [Mr. T. C. HARRINGTON: He presided at the meeting which was held.] Yes; but he had previously written the following letter to Colonel Turner:—Glenbeigh, December 13, 1886.My dear Sir,—I regret that only 17 of the 70 tenants have sent their rents to-day to Mr. Roe. Though promising that they would accept the terms, they have withdrawn at the last moment from its fulfilment. You have done your own part, and General Buller has acted a kind-hearted part, and my Bishop his part; but let Mr. Roe now do his part with them. I think we have done all that could be done, and I shall never again, during my time in Glenbeigh, interfere between a landlord and his tenants. I have poor slaves who will not keep their word. Now let Mr. Roe, or any other agents in future, deal with Glenbeighans in any way he likes. Again thanking General Buller and yourself,I remain, &c,THOMAS QUILTER, P.P.In a previous Session he (Colonel Saunderson) ventured to point out that the Irish people were enslaved by a yoke which they could not break. ["Oh, oh!"] He maintained that, in view of these wretched tenants, who were held up as specimens of the Irish people, who refused to fulfil their engagements owing to the interference of hon. Members opposite, he had a right to say that the Irish people were enslaved. Did the House believe that Ireland would be a better country, better governed, and more prosperous, by handing her over to the men who had enslaved her? Looking, as he very naturally did, with very great anxiety at the demonstrations that their opponents made in this country, he must admit that he felt considerable satisfaction. He did not believe that 179 the cement was yet hardened down which joined the English Radical Party to that below the Gangway. He had a right to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, after the distinct statements he had made, how it was he so suddenly changed his mind as to the form of government which he believed would be for the welfare of Ireland? A meeting of their opponents had been held at Leeds, at which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) spoke. The first-named right hon. Gentleman wound up by saying that "they had finally decided to adopt the old policy and the old Leader." They had a perfect right to adopt the old Leader—there was no man who had succeeded better than he had done in acquiring the affections of his followers. But what right had they to call their policy the old policy? When he (Colonel Saunderson) read that speech, he took considerable trouble to find how long the policy spoken of had then been their policy, and he found it was exactly eight months. It was the adoption of an eight months' child, and he believed that an eight months' child, if it survived its birth, had generally a delicate and precarious existence. Surely it was not the policy of the right hon. Gentleman five years ago; and he wondered that the ghost of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, made at Leeds, did not rise up to confront right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had read, with very great interest, books entirely devoted to the life, career, and adventures of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian; but the writers of those books did not seem to have discovered why he had changed his opinions. But he (Colonel Saunderson) thought he had discovered for the first time why the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions. The right hon. Gentleman had, if he might say so in a respectful sense, the Napoleonic peculiarity of respect for big battalions. Little over five years before, in the very place where this policy was adopted, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of his present friends and allies. He (Colonel Saunderson) did not say this with the object of exciting a blush on one side or the other, or of exciting bad blood in 180 that happy family; but he had a perfect right to ask and to try to understand why the right hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions. Speaking, then, five years ago, at Leeds, of his present friends and allies—the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his followers—the right hon. Gentleman said that they were only a handful of men in Parliament following Mr. Parnell, and he could not call them a Party, as they were not entitled to be called a Party. At that time the right hon. Gentleman had a very small opinion of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, for he went on to say:—They are gentlemen who make themselves perfectly responsible for a new gospel of Irish patriotism; and, even with respect to them, it is hard to understand how far it may be with them compulsion and how far will—so hard is it that I do not attempt to identify them. I frankly take the case of Mr. Parnell as exhibiting to you what I say—that the state of things in Ireland is going to be a question between law on the one hand and sheer lawlessness on the other.The hon. Member for the City of Cork was then followed by the same band of men, professing the identical principles which he at present holds, and maintaining them with courage and ability in the House. Yet, according to the right hon. Gentleman, he was the Leader of a gang not worthy to be called a Party. Those were then the views of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian with regard to Home Rule; but when the hon. Member for the City of Cork had a following of 85 followers, the right hon. Gentleman's political convictions appeared to change, and he framed a new policy for a new Party. So far as he (Colonel Saunderson) was aware, neither in nor out of the House had the right hon. Gentleman ever attempted to explain how it was he came to change his convictions. He did not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman would think it would secure the peace of the Metropolis in which they lived if the law breakers were to be made the law makers. At that period of his political history nothing could be too hard in the views he took of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who then held precisely the same principles that he now held. He had not changed in any way. The very remarkable structure which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian 181 had constructed rested its foundation on the one side on British Radicalism, and on the other on Irish-American Fenianism, with himself as chief corner stone. Further, it depended for exterior ornament on two political gargoyles, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) and the hon. Member for North-West Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare). He imagined they must be held in high repute, for they came over to Ireland the other day as the special Representatives of the Party of Separation. The hon. Member for Northampton did not come further than Dublin—he was arrested by the Lord Mayor's dinner; but the other hon. Gentleman went on, and in order to show that he (Colonel Saunderson) was not exaggerating when he said they were looked upon in Ireland as special Representatives of the Party of Separation, he would read what a very eminent judge on such a point had said. Mr. William O'Brien, speaking of their English friends present, said—One of them is our ambassador to-day and my friend, Mr. Conybeare, an English Member of Parliament. I can say that from my experience of him in the House of Commons I know no man who is a better type of the young democracy of Great Britain.Undoubtedly the hon. Member for North-West Cornwall appeared to be a very vigorous politician, taking very strong views of what ought to be done to rectify affairs in Ireland, for he said—If in England these things were to happen, and he was a tenant whoso house was to be torn down in that manner, he would take care indeed to have some weapon ready to brain the scoundrel.This favourable specimen of the young British democracy certainly held strong views as to the manner in which agrarian disputes should be settled. It did not appear, however, that the hon. Gentleman went over to Ireland in fear of his life, because he had made a speech in which he said he would be able to prove to the English Parliament that he had said the same things both in Ireland and England as those for which the hon. Members (Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Dillon) had been prosecuted, but the Government dare not arrest and put into prison an English Member of Parliament. Then all he could say was, if the Government did its duty, they had a right to expect that any outrageous 182 man whether he was English or Irish, would ultimately find his way to gaol. He should like to ask, before concluding, if there was any daylight in the situation? He believed there was a better opportunity now of finally settling the Irish Question than they had had for years, and for this reason. Tears ago, when he had the honour of sitting in the ranks of the Liberal Party—at that time the Liberal Party held on to the old policy—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian introduced a Land Bill which he supported most heartily; because he held—and he was of the same opinion now—that the final solution of the Irish Question could only come from the Irish people. ["Hear, hear!"] No one could hold that opinion more strongly than he, and he had always contended that the way to get the people on the side of law and order was to give the tenants of Ireland a stake in the country; and he held now that the stake given them was by the Land Bill of 1881, although at present it proved to be a failure, even in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian himself. For his part, he believed that that Bill was laying the foundation of the solution of the Irish Question. He believed they ought to enlist the Irish people on the side of the law, and he held that a successful Land Bill would have that effect, and that every man who owned his farm would be enlisted on the side of law and order, right and justice. In conclusion, he had to thank the House for having listened to him with so much attention; but he would try again, before he sat down, to impress upon the House the fact that the battle they were fighting now was a battle in which the whole future of the country was bound up. They had taught Ireland a terrible lesson in the past; they had taught her that she had only to consider that she had only to be riotous and rebellious, that she had only to commit crime, in order to get what she wanted from the English Parliament. They must teach her another and a different and a better lesson. If she showed her right she would get concession; but she would never get concession by the hand of crime and outrage. They had appealed to England in the past; they had asked the country—and the appeal had not been made in vain—to maintain the Union of the two 183 countries. They now make an appeal which also would not be in vain; they asked the country and the House to maintain the law.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, that anyone who had listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite must have found it extremely difficult to reconcile the opinions of that Gentleman with the votes he had given. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the settlement of the Irish Question, in his opinion, was to proceed from the people of Ireland themselves, and that the sympathy of the people of Ireland could only be enlisted by giving to them such a stake in the country by a satisfactory purchase scheme as would enable them to be contented. Where was the hon. and gallant Gentleman when the Liberal Government proposed the scheme? Where was he when recently in that House an opportunity was presented to Parliament of settling the Irish Question—a settlement which the landlords were advised by the hon. and gallant Member and his friends not to accept, but which to-day the landlords were yearning in their hearts for, and which would never occur to them again? He invited the hon. and gallant Gentleman to get his Party to consider whether he could offer the Irish landlords, with any hope of passing in that House, a settlement more generous than the one which had been introduced by the late Prime Minister and rejected. He did not intend to follow upon the general lines indicated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, but rather to refer to one or two matters with which his speech dealt. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had endeavoured to make some capital for his party out of the Glenbeigh evictions; and only lately the Tory papers had stated that these evictions, and the horrible atrocities which accompanied them, were got up by the National Party for dramatic effect. What were the facts which they had in the correspondence referred to by the Chief Secretary that evening? The Chief Secretary did not say who gave it for publication. He did not say it was Sir Redvers Buller who did so, in face of the oath he had taken at a recent inquiry that he did not interfere between landlord and tenant, except in one or two cases, and in face of his declaration that 184 it was not his mission in Kerry to interfere. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred to a letter of Father Quilter, in which Father Quilter had stated that he had done all he could to bring these tenants to a settlement, and asking Mr. Roe to carry out his duty. The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not seem to be aware that that letter was the result of a formal complaint written by Colonel Turner to the Bishop of the clergyman, in which he had complained of the clergyman taking part, and in which the Bishop had interposed his authority in order to prevent the priest taking further part. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had read the letter as if the sympathy of the priest had been alienated from the people, and he referred to a speech in which advice had been given by the priest; but he omitted the fact that at that very meeting the chair was occupied by the priest who was said to have turned his sympathy from the people. What were the facts with regard to these unfortunate evictions, because it was alleged that a large arrear of rent was due by these tenants, and that it was intimidation of the National League which prevented the payments of these arrears? Now, on the Winn estate, the payments in the year 1877, which was a good year, were £1,690; but in 1880 these payments fell to £277. In 1880 there was not in Kerry, not alone in Glenbeigh, but in Kerry, a single branch of the Land League, nor did it exist there for a full year afterwards, so that there could be no interference on the part of the National League between landlord and tenant. In the year 1881 a great many evictions took place in that district, and afterwards these people crept back to their homes and retook possession of their holdings; but everybody who knew the circumstances of the case knew perfectly well that it was unfair to ask a tenant who got back in that manner without the sanction of the landlord or the law to hold by the obligation to pay the amount of rent he would be bound to pay had he obtained legal possession. The majority of the tenants against whom legal proceedings had been taken were mere trespassers during the last few years, and they found it impossible to make the rent out of their holdings. Now it was alleged that the tenants broke the solemn compact which 185 they made to pay half-a-year's rent and costs; but it was evident from the statements of Sir Redvers Buller, and from the observations of the Chief Secretary that night, that if the tenants were to carry out that engagement, they would have to borrow money from the shopkeepers and the bankers to pay the arrears of rent which had not justly accrued. He (Mr. Harrington) said that if such intervention took place, which he denied, it was a merciful intervention to prevent the tenants from entering into such obligations. It was evident from the letter of Sir Redvers Buller that these people had all along desired a re-valuation of the land upon which the rents at the present time were double the Government valuation; and in order to secure that advantage they were willing to assent to an agreement which it was impossible for them to discharge without being assisted by the shopkeepers, who had been taught a very severe lesson by such negotiations in the past. The letter of Sir Redvers Buller showed the pressure which was being exercised by the Chief Secretary on the Judges of the land—on Judge Curran, in this instance.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I must deny that statement at once. It is quite untrue that I had anything to do in the action of Judge Curran.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that he was responsible for sending Judge Curran to Kerry, the removal of the regular County Court Judge having been one of his first official acts. Judge Curran was not so simple, nor so innocent, as not to know perfectly well that he was carrying out the plans of the right hon. Gentleman in making agreements between these tenants and their landlords, which he had no power, in the exercise of his official duties, to make. Judge Curran pretended to the tenants in open Court that he was able to reduce their rents, and to wipe off larger arrears than could be dealt with under the Plan of Campaign; whereas the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller's letter went to prove that this action of the County Court Judge was only the result of a private treaty between him and the landlord, and that the Judge took care, without the knowledge of the agents, to secure 186 the assent of the landlords, whilst pretending that he was enabled to give this abatement in his capacity as County Court Judge. The County Court Judges knew the policy of the Government, and no sooner was the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) rejected in that House than the Chief Secretary applied himself to put pressure upon the landlords, and every official in Ireland who wished to stand well with the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to exercise that pressure by every means in his power. ["No!"] They had evidence of it. The right hon. Gentleman said, in Court—The County Courts have exercised their power under the law with firmness and justice, and the Government have brought what pressure they could, acting within the law.They all knew what that meant in Ireland. There was a story told of a drunken Castle messenger who knocked down a passer-by, and when a constable went to arrest him, he said—"Take care how you interfere with one of the members of the law." Everything which a Castle official in Ireland did was legal, and every interference with them by any other person was outside the law. Continuing his cross-examination, the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged also having used these other words in a speech from which the previous quotation was taken—The Government have brought what pressure they could, acting within the law, to bear upon those few landlords who would not follow the example of their more generous fellows, and in doing so he believed they were acting in the best interests of the landlords as well as the tenants. There was no greater foe of the rights of property than the man who attempted harshly to execute those rights, and failed to perform its duties.So said the promoters of the Plan of Campaign, and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to say whether the number of those landlords upon whom pressure had been brought to bear by the Plan of Campaign was not smaller than the number of those against whom the right hon. Gentleman had brought pressure to bear. It was a question of figures. The Plan of Campaign, which had excited so much attention in England, had only been exercised against landlords in Ireland; and if the Chief Secretary would say who were the few landlords he spoke of—if he would give their names—the truth could soon be got 187 at; but the right Hon. Gentleman was very reticent at the police court on this point. It was to be hoped he would give the House more information. In that case there would be no difficulty in showing that the demands of the Plan of Campaign were more reasonable than those of the Government, as well as less numerous. Then, the right hon. Gentleman was asked—"What do you mean by pressure within the law?" and he answered—"Exactly what I said." That was a very candid reply to a question. There were frequent complaints in Ireland that the operation of the law was rendered abortive because of the reluctance of witnesses to give evidence; but he asked the House was there ever a more reluctant answer than this of the Chief Secretary—an answer better calculated to defeat the operation of the law than this? The right hon. Gentleman did not shelter himself behind privilege.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
It was most unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman did not say that. He invited Mm again to go over his sworn testimony before it came up at the Assize Court, and see whether there was any statement that it was on any ground of privilege that he protected himself. There was another reason why the right hon. Gentleman declined to answer the question which had suggested itself to the Irish people. That was that he was afraid to incriminate himself, and make himself a party to the conspiracy which was the subject of investigation. Probably that had not suggested itself to the right hon. Gentleman, because he, like all the officials in Ireland, regarded himself as the law. Then, in reply to the question—"Tell us what was the pressure you used?" the right hon. Gentleman replied—"I decline to add to what I have said in my speech." There was no question of privilege in that; it was a question of convenience. Another question—"Do you give us any explanation of that speech beyond what is expressed on the face of it?" Answer— "I give you none." That was assisting the operation of the law in Ireland. That was the policy which Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue in order to make the people respect the 188 law and the administrators of the law. In answer to another question, the Chief Secretary said the Government had acted in the interests of the landlords generally. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman was not thinking of the interests of the poor tenants. If the question had been pressed a little further, it would probably have been found that it was not in the interests of the landlords, but the interests of the Government, that this pressure was used. This was shown in another portion of the evidence. In a letter written by one of the officials whose conduct was impugned, and which letter was admitted by Captain Plunkett to be substantially accurate, there was an expression of hope that the writer of the letter would be able to arrange matters on a particular estate between the tenants and the agents. Of course, Captain Plunkett, with the candour which distinguished Government officials, denied having interfered between landlords and tenants. But that gentleman had intimated that unless landlords agreed to his terms police protection would be refused.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
In justice to Captain Plunkett, I must say that he distinctly denied having made such a statement.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
Of course, he had denied it. Would the right hon. Gentleman allow him to remind him that he had quite as distinctly denied having interfered at all? He made the right hon. Gentleman a present of the denial of Captain Plunkett, in the face of his declaration that he had never interfered at all; but did Sir Redvers Buller deny it? He (Mr. Harrington) would read a letter, also put in evidence at the trial, written by Sir Redvers Buller to the president of a League branch, who had asked his interference on behalf of a tenant, a secretary of a League branch. Sir Redvers Buller wrote—You credit me with powers I do not possess. I have no power to stop evictions anywhere. I have forwarded your information to Captain Plunkett; but I fear it will arrive too late, but I know he will gladly do what he can—namely, inquire into the case, and find out if it is a deserving one.Captain Plunkett also admitted having read, and not having contradicted, the letter of "Erigena" to The Times, which attacked the conduct of the Government, 189 He admitted, too, that he had tried to induce one landowner to accept one year's rent instead of the three-and-a-half years' which was due, although he did not know the valuation and the circumstances of the holding. This was a fine specimen of the candour of Government officials. The fact was that the Government had gone far beyond the Plan of Campaign, for there was no case in which, under the Plan, the tenants had been advised to ask for a greater reduction than 35 per cent. Captain Plunkett also confessed that he did not know whether the tenant could pay or not, and said he suggested that a year's rent should be accepted. As against these illustrations of the way in which the Government had worked this Plan of Campaign, he (Mr. Harrington) would like to read to the House some facts as to the properties in Ireland upon which the League's Plan of Campaign had been put into operation. Let him say at once that there was nothing new in the Plan. It had been adopted by the tenants of Ireland under successive Governments, and the only new circumstance about it was this—that there was now greater security as to the preservation of the tenants' money. In former combinations money had been lodged in a bank; but the landlords brought processes against the banks, seized the books, and insisted upon these lodgments of the tenants being marked, and so obtained the money, without any opportunity of the tenants obtaining a reasonable reduction of rent. The only new circumstance of the Plan of Campaign was that the tenants had been taught the wisdom of concealing from the landlord and the public the name of the person with whom the money was lodged. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Saunderson) said the persons receiving the rents would share the spoils. No one knew better than the hon. and gallant Gentleman that every penny of the money went to the landlord if the landlord would receive it in satisfaction of the rent, and that this was the case on Lord Dillon's estate. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was a very close observer of the slanders that were being hurled against the Nationalist Members in Ireland. No one treasured these slanders more fondly than he did; and he defied him or any of his Colleagues to show a single in- 190 stance where the contributions handed back to the landlords under the Plan of Campaign were diminished one penny by travelling expenses, law expenses, or the expenses of collection, or by bookkeeping, or any expenses whatever. If he only consulted his colleagues, the Irish landlords, they would tell him that wherever they had accepted the offers made by the tenants, or where they had come to a compromise with their tenants, they had been able to get back all the money which was put together in that collection. On Lord Dillon's estate the tenants had demanded a reduction of 25 percent, which, considering the circumstances of the country, was not an unreasonable demand, and eventually the landlord and tenants agreed to a reduction of 20 per cent. A number of tenants who were unable to pay their rent last year, and whose rents had been reduced to the Government valuation, were excluded from the terms of the agreement, and the agent voluntarily included these afterwards. One of the estates upon which the Plan of Campaign was put in force was the estate of Lord Lansdowne in Kildare. The tenants demanded a reduction of 20 per cent upon the judicial rents which were fixed three years ago, and a reduction of 30 per cent upon non-judicial rents. Their demand was precisely the same as that which Lord Lansdowne had given to his tenants in Kerry; but there was this difference—that the Government were putting their Plan of Campaign in force in Kerry; but it was not necessary for them to put it in force in Kildare, because the tenants were perfectly quiet. He had taken care to examine the properties surrounding the estate of Lord Lansdowne in Kildare, and he found that the landlords on the surrounding estates had given reductions varying from 15 to 25 per cent; but Lord Lansdowne offered no reduction whatever in Kildare, because Her Majesty's Government were not exercising their Plan of Campaign there. Another of the estates where the Plan of Campaign was tried was the property of Lord de Freyne, where the rents were double the Government valuation. The tenants asked 30 per cent reduction, and several of the landlords on the surrounding properties had given 25 per cent reduction, and many more 20 per cent. He had no doubt 191 that if the tenants had been offered 20 per cent reduction they would have receded from their position, as they had done on Lord Dillon's estate, where, if the 20 per cent had been offered at first, the Plan of Campaign would never have been put in force. On another property in Limerick—the O'Grady property—the tenants demanded 30 per cent reduction. That property was the most highly rented of any property in that part of the country; and in its vicinity Mr. O'Reilly Dease had given a reduction of 20 per cent, and Mr. Synan, a former Member of the House, had given a voluntary reduction of 25 per cent. Almost within a week after their rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, Her Majesty's Government set about bringing their secret, and, as Irish Members alleged, their illegal pressure to bear upon the landlords; and what they alleged was that the reduction which Her Majesty's Government demanded was far greater than the reduction demanded under the Bill, or under the Plan of Campaign. He challenged the Chief Secretary to show that the secret pressure which Her Majesty's Government had used was used for the best interests of the country, and not for the sake of saving the Government from inconvenience and hostile criticism. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman also to show that it was not when his policy of pressure had failed, and when he had abandoned it in consequence of the loud complaints of the Irish landlords, that he turned round and endeavoured to place the responsibility upon the Irish Members. He made no doubt whatever that even before a fairly empannelled jury of the English House of Commons it would be shown that the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues in the Irish Government were the real conspirators.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, that the question of the Glenbeigh evictions had been put before them from an Irish landlord's standpoint. As a Metropolitan Member he had made a special study, and was himself intimately acquainted with the history and causes of the Irish evictions of which they had heard so much. He was not an Irish landlord; but as he represented a comparatively poor Metropolitan district, where evictions were not unknown, he had thought it his duty to ascertain all 192 he could on the subject; and he begged hon. Members from Ireland to believe that if there were anything harsh or wrong, Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial side of the House would be as keenly alive to it as those sitting on the Opposition Benches. Previously to 1863 the tenants on the Glenbeigh estate had been liberally treated by their landlord, who did much to promote the well-being of his tenants. Everything went well down to the year 1879, which was not a good time for agriculture. In that year, however, the tenants were able to pay £1,690 in rent. Since then troubles had come. It was only fair to the tenants to say that much of the trouble was the result of the unfortunate position of the owners of the estate. From 1880 to 1886 very little, or practically no rent had been paid, the arrears being £6,200 out of little more than £8,000. The landlord, however, resorted to no harsh measure. He applied to the County Court, and the tenants ultimately accepted an offer that the arrears should be wiped out if they would pay a year's rent up to November, 1885, and to allow a re-adjustment of the rent. The tenants willingly agreed to this proposal, and their assent to the arrangement proved that they could have carried it out if they desired. But, just before the year expired—for, as he should have said, they were given a year in which to make the payment—that was, to November, 1886—the tenants, who had come under the influence of the National League, refused to pay. [An hon. MEMBER: Not all.] Well, the bulk of them refused to fulfil the arrangement they had entered into freely. Still, the landlord adopted no measure of a harsh nature. On the suggestion of General Buller and others he entered into a further compromise. Seventy of the tenants undertook to pay a gale's rent and costs, on condition that arrears were wiped out to May, 1886, and the holdings must then become subject to the judicial revaluation. That agreement was not, however, fully carried out, for, although 17 of the tenants fell in with it in spite of the tyranny of hon. Members opposite, the remainder would not.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, he wished to ask Mr. Speaker if it were in Order to use the word "tyranny" as applied to hon. Members of that House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the word used by the hon. Member did not contravene the Rules of Parliament, but it was, of course, a strong expression.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON
said, at all events, he might be allowed to say the charge of tyranny was not true.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he was sorry to have hurt the sensibilities of hon. Members opposite, though he must say that they were not very keenly alive on the point themselves to the susceptibilities of hon. Members on his side of the House. He would substitute any other word they might prefer, which meant the same thing. He had said that 17 paid and the others refused to keep their bargain. The parish priest then separated himself from the tenants, calling them, in a letter which had been published, "poor slaves" who would not keep their word, and he left them to the mercies of the landlord, whose whole action had been merciful according to the statement of General Buller. Home Rulers were making political capital of those evictions, and he ventured to say that those who were responsible for the sufferings and misery of those poor tenants who had been so beguiled, and those upon whom the shame would ultimately rest, were the hon. Member for West Kerry (Mr. Edward Harrington) and his friends. Either the tenants could or could not pay their rent. If they could and would not, no one could sympathize with them; but if they could not pay or make a living out of their holdings they ought to give them up, and it would be great kindness and true statesmanship to remove them to other districts where they might be more fortunate in more easily obtaining the means of living. If agriculture in the district was not sufficiently good to maintain the tenants in their small holdings, it would be useless to do anything that would tend to keep them there. With regard to the four cases in which the houses had been burnt down, there could be no doubt that the case was a hard one. Public sentiment was against such a proceeding, and his first idea was one of strong objection to it. If he were a landlord he would rather sacrifice his property than carry out such a thing. But it was hard for the tenants and the landlords alike, and it must not be forgotten that the persons who occupied 194 those houses had no right whatever to be in them. What were the facts? These four persons—they were not tenants—had been evicted some years ago, and they had no more right to take up their residence where they did than they would have to take it up in the dining-room of Hawarden Castle. If they were allowed to remain in possession of the holdings, and the demands made by them were to be recognised, in such circumstances all law and justice must be given up. It was said that if the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had been passed last summer all this suffering would have been saved. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) knew better than anybody that if that Bill had been passed it would not have effected these evictions. One of the provisions of the Bill was that tenants in arrear should pay half the rent that was due. If these tenants had paid half of that which was due, they would have had to pay half as many thousands as the landlord asked for hundreds before they could have come under the Act. It was not fair, therefore, to throw the consequences of these evictions upon the throwing out of that Bill. Another subject referred to in the Queen's Speech was that of economy, and they had heard that the estimates were to be framed with economy and efficiency. He had spent over 20 years in the Public Service, and he knew something of its administration. There was no one in the House who was more keenly a live to the necessity of economy than he was. He regretted extremely that the noble Lord the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill), whom they hoped would have assisted in carrying out his well-known schemes of economy, had thrown up the sponge. They wanted his help in carrying out economy, which they knew was the real key-note of Parliamentary government. They must economize, there was no doubt of that, and the sooner the better. There were two ways of economizing. One was to get the most they could for their money in every possible way. He had no hesitation in saying, from his knowledge of the public service, that there was an enormous field for economy in this respect both at the War Office and Admiralty. It was a matter for investigation and practical work. There was another way to bring about economy, and that was by 195 the action of the House. He ventured to say that the House of Commons was not always as economical as it might he. They did things sometimes because they were popular, but such items should be carefully looked after. No doubt economy in theory and on the platform was very popular and pleasant, but directly they applied it to individual things they found it most unpopular, and it could only be done by the joint action of the House. With regard to the Army, he agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) that it was not always likely to lead to peace if they increased their armaments and Army. He believed that great economy might be exercised in regard to the military armaments of the country, not with standing the alarming rumours on the Continent of the probability of war, for he thought it extremely probable that if England were to show by reduced military expenditure that she had no fear of war, it would tend more to maintain peace than any increase of our forces would be likely to do. He, however, would not extend that principle to the Navy and coaling stations. The efficiency of the Navy and the protection of our coaling stations were obviously in the nature of an insurance for the safety of the country. Although he was sorry the noble Lord had resigned, he thought it would have been a dangerous thing to retain him at the cost of postponing any longer the protection of our coaling stations. Nevertheless, he was certain that, with careful management, enormous reductions might be made in the public expenditure, and he hoped the House would resolutely devote itself to the task. He hoped to see the day when the expenditure might be cut down not by hundreds of thousands, but by millions. It could be done by all sides working together, and going together into details. If the noble Lord had sacrificed his Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer on the altar of economy and thrift, although as in the case of most self-martyrs there might be a little touch of something besides self-martyrdom in it, he sincerely hoped that like the grand old martyr of old he had lighted the candle of economy in England which would not very soon be put out.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin Co. S.)
