HC Deb 22 March 1887 vol 312 cc1154-221


THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

Sir, I rise to move— That the introduction and several stages of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion, including the Rules of Procedure, whenever the Bill shall be set down for consideration by the Government as the first Business of the day. I dare say I shall be asked why I move for precedence for this measure. It is because the country is in a state of disorganization, because the ordinary law is not enforced, and because it is the duty of the Government to see that the law of the land is observed, and that the machinery by which the law of the land is enforced is in complete and successful operation. That has been recognized as the duty and responsibility of all Governments at all times and under all circumstances in this House. It is our duty simply to maintain and to carry out the law of the land, and the Government which failed to do this would obviously be perfectly unfitted to discharge the duties for which it is responsible. Sir, if we have formed a wrong judgment as to the powers which we require to enable us to enforce the law, or if we are asking for powers which are unnecessary, there is an alternative which the House possesses and which it is its duty to exercise. But we are bound to act upon our sense of public duty. Our sense of public duty is informed by facts which are known to everybody in this House and to the whole world. Those facts amount to this—that juries are intimidated, and that criminals notoriously guilty of acts inimical to the best interests of society pass scot-free from the dock, against the declaration of the Judge and to the distinct prejudice of the best interests of the community. I have read very lately an extract from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), made in 1881, under circumstances like these, in which he said— When the Executive Government of the country have arrived at the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to convince Parliament that a demand for extraordinary powers ought to he made and acceded to, it becomes the duty of the Executive Government—and I would also humbly presume to say the duty of the House of Commons in conjunction with the Executive Government—to use every lawful and proper means for giving due despatch to the consideration of that demand."—(3 Hansard, [257] 1316.) That is the position we take. We believe—we know—that there is evidence which ought to convince Parliament that the demand for extraordinary powers ought to be made and acceded to; it is our duty to place that demand before the House of Commons; and I humbly say, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, that it is the duty of the House of Commons to use every lawful and proper means for giving duo despatch to the consideration of that demand. I again say, without entering at all upon the details of the measure which it will be the duty of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to explain to the House, that we have arrived at the conclusion that the measure is in itself necessary for the public safety and for the security and happiness of the law-abiding people in Ireland; and we claim from the House of Commons that they shall give despatch to the consideration of the demands we are now making. The speech from which I have quoted was made in January, 1881, when an association called the Land League was in existence in Ireland. There is now an association called the National League. [An hon. MEMBER: "The Loyal and Patriotic League."] It is a conspiracy. To use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), the one is in apostolical succession to the other. Our case, to use the language used in 1881, is— That the state of Ireland is one in which the administration of justice has failed, and in which, to a very considerable extent, the influence of terror places in abeyance the discharge of civil duties and the exercise of civil rights."—(Ibid.) The powers we ask for are necessary to maintain social order; they are necessary to maintain the very existence of society upon the conditions enforced and recognized by every civilized community. They are not in the full sense of the word, political, unless it be a political duty to maintain order, to respect the rights of property, and to secure to everyone the enjoyment of complete personal liberty. We may say that the object we have in view is political in the sense that it is the highest duty of those engaged in politics to see that all subjects of the Queen are personally secure in every part of Her dominions. It is not a Party question, but it is a duty which the House of Commons owes to society in Ireland as much as it owes to society in England or in London. If there were persons in any part of London organized for the purpose of robbery or spoliation, it would not be called a political or Party object if we found it to be necessary by direct legislation to secure to the law-abiding portion of the citizens of London peace in their own dwellings and the absolute control of their own property. That is the object which the Government feel it their duty to press now upon the attention of Parliament. But I am told in the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) proposes that— This House declines to set aside the business of the Nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, while no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the Law by the exaction of excessive rents. This Amendment is almost identical with the one moved in 1881 to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman then saw no reason for giving way to the Amendment proposed or for departing from the course of action and duty which he had laid down for himself. The right hon. Gentleman used these words— From our point of view the question presents itself thus: that the state of Ireland is one in which the administration of justice has failed, and in which, to a very considerable extent, the influence of terror places in abeyance the discharge of civil duties and the exercise of civil rights.… but there are some Members of Parliament… who say that the Government has made a great mistake in giving the first place in the deliberations of 'Parliament—at least, the first place in the proposals laid before Parliament—to a subject of this kind, and that they ought to have commenced the Session by art attempt to deal with the intricate question of a Land Bill in all the manifold points of view from which it has been approached during the last few months. Well, it is impossible for us to accept any proposal of that kind." (3 Hansard, [257] 1316–7.) That, Sir, is our view of the case. The Government had in contemplation an extensive scheme of what they believed to be land reform dealing with that land question which was the subject of the agitation of the Land League. The Government on their responsibility declined to take up the land question first, but insisted that the law should be maintained, and that the lives and property of the subjects of Her Majesty should be preserved and protected, and then they undertook and dealt with the land question. Well, Sir, I have stated in this House, and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has stated, that we are prepared and are dealing with the land question. There are two Bills in preparation. One is in print and will be introduced immediately; another dealing with the subject of purchase is in an advanced stage of preparation, and will, I hope, very shortly see the light. But, Sir, what was the attitude of Her Majesty's Government in 1881, and what was the position they took up? I will read another quotation. The words are so apt and express so completely the sense of duty which the Government of to-day feel, that I can without the least hesitation appropriate and use them as arguments in support of our own case. The Solicitor General for Ireland stated in the debate on this very Motion that— It was his conviction that no Land Bill could be presented to Parliament framed in accordance with the principles of honesty and justice, which would satisfy the members of the Land League."—(Ibid 1658.) Now, Sir, I venture to say that the present Government cannot present any measure to Parliament which is not framed upon principles of honesty and justice; and I am afraid also that I must say that no measure which is likely to be framed upon those principles or which we can present to Parliament will satisfy that apostolic successor of the Land League which is now the source of so much terror and disorganization. Let us go back to the simple duty of the Government—of the Government represented by the right hon. Gentleman opposite as of Governments under any circumstances in this country. I say it is the duty of the Government to maintain the law and to secure the liberties of the people. Dare we stand by and see juries intimidated and prisoners acquitted who, by the declaration of the Judge on the evidence adduced, ought under all the circumstances to have been found guilty? Dare we stand by and see the country disorganized and do nothing? I say we cannot and we will not. It this is wrong, and these things are to go on, let the House and the country relieve us of our responsibility. I beg to move the Resolution that stands in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the introduction and several stages of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion, including the Rules of Procedure, whenever the Bill shall be set down for consideration by the Government as the first business of the day."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