said, he was most anxious, as an Irish landlord, that the facts in rela- 196 tion to the Plan of Campaign should be laid before the House, because he was certain that it would be found that the combination of the Irish tenants who adopted it was not unlawful. The tenants combined to protect their interests and the property they had in the land, and the legality of action of that kind had been recognized by Acts passed in that House, and by political economists. He protested, therefore, against the charge that the Irish tenants who adopted the Plan of Campaign were acting illegally or immorally. They combined to keep the roofs over their heads this winter, and to preserve their own lives and the lives of their families. If ever combination were justified, it was justified in this case. It had been said that this combination was against the law of the land. That had yet to be decided before the Courts, and he believed that if those Courts were fairly constituted, and if the case were fairly tried, it would be proved that the combination was not contrary to British law. He was no lawyer, and could not express an opinion as to whether the Plan of Campaign was contrary to British law or not; but he was content to test it by the principles of political economy as laid down by Mr. Fawcett. Professor Walker of Boston, and Mr. John Stuart Mill. According to Mill, the right of combination could not be refused to any portion of the population without gross injustice. If English artizans might combine to protect themselves, why should the right of combination be denied to the Irish tenants? They had the same liberty, and were legitimately exercising it under the Plan of Campaign. He denied that the Plan of Campaign was employed for the purpose of evading legal obligations or repudiating lawful contracts. The condition necessary to a binding contract was that the parties should, be free agents, and the contract must be a free contract. But he would ask, Did the principle of free contract obtain generally in the fixing of Irish rents? He denied that it did. Monstrous tyranny was used, and monstrous pressure was put upon Irish tenants by Irish landlords to compel them to come under impossible rents. He had heard of black marks being placed in the rent-books opposite the names of sturdy tenants who had refused to enter into agree- 197 ments impossible to be carried out, and those marks would be brought up against them if ever they fell into the hands of their landlords. He had heard of great intimidation directed against tenants to compel them to surrender leases and take others at greatly enhanced rents. On many auspicious occasions, such as the marriage or coming of age of a son or daughter, efforts were made to raise the rents with a threat that unless the terms were accepted the lease would not be renewed when it fell in. He could cite cases which had come under his own observation, where industrious tenants had made good land out of barren mountain sides or useless bogs, and at the end of the lease the rent had been raised 200, 300, and 500 per cent, and all that, he supposed, was on the principle of free contract. It was often said that the Irish tenant, if he found his tenancy hard and onerous, might go elsewhere. But dispossession to him meant practically America, the workhouse, or the grave, because in Ireland land was absolutely necessary to the tenant's existence. He had no other means of livelihood. It had been said that the Plan of Campaign meant the payment of no rent. It meant absolutely nothing of the sort. The Plan of Campaign had been adopted to secure to the landlords the payment of a fair rent. The author of the Plan, in his directions as to its use, wrote that the trustees—those who had received the estate fund—should, in the event of a settlement, use their influence to have every defaulting tenant make his full contribution to the fund, and that they should take care that no man made his just contribution a cover for dishonesty. It was not to be used by the dishonest tenant as a shelter against the law, but was intended merely to protect the honest tenant against the tyranny of a grasping landlord. Members on the other side of the House paid a poor compliment to the intelligence, sagacity, and wisdom of the men who would soon be governing Ireland, in supposing that they would raise up for themselves such a tremendous difficulty in the future by propagating the doctrine of no rent. Hon. Members opposite entertained the crudest ideas of the meaning of the word "rent." Rent was that part of the produce of the soil which the tenant paid to the landlord for the use of 198 his land. Every man had the right to live in this world, and the Irish tenant had the right to a fair return for his labour. After the tenant had been recouped his expenses in farming the land, and after he had received fair payment for his labour, the landlord was entitled to receive his rent out of the balance that remained. The value of land rose and fell with the value of its produce, and when the value of produce fell the amount of rent should fall also. His sole contention was that the Irish farmer should pay a fair rent, not that he should pay no rent at all. Another objection to the Plan of Campaign was that under it the Irish tenant should fix his own rent. But why should the landlord be entitled to fix an arbitrary rent now that Parliament had admitted that the tenant was a co proprietor in the land? The Plan of Campaign had been invented because Parliament and the Irish landlords had refused to meet the demands of the Irish tenants by accepting the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork last Session; and, therefore, the farmers had been forced to settle the question for themselves. That, in his opinion, was a full justification of the Plan of Campaign. The Government were about to prosecute several of the Irish leaders for the offence of succeeding in doing what the Government had tried to do, but failed to carry out. He could tell the Government that these trials would have but very little effect on Irish opinion. The Government might succeed, by packing juries, in obtaining the conviction and imprisonment of some of the gentlemen who were about to be tried; but the Irish people were sufficiently well educated by this time to carry on the Plan of Campaign, if needs be, without their leaders. Whatever steps were taken by the Government, the Plan of Campaign would go on until Her Majesty's Government took steps to obviate the necessity for it. He had supported the Plan of Campaign as an Irish landlord, for he did not consider it did any injustice to a landlord anxious to meet his tenants fairly. The Plan of Campaign was promulgated only to bring pressure to bear upon those hard-hearted and cruel landlords who had brought down the detestation and opprobrium of the civilized world on the class to which they unfortunately belonged. He believed the Plan of Campaign to be essential to 199 the peace of Ireland during the winter, and for that reason he supported it, and should continue to do so until Her Majesty's Government took such steps to meet the present crisis as would show they had some appreciation of the duties of their position.
§ MR. C. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
said, that the state of agriculture in England—at any rate, in the Eastern Counties—was at the present time quite as deplorable as on the other side of St. George's Channel. He was right glad that Her Majesty's Government intended to take up the burning question of tithes, for it was a question that was causing great irritation between farmers and tithe-owners. Although by the Tithe Commutation Acts of 1835–6 the tithe was made a rent-charge on the land, yet, by an incongruity the tithe-owner is allowed to distrain upon the tenant's property. The whole question of tithes ought to be re-opened, as the Commutation Act was unsuitable to the circumstances of the present day. To treat it successfully, the Government should try to simplify the question by doing away with the sort of dual possession that at present existed, and make it what, he felt sure, it was the intention of the Commutation Act that it should be—a rent charge applying only to the property of the landlord. If they did this, they would confer a boon upon all agriculturists interested in the question, and would place the whole subject of tithe in such a position that, perhaps, at some future time, further legislation in connection with it could be introduced. Moreover, he might remind hon. Members the three agricultural products which were chosen as the basis for the assessment of tithes—wheat, barley, and oats—were no longer cultivated in many districts. In Essex large tracts which were formerly under tillage were now laid down to grass at great loss; and it was obvious that the prices of wheat, barley, and oats do not show what amount of tithe such land should pay. If the question were re-opened, he trusted, however, Her Majesty's Government would not allow tithes to be made use of for any purpose other than those which the original donors intended. He hoped that this question would be dealt with, and that the Government would remember, that although English agriculturists had 200 been quiet and patient, they had undergone severe suffering and depression, and they would, with gratitude, cordially welcome any legislation the Government might introduce for the relief of what the Royal Commission on Trade and Agriculture acknowledge to be England's most important industry.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
said the hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. C. Gray) had made a comparison of English and Irish prices for agricultural produce, but there was really no parallel between English and Irish agriculture. With reference to the important question of tithes, he might inform the House that they did at one time obtain in Ireland. In Ireland 40 or 50 years ago, it was a burning question. It pressed very heavily and caused great hardship and suffering to the Irish people, and it was only by violent agitation more fierce than the present, and attended with loss of life, that the vile hardship was abolished. The speech of the hon. Gentleman on tithes was a full vindication of the adoption of the Plan of Campaign by the Irish people for the redress of grievances which fell with more severity on the poorer classes of Irishmen than the tithe grievance fell on the poorer classes of England and Wales. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) in his opening statement made mention of manufactured crisis, but he (Mr. O'Hea) thought that that House would admit it was not the Irish Members or Irishmen who manufactured the causes of this crisis. It was not the Irish Members who caused such an appalling amount of depression in articles of agricultural produce, and it was not Irishmen or Irish Members of Parliament who caused the bad seasons or influenced the fall in prices. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, when he informed the House that Mr. John Dillon received the rents from tenants on Lord Dillon's estate, omitted to mention that every penny so received had since gone into the pocket of Lord Dillon. The Plan of Campaign was not adopted with the view of defrauding the landlords, or doing any injury whatever; but it was adopted in order to save a tenantry over whose heads the sword of eviction was pending. The adoption of the Plan of Campaign had been attended with beneficial results 201 to landlord and tenant. The hon. Member proceeded to refer to evictions which had been attempted to be carried out in Gweedore, County Donegal. The gross rental of the estates some years ago was £522, and yet the landlords, who had done absolutely nothing to enhance the value of the land, increased it to the present amount, £1,455 14s. 8½d. The most cruel clearances had been effected, as had also been the case in many other parts of Ireland. Mrs. Ernest Hart had given a pathetic account of the cruelties which had been perpetrated in this way in the North of Ireland, and especially in a district in Donegal which curiously enough bore the same name, Glenbeigh, as the place which had recently been so prominently before the public. In reference to the evictions in Gweedore, he might mention that for every £1 the tenant owed, he had to pay £1 10s. for law costs. The harsh treatment by certain Irish landlords of their poor tenants was not denied even by hon. Members opposite, and the buildings in which the peasantry in some parts of Ireland lived, he declared could not be described as "home." Wigwams would be a more appropriate term, and, indeed, he believed the wigwams of the North American Red Indians were abodes of comfort and luxury compared with these structures. He submitted that the Plan of Campaign was the only legitimate method by which it was possible to secure fair and equitable treatment for the tenants, when these poor people found starvation and ruin staring them in the face; and for the past two months he had never lost a single opportunity of advising the people to adopt it. He believed, from evidence which he had himself heard given in the Land Courts, that those tenants who did not pay rent for their farms paid it out of their savings, or out of remittances from America, and not out of the produce of the land itself. He did not think the people of Ireland had any reason to be pleased with the Speech from the Throne. In Her Majesty's Speech some reference was made to the desirability of making some amendment in the procedure of the criminal laws, but it occurred to him, after the proceedings in the Woodford cases, that the criminal law was quite sufficient for its purposes. Legislation for that country would be very difficult indeed until the full claims and aspira- 202 tions of the Irish people were granted. The Irish people were now organized and determined not to suffer in the future as they had done in days gone by; but were determined to keep up the agitation until the Government conceded to them the right to legislate for their people on their own soil.