, in rising to propose the following Amendment:— To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'This House declines to set aside the business of the Nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, whilst no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the Law by the exaction of excessive rents;' said: Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury appears to me to have taken up a very extraordinary position in endeavouring to institute any comparison whatever between the state of affairs on which the Government base their proposals and the state of affairs which prevailed in 1881. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that Ireland is in a state of disorganization. With all deference to the facts which the right hon. Gentleman may afterwards produce, I venture to traverse that proposition absolutely. You may from the area of exceptional disorder exclude the Provinces of Ulster and Leinster; also Tipperary, Waterford, Leitrim, and Sligo—in all 25 counties. Now, of the remaining seven counties, you may treat as partially disturbed Kerry and. Limerick, the half of Galway, the half of Roscommon, one-third of Clare, one-sixth of Cork, excluding the City, and possibly one-sixth of Mayo. Thus you have, taking in the whole of that area, one-eighth only of the population of the country which the right hon. Gentleman says, without any qualification, is in a state of complete disorganization. Then, there is another point of difference between what is happening to-day and what happened in 1881. In 1881 the demand for precedence for the Motion taking the time of the House did not, as to-day, precede, but followed, a very ample and elaborate statement by the Chief Secretary of that day on the state of things which was thought to justify his demand. How is it then that the right hon. Gentleman has asked the House to surrender all its time, before the Chief Secretary has made a statement of the facts upon which the Government base so important a demand? Will the right hon. Gentleman who talks of the "complete disorganization" of Ireland lay upon the Table of the House a comparative Return of the outrages in January, 1881, and of outrages reported to the Chief Secretary during this last month? If he will do that, we shall have a means of measuring how far there is a parallel between the state of things which was thought to justify the demand for coercion and for the whole time of the House in 1881, and the same demand for the same policy and similar legislation proposed in 1887. Sir, the Amendment which I have put down is meant to dispute the necessity for urgency: it disputes the priority of the Coercion Bill over other measures for Ireland. I am aware, therefore, that in discussing that Amendment I shall not be able to cover the whole length and breadth of the objection which many of us sitting on this side feel, and shall continue to feel, to the kind of legislation which the right hon. Gentleman is going to propose. This Amendment, with which we meet the first stage of what is likely to be an arduous and protracted discussion, only deals with one particular aspect of this great controversy; and our position in moving this Amendment is that the Government are going to work in an inverted order—that they are beginning with a polity which will aggravate the existing evil, and will weaken and spoil the operation of whatever future remedies they may be able to propose. We take the very earliest opportunity, and shall to the very end take every other legitimate opportunity, of protesting against a policy of that kind. We are not acting without a pre- cedent, because in 1846 so staunch a stickler for Parliamentary and Constitutional usage as Lord John Russell took the same course as we are now taking in demurring to a demand for the whole time of the House for a Coercion Bill. He did it, too, upon grounds very similar to those which I myself wish to press upon the House of Commons this afternoon. Lord John Russell said—and it shows how our Irish dealings are constantly repeating themselves— That he felt that more useful effects would be likely to follow from this measure (the Coercion Bill of the day) if Her Majesty's Government had an opportunity of producing some remedial measures at the same time. He thought that they were bound to consider whether there were not measures that would lessen the causes of this crime. Then Lord John Russell, along with Mr. Cobden and my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), went into the Lobby against the very same demand as that which the right hon. Gentleman has now made. We are not, therefore, without a precedent. As to the point with which I began, I must ask what excuse there is for the proposal of the Government? we are told that disorder is triumphant. I venture to repeat that outside that very narrow area to which I have already alluded, Ireland has seldom been quieter than it is to-day, the evidence of that is to be found in the Judges' charges outside the districts I have spoken of. It is to be found in the testimony before the Commission that I shall presently have to deal with. It is to be found oven in the evidence given before the Commission by an hon. Member whom we always listen to with interest on the Irish Question—the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald). That hon. Gentleman was asked whether the powers of the League had diminished, and he said "That is a very hard question to answer." But he then went on to say this— If you ask me pointedly whether I am in favour of the immediate suppression of the League by force of law I should say No, because I think it is gradually losing its power. But he said more; he was asked by one of the Commissioners about the forcible prevention of the meetings of the League. His answer was this— I do not know that you can forcibly prevent people from giving bad advice. It is a difficult question; but I do not think that direct interfer- ence with the Land League such as the passing of exceptional legislation would be advisable in the immediate present. What should be done in those parts of the country where extraordinary violence occurs I am not capable of offering an opinion upon, but I do hope that no such measure will be extended over the whole of Ireland. He was further asked if it would be just as unfair to treat the whole of Ireland as if it were one—and to treat the whole of the United Kingdom as one area, deserving of exceptional legislation—and the hon. Gentleman, in reply, said, "Quite so, there are many parts of Ireland as quiet and well-behaved as any portion of the United Kingdom." That is the opinion of the hon. Member for Cambridge. What is the real reason for the Bill? There is no use beating about the bush. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will not agree with me, but I hope they will listen to what is the real reason. What are you actually aiming at? You are not aiming at putting down rebellion. You are not aiming at quelling sedition. You are acting against a combination to protect the tenants—to protect the tenants against rents which you know, and which you yourselves will admit—are now compelled to admit—to be excessive and exorbitant, and against which these combinations are the only existing safeguard. That is the proposition, and it is one of the foundations of our argument against urgency. We have now before us, not only the charges of the Judges describing the state of the country, but we have the Blue Book, with regard to which I do not scruple to say it is one of the most important documents issued since the Devon Commission in 1844. We are charged with raising over again the question which was supposed to have been settled last September, and again last month, on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). Yes, because we have new proofs, and a fresh body of evidence. I do not doubt that anyone who will read, or even dip into, this voluminous Blue Book will see that not only the Report, but the whole mass of the evidence in that Book, supports every one of the leading propositions which we, on this side of the House, endeavoured to press on the Government as soon as this Parliament was elected in 1886. I am going to trouble the House with as few extracts as possible from that document; but they shall be such as to have really an important bearing on this debate. Our first proposition was, and has been throughout, that there has been so serious a fall in prices as to interfere with the payment of judicial rents. In September that was denied on those Benches, above and below the Gangway. Well, the Commission reported on that. They admit to the full everything that we ever said as to the effect of the fall in prices upon the ability of the tenants to pay their rents. And they overthrow all the propositions that were advanced by right hon. and learned Gentlemen from the Benches opposite. The Commission say that this sudden fall in prices has been aggravated by a gradual deterioration going on in the quality and produce of the soil. And here I cannot help noticing an illustration of the spirit in which the "landlord party"—I do not say it offensively—endeavour to mislead official opinion. Mr. Kavanagh, in his evidence, says that the agitators tell the people that there has been a gradual deterioration of the soil, and he would lead you to think that there was nothing in it. It is not the agitators who tell us this; it is your own Commissioners who tell you. Then the next point is the great increase in the cost of cultivation. But I will not labour that, but leave it. Sir, they also say that this state of things is the secret, in fact, of the formation of these combinations against which your proposed legislation is to be directed. They use moderate language. They say the refusal by some landlords to grant reductions may explain much that has occurred. "May explain!" They say that the formation of these combinations has doubtless been facilitated by the circumstances which it is now proposed to consider. The plain English of that is, of course, that in the opinion of the Commissioners these combinations arising in localities had their root in the inability of the tenants to pay excessive rents, and, what is still more to the point, in the resolution of many landlords—I do not say all, but of many—to exact those excessive rents which they can only collect when armed with sufficient power to do so. You need not go, as my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) went, as far as the Chicago Convention for an explanation of the rise of these combinations. They have had their rise in the natural neces- sity of the Irish tenants. That is my first proposition. The second proposition is that the evidence given before Lord Cowper's Commission is conclusive, and shows that, but for these combinations, many of the landlords would not have made the abatements which the late Chief Secretary and others, after fair and impartial inquiry, knew to be just and reasonable, and required by the circumstances. I am not going to draw up an indictment against the Irish landlords. I am not very fond of drawing indictments against any class. I suppose there is as much human nature in the Irish landlords as in the National League. Only do not let us overlook the motives that impel them to screw out high rents. The Irish landlords are in a terrible fix, and there is one very remarkable point bearing upon the probability that they would press their claims if they could. Many Gentlemen are acquainted with Mr. Hussey, the land agent. He made this statement. He said he collected a rental of £250,000 a-year, and he was asked how much of that £250,000 was intercepted before it gets to the landlord, and he said, "I should think four-fifths." "Then a landlord with a rental of about £5,000 a-year gets for himself about £1,000?" To this Mr. Hussey replied, ''About that." Well, that remarkable admission as to the landlords for whom Mr. Hussey was agent is typical of too many landlords, and it explains the pressure that is put on them, and that they in their turn put on the tenants. I should be forbidden by you, Mr. Speaker, if I attempted to discuss the Act of Union now, and I have no desire to discuss it; but I will make one remark on a fact of this kind revealed by the Blue Book, that landlords only draw one-fifth of their rents, is very remarkable proof that the Act of Union has led the Irish landlords into habits of extravagance in their emulation with the richer landlords in England, and that they have been left in a very desperate condition—a condition in which they will be very little likely to do much good for the country in which they live. There is evidence to show what would have happened if pressure had not been put on the landlords. Mr. Hussey was asked why he made a certain abatement. He said, "Why, the lawlessness of the country prevented me asserting my right." He was then asked, "It was in consequence of the utter absence of any power to enforce it, that you felt incumbent upon you to make this abatement?" "Yes, that is so." He was glad to get any money he could. This was in the face of what the Commissioners called the inability of the tenants to pay even the judicial rents. I submit that what Mr. Hussey calls the lawlessness of the country was natural combinations of the tenants to resist payments which they could not make. This Bill, Sir, is a Bill for enabling landlords to exact exorbitant and excessive rents. There is one other witness who is much too important for me to pass over, because his evidence is of the first significance—I refer to Sir Redvers Buller. He is perfectly impartial, and not likely to over-state the case against the landlords, nor take an un-just view against that class. I will read a few words here and there from his evidence. He says— My view of the country is this, that the majority of the tenants meant to pay the rents, and, where they could pay them, did pay them; but the rents have been too high. I do think they are too high. He said—"Nobody"—and this is of the first importance—"Nobody did anything for the people until the League was established." And when the landlords could not let their farms, then they were forced to consider the question of rents. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they are not too biassed by Party feeling, whether these combinations in preventing the landlords from exacting rents, which Sir Redvers Buller declared were too high—whether a service was not being done to the tenants of the country, and indirectly to the Government of the country. Then Sir Redvers Buller says— I think it was the pressure of high rents which produced the agitation and the intimidation against the payment of rents. Mark that. It was not the Chicago Convention; it was the pressure of high rents. Then Sir Redvers Buller said— Unfortunately, the tenants had been led to think that the law was only on one side; they were an ignorant, poor people, and that the law should look after them, instead of which it had only looked after the rich. Yes, and your Bill is a measure for throwing the law more than it has ever been on the side of the rich. Sir Redvers Buller said—and this is the last quotation I shall make— I should like to have a Court which would have a certain amount of coercive power on a bad tenant, and a very strong coercive power on a bad landlord. The effects of this Bill will be to remove all the coercive power that General Buller wanted to put upon the landlord, and to put all the coercive power upon the wretched tenants. There is other evidence in this Book which hon. Gentlemen opposite will be still less likely to deny than that of Sir Redvers Buller, as to the contention that combination is justifiable directed against the payment of excessive rent. I refer to the evidence of Lord Milltown, who is by no means a revolutionary person, and to the Ulster evidence. Lord Milltown denied in his dissentient Report the position taken up by the Commissioners—namely, that the refusal of abatements by some landlords might explain much that had occurred. Lord Milltown did not assent to that; and, with an ingenuousness that is really admirable, he proceeded— The chief refusals to grant abatements have been in Ulster, where combinations do not as a rule exist. That is the very point. Abatements were refused exactly because combinations do not exist. Of course, Sir, in that proposition Lord Milltown was admitting, in the plainest manner possible, the very proposition which in an earlier paragraph he denied. He was admitting that where combinations did not and do not exist abatements against excessive rents were not there made. I do urge hon. Gentlemen opposite to read about 100 pages of the Ulster evidence, because they will there find what harsh landlords are capable of doing when they are free from the pressure of popular opinion and of these combinations. No more painful evidence has been laid before this House for many a day than the evidence as to the treatment of the Ulster tenants. Mr. Dickson, who was formerly Member for Tyrone, gave some very interesting testimony, and there is one sentence which struck me as very important. He said— The question is how long the tenants in the North of Ireland will pay what I repaid as impossible judicial rents, fixed between 1881 and 1885. Then he was asked what he thought the effect would be on the tenants if the landlords continued to refuse to sell—as they do in the North of Ireland, for the very good reason that they get their rents—and he replied— I believe that if land purchase goes on very extensively over the South and West of Ireland at low prices now prevailing and if reductions are made on judicial rents in the South and West of Ireland, and if no purchase is permitted in the North of Ireland, and no abatements on judicial rents, I believe we will have the agrarian question breaking out in all its intensity in the North of Ireland. That means that the agrarian combinations in the South and West of Ireland are in effect fighting, nut only their own battle, but the battle of the North of Ireland. I should like, in passing, to give the House some idea of the struggle which the Irish tenant farmer has to carry on in the face of present difficulties. I will refer the House to the evidence of a Mr. Charles Dennis, a tenant farmer of Waterford, who referred to a danger to the whole of Ireland, which is in process of realization, and which the Commission recognized. The Commissioners say that to force the tenants to sell their working stock in order to pay full rent would be fatal to their future prosperity. But it must be perfectly clear, even to an Englishman who reads the evidence, that this very process of the impoverishment and ruin of Ireland by forcing the tenants to sell their stock are at this moment going on at a rapid and an advancing rate— We have," he says, "to keep this stock from month to month, and already we are overstocked. They are depreciating. We have offered them to the landlord"— and this is a most important point of evidence— and the landlord would not accept them. Some time ago I stated publicly in print the names of my neighbours who offered their stock to the landlord, and proposed to charge half the cost of keeping them sooner than sell them off the place. If the landlord will not do that at the present time, he must only expect to impoverish the tenants further by obliging them to sell off their stock at any price to save eviction more than seizure. The land then becomes un-stocked, and the consequence is that the tenant is left no means at all then of paying the rent. Now, I desire to give a picture from Mr. Dennis's evidence of the struggles that a tenant sometimes has to go through in order to do what he believes to be honest and right— Only this time 12 months," says Mr. Dennis, "walking before my gate by accident on the public road leading from Waterford to Dunmore I picked up 15 pawn tickets. I looked at them, and on some of the tickets was marked 'cash,' and on others was a certain name that I happened to know. There were a great many persons of that name in the place. I went to one, and I did not think it could be him; but he said, 'I am so much obliged to you for bringing me these tickets, because if you told anybody it would ruin me. I went to the fair to raise my rent, and I could not sell a single tiling, and I brought in these things to pawn them.' Among the things was his own coat, his son's coat, a splendid-made coat of frieze, a horse collar, and a shawl belonging to his wife. With the exception of this last article, no exception could be taken to any of the articles. On the whole he had received a sum of £4, 3s and he said to me, 'You see I have two horses; I have two for working, and a yearling. I have six or seven yearling calves, 16 sheep, and several pigs—I have all that, and yet I cannot raise the money, and if I wanted £5 to-morrow you know I could not raise it. So I had to take these clothes and pawn them.' I said to him, 'Why did you do it?' I spoke to him like a first-class Land Leaguer. His answer to mo was, 'I have a good landlord. He reduced my rent considerably upon the last gale day, and if I told him I was not able to meet my reduced rent now he would not believe me, and sooner than that he should disbelieve me, or think I had cheek to go and ask him to make any further reduction, I went and pawned these things. I can only say that man excites my deepest commiseration, and I am sure he will have the sympathy of Members in all parts of this House. I say that that case is an illustration of what I believe to be the position of the great majority of the tenant farmers in Ireland. And we are so often reminded, Sir, of the villainy of the character of the Irish nation, that I rejoice to be able to bring these facts forward. The whole of this Bill is based on the theory that the Irish people are incorrigible. The Commissioners have put upon public record that the Irish people are naturally honest, hard-working, and deeply attached to their country. And I say, Sir, that a man of this kind who makes such a sacrifice—and there are thousands of them in Ireland—excites my pity quite as much—as the victim of a moonlighting outrage. I say I am less anxious—anxious as I am—to secure vengeance upon 100 or 200 ruffians than I am to secure rightful and humane treatment for the thousands of poor tenants in Ireland. There is the difference between Gentlemen opposite and us on this side of the House. I will now proceed to one or two interesting matters which ought to be brought to the notice of the House as illustrating the meanness landlords are not above resorting to, and which come out in a very clear light in the Blue Book as showing the value of combination. As hon. Members from Ireland are aware, there is a device in operation in Ireland called joint tenancy. In one part of the Blue Book there is an account of a combination in a certain part of the country—I think Galway—not to pay rents until joint tenancy was broken up. The House will be able to judge whether these joint tenancies ought to be broken up or not. In this case there were five or six ten-ants on each holding—that is to say, these five or six men are made joint tenants, and are severally responsible for the whole rent. But that is not all. This is a device for bringing the rent above the significant figure of £1, for if the rent is over £4 the landlord pays only half the rate, while if it is below £4 the landlord pays the whole rate. By this precious manœuvre, although a tenant has a holding which is really under the value of £4, and ought not, therefore, according to the intention of Parliament, to pay any poor-rate, he yet is made to pay that which the Legislature never intended him to pay. I say that this is a fraud upon Parliament. It shows that some landlords practise what I may call a Plan of Campaign of their own, which is quite as immoral as that which Lord Salisbury described as arrant swindling. There is another much more important complaint to be made against the action of the landlords which these combinations in Ireland have endeavoured to meet, I mean their mode of dealing with their tenants in the matter of the purchase of properties. One subject referred to the Commissioners was whether combinations prevented the operation of the purchase clauses of the Act of 1881, or Lord Ashbourne's Purchase Act of 1885. There is plenty of evidence on the subject. What, for instance, does Mr. J. G. MacCarthy say? As hon. Members are aware, he is one of the Commissioners under the Act of 1885— The operation of the Act has been hindered by an unwise attempt on the part of some land agents to coerce tenants into buying, and as to the terms of buying. How does he exercise the pressure? By telling the tenant he must either sign a contract for sale or go out. I have seen letters of this class. I have a letter in my possession from an extensive land agent, telling the tenant that the sheriff could not he put off beyond to-morrow, but that if she handed the sheriff the contracts for purchase, duly executed, he would not take possession. Surely a contract signed under such circumstances could not be free. I hope the House understands the drift of that. English Members and English taxpayers are not entirely uninterested in these transactions. You see what the device means. It means that a tenant under the threat of being turned out, whatever for, agrees to purchase terms practically fixed by the coercive agent or landlord. Then the Commissioners, when they inquired into these cases, have constantly found that the price so fixed was a most monstrous price, which would have left us, the British taxpayers, completely in the lurch. These combinations, against which the Bill to be introduced by the Government is directed, rightly sot their faces, and rightly set their faces, against coercive operations of this kind, which would have had the effect I have stated. See what is the landlords' Plan of Campaign for which you, by your proposal, demand urgency to-night. Their Plan of Campaign is to force a tenant to pay an unreasonable rent, with the delightful alternative of driving him to purchase at an unreasonable price, thus exposing the British taxpayer to an unreasonable risk. You are asking for urgency to make Parliament an accomplice in that benevolent design. It is the old story. This is Irish history in a nutshell—what it has been too long—unredressed grievances, moral wrongs without legal remedy, then illegal acts to secure something like moral rights, and then Coercion Bills with the admirable purpose, as righteous as it is statesmanlike, of driving just discontent beneath the surface. I know what I shall be told by one of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I shall be told that the Government are going to bring in land proposals; but it is useless to bring them in while these combinations exist. I reply, there is abundant proof to be got from the Blue Book that the unwillingness, for example, of the Irish tenants to avail themselves of the purchase provisions of the Acts of 1881 and 1885 is due to other causes far more potent than these combinations. It is impossible to read the Blue Book without feeing that the mass of tenants holding aloof from purchase are influenced by the consideration of the possibility of a still further fall in prices; by the apprehension that taxation may be increased; and by other apprehensions of one kind and another, and that combination is one of the least of the forces that are now operating upon the tenants and making them afraid of purchase. Therefore it will not do for the Government to say that they are prepared to bring in land proposals, but that they must first get combination out of the way. I go a little further, and I say that to give urgency to coercion will do no good. It will do no good in the way of meeting the evils of which you complain. I will take the evidence of Captain Plunkett on Boycotting. I daresay I shall be told that although there is active disorder only in a very small part of Ireland, yet that Boycotting prevails over a large area. Well, but it is the opinion of one of the most experienced magistrates in all Ireland, that Boycotting will not be affected by such coercion as the Government have in view. This is the evidence of Captain Plunkett, when under examination by the President of the Commission— Boycotting went on under the Crimes Act?—Oh, yes. As strongly as before?—It was as strong, I think, then as it is now. Is not that a warning to the right hon. Gentleman not to hope that by coercion Boycotting will be put down? Captain Plunkett tells you stringent coercion was ineffectual against Boycotting. There is another point I will notice in passing. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) the other night gave us some horrible figures of the murders committed in the disturbed times of 1881–2. He is going to vote for a Coercion Bill, and yet, let me tell him, in spite of two Coercion Bills, 75 per cent of these murders remain undetected, and their perpetrators unpunished, to this day. Do not think, therefore, that a Coercion Bill, however strong, will, in the future, give you any security that you will detect the perpetrators of these crimes, or that you will be able to bring them to justice I regret that the Government have addressed themselves to their task in this way. It is, I repeat, an invested order. Here is a single instance to show what I mean. There has been no worse or more disturbed district in Ireland than Castle-island since these troubles began some years ago. This is the evidence of a land valuer who knows it well— I attribute the difficulties of a district I am well acquainted with, the Castleisland district, which has unhappily had a very evil notoriety, to the fact that the Land Act operated to a very limited extent there, owing to a very large proportion of the tenants there being leaseholders. Their rents are high, but abatements have been made in some instances. What is the use, I would ask, of our spending weeks to drive the discontent of Castleisland below the surface, when the same weeks that we shall spend in passing a Coercion Bill would suffice to cut off the root of the disorder in Castle-island? If you suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, will you have more power to deal with the disorder of which the First Lord of the Treasury complained? Will the Bankruptcy Court have more power to compel persons to give evidence? If mobs resist, you have all the military forces of the Empire at your back. Why do you need more? What is the case? There are sinister signs that the temper and spirit of the Irish Government are not improving. There are signs that they are not to be trusted. I am perfectly sure that they, like their Predecessors, when they have been armed with these weapons, will inevitably be drawn into attacks upon their political opponents, and when that happens, depend upon it, we shall again be in quite as deep waters as we were in 1881–2. The events of 1881 are fresh in our minds, and I may perhaps refer to them with the more freedom because I was not then in this House. What happened after the House had assented to the Motion the right hon. Gentleman referred to, and the House had passed the Bill in favour of which the Motion was made? You were always talking about restoring law and order. It was argued then, as now, that you must restore law and order before you bring in remedial legislation. What was the effect of that measure for restoring law and order? This is not inapposite. In the fourth quarter of 1880 the number of evicted persons was 954. In the first quarter of 1881, when coercion was on the stocks here, they increased to 1,732, and in the second quarter, when the Coercion Bill had been passed, they rose to 5,500. Certainly, I should not be surprised if something of the same kind were to follow now. If you suppress these combinations, if you rouse the temper and excite the passions of the Irish people by this kind of legislation, I should not be surprised if the same thing occurs again. And not only did evictions go up—I implore the House to remember what passed in 1881—but outrages, which in February, 1881, the month when the Coercion Bill was before the House, were 170, by January, 1882, when these exceptional powers were in full force, had risen to 479, and by March to 531. Why, what did that come from? It came from striking at the tenants' organization before you struck at the land system which that organization was directed against. Well, that is all past. I will venture to quote a passage from a very wise man. Mr. Burke said— I have constantly observed that the generality of people are 30 years at least behind in their politics. In books everything is settled for them without the exertion of any considerable diligence or sagacity. For which reason men are wise with but little reflection, and good with but little self-denial in the business of all times except their own. Few are the partizans of departed tyranny. We now can see the iniquity of the penal laws of the 18th century. Yet I declare, Sir, I am with those who doubt whether the penal laws of the 18th century were more iniquitous, or brought greater woe on the population of Ireland, than the landlord system of the 19th century. We are very astonished that a Coercion Bill should have been brought in the year 1846, when the Devon Commission had just reported, and when the astounding evidence of that Commission ought to have been deep in all men's minds. we are amazed that the Parliament of that day, and the Leaders of Parties in that day, could think of nothing better than a Coercion Bill. But are we sure that we are acting more wisely to-day in this House than our forefathers acted then? I do not wish to leave off with any particularly bad language against the Irish landlords. I do not want to introduce at this very early stage what is only too likely to be a protracted discussion anything like passion. But I must point out finally what is in my view the object of the legislation which the right hon. Gentleman is about to propose, and the acceptance of which will mark an unwisdom compared with which that of any generation of our forefathers will be slight. Sir, I wish to call the attention of the House to the evidence of Captain Hamilton. Captain Hamilton, as many hon. Gentlemen know, is the chief director of the Landlords' Defence Association. What he says is this:— His view was"—they are most remarkable words—"that in dealing with the tenants there should be no door of hope. If the man goes out he should only be able to come back again on making terms with his landlord. The whole cause of the trouble? and evictions is the idea that is in the minds of the Resilient Magistrates and others who go in charge that they are to settle between the landlord and tenant. At nearly every eviction the Divisional Magistrate and Resident Magistrate, and very often the District Inspector, all hear down upon the landlords' representative the moment be goes in, to make terms with the tenant, and, as it were, put themselves on the side of the tenant as against the landlord. I have never seen trouble at an eviction that has not been caused by delay and that idea among the people. My plan has always been to lake one or two of the tenants and evict absolutely, but there must he no settlement except through the solicitor, and probably if that idea was carried out, and the duty of the Resident Magistrate was simply to preserve order, there would be no trouble about evictions; and I think that is doing a great deal of mischief at the present time, because the people are taught that the Government are on the side of the tenants against the landlords, and you cannot get that out of their heads. What he wants us to get into their heads is, I suppose, that the Government is on the side of the landlords. This, Sir, is a Bill for placing the Government on the side of the landlords, and in Captain Hamilton's very expressive words, it is a Bill for shutting the door of hope. I do not say that I would never in. any circumstances or in any emergency or in any crisis assent to increasing the stringency of criminal procedure either in Ireland or anywhere else. This I do say; considering the just odium with which exceptional criminal legislation has come to be surrounded in Ireland, I would put it off to the extreme moment. I would be very sure that the emergency was so perilous, the crisis so pressing, and the circumstances so overwhelming in their character, that no other less costly or less perilous instrument would enable mo to grapple with it. Sir, I am expressing my deliberate conviction when I say there has never been a more wanton, a more gratuitous, and a more unjustifiable resort than on this present occasion to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) once called "the ever-failing and ever-poisonous remedy of coercion." I do not deny for a moment that the Executive are bound to enforce the law. But we who are Members of the Legislature are bound, when we are deliberating on these great issues of policy, to see that the law is brought into harmony with the just claims of honest and industrious men. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House declines to set aside the business of the Nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, whilst no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the Law by the exaction of excessive rents."—(Mr. John Morley.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