§ MR. GENT-DAVIS (Lambeth, Kennington)
said, as the Representative of a Metropolitan constituency, he wished to enter a protest against the amount of time that had been given to the discussion of Ireland and Irish questions during the past year and in the present Session. He regretted that more time was not given to the questions which affected the Metropolis. He also observed that there was a most remarkable difference in the tone assumed by hon. Members opposite in the House from that which they adopted in addressing Irish audiences. Speaking for himself, he had great sympathy with the troubles and the anxieties of the Irish tenants, and had always shown that in all his speeches on the subject; but at the same time, he hoped that in the proposed now Rules of Procedure, which they confidently expected would shortly be brought forward for discussion, some alteration in the method of discussing the Speech from the Throne would be sanctioned. He would like to refer to the satisfaction he felt—which he was sure was felt by a great many other Metropolitan Members—in the fact that reference had been made in the Queen's Speech to the Commission which was issued in 1885 to inquire into the lamentable depression under which trade and agriculture had been suffering for many years. The Report of that Commission, and this reference to it, would be especially welcome to the working classes of London, as showing the interest Her Majesty's Government had taken in the widespread industrial depression. He rejoiced to see that in the month of December there was an increase of nearly £1,500,000 in the value of the imports. In his opinion that was a proof that the trade of the country was reviving. He wished to draw particular attention to Question No. 14, dealing with the causes to which the depression of trade was attributed. He had gone very carefully through the evidence of the Commission, and he found that the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce re- 203 turned it as their opinion that foreign competition in neutral markets had been to a great extent the cause of the financial depression in that district. From Liverpool it was stated—By all means let us have Free Trade, but bounties should he met by countervailing duties, and hostile tariffs on English goods should not be countenanced in treaty arrangements.The North of England iron trade made the same complaint. They said that foreign bounties and tariffs had affected this country adversely—in fact, they had annihilated almost all trade with Germany, Russia, France, Spain, and America. In these circumstances he earnestly hoped that during the present Session it would be placed before the House how absolutely necessary it was that the manufacturers of this country should be enabled to maintain their position as against foreign nations. Indeed, it was absolutely a necessity that bounties should be met by countervailing duties. In expressing such views he believed that he was only fulfilling his duty. He had devoted several years to an inquiry regarding this matter, and he had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to compete with foreign nations unless some alteration of our fiscal laws was made. He was also glad to see the reference in the Queen's Speech to the subject of railway rates, and hoped that means might be found to alter in some way the unjust system of railway rating. He hailed with joy the reference made that measures dealing with the regulation of railways, and for preventing the fraudulent use of trade marks, would be brought under their consideration. He trusted that the Government might see their way during the present Session to lend their help in the introduction of a Bill which would impose countervailing duties on bounty-fed goods imported from abroad, and so give the traders of this country the means of holding their own in commerce.
§ MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
, in replying to the opening observation of the last speaker, said, the method to adopt to prevent complaints of waste of time by Irish Members in discussing the affairs of their country was to give them a Legislature of their own. The Government, however, said the Irish people were not fitted for any measure of self-government, and that exceptional mea- 204 sures were needed to maintain law and order. He protested against this insulting view which was taken of the character of the Irish people. Parliament first gave the people of Ireland the franchise, allowed them to send Representatives to the House of Commons, and when the majority of the Irish Representatives gave effect to the predominant wishes of the people the majority of the Members of the House of Commons said that they would pay no heed to their recommendations with regard to Irish affairs. With regard to the reference in the Queen's Speech to affairs in the South-East of Europe, he echoed the hope that peace would be preserved. If it were true that hon. Gentlemen who sat with him below the Gangway were disloyal to the Empire, and that they sought its disintegration, they could not adopt any better policy than to try to goad Her Majesty's Government into a war with Russia; but, taking the circumstances of the case into account, as honest men they could better employ their power in warning the Government against any such course. If the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula wished to be allied with Russia this country might as well try to stem the tide with a pitchfork as to stop that union; if, on the other hand, they wished to retain their independence they would find ways and means of doing so without any foolish intervention on the part of the people of this country. If was cause for satisfaction that we were to withdraw from Egypt; but it was, he found, a vain hope that the military would carry away the demoralizing influences they had introduced in that country. In his opinion the great Power which this country had to fear after all was not the traditional enemy of England, but Germany. A great Colonizing nation with an overflowing population, and having an evident desire to extend its influence among foreign nations, Germany was more likely to come into collision with England than any of the other European Powers. As to the question of the reform of local government it certainly seemed strange that the Government should say that England and Scotland, which wanted it least, should have it first, while Ireland, which wanted it most, should have it last. He wished to call the attention of the House and the Government to the conduct of the officials 205 in Dublin Castle with reference to the working of the Labourers' Act. These officials seemed to have set themselves deliberately to work to obstruct its beneficent operation. They had it on the authority of Royal Commissions appointed from that House that there was not on the face of God's earth a people who were so miserably housed as the working men in Ireland; and, notwithstanding the fact that an attempt had been made by the Local Authorities in Ireland to remedy this defect to some extent, the authorities at Dublin Castle had succeeded to a very great extent in causing unnecessary delay in the carrying out of the work of providing proper dwellings for the labourers. He gave early Notice to the Chief Secretary that he would inquire more closely into the matter when the Estimates came on. Then they were told that they were not to have the local self-government which England and Scotland were to get, because the law was not observed in Ireland. But if it was the case that the law was not observed in Ireland, he would ask who were the criminals, and who violated the law? Certainly it was not the poor long-suffering people. In England the law permitted people to meet in public in order to discuss their affairs; whereas in Ireland any petty police officer, even without instructions from his superior, could march his policemen, baton in hand, and without any ceremony break up a meeting, and if sometimes human nature was trespassed upon too far there was an outcry about the lawlessness of the Irish people. If in England two or three of the elected Representatives of the people were assaulted in the streets and had their heads broken, there would be such a storm of indignation throughout the length and breadth of the land that no Government would dare to condone the action of those who had been guilty of such an outrage. There had been no less than 86 occasions upon which officials charged with the administration of affairs in Ireland had come to that House for wholesale suspensions of the law. During the last suspension of law 1,000 innocent persons had been dragged from their homes and imprisoned without trial by Judge or jury. Referring to what was called the Crossmaglen conspiracy, he observed that the real conspirators were the representatives of 206 law and order. He hoped that early attention would be given to the case of the unfortunate men who were imprisoned in connection with that alleged conspiracy. He was not inclined to blame the Government for the tender and humane policy which they pursued in Ireland in trying to induce the landlords to hold their hands and give the poor people a chance of living, although they had been remiss in asking for powers to effect that result in another manner, because he believed that the highest law of all was the safety of the people. As to the question of land purchase, he was not desirous of depriving the landlords of one iota of their property or their just rights, but he was not prepared to give them undue privileges, or to pay them for the purchase of their land a price above its value. He had been quite prepared to accept the scheme of the late Prime Minister for the purchase of the land in Ireland; but it was because he regarded it as the price which was to be paid by Irishmen for the right of managing their own affairs, and every farthing under that arrangement would have been paid. But circumstances had changed since then. Reference was made in the Queen's Speech to crime in Ireland. He did net approve of one man taking the life of another, for this could not be returned to him, but a tenant who in a moment of exasperation took the life of another was less culpable than certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who in cold blood instigated the Orangemen of Belfast to riot such as had been the subject of recent inquiry, and in the course of which so many lives were lost. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Saunderson) spoke of the "butcher's bill" in Ireland, as he facetiously termed it, it was significant that he made no reference to Belfast. He did not, however, desire to make any attack on the Orangemen, for, however misguided, they were his countrymen, and he did not wish to hold them up to the scorn and ridicule of Englishmen. In conclusion, he had to say that no matter what might be the opinion of certain eminent authorities about contentment following the settlement of the Land Question, the Irish people would never be satisfied until they had obtained the rights denoted by the words "Home Rule."
§ MR. FULTON (West Ham, N.)