In rising to reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I find myself under the necessity of asking from the House even a greater measure of that kindness and indulgence which they have often been pleased to extend to me, for I speak under considerable difficulties on this occasion. It was only about 24 hours ago that the right hon. Gentleman gave Notice of this Amendment. I make no complaint. I merely state the fact. Since that time, Sir, I was in the House till a quarter to 4 this morning, and I had to return at 10.30, and had to make two speeches before breakfast. The House did not rise till past 1.30, and at 1 there was a Cabinet. In these circumstances, the House will understand that I approach the consideration of a large, complicated, and difficult question under conditions less favourable than usually attend a Minister of the Crown replying to what is in reality a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has, I suppose, got some scheme in his head to deal with the present difficulty which he alleges to exist with regard to the payment of rent in Ireland. To that scheme, whatever it is, he has made no reference from one end to the other of a long speech. What he has referred to are measures which we propose to bring in, which he has not seen, of which he knows nothing, but which he criticizes in advance with no possibility of knowing whether when he does see them they will or will not deserve the strictures which he has passed upon them. As an illustration of that position, I recollect that the right hon. Gentleman began his speech by giving us his views as to the precise area in Ireland which was, in his opinion, disturbed, and which, he said, was a very limited area. I do not mean to criticize those views now. But how does the right hon. Gentleman know that if the disturbed area is limited, our Bill is not limited too? There are parts of Ireland, as the House perfectly well knows, in which law is at this moment as well obeyed as in any part of the United Kingdom. But if the right hon. Gentleman supposes that is a scintilla of argument against our Bill for restoring law and order in those parts which are disturbed, I feel myself unable to agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman not having heard the case of the Government considers, I suppose, that he is peculiarly well qualified to criticize their acts and to give his view as to the exact amount of disturbance which does exist in Ireland. I am not going into that question now, and I shall reserve my defence of the Bill which we are going to introduce until that Bill is before the House. But I may remind the right hon. Gentleman, who places so much reliance upon statistics of crime as affording proof or disproof of the necessity for a Criminal Law Amendment Bill—I may remind him of the words of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). [Home Rule Cries of "Oh!" and cheers.] Since when have hon. Members opposite learnt to treat quotations from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman with derision and contempt? In introducing one of his Coercion Bills the right hon. Gentleman used these words— We have never said that the amount of this crime, taken by itself, was the basis of our propositions. That is not the case. You must consider the amount of crime in conjunction with its source, with its character, with what it indicates, and what it means."—(3 Hansard, [257] 1697.) That which was the view of the right hon. Gentleman in 1881 is the view of Her Majesty's Government now, and that is all which I think it necessary to say upon the condition of Ireland as far as crime is concerned. It is an unpleasant and a melancholy subject upon which I shall have to detain the House before long at no inconsiderable length. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) based a large part of his argument upon the extreme difficulty of paying rents owing to the fall in prices. Now, if my memory serves me right, the reduction in rents consequent on the fall in prices is estimated in the most recent decisions of the Land Court at between 14 and 18 per cent. Let us take 16 per cent as the mean figure between these two extremes. Now, 16 per cent is about one-sixth part of the rent, and while I do not say that a rent which is one-sixth too high is not a rent which ought to be altered, I do say that the fact that some rents are too high by so much is not a reason for a social revolution. If the right hon. Member is going to apply a parallel rule in every part of the United Kingdom to every suffering interest, this country will be landed in a chaos such as no civilized country has ever been landed in before. I suppose right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not so far thrown over the Land Act of 1881 as to suppose that rents now fixed, or which were fixed before the agricultural crisis, are grossly unjust. Just before I came down to the House I looked at some statistics with regard to evictions, and made some hasty calculations. There were in the last quarter of last year 522 cases of eviction. Of those under 50 were for less than one and a half-year's arrears of rent. The remainder were for arrears varying from one and a half-year's rent to 10 years' rent. The total number evicted for owing more than one and a half-year's rent was 456. Of these only 132 were judicial rents. Therefore, of the tenants evicted for non-payment of rents due for more than one and a half year, no fewer than 324 were evicted for nonpayment of non-judicial rents, and every one of those tenants could have gone into Court and had a judicial rent fixed. [Home Rule laughter and cheers.] Is that proposition denied? [Cries of "Yes!"] On what ground? Am I to understand that the Act of 1881 is, in the opinion of its authors, not only a total failure on account of the length of the period fixed, but also because the tenants who have a right to go into Court cannot or will not do so? If my calculation is correct, it will go far to prove that it is not true with reference to the majority of evictions, that they are clue to the fact that judicial rents were fixed at a period when prices were different from what they are now. "When you consider that there were only 132 cases of eviction in which the arrears were for more than a year and a-half—and in which, the rents were judicial rents—you must consider also that only one-fifth of these tenants will have been finally turned out of their holdings. That greatly reduces the magnitude and proportion of the grievance on account of which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to disturb the settlement solemnly made in 1881. Before I pass from that part of the subject, let me say a word with reference to the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman upon the Irish landlords. Of course, we need no prophet to tell us that there are bad landlords in Ireland; we need no carefully-prepared and elaborate Reports to prove to us that where there are 500,000 tenants some rents will be too high. Of course, some are too high; but, on the other hand, some rents are too low. Are right hon. Gentlemen so sanguine that they conceive you will be able to have a system which works with such absolute mathematical exactness that when you have a vast number of transactions to deal with, everyone of those transactions shall be exactly in accordance with the dictates of conscience and of the most strict morality? The country and the system have not been found, nor ever will, while human nature remains as it is, in which you can hope to have a perfection such as I have vindicated. I turn to another part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He told us that he and his Friends had been occupied ever since this Parliament met in pressing the claims of tenants whoso rents were judicially fixed before the fall in prices for some reconsideration of the bargain which the State enforced on them. Ever since this Parliament met he has been taking that course, and over since this Parliament met he has been in Opposition. But the crisis began in 1881, and prices were as low as they are now in 1885 and 1886. During a large part of that time the right hon. Gentleman was in Office. When did he first think of carrying out the scheme which he now thinks so absolutely necessary? Was the case of the Irish tenants not pressed upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends by hon. Members from Ireland below the Opposition Gangway?


The first vote I ever gave was in 1883 in favour of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell).


I am only alluding to the right hon. Gentleman in the character of spokesman for the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the right hon. Gentlemen who sit near him. the right hon. Gentleman told us that ever since this Parliament met he had been pressing the claims of the tenants to a reconsideration of the bargain made for them in 1881. But why did he only begin to do this when in Opposition? the evil, so far as it is an evil, is one which has existed ever since the fall in prices—in other words, since the beginning of 1885. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends cannot claim that the case was not pressed upon them at a time when they could have dealt with it. In January, 1886, the hon. Member for Cork brought forward his case and made almost the same speech which he made last autumn when right hon. Gentlemen came from all parts of the country to support him. the hon. Member for Cork said that the condition of the Irish tenants was desperate in consequence of such a reduction in the prices of agricultural produce as had not been known for many years. Was he to understand that the excuse which was about to be made for their inaction by right hon. Members opposite was that the speech of the hon. Member for Cork was made five days before the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) came into Office? Did right hon. Gentlemen hold that that fact entitled them to treat the speech of the hon. Member for Cork as if it had not been delivered?


I do not know whether it is necessary to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the speech to which he refers was delivered at a moment when coercion was threatened by the Conservative Government.


I have no objection to the interruption of the hon. Gentleman, though I think it is hardly relevant, unless I am to understand that the hon. Gentleman does not consider that he is bound to a statement of fact made in opposition to a Conservative Government which brings in a Coercion Bill. He made the statement, and pressed it upon the House as true; and, therefore, I ask why did not right hon. Gentlemen opposite take up the case and deal with it in their own manner? [An hon. MEMBER: They did.] I think I heard some hon. Gentleman say that they did deal with it. That is perfectly true; but in what manner? What they proposed was that Irish land should be bought from the Irish landlords for the Irish tenants, and at a valuation based on the rents fixed in 1831. ["No, no!"] It is true that that was in 1885; but the rent in 1885 was in many cases the rent fixed in 1881. the right hon. Gentleman opposite took the rent fixed in 1881 as the basis on which he asks the British taxpayers to lend £100,000,000. I do not wonder at the hesitation which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends have shown in becoming converts to the doctrine of the hon. Member for Cork, because their conversion is the most humiliating confession of their failure with regard to the Irish Land Question ever forced from any Administration. In 1881 they solemnly passed an Act establishing contracts in regard to rent for 15 years, and before that Act has been six years in force you say that these contracts must be broken. Nor can right hon. Gentlemen opposite say they had no warning. I myself, in the debate that took place on the Land Bill of 1881, called attention to the danger that there was in establishing contracts for 15 years in view of the possible fall in prices. I turn now to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle called the central part of his argument; and what is it? It is that in all cases of this kind, before you make the Criminal Law, as he calls it, more stringent, and. as I term it, more perfectly adapted to the end of punishing crime, you ought to pass remedial measures, according to the old formula, to which I have not the slightest objection. Remedial measures should precede repression. I consider that formula a most valuable truth, if it is properly limited and properly understood. Let me remind the House that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury has informed the House that we intend, not in the dim and distant future, but in the immediate future, to bring in a Bill in "another place," where work can be more expeditiously transacted; and we intend, as quickly as possible, to carry our views into effect. I do not know whether I shall be in Order in indicating very faintly what those views are. We consider that, under the circumstances, two Bills will be necessary. The first Bill will not alter—and does not profess to alter profoundly—the system established by the right hon. Gentleman in 1881; but we think it will make the working of that system more smooth, more equitable, and more beneficial to all concerned in the great agricultural interests of Ireland. The Bill, among other things, will deal with leases, and give to the tenant some equitable relief such as was given to debtors in the Bankruptcy Act of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). It will have other provisions which we think of a valuable kind. But we do not suppose that a Bill of those comparatively humble proportions can possibly solve the great Irish Land Question. That question, we believe, and we have always believed, can only be solved by a large measure dealing with purchase. ["Oh!"] Every Party in the House and every section of every Party is, I think, agreed on this. ["No no!"] Well, with the exception of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). That measure, as may be conjectured, is of too large proportions to be passed immediately unless hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to pursue very different tactics with regard to the Business of the House from those with which we have been made painfully familiar this Session. We shall be ready to bring in that Bill as soon as they are ready to allow that Bill to be discussed. Having thus stated in the rudest and barest outline—for I should not be justified in going more into details—the remedial measures winch we propose to bring in, let me meet directly the argument that these measures ought to precede the criminal measure for which we are now asking urgency. I do not think there is a single man in this House who knows what he is saying who will not admit that the prime necessity in every society is that the law shall be effective. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot for a moment doubt that the primary necessity for society is a stable and acknowledged system of law. If that be admitted, I, on my side, am ready to admit that if you can get your law effective, not by increasing its stringency or altering its machinery, but by remedial legislation, you had better do so. If the effect of passing our Land Bills or any Land Bill would lead to such a change that juries would cease to be intimidated, and that witnesses would come forward and give their evidence—then every one of my Colleagues would hasten to bring forward such a measure. [Cries of "Try it!"] But what chance is there that if we put off this Criminal Bill, when Ireland is weekly going from bad to worse, when society is crumbling into its original atoms, we shall restore the sanctity of contract and respect for law by introducing any Land Bill? The hope that now exists, provided we take measures in time, would be finally destroyed, and it would be useless to try and battle with the forces of anarchy. We should have to give up the task in despair. The right hon. Gentleman based his argument upon the view that the Land League—I have used the wrong alias, I mean the National League—corresponded with and resembled a combination of trade unionists in England for obtaining fair and equitable terms from their masters. But that is a total misconception. Since when have the Opposition come over to the doctrine that the National League is this innocent form of trades union, organized in order to obtain for the tenants fair and equitable terms? I have not taken the trouble of reading the cartloads of speeches in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) denounced the Land League, which, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, is the same thing as the National League except in name. In 1881 the right hon. Gentleman said that the Land League organization was "really Fenian in. its character "—in other words, that it was a treasonable organization which carried out its treasonable designs by murder and outrage. Is the right hon. Gentleman and are his Friends converted to the idea that the National League has cast off its "original sin" and has come out iu the new guise of an innocent com- bination, with no other object than to enable tenants who were asked to pay an excessive rent to resist their landlords? Have right hon. Gentlemen studied the recent speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite who sit for Irish constituencies? One speaker had said that the time would come when rent would be abolished altogether, not all at once, but step by step. Is that the advice of an innocent combination to enable tenants to exact a fair rent? In November last, another speaker said— We are not only working to abolish the landlords; we are also working for the. holy cause of Irish nationality, and if to-morrow every landlord were swept out of the country, we still should have to work in order to realize the dream of the Irish martyrs in the past to make Ireland a nation with her own flag among the nations of the world. I could multiply quotations such as these; but they are sufficient to prove my propositions, which are these—in the first place, that the League aims at political objects wholly alien—in my opinion treasonable—to the question of a combination for the purpose of exacting a fair rent; and, in the second place, that it aims at these treasonable ends by the spoliation of one particular class—those who support the Union. If these propositions are true—and they were believed to be true by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby one year ago, and they are proved to be true by the quotations of speeches made only a few months ago—then what becomes of the contention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle that we are here dealing with an innocent trade union organization. The truth is that the source of our disorders is not the exaction of extreme rents by the landlords. The tenants of Ulster and the leaseholders of Ulster are in some ways more hardly treated than any other tenants in Ireland. The case of the leaseholders of Lister was before the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman opposite Session after Session in 1882, and they never lifted a little finger to relieve them. The case is, in my opinion, far harder than that of any other tenants in Ireland; but they have not, under the temptation which the right hon. Gentleman thinks adequate to justify a socialistic revolution, engaged in any of these nefarious schemes. I shall often have to talk of the National League, but there is one epithet which fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite to which I must call attention now. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of it as a spontaneous combination of the tenants of Ireland. Sir, is the right hon. Gentleman so ignorant of the country which, not eight months ago, he was occupied in governing, as not to know the species of terrorism by which the tenant is brought into the network of this organization, from which he only longs to be free as soon as the law will allow him to free himself with impunity? My first answer, therefore, to the question of the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to why we did not bring in remedial measures before criminal measures, is that to do so would not have had the effect which he thinks it would have had—namely, to restore respect for law and order in Ireland, to enable peaceable men to go about their business in peace, to give freedom under the law, and to enable the Courts of Law to carry out the law of the country. But I have another argument in favour of the course which we propose to pursue. Not only would the order which the right hon. Gentleman proposes with regard to our measures fail in its effect, but if we were to follow his advice and put off day after day the measure which we think necessary to restore respect for the law, it would render the effect of every future remedial measure absolutely nugatory, and destroy at its very source and beginning every hope of a better state of things for the Irish tenantry. I have already told the House that the Government are of opinion that the only hope for the ultimate settlement and solution of the Irish Land Question is a scheme of purchase. What hope would there be of the success of any scheme of purchase if, at the bidding of an agitation like this, you broke a solemn contract entered into only five years ago? Would any tenant in Ireland believe that a settlement guaranteed by Parliamentary pledges would be a lasting one, and if any tenant in Ireland did believe that, would he not be an idiot to believe it; would he not be a fool, in the face of what Parliament has done, in the face of the readiness of Parliament to stultify itself; would he not be a fool if he believed that the contract which he entered into with the State would be a final contract, and that it would not be in his power by using the same machinery of agitation which had been so often found effective in the past to wring what new terms he chose out of the British Government and the British taxpayer? It is because I know that if you begin now; if you precede the restoration of law and order by what you call remedial measures, every tenant in Ireland will believe that he has only to go upon the same lines which they have been pursuing, and the property of every landlord will be whittled down, and that ultimately by slow but sure degrees he will get his land for nothing. This is the creed, and these are the sentiments, preached by hon. Members opposite in Ireland. Is that the policy of the legitimate Opposition? If it is not, I wish to ask how they can possibly justify this alteration in Parliamentary policy adumbrated in the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? I speak as one of a Government determined to preserve the Union, and possibly many may have thought that the arguments I have used can only be properly addressed to those who agree with me in that broad policy which we think ought to guide the common destinies of the two countries. But, Sir, that is not my opinion. I believe that every man in this House who wishes to stop short of absolute separation is perfectly mad if he follows the policy suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in his Resolution. [Opposition cries of "Oh, oh! "and "Withdraw!"] I do not think there is anything disorderly in using the word mad; but if the delicate sensibilities of hon. Members opposite are offended, I will say that any such man must be singularly unwise if he follows that policy, because every scheme which the ingenuity of man can suggest which stops short of absolute separation involves some kind of arrangement and some kind of bargain between the people of Ireland and the people of England. If in your madness—[Cries of "Order!"]—well, if in your folly you break the contract entered into by Parliament in the most solemn manner, how can you possibly imagine that the great inter- national contract winch some of you desire will remain inviolate a moment longer than suits the convenience of hon. Members opposite? Of course the screw will be put on then as now. The people of Ireland from one end to the other would know that however firmly you have appeared to put your foot down, the smallest touch will shake you from your balance; and with that conviction deeply rooted in their mind, do not sup-pose that any arrangement that you may enter into—fence it round with all the securities you like—can possibly cause you to pause for more than a few brief years at any point on the inclined plane down which you will inevitably slide towards absolute separation, if you once leave the present united Constitution of this Empire. For these reasons, not certainly in the interests of the landlords, not even in the interests of the Unionist Party, but in the interests of every man in this House who desires some kind of link to be kept up between England and Ireland, I earnestly press the House not to accept the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and to allow us as soon as may be to take those steps which we think necessary for the restoration of law and order in Ireland.

MR. ALLISON (Cumberland, Eskdale)

said, the Report of the Royal Commission amply justified every one of the allegations made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) last autumn as to the necessity of reducing agricultural rents in Ireland. He had to complain that now that the Commission had reported the Government took no notice of the Report, but were proceeding on the old path of coercion, which had so often failed before, and which he predicted would undoubtedly fail again. The Report contained a lesson for their Liberal Unionist Friends. If any Party insisted more than another on public platforms in this country upon the duty of remedial measures it was the Liberal Unionist Party. They constantly spoke of the manner in which this Parliament could redress the grievances of Ireland, and said a great many things could be done by this Parliament better even than by an Irish Parliament. Instead, how-over, of proceeding to assist in redressing grievances the Liberal Unionists intended, it seemed, to support those measures of the Government which were intended to put down agitation sprung from the very grievances which the Royal Commission had exposed. They were told that the land measure would be produced almost immediately. That was rather a vague phrase, and he should like to know how far the "almost" was to qualify the "immediately." It was, it appeared, to be produced in "another place," where land measures had been known to fail before, but where he doubted not the Coercion Bill would go through quickly enough. If one thing could make the Government's policy more suicidal than another it would be the idea of attempting to put down the National League after the statement of their special Commissioner, Sir Redvers Buller, who had declared that the "great majority of the Irish people thought the National League had been their salvation." The tenants were right in their supposition. He challenged denial of the statement that there was not a single concession but had been wrung from reluctant landowners by the operations of the League and the agitations it had set afoot. In the face of the Report he could not conceive any body of men "mad enough" to go forward with a policy of coercion at the present time. He confessed, after the promises which had been given deliberately to the people of Ireland, it was simple madness to abandon those promises and resort to a policy of coercion, which had failed in the past, and which he was certain would fail in the future.