said, that the all-absorbing subject in the Queen's Speech was the paragraph which related to the condition of Ireland. He would remind the House that last summer the constituencies were called upon to pronounce judgment on the Irish measures of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The Party to which he belonged believed then, and believed still, that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman amounted to a practical repeal of the Act of Union, and that if carried out it would have led to separation or civil war. The verdict of the country upon the scheme was emphatic and decisive, and, he believed, final. A little examination must satisfy the inquirer that the Unionist victory at the last Election could not be measured by the Unionist majority in that House. The victory was quite as apparent in the diminished majorities of the Separatist Liberals who were fortunate enough to be returned to Parliament. To illustrate his meaning he would compare the results in some of the Metropolitan boroughs at the Elections of 1885 and 1886. At the General Election in November, 1885, the Radical majority in the borough of Poplar was 1,977; in July, 1886, it sank to 76. In South Hackney the Radical majority in 1885 was 942; in 1886 it sank to 100. In Battersea in 1885 the majority was 712; in 1886 it sank to 186. In West St. Pancras the majority of 469 in 1885 sank to 60 in 1886. He drew attention to these facts because hon. Members opposite were never tired of reminding the House that the last Election was all a mistake, and that the verdict was very likely to be soon reversed. They said that the result of the last Election was due, not to the Government of Ireland Bill, but to the Land Purchase Bill. He should be the last in the world to deny the immense influence at the last Election of the Land Purchase Bill. It was a monstrous political abortion, and it enabled the Unionists to bring home to the electors the political incapacity of a Government which could gravely present such a measure for the serious consideration of the Nation. But although the Land Purchase Bill was undoubtedly a cause, it was not the cause of the defeat of the Separatist army. The real cause was the proposal to hand 208 over the government of Ireland to the apostles of public plunder—to give up the lives and liberties of the loyal subjects of Her Majesty to the tender mercies of the National League. He believed that the rumours, so industriously circulated, of dissension in the Unionist ranks, were destitute of the smallest shadow of foundation, and that the Unionist Party would give unwavering support to any Government, however constituted, who would carry out the mandate of the country. Their victory had imposed great responsibility upon the Unionist Government. They were pledged to restore the supremacy of the law, to stamp out the conspiracy against the landlords, to put down Boycotting, and to proclaim the National League. To attain ths end they were told that coercion would be necessary. In discussing this question it was desirable that they should clear their minds from cant. If by coercion was meant the passing of measures giving power to the Executive Government to imprison large numbers of Irishmen without trial, or penal legislation of a Draconian character applicable to Ireland alone, and only destined to remain in force for a limited period of time—in other words, if by coercion was meant the kind of coercion which until recently found so much favour with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), he was as much opposed to it as any Member of that House could be. But he might, on the other hand, remind the House that all criminal law was coercive, and was intended to protect the many against the few, and to enable others besides strong men armed to keep their goods in safety. In every civilized community it became necessary from time to time to strengthen the ordinary Criminal Law by new statutes framed to cope with new forms of crime. What was needed in Ireland was such an amendment of the Criminal Law as would enable the authorities to grapple quickly and successfully with intimidation, conspiracy, and Boycotting. The present system pursued in Ireland was, to an English criminal lawyer, absolutely unintelligible. There was apparently no power in Ireland to compel the attendance of an accused 209 person on the hearing of a charge of misdemeanour. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), the House would remember, absented himself when he was a defendant on a trial for conspiracy in Dublin, and quite recently the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) absented himself from a preliminary hearing before the Chief Magistrate in Dublin. Such conduct appeared to be a gross contempt of Court, and could not fail, if unchecked, to weaken the authority of the law. In England the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1848 gave a magistrate power in every case in which a summons was issued upon a sworn information to issue a warrant to compel the defendant to appear. In a trial for misdemeanour, before a Court of Oyer and Terminer, and general gaol delivery, or at Bar, the Court could proceed to the trial without the presence of the accused, but in practice it never did so, and constantly enforced the attendance of misdemeanants by the issuing of Beech warrants. It appeared to him to be very desirable that magistrates in Ireland should be empowered to deal summarily with cases of intimidation. He would give them the power, in the event of any breach of recognizances, to commit the offender to prison for a term of two or three months. If such powers as these were steadily put in force in Ireland the so-called patriots would be subjected to a very severe test. The detestable form of intimidation known as "Boycotting" ought to be put down by imposing on every person who sold necessaries of life a statutory obligation to sell them to every applicant. In case of refusal the offender should be condemned to pay 20 times the value of the goods demanded, and in default of payment should be committed to prison. He thought that such a law would produce a very satisfactory result in Ireland, Recent events in that country had shown that in many cases trial by jury was a farce. He thought that both in Ireland and in England any accused person ought to have a right to claim a trial by special jury. Again, there ought to be a power in Ireland, as there had been in England since 1856, to change the venue. It was desirable that in all cases either the persons accused or the Crown ought to have the power to change the venue. That, he believed, had been the law in Scotland from time immemorial.
210 Again, when a crime was committed the magistrate ought to be empowered to institute a preliminary investigation, and to summon before him all persons who were likely to throw light upon the undetected crime. This amendment of the law would, he hoped, form part of the measure which Her Majesty's Government had in contemplation. It was likewise desirable that the prisoner and his wife should be competent but not compellable witnesses. If the Government made such changes applicable not only to Ireland, but also to England, he believed they would receive the support of every honest man. He could not understand why the Executive Government in Ireland permitted the Plan of Campaign to take root and spread while they were waiting for a decision of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice as to whether it was an illegal conspiracy. If that information could not be secured in Ireland, here in England the Government might have obtained it from any criminal lawyer in the Temple for the moderate sum of £1 3s. 6d. The senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had placed it upon record that the Plan of Campaign delighted his heart, and had described it as trade unionism applied to agriculture. He might remind the hon. Member, however, that trade unionism was a perfectly legal institution, and that it owed its vitality to two Statutes, the Employers' and Workmen's Act and the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, both of which were passed by a Conservative Government, and which had been described by a distinguished member of the working classes as "the charter of their social and industrial freedom." Trade unionism was designed, among other things, to enable the wage-earning classes by combination to compete with their employers in fixing the terms of future contracts, whereas the Plan of Campaign was used for the purpose of arbitrarily repudiating contracts already subsisting. He commended this elementary distinction to the serious consideration of the hon. Member. The activity of the Government ought not to be limited by a Bill for the amendment of the Criminal Law. There would never be peace in Ireland until the National League was proclaimed. It was an illegal and a treasonable association—a political tapeworm, which he hoped would be 211 seized by the head and crushed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had said that the classes were against him. This was true. The classes were against him, and among them were the working classes. If, when the present Prime Minister was forming his Cabinet, he had sent for the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and offered him the Chancellorship of the Exchequer on the condition that he would turn his back on every political profession he had ever made respecting Ireland, he believed the hon. Member would have resisted the temptation; and thus he would have compared very favourably with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who, speaking at Glasgow on the 25th of October, 1881, said—It is true there is a strong Party of irreconcilable politicians who do not represent Ireland.… Men whose object I am sorry to say I believe is not so much to benefit Ireland as to injure England. Theirs has not been a policy of reconciliation and reform, but of hatred and disunion. No doubt we are at issue with them to the last extremity, to the extremity which was unhappily reached in the United States of America, where men were satisfied to pour out their blood like water to maintain the integrity of their country and their Empire‖ The land agitation in their hands was an agitation whose object was to destroy the union of the Empire and to overthrow the established Government of the United Kingdom. Mr. Parnell admits now that what he wants is not fair rent—he wants no rent at all. He wants to get rid of the landlords in order that he may get rid of the English Government; and for this object every kind of intimidation has been employed to deter honest men from doing their duty and fulfilling their obligations. The Land League has employed terms whose avowed object is to set aside and over-rule the law of the land. It is utterly impossible that any Government responsible for civilized society can tolerate such a condition of things. The Land League has thrown over the false colours of fair rent; it has hoisted the red flag, and the buccaneering craft sails under its true colours.What a wealth of vocabulary, and what accuracy of description! But there was another great man—the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare). It might be said of him as was once said of a former very distinguished Member of Parliament (Mr. Horsman) he was a very "superior person." He was ready to make a new constitution in Church and State. He was a striking example of the truth of the saying of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian that the further from the Metropolis the greater the political enlightenment. The working classes in 212 London and the home counties had had an opportunity of seeing and hearing the Irish Representatives. They knew them; they understood them, and they had formed a distinct opinion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), and the unassuming modesty of the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner). They saw and believed that the ambition of those Members, in their microscopical examination of the Estimates, was to impede the Business of Parliament.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
rose to Order. Was it right to allege that he impeded the Business of the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
There is nothing in the remarks of the hon. Member to call for my intervention, although an imputation of motive is un-Parliamentary.
§ MR. FULTON
said, he would withdraw the observation in the most unqualified manner. The object of the hon. Member was not to impede or delay the Business of Parliament. But he had not said otherwise. He had said that the working classes of London might have drawn that conclusion. He could tell hon. Members from Ireland that he admired their courage, their endurance, and their discipline, but he hoped hon. Members would believe that they, on the Ministerial Benches, were animated with equal courage, endurance, and discipline. They were, moreover, fortified by the assurance that they had received from their constituents a double mandate on the one hand to maintain the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and on the other to preserve, unimpaired, the authority and the dignity of Parliament.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY (Darlington)
said, he could not understand the observation of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in charging him with interference in Irish affairs, which he appeared to think unjustifiable.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I did not at all imply that.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
said, then he should refer to the reports in the evening papers, and it was in the right hon.
213 Gentleman's own paper, The Globe. However, he was glad it was withdrawn.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND
What I said was, that I was sure the hon. Member interfered with the most benevolent motives.
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
said, he was glad the right hon. Gentleman had corrected the report. He could not understand in what way he had interfered in Irish affairs. The question he had asked that evening was the first time he had spoken about Ireland in that House, and the only other interference on his part was a visit to the sad scenes now going on in Glenbeigh. It seemed to him a most remarkable thing that the Chief Secretary should suggest that some Member of the Opposition should bring in a Bill to settle this complicated question. If the right hon. Gentleman himself was unable to do so, he should resign the position he held in Her Majesty's Government. As Chief Secretary for Ireland, it should be his duty to promote the wished-for settlement, and if he were unable to do so he should give place to some other Gentleman who would be able to deal with the difficulties arising in the sister country. The only course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman was that these poor people of Glenbeigh should be relegated to some other part of Ireland, or removed from Ireland altogether. That was not a legislative measure at the present moment, though he was willing to admit that there were parts of Ireland where the removal of the poorest might be of advantage to them. He thought it was an extraordinary thing to hear the Chief Secretary for Ireland saying, in reference to these sad scenes in Glenbeigh—"It is not my business to express any opinion on the subject." He believed he had never heard a sentence so entirely unworthy of the position held by the right hon. Gentleman—so full of self-distrust. He thought that if the right hon. Gentleman had accepted the cordial invitation sent to him from Glenbeigh to visit the district, he would now have been able to express some opinion on what he saw and heard there. He did not think it was necessary for him to say that he had not the slightest sympathy with those who, being able to pay a fair rent, refused to do so; and perhaps it was still less unnecessary for him to say that he had not the slightest 214 sympathy for those who committed crime of any kind in Ireland. The hon. Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) informed the House that the landlord of the poor cottiers of Glenbeigh was willing to accept six months' rent, which amounted altogether to £865. But the hon. Gentleman forgot to tell the House that in addition to that £865 there were very heavy law costs which had followed the non-payment of the gale's rent. These costs in many cases amounted to the full rent, and in other cases to more. The rent of one man was £1, while the costs amounted to £2 19s. 6d., or three times more than the rent which it appeared to the eye of the people of England this man was only asked to pay. The argument of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh was that these people were able to pay a considerable portion of their rent, far more than a half-year's, and he said the action of Sir Redvers Buller was kind and generous. He was not going to say a word about the Plan of Campaign at the present moment, either for or against, as that was not the business before him; but he considered that nothing had given such a strong impetus to the Plan of Campaign as the action of Sir Redvers Buller on this occasion, and the interference of the present Government in endeavouring to obtain from the landlords such a large concession of rent. It justified more fully than anything else the action of those who had tried to get a large reduction, but get much smaller than Sir Redvers Buller. It could not be so heinous a crime as it was sometimes made out to be. He was glad to find the Chief Secretary had that night taken the entire blame of the action of Sir Redvers Buller in Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member for Mid Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) complained that the Plan of Campaign made the payment of rents impossible; but the action of the Government, in instructing Sir Redvers Buller to do what he had done, would have far more effect in strengthening the Plan of Campaign than anything else. They had already been told that it was in operation only upon 20 estates, and that was a very small number in comparison with the number of estates in Ireland. Something was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Mid Armagh as to what Father Quilter had said in reference to the action of the 215 tenants. There had been another letter published which was written by Father Quilter, and which was read at the meeting at Killorglin on Saturday last. In that letter Father Quilter expressed himself strongly to this effect—that when he had written the previous letter, which had been quoted in the House that night, he was very much misled as to the ability of many of these tenants to pay rent. He had a conversation himself with Father Quilter, who had told him the same thing, and had also stated that many of these tenants—40 out of 70—who had not paid the half-year's gale, as suggested by Sir Redvers Buller, were entirely unable to pay their rents; and, therefore, when the previous letter was read from Father Quilter he thought it would have been well that the letter, in which he, to some extent, altered his opinion, should have been read also. They could not have a better testimony to the poverty of the people of Glenbeigh than the words of Sir Redvers Buller himself, which might well have been read by the Member for Mid Armagh. He would read five or six lines from that letter, which was written on the 29th of November. Sir Redvers Buller wrote—There may be, and perhaps there are, a few rogues amongst them—say five or six—who could pay more; but I do believe the offer represents, in respect of the majority of them, a somewhat larger sum than they are actually in a position to pay. In my opinion a great number of the tenants are nearer to famine than to the payment of rent.Having paid a visit to that district, and having seen what was going on, he could, to a large extent, confirm the statement just read. He had seen the evictions in these houses, and every morsel of furniture thrown out on the hill side. He saw everything these poor people possessed in the way of food. In one house, in which there were five children, besides the father and mother, there were not as many potatoes as would make a meal for a family. In the next house, which was a joint tenancy, there were the father and mother and nine children; and they had, perhaps, enough potatoes to last a week, whilst neither of these families had anything which they could possibly sell to raise the rent. He was certain that any Gentleman in that House would not give 5s. for the whole furniture that was turned out, and there was 216 nothing at all scarcely in the shape of food. It must be borne in mind that there had been a tremendous fall in the prices of stock and other things in Ireland, which Gentlemen there were acquainted with. He had it from an extensive cattle dealer that Kerry cows, which in 1882 would fetch £7 and £7 10s. each, would not realize one third of that amount; and they could, perhaps, scarcely understand what that meant to the small farmers, whose only power of paying rent was the number of cattle they were able to graze and then dispose of. He had never seen a district like Glenbeigh so utterly and entirely barren, so difficult of cultivation, and which, he believed, would not be worth one farthing per annum for 100 acres if it had not been for the labour spent upon it by the tenants. There were thousands of acres of rocky hill-sides covered with boulders, and it was perfectly impossible for anybody to till it until he had moved the stones into heaps and placed them in the middle of little plots, upon which they placed their cows or planted potatoes or oats. The cows went great distances on these mountains. They had great difficulty in picking up herbage, many of them got clefted or lost, and the hardships of the poor people were something which many hon. Members had not the slightest conception of. The whole argument raised on the other side was this—the people in Glenbeigh, at any rate, were able to pay the half-year's gale and costs, and were unwilling to do so because of the oppression put upon them by the National League. He should leave it to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to speak upon that point; but he did not believe it applied to that district. He felt certain that that House would, before long, come to the belief that many of the poor people in that district were unable to pay their rents. He had every desire to do justice to the landlords, and he sympathized with many of them in their trials and difficulties; but the landlords should remember that every hedge, every wall, every fence, every drain, every patch of potato ground, the cultivation of the bog-land, and everything else was brought about by the direct labour of the tenants or their predecessors in title. Many of those improvements had been capitalized by the landlords, who for many years had received large rents 217 upon them. They must consent to lower the rents, in these times of depression, if the tenants were to exist and keep body and soul together. It was impossible, upon many of the holdings, that the rents charged by the landlords could be paid in the future; and, therefore, the humane policy, in accordance with their boasted Christian teaching, should be in respect of these tenants, to allow them to exist in this time of great distress. He hoped they would hear some definite expression of opinion before very long, if not from the Chief Secretary, from some other Member of Her Majesty's Government, as to what the opinion of Her Majesty's Government was as to the evictions which had recently taken place in Ireland. He had not the least idea what an eviction was until he had seen it. He believed hon. Gentlemen would have their best feelings stirred if they could see evictions for themselves. They would see 135 or 150 armed Constabulary wending their way up the hill-sides and surrounding these little homesteads as if they contained some of the greatest male-factors on the face of the earth, and these soldiers were paid by English money, and they were acting for English landlords or English mortgagees, and it was no wonder if hatred was engendered. He regretted, as much as anyone possibly could, that such was the case; but if they treated men like malefactors, and sent an army with crowbars to destroy their houses over their heads, was it possible to avoid ill-will and hatred between two nations which ought to be connected by the bonds of friendship? If these things were done in South Africa or Bulgaria it would be different. If they were far enough off they would arouse indignation, and attention would be paid to them in that House. Motions of regret would be adopted, and Foreign Ministers would be asked to interfere; but, because these things were so near, because they did not sufficiently realize them, and because their own pockets were touched, they forgot the sufferings and sorrowings of the Irish people. He felt it was necessary, having seen these things, to ask the House to give patient attention to the representations which were made respecting them, and see if it was not possible for some better era to be ushered in, so that the ill-will and hatred existing between two countries, 218 which ought to be closely connected, might be diminished and finally die out. He hoped they would have an expression of opinion as to the advisability or otherwise of these things, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seemed unable to give them.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Fry) will feel, upon reflection, that he has been somewhat unfair to me in his remarks upon the observations I made this evening. I do not wish to shrink one iota from the very difficult duty that is cast upon me, in my capacity as a Member of the Government responsible for the state of Ireland, in dealing with this great, important, and difficult question of the congested districts of Ireland. It is a question which has occupied the attention of previous Governments and Parliaments; and it is a question the most difficult of all, I venture to say, which await solution in Ireland. It has occupied my attention already; it is occupying it daily now; it is occupying also the attention of the Royal Commission recently appointed; and I assure the hon. Member that we will do our best to propose to Parliament, and that before long, some measures that may ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate inhabitants of these congested districts. In the answer I gave this evening to the hon. Member respecting the evictions at Glenbeigh, I had no intention whatever of raising the whole question of the congested districts of Ireland. I will tell the hon. Member frankly what I had in my mind. I had in my mind a suggestion that had been discussed by a gentleman who is well known to hon. Members below the Gangway—an English clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Fagan—who had visited the district, and who had discussed with Father Quilter, the parish priest, that very scheme of the migration of some of the inhabitants of Glenbeigh which I ventured, in my answer to the hon. Member, to allude to. And, in all good faith with respect to these unfortunate persons, I expressed to the hon. Member my own desire, either publicly or privately, to give whatever aid I could to those who were anxious to carry out any suggestion of the kind. The hon. Member has charged me with "caring for 219 none of these things." It is because I have cared very much for these things during the last four months; it is because I have been anxious to go even beyond the ordinary duty of the Member of the Government responsible for Irish affairs, in endeavouring to prevent some of the sufferings the hon. Gentleman has alluded to—it is for that I have been misrepresented and accused, even by the hon. Member himself, of abetting the Plan of Campaign. I should very much like hon. Members to look at this matter for a few moments from a practical point of view. I do not want to enter now into the question whether the Glenbeigh tenants were able to keep the terms they had entered into, or to pay a half-year's rent. But, admitting their poverty, admitting that they were unable to pay anything, is