COLONEL KING-HARMAN (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

said, in answer to the challenge of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Allison), he would point out one Act which had not been got from the Government by the action of the Land Loague—he alluded to the first Act under which the relations between landlord and tenant was first disturbed in Ireland—the Land Act of 1870; for he would remind hon. Members opposite that at that time, thank God, neither the Land League nor the National League existed. He did not believe for a moment that that Act had been ex-forted by the Clerkenwell outrage or the Manchester murder. The hon. Member referred to Mr. M'Carthy as an absolute judge of the state of Ireland. With respect to the action of Lord Ashbourne's Act, that gentleman might be a good judge in his way; he was a solicitor in practice in a small town in the South of Ireland; but he could not agree that he knew more about the land question than the landlords. Mr. M'Carthy was a Sub-Commissioner under the Act, confined mostly to his office or Court; but the landlords heard all that was going on. He (Colonel King-Harman) considered that the attack made on the landlords by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) was uncalled for, cruel, and unjust; and when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the landlords as a body oppressing the poor, he must remind him that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), on a memorable occasion, declared that the Irish landlords had been tried, and that they had not been found blameworthy. Ireland was now organized from one end to the other by the National League against English rule, against loyalty, law, and order; and men, through fear of the power of the League, led the life of dogs, hunted and Boycotted. Talk about evictions by landlords, had there ever been an eviction so cruel as the ease of the Misses Curtin—driven out of the country by the hell-hounds of the League because they nobly stood up to defend their father from the assassins of the League, paid by American dollars? [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen thought this a laughing matter? Was it a laughing matter to drag a girl out by the hair, and pour tar on her head? It might be a laughing matter to those who knew more, thank God, than he did how those things were got up. Any man who stood up for what he conceived to be his duty in Ireland was made to suffer for it. In the course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) had referred to the state of Ireland in 1846, when Lord John Russell and Mr. Cobden were taking a leading part in Irish affairs. True, Ireland was in a fearful condition then. But in that year no remedial measures had been passed, the deepest distress existed, famine stalked the land, the people were poor, and the emigrant ships were leaving Ireland with thousands of emigrants, many of whom died. Now, however, matters were different. There was more money deposited in Irish Savings Banks now than there ever had been. The Dublin Stocks were largely invested in, but not by the landlords, because the National League took care that the Irish landlords received no money. The League coerced the people, and were it not for the League they would be as peaceful and as law-abiding as the people of any other part of the Three Kingdoms. Those who had been murdered, wounded, and terrorized over were not of the landlord class. The landlords were pretty well able to take care of themselves, as they had done up to the present time; but they were of the tenant class, and the nefarious combination which had been spoken of in such laudable terms was not intended to protect but to coerce the tenant. The majority of the tenants of Ireland wished to pay their rents honestly when they could do so; but in thousands of cases they had been prevented from doing it by the system of tyranny which overshadowed and controlled them. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted from the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller. Now, he admitted that Sir Redvers Buller was an able and a gallant soldier, but he was unaware that that officer had had sufficiently long and wide experience of land and of the value of land to be able to give a standard opinion on the subject. This he did know—that on one occasion, when Sir Redvers Buller was talking to a landlord friend of his in the County Kerry about land matters, he pointed to a field belonging to the landlord and said, "Your land is over-rented. You are charging 25s. an acre for that land, while only 21s. would be charged in England." The landlord asked him whether he knew that there was any difference between an English acre and an Irish acre. "No," said Sir Redvers Buller; "is there any difference?" The landlord told him how much larger an Irish acre was than an English acre, and showed him that this would far more than account for the difference in price. So much, then, for the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller in regard to land questions; the right hon. Gentleman was quite welcome to what he could get out of it to strengthen his case. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary next said that all the Irish legislation that had been passed of late years had been against the tenants, and he intimated that hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House were always harping for increased powers in favour of the landlords. He emphatically denied both assertions. What the Government were now asking for were increased powers in favour of maintaining law and order—powers which landlords, tenants, and all classes alike in Ireland would have to submit to and obey. As to legislation for the landlords, he would ask whether any law was ever enacted which weighed more heavily on any class than the Act of 1881 weighed on the landlords of Ireland, both in regard to their power and their pockets. It was a law which would never have been passed in any foreign country, and he was certain it would not have been passed by England for Englishmen. In respect of the evidence of Mr. Dickson, all he would say was that that gentleman told a different story now, when he wanted to get into the House as a National Leaguer, to that which he gave when he was the Liberal Member for Tyrone the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of landlords giving time to their tenants to pay. Doubtless there were bad landlords, just as there were bad men in every class; but, as a rule, the landlords of Ireland have not been such fools as to refuse to give time wherever and whenever it could be reasonably granted. In their own interests they had done so, and would continue to do so. The right hon. Gentleman wound up his speech with a remark in which he entirely concurred. He said that we wanted to protect the good, honest tenants from the ruffians. Just so. They believed the majority of the tenants to be good and honest men, but that those tenants were tyrannized over by a body of lawless ruffians who were subsidized by American dollars; and they wanted to protect the honest, law-abiding men from those whom the late Mr. Forster termed "the village ruffians." "With respect to rent and prices, he might remark that Griffith's valuation in 1854 was made for a basis of taxation and not for rent. The valuation was 25 per cent below what he considered to be the value of the rent, and when the agitation was first begun the cry all over Ireland was for Griffith's valuation. Moreover, prices in 1852, 1853, and 1854 wore considerably lower than they were at the present time. For example, in 1852, in the part of the country to which he belonged, milch cows sold for £8 to £14; at Boyle Fair, in March last, similar animals sold for £10 to £19; in 1852 two-year-olds sold for £4 to £8 10s.; at Boyle Fair for £8 to £11; in 1852 one-year-olds fetched £2 10s. to £3 10s.; at the Fair referred to £4 to £7; in 1852 lambs made from 18s. to 26s. each; at Boyle Fair in March 36s. to 42s. was obtained. He was entitled to argue from this that in regard to Griffith's valuation, tenants did not now pay too high rents, at all events in the part of the country he referred to; still, the Sub-Commissioners made a considerable reduction below what Sir Robert Griffith deemed a fair valuation in 1854. When the prices of produce rose, landlords did not raise their rents in anything like the same proportion; and, therefore, when prices fell, rents ought not to be lowered to a ridiculous extent. He should be as slow as anyone to ask for a measure of coercion; but when he saw honest and law-abiding people unable to follow their lawful vocations, the whole country disturbed, and much-needed capital being driven out by the action of a few lawless men, and when he saw that—because juries were terrorized, verdicts could not be found and ruffians could not be punished—he felt it was time to ask the House to strengthen the hands of the Executive in such a manner that justice should be done speedily and surely, so that Ireland might be saved from the worst oppressors and the greatest destroyers that ever ruined any country.


said, that possibly the fact that the Land Commissioners had reduced considerably the rents of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman's) tenants, accounted for that hon. Gentleman's opposition to the Land Act of 1881. Was not the fact that the Commissioners had reduced the rents by 45 per cent a sufficient proof that rents were too high before? That seemed to him to be the case, especially as Lord Cowper's Commission reported that in many parts of the country rents wore still 17 or 18 per cent too high. Our troubles in Ireland had mainly been produced by the oppressive conduct of the landlords; and when the right hon. Gentleman asked them to believe that the Irish land-lords had never done anything wrong, he put a strain on their credulity which it would not bear. The value of the land of Ireland had been mainly created by the tenants, who had not received the reward of their labour, but had, on the contrary, seen its results confiscated by the landlords. The Act of 1881 perpetuated the feeling that it was a very great wrong; but it was to expect too much to think the Act would remove the stain of centuries, the removal of which must be a gradual process. Why, every west wind of the last few centuries had reached England laden with sighs, sorrows, and tears, and he rejoiced that he had lived in a time when the Liberal Party had made strong efforts to wipe out these sorrows and lessen these tears. Notwithstanding their position, he could see that circumstances were working in favour of the Irish tenant. Before long we should see still greater remedial measures passed for Ireland; and he had strong hope that he should live to see the day when Ireland would be cemented to England, not by force, but affection; not by law, but love. Listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), he (Mr. Handel Cossham) came to the conclusion that the Tory Party had no solution of the Irish problem to offer but the old-tried and found-wanting system of coercion, and he looked to see the early retirement of the Tory Party from Office—and the earlier the better. Errors might have been made by the National League. Oganizations of the kind were prone to err; but recollect what reform that organization had accomplished. Had it not been for organization the English ports would have been shut against foreign corn. Force was no remedy. the people of Ireland held to their right to live on their native soil, and the world being made for the many—not the few—their claims could not be denied. The Government had got as far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had six years ago; and even yet he did not lose hope that strenuous persuasion might induce the Government to retrace their stops along the mischievous road of coercion.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

said, I have listened this evening with very great care to the remarks that fell from the Chief Secretary for Ireland in reply to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). I must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland invariably puts his case before this House with considerable clearness and force. My object in following him so carefully through his remarks was to discover, if possible, the grounds upon which Her Majesty's Government rely in coming down to this House a second time this Session and asking hon. Members to place entirely at their disposal the whole time of the House. I confess, Sir, that the only reason that I was able to discover was that the right hon. Gentleman considered that as a Member of the Government it was his duty to preserve the Union. No doubt, that is a most honourable and patriotic duty; but I am not aware that it is a duty peculiar to Her Majesty's Government. There are hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as on the other side, who consider it their duty to preserve the Union. I am aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite-very often in their speeches regard us and speak of us on this side of the House—and especially hon. Members who sit below the Gangway on this side of the House—as Separatists; but we have repeatedly denied that assertion, and we claim for ourselves to be as sincere in the opinions that we hold as hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House. That there are differences of opinion amongst hon. Members of this House as to how the Union is to be preserved, I will admit; but that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are any more sincere in their desire to pre-serve law and order, and to preserve the integrity of the Empire, than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, I entirely deny. Now, Sir, what are the grounds on which hon. Members are asked to give up the time of this House—to place it entirely at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government? It is in order that the Criminal Law in Ireland may be increased in its stringency. For my own part, I am as anxious that social order shall be maintained in Ireland as hon. Gentlemen opposite can be. I am willing to admit that hon. Gentlemen opposite have a mandate from their constituents to preserve social order in Ireland, and also to preserve the Union between Great Britain and Ireland; but there are hon. Members on this side of the House, and right hon. Members as well, who have a j mandate from their constituents to see that no coercive measure is introduced into this House for Ireland until some remedial measure has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government. If Her Majesty's present Advisers had deemed it advisable to introduce remedial measures, I should not have hesitated to give them every assistance it was in my power to give in carrying their remedial measures successfully through this House. But when they come down to the House and tell us that their only policy for Ireland is to increase the stringency of the Criminal Law in that country, then I at once unhesitatingly refuse to sanction that policy, and to give up the time of the House to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Why do I hesitate, Sir, to place at the disposal of the Government the whole time of the House? Why, there are industrial questions that are ripe for solution—questions that affect most closely and deeply the industrial classes of the country. No one Member of this House could be more painfully aware of the urgency of those questions than I am myself. I have the honour to represent in this House a constituency amongst whom considerable suffering exists to-day on account of certain industrial restrictions that are placed upon the product of their labour; and I and my Friends have been anxiously awaiting and wishing for an opportunity to discuss these questions in this House, and to bring under the notice of Her Majesty's Government questions that affect most closely the working classes of this country, and we have not had up to the present moment an opportunity of so doing. And with those questions ripe for solution, and demanding the immediate attention of the Government, we are asked to sacrifice the time of the House to Her Majesty's present Advisers, in order that the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland may be increased. If the Government, I repeat, are prepared to introduce remedial measures, based on the recommendations of their own Commission, to alleviate the condition of the suffering tenants in Ireland, however sincerely we may desire the passing of industrial measures, I am prepared to say that the working classes of this country are prepared to waive their claims on the attention of the Government, if the Government will give to the House an assurance that, instead of a measure of coercion, they will at once proceed with remedial measures for Ireland. Coercion, Sir, has been tried in the past, and admittedly has failed—admitted by Her Majesty's present Advisors. In 1885 they resolved to rely on Constitutional law—the ordinary law—for the maintenance of social order in Ireland. Why, then, do they now revert to the old policy of coercion? If they had been successful in the Election of 1885, when they had behind thorn the full strength of the Irish vote, they would not now be asking us to increase the stringency of the law in Ireland. The full strength of that Irish vote was given against the Liberal Members. Its full strength was given against me in my constituency at that time; but, notwithstanding the strength of the vote being given against me, I then pledged myself in favour of Home Rule. The problem that the Government has to solve to-day is still the problem laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in 1885. The right hon. Gentleman said the problem we had to solve was the conciliation of the national sentiment of the Irish people. That is still the problem that remains unsolved; and if Her Majesty's Government expect that they will be able to solve it by an increase of the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, I venture to predict for their action an ignominious failure. I would remind them that law and order can only be maintained in Ireland by Constitutional means, and I would assure them that, if they will at once set themselves to pass remedial measures, they may hope to earn the gratitude of the Irish people, and hope to make this year of Jubilee one of real and true union between the people of Great Britain and Ireland.

COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)

I would congratulate Her Majesty's Government, when bringing in the measure to strengthen the law, in not having hesitated to shadow forth their intention of dealing with the Land Question in Ireland, and I believe that, by the policy they are about to pursue, they will not only give security to Ireland generally, but will be giving security to the labourer there to earn his livelihood. We must recollect, in speaking of the landlords of Ireland, how little many of them are masters of their own estates. If these estates were mortgaged as were estates in Great Britain, the probability would be that they were mortgaged at one-third, or possibly 40 per cent, before the judicial rents were fixed. These judicial rents lowered the value by 20 per cent, so that little margin, if any, was left to the landlord; and, depend upon it, over a great part of Ireland the landlord is hardly a free agent. But, while I would urge upon Her Majesty's Government to persevere in grappling with the Land Question, as they have shown it to be their intention to grapple with it, I would earnestly ask them to turn their attention to another matter about which I must say that, as a listener in this House, I entertain the strongest opinions. I firmly believe that when the history of our time comes to be written that this Irish Question which looms so large and separate to our eyes will be regarded as the first acute symptom of the congestion of population in the British Isles. Our population is now 37,000,000, which is within a million or two of that of France. In order to feed our large towns we have to allow bread to be imported free, and a very good thing too; but the effect of that has been to depopulate our agricultural districts. There has been less land ploughed up, less crops, and many of those crops which have been gathered have been gathered by mowing machines and reaping machines. Ireland has felt this more even than our agricultural counties. Irishmen used to flock over to this country in large numbers, and used to carry back to their little holdings large sums of money, having lived, while working here, on the smallest amount of sustenance. These means of earning money have been cut off, and not only have the Irish lost that, but they have lost the power of labouring in our large towns to the extent to which they used to. Many of the agricultural labourers in our country districts here now flock into the towns, and are unable to find employment in them; consequently the Irishmen who now come over meet with their competition. All this, depend upon it, has affected Ireland most severely, and if you will trace the history of that country you will find her downward progress began in 1846, after those two years of the potatoe famine. You will observe a depletion of population, and that, notwithstanding that there has been no proper system of emigration. The system of emigration—if it can be called a system—has been the departure of the least fit. The men who have loft Ireland have departed from their native land for America, Australia or some other Colony as best they could, almost like men who have been pushed overboard from the deck of a crowded vessel. No wonder there has been disaffection in Ireland; but you may depend upon it that disaffection has been caused in this way, and has had its root in poverty. I recollect being told years ago by a distinguished Irishman that poverty was at the root of Irish disaffection. I believe that to be the case, and I would therefore strongly urge upon Her Majesty's Government to consider the advisability of adopting some system of State-directed Colonization, not only for Ireland, but for the United Kingdom general——


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member; but the point before the House now is whether or no the House shall give precedence to the consideration of the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill, whilst no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the law by the exaction of excessive rent. The general question of the condition of Ireland is not before the House.


I believe, Sir, that Her Majesty's Government, in grappling with the Irish Land Question, will give security against the exaction of excessive rents. When the Irishman feels he can own his bit of land he will work with much greater will than when he feels that the product of his labour is not his own, and that a bad season may make it impossible for him to pay the rent of his holding. I will say no more on that subject, but will urge the Government to persevere and to bring forward both their measures contemporaneously, and to persevere with them; and I firmly believe that if the Government will do that the country will support them, and that this year will yet prove a year of peace for the United Kingdom.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I think the House will be of opinion, at all events those of us who sit on this side of the House, that we have listened to a very remarkable speech this evening from the First Lord of the Treasury. There have been many occasions when the House of Commons has been invited to give precedence and to grant urgency for the introduction of Bills of the character of that contemplated by the Government in respect to Ireland; but I venture to say that any person will search the Records of the House without success to find any such request made as inadequately as was the right hon. Gentleman's this evening. Not only were the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury of the briefest possible nature; but I venture to assert with confidence that when they come to be read to-morrow morning, no one will find in them any facts or arguments warranting the tremendous conclusion that he asks us to arrive at in the Motion that he has submitted to us. On the other hand, I think that no one can have listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, whether sitting on this side of the House or on the other, but will admit that his speech from beginning to end was full of facts and saturated with argument such as we expect from such a quarter on a matter of this kind. I am not now dealing with the correctness of these facts, or the soundness of the arguments; but I maintain that no hon. Member on the other side of the House will be able to go through the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-morrow and say that it was devoid of fact and wanting in argument like that of the First Lord of the Treasury. The Bill that has been shadowed forth this evening by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant is, according to the Notice Paper, "to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of crime in Ireland." Well, now, crime in this connection always means crime which springs out of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. Now, it is a remarkable fact, as the House will be aware, that in Her Majesty's Speech we are emphatically told that great crime has decreased in Ireland; but I find, on reference to the figures that have been supplied to Members, that the word "great" might have been dropped out of them, for crime—that is to say, agrarian crime, which is the only description of crime we are speaking of at this moment—has largely decreased in Ireland. For the last three months of 1885 there were 279 agrarian offences committed in that country; but during the last three months of 1886 they have fallen to 166, which is not far short of a half, and this, Sir, in spite of an increase in that which is always the parent of crime in Ireland, and always will be the parent of crime in Ireland so long as it continues—namely, evictions. Whereas the number of crimes fell to nearly half, the persons evicted during the last six months of 1885 numbered 5,470, and in the last six months of 1886 had increased to 9,295. So that whereas evictions nearly doubled, crime fell to nearly one-half. That, I maintain, is a remarkable testimony to the law-abiding sense of the people of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle very justly pointed out to the House that some Judges have been declaring that, as compared with the condition of things 12 months ago, the state of the country is vastly improved. I should like here to call attention to some very remarkable testimony that was given by Inspector Davis in the district of Castleisland, which we have been reminded was one of the most disturbed districts in the country. I was in that district myself at the end of last year, and I know that what I say is the fact—namely, that it was considered one of the most difficult districts to govern in the whole of Ireland. I will read an extract from the evidence given by Inspector Davis before Lord Cowper's Commission; and, if I may be allowed to make a short digression, I would invite the hon. Members who sit on those Benches opposite to read the Blue Book published by that Commission; and, if they do so, I venture to say that we shall hardly have a repetition from them of some assertions which have fallen to-night from the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Mr. William Davis, District Inspector of Castleisland, in Answer 21,444, said— My Lord, there were English gentlemen came round and denounced outrages in Kerry, and said they were a disgrace to Ireland. Mr. Davitt came round and denonnced outrages, and appealed to certain persons against them. That had a very great effect indeed in preventing them. 21,483. I am glad to hear from you that Mr. Davitt had denounced outrage?—Oh, yes; he came down specially to denounce outrage. 21,439. At any rate your evidence goes to prove, and 1 have unfeigned delight to hear it, that Mr. Davitt did what he could to put a stop to these fearful outrages?—He did, and there were English gentlemen went down there, amongst them a clergyman, I do not know their names, who denounced outrages; but there was a Mr. Fagan, an English clergyman. I think some of them were Members of Parliament. I would invite the attention of the House to Question 21,4.16— Is there much Boycotting?—To a certain extent there is, my Lord; but it is practised in such a way that the law cannot get hold of it. In fact, there are only what might be called two people who are suffering very much from Boycotting in the district of Castleisland. They are subject to some annoyance, but not so much as they were. One of them is a very recent case. I think you have here some evidence out of the mouth of District Inspector Davis to prove that in this very disturbed district there are only two persons suffering from Boycotting, and that the sufferings of oven those people are less than they were. I entirely agree with what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, that the upshot of this Bill is to enable landlords in Ireland to collect excessive rents. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland let the cat out of the bag in almost his first sentence. Deferring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, who had just sat down, he said, He has not developed to us his scheme, and I suppose he has some scheme for the better payment of rent;" as if the whole object of our proceeding was to adopt a scheme for bringing about a better payment of rent. I think that is very remarkable evidence as to what is in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He thinks of nothing apparently but what will conduce to the better payment of rent. I must say I was very much astonished, when listening to the two speeches which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland told us he delivered before breakfast the other day, by some of the statements which he made, for they seemed to my mind to show an extraordinary want of acquaintance with the present circumstances of Ireland. After all, I do not know that there is anything to be surprised at. When history comes to record the manner in which we are governing Ireland, nothing will be more remarkable than the fact that a right hon. Gentleman who has never made Ireland a special study, and who, perhaps, has hardly been in the country half-a-dozen times in his life, should be pitchforked at the request of a noble Relative into the position of Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Royal Commission had declared that the fall in the price of gross produce was from 14 to 18 per cent—which was about one-sixth. He maintained, therefore, that rents ought only to fall one-sixth. But, surely, in making that statement he must have been aware that a fall in the price of a commodity affects the producer in this respect—if his expenses remain the same, the reduction all comes off the margin of profit. The right hon. Gentleman's argument would lead to this, that the whole of the loss owing to the fall in the price of agricultural produce is to be borne by the tenant, and none of it by the landlord. Anyone who has worked out the sum will know that a fall of one-sixth in the price of produce implies the necessity for a much greater reduction in rents, in order that the tenant may be in the position he occupied before the reduction took place. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the solemn compact of 1881, and enlarged upon the direful consequences which would ensue if we attempted to meddle with the settlement brought about by that Act. He seemed to be ignorant of the fact that Earl Cowper's Commission speaks of revision of rents, but he will find that it does do so. The assertion of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) is, that the Business of the nation should not be set aside in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the Criminal Law in Ireland, while no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the law by the exaction of excessive rents. Now, I am not going into that at any length; but I wish to quote one or two figures, bo-cause it seems to mo that figures are worth consideration in these matters. Does anyone deny that rents in Ireland are excessive? Why, judicial rents, by the admission of Lord Lansdowne and others, are excessive, and rents fixed during the first three or four years of the operation of the Land Courts have turned out to be entirely inadequate. I believe the last statements that have been circulated amongst Members contain most emphatic testimony to that effect. If hon. Gentlemen will refer to those statements they will find that in the province of Connaught, there wore 99 tenancies during the month of October in which the rents which had been £2,600 were reduced to £1,077—that is to say, it was declared that for every 20s. exacted only 8.s. was duo. I find, also, that in the case of 85 of the tenants of a certain Colonel King-Harman, rents were reduced from £669 to £409; and with all respect to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is not in his place, I would venture to say we may expect that he will deal with some reluctance with this subject if he should happen to touch upon it, looking at the predicament he and his Friends are in with regard to it. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle refer to the system of joint tenancies in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "mean" as to that, and I do not believe the expression a bit too strong. There is no more fruitful source of mischief and injustice in Ireland than this system of joint tenancies. What do we find under it? Why we find that four men may be put down as joint and several tenants of four adjoining plots of land on the books of the estate, and if one of the four does not pay his share of rent all of them are liable to eviction. Landlords favour that mode of tenancy, because, if the rent is more than £4, the landlords are relieved from half the poor rate, and by granting one joint tenancy instead of four separate ones the rent is kept above that sum. Not long ago, on the shores of Clew Bay, there was a remarkable example of another great grievance of Irish land sys-tem on the estate of Lord Lucan. In this case, although the tenants had all paid up their rents to the day, owing to the absconding of a middleman, a number of men were evicted from their holdings. That system of joint tenancies and the middleman system are fruitful sources of mischief and disorder. Not only does this rating manŒuvre—for I can call it nothing else—of joint tenancies relieve the landlords of the legal obligation to pay the poor rate, but it gives him. security for the payment of rent against the poor class of tenantry, while it imposes upon that tenantry the serious disability that, if one of their number falls behind with his rent, the rest may be evicted. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury used an expression which I think he will ponder over when he sees it in print. He said the object of the Government was to give the people "peace in their own dwellings." I listened to the words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman, and there came back to my mind a case about which I asked a Question only this week—namely, the case of John McNulty. That was a case in which a man, indeed, had peace in his own dwelling. What happened in that case? Why, it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland that, under the order of a District Inspector of Royal Irish Constabulary, a certain sergeant went one Sunday evening with a force of men outside McNulty's house, and, according to the sworn evidence in Court, when he heard coin passing inside he made a forcible entry, searched the persons of men he found there, and took them before a magistrate who was a brother of Lord do Freyne, whose tenants the people were, and whoso rents the people were unwilling to pay without an adequate reduction. All this was done—the forcible entry, the searching, the drawing of the revolver upon the men, the arrest, and the taking off of the prisoners before a magistrate without any warrant whatever. It was all in absolute defiance of the law, and that is what you call giving men "peace in their own dwellings." Now, I should like to say a word or two as to the National League. I have referred to this subject outside the House, and as it is a principle with me never to say outside the House what I will not say inside it, I desire to repeat the remarks I have made elsewhere. I took some pains to investigate the National League, and inquire into its working. I went to its head office in Dublin, where I spent several hours. I was very courteously received by the secretary—who represents in this House one of the Divisions of Dublin—although the hon. Member had no knowledge of the fact that I intended to call. During the time I was at the office I saw every letter that had been received there that morning, and investigated the books from top to bottom; and in every place I went to in Ireland I endeavoured to find out the officers of the National League, and put myself in communication with them in order to get what information I could. I will not detain the House upon this point, but I will merely say in one word that the impression left upon my mind after the most painstaking investigation I could make, was that the National League is a perfectly Constitutional association; that those who guide its policy are anxious to prevent outrage; and that if you attempt to suppress it, discontent will be driven within and below the surface, and the results will be very serious. I believe that those who talk against the National League in the way that I hear right hon. Gentlemen opposite speak of it, are merely walking in the footsteps of Lord Sid-mouth and Lord Castlereagh after the unfortunate massacre of Peterloo in 1819. They may have reason to regret their efforts to put a stop to a perfectly legitimate and Constitutional organization. I thank the House for having given me its attention, and I will merely say in conclusion that I come here with the most emphatic mandate from my constituents to oppose on every possible occasion this coercive policy, the first step in which is being taken by Her Majesty's Government this evening. I do not join battle with them with a light heart, and I am certain that from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) down to the humblest of his Followers, all are in the same mood. It is in no light spirit that we enter upon this contest against coercion, and we are determined to use every effort to secure that Ireland in the future shall be treated in a very different way from that which has characterized its Government by England during the present century, and that the past policy of coercion shall, indeed, be a policy of the past.


said, he considered it was a good admission of weakness on the part of the Government that they had not sufficient knowledge among themselves to originate a Land Bill for Ireland, and had to be indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) for their ideas. If the Land Bill was one of the same shreds-and-patches principle as the Provincial Councils proposed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, it would not be received with satisfaction by the people of Ireland. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) showed that the Government had resolved to resort to limp Cromwellianism with all the starch left out. Mr. John George M'Carthy, one of the Land Purchase Commissioners, had, in his evidence before Lord Cowper's Commission, stated that, in his experience, he had known rack-renting to "prevail to an extent simply shocking," and from other evidence it was clearly shown that rack-rent and outrages went hand-in-hand. Yet the Government had resolved on a policy of eviction and conviction. He denied that the agitation was confined to the South and West of Ireland; it was active in Ulster also; and in County Derry, upon the estates of the Salters' and Skinners' Companies, the Plan of Campaign had, under another name, been adopted. Reference had been made to the introduction of remedial measures; but he mistrusted any such measures which were introduced in the House of Lords; for that House, owing to its landlord prejudices, would not pass any measure which was of real benefit to the Irish tenant. English capital had never been employed in Ireland, except as a decoy duck; and no single penny of English capital had been employed in Ireland, except for the purpose of earning twopence. It was a well known fact that the voluntary reductions of rent in England and Ireland amounted to the sum total of the rent of Ireland. The reductions in rent effected by the Land Act in Ireland amounted only to £600,000, while the voluntary reductions in England exceeded £16,000,000. It should also be recollected that English farmers had good markets for their produce, while from places in the North of Ireland carriage to London was as dear as freight to New York. He would urge the Government to lay aside all Party considerations, and to try and treat the Irish Land Question in a broad and statesmanlike manner. They should treat leaseholders and the unfortunate tenants who held under judicial rents in a generous fashion, while if they proved to them that they must pay their rack-rents and receive no reward for their loyalty, they would be driving them into the arms of the Nationalist Party. Even remedial measures of that kind would not be able to chock the growth of Nationalist sentiment in the North of Ireland. But, to give this policy a chance, a Bill should be introduced immediately for the benefit of lease-holders.

MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)

said, that they had been accused of aiding and abetting in outrages and with not having denounced them. This was not the case. He had himself denounced them, and other Members of the Irish Party had done the same. These outrages checked and hampered the cause which they had in hand, and they desired to dissociate themselves from them. He had been foolish enough to expect that in his statement the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) would have advanced some reason why this Motion should be carried, and that the right hon. Gentleman would have hurled at them quotations from their speeches; whereas he had simply quoted from two speeches, one of the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris) with reference to the abolition of rent, and the other of a gentleman who had formerly been a Member of that House (Mr. William O'Brien) with regard to Ireland having her own flag. He thought that that was a laudable ambition, and it had been no danger to England that in the time of Grattan Ireland had had her own flag, upon which there was no stain. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had endeavoured to hold up to the horror of this country the condition of Ireland if mistress of her own destinies, and the injustice which would take place to the British taxpayers when the Irish people would decline to fulfil its obligations. But no complaint has ever been made with regard to the repayment of money for purchase under the Church Disestablishment Act or the Bright clauses of the Land Act. They had other reasons for believing that the Irish people would fulfil their obligations, and that they did not deserve the aspersions which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had that night passed upon thorn. Was it not the fact that the Local Government Board advanced money to the Irish fisheries, and that there had been no complaint with regard to the return of principal and interest? The statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was not borne out by the facts of the case. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the same machinery would be employed for the repudiation of the debt to Eng- land as was now in existence. That was most inconsistent on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, because, if he thought so, why did he bring forward measures by which he would of necessity be obliged to trust to the Irish people? Then, again, they had been told that the international contract would not be respected. That might be the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but he (Mr. J. O'Connor) did not think that it was the opinion of the great English democracy. They had heard a great deal of abuse of the Irish National League; but, strange to say, all that abuse had not caused those Members of that House who belonged to that association to blush in the slightest degree. They looked upon it as the very salvation of the people of Ireland. General Redvers Buller had said so, and he was a good authority. It had stepped between the people and the evictor, and had saved them not only from evictions but from the outrages which generally followed in the wake of those evictions. The number of outrages depended very much upon that of evictions. In I860, 104,163 persons had been evicted in Ireland, and the number of outrages of all kinds had been 136,200; in 1852, 32,495 persons were evicted, and the outrages numbered 913; in 1856, the number of evictions and outrages respectively were 5,714 and 283; in 1866, 3,571 and 86; in 1879, 4,515 and 870; and in 1881, 17,341 and 4,439. Looking at the present time, in the quarter ending in June last year, the evictions in Kerry alone had been 2,481, and it was there that Moonlighting was most frequent. These facts and figures ought to be taken into the serious consideration of the Government before they enacted coercion for Ireland, and before they pressed forward their Motion for Urgency for that Bill. The Irish Members supported the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) because they believed that it was conceived in the interests of peace, harmony, and contentment in Ireland. They believed that if the policy foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman were carried out it would also have an effect in sweeping away that nefarious system of landlordism which had so long prevailed in Ireland, and which had produced so much suffering among the Irish people. Coercion would fail in Ireland again, as it had always failed before, because it had no terrors for the Irish people, "What fear could the Irish people have of coercion when arrested priests were borne in triumph to the prison gates by an enthusiastic crowd? When people rejoiced in, rather than were dismayed by coercion, depend upon it the game was up. But as coercion of the Irish people had been the cause of disaster and defeat to the Conservative Government in the past, so their present attempt at it would result in their eventual and speedy discomfiture.

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had characterized his statement of the remedial measures intended to be introduced as the barest and crudest outline, but not even that limited description could be applied to the information the right hon. Gentleman had given of his threatened Coercion Bill, for which he was now asking the whole time of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had given no details whatever of the Bill, and he had refused to give the House any explanation of its provisions. The Government were not following the precedent of 1881, when Mr. Forster introduced his Bill. Mr. Forster made out—or at all events attempted to make out—his case; and it was not until after the Coercion Bill of that year had been before the House for some days that the then Prime Minister had made a Motion of urgency and precedence for it. If the present Government had simply asked precedence for the Motion for bringing in the Bill, perhaps there might have been some justice in the Chief Secretary's criticisms; but the Motion on the Table was for precedence for all the stages of a Bill which was not even before the House. In the circumstances, he thought the House was entitled to some fuller and more complete information.


The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of not having given an explanation of my Bill. At the present stage I could not have entered into a full explanation of the details of the Bill without being grossly out of Order.


said, he was not blaming the right hon. Gentleman for not having entered more fully into the details of his Bill, but for making a Motion for precedence for all stages of a Bill that was not before the House. The present Motion was entirely without precedent. the right hon. Gentleman had criticized very trenchantly and acutely, as he always did, the Report of the Commission of his own Government with reference to the present state of things in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had put the amount of the reduction in value in crops in Ireland at 16 per cent; but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had had time to look at the Report of the Commission of his own Government. It was evident from the statistics upon which the Commission had founded their Report that the value of the crops in Ireland in 1855 was £63,000,000, that it was £40,000,000 in 1881, that it was £35,000,000 in 1885, and only £31,000,000 in 1886. the same fall equally applied to the value of cattle. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the average reduction of rents by the Land Commissioners was 19 per cent, but in the months of November and December last the gross value of the rents brought into Court was £7,931. The Commissioners reduced them to £5,583, a reduction of 30 per cent, which he thought was a very consider-able indication of the enormous fall of the value of produce in Ireland. the right hon. Gentleman had complained that the Irish tenants did not go into the Land Court. But did the right hon. Gentleman know that although the Land Court had dealt with 176,000 cases in five years, there still remained some 150,000 cases to be disposed of. It was, therefore, a physical impossibility that all the Irish tenants could go into the Land Courts for years to come. the right hon. Gentleman had, doubtless, indicated that two Land Bills were about to be introduced into Parliament; but he was afraid that one of them at least was to be introduced into the other House of Parliament. They had had already sufficient experience to know how the House of Lords would treat an Irish Land Bill. It would certainly be a delicious experience to have a tenants' compensation for disturbance Bill coming down from the Upper House. The Liberal Party had sent one up to them in 1880; but it had never come back again, and in 1881 the Land Act was emasculated in the other House. In 1882 the Arrears Act was all but destroyed; and, therefore, it was a matter of historic interest to find that a great measure of Land Reform, at the instance of the Conservative Party, was to be initiated in "another place." But the House of Commons was not left without one crumb of comfort; it was to have a Purchase Bill; and he could not imagine that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, who so censured the late Government for their Purchase Bill, because it possibly involved some risk to the English taxpayer, would themselves propose a Bill tainted with the same heresy. But passing from the Land Bill, the right hon. Gentleman told the House of Commons that the prime necessity of a civilized State was the effective support of the law. He teas not going to quarrel with the definition, though he thought he could add to it; he thought the prime necessity of a civilized State was not only an effective law, but its perfect and absolute justice. Justice as well as law was an essential element in the problem. The right hon. Gentleman drew rather a sad picture; he said society in Ireland was crumbling to its original atoms. If that was so, they wanted some very severe and drastic legislation to remedy that state of things; and that was why he was rather surprised the right hon. Gentleman did not give the House any figures. He remembered that when the late Mr. Forster introduced his Bill in 1881, he mentioned, as a most startling fact—on which, indeed, he based his proposal—that in 1880 the agrarian outrages in Ireland amounted to 2,590, of which threatening letters—which he himself regarded as somewhat insignificant—numbered 1,337, leaving the net outrages of the year 1880 at 1,253. Of these 719, or two-thirds of the whole, had been committed in the months of October, November, and December. Now, what was the number of outrages in 1886, exclusive of threatening letters? Only 607, and of these 94 were in October, November and December. he maintained that figures like these proved to a demonstration that there never was a case in the whole history of coercive legislation in Ireland where there was less ground to justify the application than existed at the present moment. In 1881, again, there were 5,300 persons committed for trial; while in 1885 the number was only 2,800; a fact which went to prove that the state of Ireland in regard to general crime was not unsatisfactory. Instead of an increase there was a decrease of ordinary crime, and the country in that respect compared most favourably with England and Scotland. That brought them at once to the land question, which was if not the only, at all events, the main question in any consideration of the Irish problem. In that connection the Government were bound to pay some little attention to the Report of the last Royal Commission, and to favour the House with some comment upon it. The Commission had found not only the fall in prices and the deterioration in the soil proved, but it had also found that the average fall in the last two years as compared with the average of the four preceding years in the value of the agricultural capital of Ireland amounted to 18½ per cent. And what was the conclusion the Commission gathered from those facts? It was— The necessity of a further reduction in the judicial rents, and the absolute impossibility for the tenants to pay the present rents. Therefore the rent which the law in the Act of 1881 fixed as "fair" was now found to be unfair. Was the House of Commons bound, then, to enforce a landlord's claim to an unfair rent? The tenants could not pay the present rents, and it was a monstrous injustice to enforce them and still more to confiscate their property by evicting them from their holdings. Why, then, should not the Government legislate? He ventured to say that there would be no objection to giving the right hon. Gentleman the whole time of the House for that purpose. Not only duty but justice and public policy combined to enforce that such a course should be taken before proceeding to a measure of coercion. What the Government were asking the House to do was to deprive Ireland of her Constitutional rights in order to enable the landlords to appropriate their tenants' property. One of the peculiar glories of the present Administration, was that there was to be perfect identity between the two countries—that they were to treat England and Ireland alike. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to extend this measure to England? He would recommend him to try the experiment. If he desired a speedy termination of the present state of affairs, be did not know anything which would more rapidly conduce to that result than to deprive the people of England of any of their Constitutional rights. But, said the right hon. Gentleman, "the Land League is a treasonable association."