not that all the greater proof of their wretchedness and the misery of their position? Does it not afford greater proof of the necessity, if you are going to benefit them, of interfering to move them from their present position? Does it not prove that unless you are to accept the maxim that poverty gives a man a right to live in a house that does not belong to him—[Cries of "No!" from the Irish Members.] I am talking of what the law is. Hon. Members who accuse me of illegality, and who seem to get particularly angry when anybody accuses them of the same, ought, for the purposes of discussion at least, to treat the law as they find it. The dwellings which were destroyed—I do not like their destruction, of course; but it was not my business to express any opinion on the conduct of any person not subject to my authority—were, by law, the property of the owner of the estate, and they were destroyed for the simple reason that the persons occupying them had been before evicted under the ordinary process of law, and had chosen, contrary to the law, to retake forcible possession of them. What could the owner do? If he had simply evicted the people they would have gone back again. [An hon. MEMBER: Quite right, too!] An hon. Member says, "Quite right, too!" In his opinion, then, poverty is to give a right to a person to live in a house that does not belong to him; but are you to apply that maxim not only to the West of Ireland, but to other parts of Ireland, and to England and Scotland as well? And, if 220 so, what remains of the rights of any kind of property in the United Kingdom? I can only say this—that if any hon. Member can suggest a solution of the problem which shall maintain the rights of property—aye, and, while maintaining the rights of property, shall deal with persons in the unfortunate position of the Glenbeigh tenants with the humanity and consideration which I am as anxious to show as any hon. Member can be, I shall be thankful to consider any suggestion which he can offer; but, as I began by saying, this matter is as difficult a problem as any with which Parliament can be called upon to deal, and it is not to be solved by any such observations as the hon. Member (Mr. Fry) has addressed to the House to-night. I do not think it necessary to deal generally with what has been said in this discursive debate, especially as I am informed that points of great importance connected with Ireland are to be raised in the form of Amendments to the Address. In the few observations, therefore, with which I shall trouble the House, I shall endeavour to remove what, in my opinion, has been the most extraordinary misrepresentation and misunderstanding of my own conduct in Ireland which has affected me since I have been in public life. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), speaking last night, told the House that when he was asked his opinion as to the Plan of Campaign, he said it was a consequence of the rejection of the measure of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in September last; and the right hon. Gentleman further went on to say that I had been exercising pressure in one direction, while some of the Nationalist Members had been exercising it in another direction; evidently accepting the contention which has been made tonight by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin (Mr. T. Harrington), that my action, as the Minister responsible for the Irish Government, had been tantamount to the action of himself (Mr. T. Harrington) and his colleagues in the Plan of Campaign. Now, let me, in the first place, say that the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork was certainly very far removed from any action I have taken during the time which has elapsed since 221 its rejection. That Bill, on its introduction, was described—and, I think, rightly described—as a Bill for stopping for a time the collection of rents all over Ireland, and making the eventual collection of more than half the rents of the country a matter of extreme difficulty. It would be applied not only to cases of real inability to pay the full rent, but it would be applied, practically, to any case in which the tenant chose to take advantage of its provisions. I think, Sir, that the Bill was rightly and wisely rejected by the House of Commons, and if it was proposed again to-morrow I should be prepared to take the same course with regard to it, as I did in September last. Now, Sir, I have been told, though I think not in the course of this debate, that I, through my subordinates in Ireland, exercised a dispensing power. I have contradicted that—they have contradicted that—over and over again. The charge has been repeated all the same, and yet not one single atom of proof has been advanced. In no case that can be shown has protection ever been denied by the Government, or its officials, to a Sheriff in the execution of his duty. In no case has it been suggested to the police that they should hesitate for a moment to give the most prompt aid to the Sheriff and his officers in the execution of their duty.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Quite so. The 10 days' notice has been required for a great many years past. That 10 days' notice was part of a consolidating Circular which was issued some time in the autumn of last year, and which was issued for the simple purpose of defining more clearly the respective duties of Sheriffs and police, so as to secure, on the one hand, that the Sheriff should give sufficient notice to the police, in order to enable an adequate force to be provided to protect him, and, on the other hand, that the police should more efficiently discharge their duty of protecting and aiding the Sheriff. And yet, Sir, that very Circular is misrepresented, just as my action has been misrepresented to-night, as a proof that the Government intended to exercise a dispensing power. Well, Sir, no less a person—I wish to speak of him with all respect—than Chief Baron Palles ap- 222 pears to have fallen into some mistake of the kind in his charge to the jury at Sligo. I think that learned Judge discovered something in the evidence that was put before him in respect to the evictions at Woodford in the middle of August, a very few days after the present Government assumed Office, which led him to suppose that, acting under instructions, the police had hesitated to do their duty promptly in that matter. Well, Sir, I can only say this—that I myself never heard of what was going on at Woodford until I heard of the remarkable delay in the evictions that were taking place there; and my first act was to telegraph to the Divisional Magistrate of the district to take command, in order that the law might be promptly asserted. And what was the reason for the delay? Why, the reason was simply this—that the houses from which the tenants at Woodford had to be evicted were made little fortifications, to which the Sheriff and his officers could not obtain entrance without appliances which they had not at their command, and which took some time to procure. Directly the proper appliances were procured the Sheriff and his officers were efficiently aided by the police in the execution of their duty; and I myself was challenged in this House by one of the hon. Members sitting below the Gangway for permitting the police to go beyond their ordinary duty in the aid which they gave to the Sheriff on that occasion. I can only say, speaking with all respect of the learned Chief Baron, I am quite sure that all these circumstances could not have been within his knowledge when he made those suggestions as to delay and hesitation on the part of the Government in enforcing the law in Ireland. A good deal has been said in this House by the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin with respect to my examination at the police court in Dublin. Sir, I should have been very glad, if I could have felt it consistent with my duty, to speak my mind on that occasion, and to clear away the extraordinary tissue of misrepresentation which had been woven. It was on the ground of privilege, and privilege alone, as I have said this evening, that I declined to answer questions in the witness-box of a police court as to my action as a Member of the Executive Government.
223 I preferred, Sir, to suffer under misrepresentation, cruel as it was, than to do anything towards establishing a precedent which would be fatal to good government in any part of the United Kingdom. But, Sir, now I will say something—it is my right and my duty to speak to this House, to which I am responsible. I have said there is no truth in these stories about the dispensing power, and the hesitation on the part of the Government to enforce the law. And now about the pressure upon landlords. I used that word, and I admit it was a word which was susceptible of more than one interpretation. I certainly directed General Buller and other Divisional Magistrates, when any circumstances came under their notice in which evictions were likely to take place, to inform the owners or the agents of the property, particularly if those owners or agents were non-resident, of those circumstances, and to use the influence of reason and argument to promote a settlement between landlord and tenant. Now, Sir, was that wrong? I admit it was going beyond the ordinary duties of the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but of this I am quite sure—that no one can adduce an instance in which I, or any other official of the Government, coerced a landlord into any course of action by telling him he would not be protected, or that his caretakers would not be protected. I can only say that, in spite of all the allegations that have been made, no one case has been brought forward in which any proof of the kind has been shown. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin asked me to-night whether these gentlemen had applied pressure to any of the landlords on whose property the Plan of Campaign had been put in force? So far as I know, Sir, these gentlemen have not been in communication with anyone of those landlords on the subject of their relations with their tenants.
§ MR. COX (Clare, E.)
I can show you General Buller's letter sent to an estate on which the Plan of Campaign has been put in force.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I said so far as I know. But if there has been any such communication I am convinced, as I have already stated to the House, that that communication was not in the nature of a threat. Well, Sir, what I have described is simply what I 224 hold to be fair and legitimate influence, and nothing more, in the direction of avoiding those very hardships and sufferings which the hon. Member for Darlington has described to the House, and which created so much feeling, no doubt, in some quarters. This was misrepresented, as I have stated—it was sedulously misrepresented—by hon. Members below the Gangway and their Press in Ireland. In that way the impression may have been created that the Government shrank from enforcing the law in Ireland, and this may have done harm; but I am not to blame for that misrepresentation. I did what I have stated to the House, and no more, and I am content to submit myself to the judgment of the House, if my action in the matter is challenged. Well, Sir, according to the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian Mr. Gladstone), my pressure of suggestion, argument, and reason, to induce creditors to be merciful to their debtors, was tantamount to the Plan of Campaign, which was initiated on the properties on which it has taken root by hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite, summoning those debtors together, advising those who could pay to unite with those who perhaps could not pay, in a common resistance to the payment of their just debts, and themselves receiving money which belonged to others. Well, Sir, I do not want to enter into any examination of the Plan of Campaign. It is now the subject of a trial which is actually pending, and it is, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, fortified by the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, a criminal conspiracy. I say nothing more about it now than this—that it is not the fact that the Plan of Campaign was applied only in cases of inability to pay rent. No, Sir; the Plan of Campaign meant a good deal more than that. The Plan of Campaign meant a combination on the part of tenants to force their landlords either into taking what those tenants chose to offer them, to be reduced again to a lower point next year, or else to leave the tenants in the occupation of the land rent free, and then to raise a cry throughout the country about the hardships and sufferings of evictions, such as has been got up concerning the evictions at Glenbeigh. That has been 225 the way in which the Plan of Campaign has been worked, and it has been avowed by speeches made by hon. Members sitting below the Gangway opposite to be aimed at the destruction of landlordism, and the eventual extirpation of what they are pleased to call English rule in Ireland. Then, Sir, that is the plan which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian compares to my pressure upon the landlords, as if they were equally laudable, or as if not one word of blame can be attached to either. I do not wish to detain the House any longer. I will not enter upon the tempting field which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Fulton), who spoke so ably just now from this side of the House, laid before you. I will not enter into any details as to the legislative measures with regard to the Irish Criminal Law which it may be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to propose to Parliament; but, Sir, what I would say is this—that;we have done what we could with the tools ready to our hand, but that the difficulties and delays inseparable from the working of the ordinary Criminal Law, as it now exists, render it, in our judgment, inefficient to cope with such proceedings as are described under the name of the Plan of Campaign. We, Sir, are pledged to maintain the Union, but it is no use maintaining the Union—it is worse than useless to maintain the Union; better, as it was eloquently stated in "another place" last night, better have separation—unless, with the Union, you maintain the reign of law in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.