What I said was that the right hon. Member for Derby had said so.


said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had put two propositions before the House—that the Land League was a treasonable association, and that it secured its treasonable ends by the spoliation of other people's property; but, whether it was said by the Chief Secretary, or by the right hon. Member for Derby, the point was whether the same measures could be applied to England as were proposed for Ireland. Was there no law against treason in Ireland? Any rising against the Queen could be dealt with as effectually in Ireland as in England. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "No"; but what did Lord Salisbury say at Newport? He showed how powerless the Crimes Act would be against the Land League, and he said that a thousand branches of the Land League had sprung up under shadow of the Crimes Act. What did Lord Salisbury say with reference to Boycotting? He said that the effect of the Crimes Act had been very much exaggerated; that Boycotting was a crime which legislation had great difficulty in reaching; that it was the act of persons proposing to do things which in themselves were legal, and which were only illegal because of the intention with which they were done. Lord Salisbury said that not long ago a Boycotted man went into a Roman Catholic Church and everyone left it. The priest said to the man, "I will go on with, the service if you like and finish it for you alone—but I recommend you to go away;" and Lord Salisbury added, "What is the use of an Act of Parliament against a system of that kind." And now the right hon. Gentleman proposes to grapple with combinations of that kind. Why was it that the people of Ireland were outside of sympathy with the administration of the law? The right hon. Member for Derby had said that trial by jury was taking a sample of the whole mass of the population. The Government said they could not get verdicts in Ireland. Why so? Because the people were not in harmony with the law. Could not the law be altered? Let him remind the House of what Lord Russell said on a similar occasion. He said that Government in Ireland was a Government of force, and government in England was a government of represented opinion. Let them give Ireland the same Government as England and they would have the same result. Their own Commission had told the Government that the law in Ireland was unjust and its working unfair. His right hon. Friend had said that what Ireland had suffered from was moral wrong without any legal remedy. That was what their Blue Book was filled with. Where there was moral wrong and no legal remedy outrage was always the result. His right hon. Friend asked the House to go to the root of the matter. Let them do justice to the tenants of Ireland and not allow their property to be taken from them, and then they would get the people in harmony with the law. The problem of dealing with the present state of Ireland was the gravest which had come before the present generation, and it was worth while for the Government to settle it on the lines which were suggested by Lord Carnarvon, their own Lord Lieutenant, two years ago, when he said it was time to have done with, the weary round of coercion and try something else. he hoped that that House would lend their ears to the just claims of the Irish tenant; that before making the law more stringent they would make it more just, and if they did there would be more hope of the dawn of a better state of things in the future of Ireland.

MR. FINLAY (Inverness, &c.)

said, that no one could have listened to the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down without feeling that his support of this Amendment had been of a somewhat halfhearted character. That speech, he thought, showed that in supporting an Amendment of this character, the right hon. Gentleman felt himself somewhat in a false position, and he honoured him for that feeling. The only criticism the right hon. Gentleman had made on the proposal now before the House was this—he said that they ought to know something of the details of the measure for which the House was asked to grant precedence over other Business. He (Mr. Finlay) would like to know what, at this stage, they had to do with details. It was enough for him, at least, to know that this was a measure for restoring authority of law and order in Ireland. They knew that, and in his humble opinion that was a sufficient reason for granting precedence for this measure. If he believed that this measure could be properly described as one for the coercion of the people of Ireland, he would certainly pause long before he should support it in any shape or form; but he did not believe that that description—often as it had been repeated in various forms this evening—was a just description of the measure which Her Majesty's Government proposed to introduce. He believed that the measure might be more justly described as one for the deliverance and enfranchisement of the peaceful and law-abiding people of Ireland from the tyranny of secret societies. Would anyone who knew what was going on in Ireland rise in this House and say that it was not the case that tenants in Ireland, tradesmen, men of all sorts and conditions in Ireland, were not compelled to join illegal societies by the dread of outrage and violence. There was no tyranny on the face of the earth which was comparable to that of a secret society, and believing, as he did, that this measure was one the effect of which would be to deliver the peaceful and law-abiding people of Ireland from a tyranny of that sort, he should certainly vote for giving it precedence on the other Business of the House. They were told that there was no occasion for giving it precedence. He would like those who used such language to recollect what was said by one who had studied the Irish Question deeply, and who had the interests of the Irish people at heart—he meant the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). That right hon. Gentleman had been the friend of Ireland long before many who now posed in that attitude had taken up the rôle; and what had the right hon. Gentleman said about Ireland? He had told them that the real difficulty in Ireland was an economic difficulty, and that what was wanted was employment for the people, encouragement to their industries, and the promotion of the physical well-being and prosperity of the people of Ireland. He should like to know how it was to be expected that capital would flow into Ireland, or how anyone could expect that the industries of Ireland would be developed if the law was not respected and obeyed. On what did the fabric of the industrial prosperity of this country rest, except on the supremacy of the law. But they were told there was other Business more pressing, and in the Amendment the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) said— It is undesirable to set aside the Business of the nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the criminal law in Ireland. He should like to know what the "Business of the nation" was to which the right hon. Member for Newcastle referred. On this subject he had preserved a most discreet silence. He had very great respect, as he ought to have, for the rights applicable to private Members, and he should not suggest that any of the time devoted to private Members was otherwise than most admirably spent. But he asked what were the measures which the right hon. Member for Newcastle thought would be passed in furtherance of the Business of the nation if the House declined to accede to the request of the Government for precedence to this mea-. sure? He ventured to say if they declined the request of the Government, they should not find that they had passed one measure, they should find that they had not given time for restoring the authority of the law in Ireland, but that, in other respects, the Business of the nation would not have been in one single point advanced. Another, and most formidable, indictment had been preferred against the measure which, the Government proposed to bring in. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said the measure might be characterized as one to deprive Ireland of her Constitutional rights in order that the landlords of Ireland might deprive the tenants of their property. [Home Rule cheers.] Those who seemed to be ready to believe anything of any measure of which they as yet knew nothing which Her Majesty's Government might propose, might applaud that statement. If he believed that were a just description, or anything like one, of the intended measure, he certainly should not only decline to support it, but would oppose it by every moans in his power; and so, he believed, would the great majority of Members on both sides of the House. He believed that the Land Question lay at the bottom of all the difficulties of Ireland. He rejoiced that the Government intended to deal with that question. he rejoiced to hoar that they meant to extend the benefits of the Land Act of 1881 to the leaseholders; and he would venture to submit for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government that if over there was a class of men who deserved more gratitude than another, and some recognition of their behaviour under most trying circumstances, it had been the class composed of the leaseholders of Ulster. He rejoiced to know that the leaseholders of Ulster—and the leaseholders generally throughout Ireland—were to have remedial legislation for the purpose of admitting them to the privileges enjoyed by other tenants in Ireland. He rejoiced to know from the statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that provision would be made for relieving tenants, to some extent, who wore unable, in consequence of the great fall in produce, to pay their rents from those liabilities which at present pressed upon them with a crushing weight; and he rejoiced to know that a scheme of purchase was in contemplation by which, it was to be hoped, the tenants of Ireland would, in time, to a great extent be converted into owners. he believed, if the Land Question in Ireland were solved, the back of the Irish difficulty would be broken; and he did not think anyone could have followed the movement for what was called Homo Rule without realizing that all the motive power which that movement possessed was derived from the grievance under which the tenants of Ireland had suffered in respect of their land. He believed if those grievances were redressed, as he hoped they soon would be, by a comprehensive measure, the agitation for what was called Home Rule and a Parliament for Ireland would subside as completely as a sail when the mast was broken. But because they ardently and passionately desired such legislation for the tenants of Ireland, were they in the meantime to suspend the enforcement of law and order in Ireland? The late Lord Macaulay used words which had special application to the present situation; and he was one who, had he been alive, the Liberal Party would not have desired to draw out of their ranks. Lord Macaulay said— The grievances of Ireland are doubtless great, so great that I never would have connected myself with a Government which I did not believe to be intent on redressing those grievances; but am I, because the grievances of Ireland are great and ought to be redressed, to abstain from redressing the worst grievance of all? Am I to look on quietly while the laws are being trampled on by a. furious rabble, while houses are plundered and burnt, while my peaceable fellow-subjects are butchered? He should like to know now when it became the doctrine of the Liberal Party that the enforcement of law was to be stayed until all grievances under the law had boon redressed. Had all things become new since the General Election of 1885? It used to be thought the duty of a Government to enforce the law, and they were proud to claim for the Liberal Government that, while it enforced it, it took steps to redress any grievances which existed under the law. But he never before hoard the suggestion that the Liberal Party were to abstain from the enforcement of the law, because they felt that there were some things under the law which ought to be altered. They wore told in the Amendment that it was inexpedient to postpone the Business of the country for such a measure, whilst no effectual security had been taken, against the abuse of the law by the exaction of excessive rents. He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) what he thought would happen if, instead of introducing this measure, the Government had brought forward a measure of land reform for Ireland? Would they not have been met—if not by the right hon. Gentleman, by some of his right hon. Friends near him—with an Amendment stating that it was no use their attempting to do anything with the Land Laws of Ireland, and that everything of that kind ought to be postponed until Homo Rule had been established? He ventured to think that that was the course which events would have taken, He ventured to think that those very Members who were going into the Lobby in support of this Amendment would have been the Members who would have gone into the Lobby to oppose the Amendment if the Government had taken the course the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle had endeavoured to lure thorn into. Then they were told that this measure for restoring law and order in Ireland was not needed, and that many parts of Ireland were now in a peaceable and quiet condition. He was glad to hear that; but was it not true that in many parts of Ireland the people wore peaceable and quiet from the fact that there was no disposition in these parts of the country to break the law? He would point out, however, that the absence of actual outrage did not always indicate a state of peacefulness. The absence of outrage sometimes meant that the authority of secret societies was so thoroughly established that they did not need the sanction of outrage to enforce their demands. Before he acquiesced in any argument drawn from the quietude of certain parts of Ireland, he should like to be satisfied that that was not the explanation of the absence of outrage. Reference had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Powler) to the difficulty, if not impossibility, of dealing with Boycotting, and he should like to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether to be effectual Boycotting must not be unanimous in a district; and he should like to ask him whether he thought that in every district there would not be found a minority to hold communion with a Boycotted man, and so render Boycotting ineffectual, if it were not for the knowledge that such communion would be visited by outrage or by death? He might be told of a congregation leaving a church when a Boycotted member entered. That might be so; but he should like to know how it was that the congregation became unanimous? The people of a district became unanimous because they knew that any minority who ventured to disobey the decree by which the offender was Boycotted would be subjected to consequences of the most unpleasant character. That was the simple explanation of the efficiency of Boycotting; and so long as the ultimate sanction of Boycotting, as was conveyed in most forcible terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), was the dread of outrage, or something worse, he said the law was capable of dealing with Boycotting, and that such measures as they hoped would be introduced by the Government might have the effect of putting an end to that which was a disgrace to any country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) said that he would put off to the very last any proposal for increasing the efficiency of the Criminal Law in Ireland. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman would put it off until it was too late to be of any good. he always thought if; was the duty of a Government to intervene at the earliest possible stage, and to suppress all disturbance before it had reached such a head that extreme measures were wanted. Would the right hon. Gentleman wait until it became necessary to proclaim martial law? Were they to refuse to pass measures of this kind, introducing changes into the machinery of the Criminal Law of Ireland for the purpose of enabling justice to be done, on the plea that they had better wait a little while, and yet a little while, until the evil had reached such dimensions that none but the most extreme and heroic remedies were appropriate? he submitted that that was not statesmanship, and he rejoiced to know that it was not the course which Her Majesty's Government intended to take. Did the right hon. Gentleman believe that the effect of this measure when it became law would be to convict innocent people in Ireland? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes, it will.] There wore one or two cries in the affirmative, which emphasized the silence of the rest of the House. Everyone know that the only effect of any measure such as they understood to be proposed would be to free the course of the law from those impediments which had prevented justice being done. Was it not a scandal that a man should be tried before a jury who were known to be under such influence that they dared not, however clear the evidence was, bring a verdict in against him? he believed that the people of England and Scotland were a law-abiding people. He believed that they desired to see the law enforced and obeyed in Ireland, as they desired to see it enforced and obeyed in England and Scotland; and he believed this—that those who consciously or unconsciously seemed to be endeavouring to make all law and all order in Ireland impos- sible would find that they had a heavy reckoning to settle with the people of England and with the people of Scotland.

MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)

said, he felt he must congratulate the Government upon their defenders, who came in the shape of Liberal Unionists from the camp of the enemy. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said that the Law of Treason in Ireland was the same as the Law of Treason in England. That, however, was not so. The Law of Treason in Ireland was more stringent than the Law of Treason in England. In England 35 peremptory challenges were allowed to persons accused of treason, whereas in Ireland the number of challenges was limited to 20. He (Mr. Mac Neill) wished to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) for the following reasons:—He believed that Amendment embodied the great principle that you ought not to rob the poor for the benefit of the rich. He felt likewise that it involved this principle—that legislation should not be in the interest of one class, and against another class, but that legislation should be in the interest of the whole community at large. He likewise supported it for this reason—that it embodied this principle, that when the people were in opposition, and in conflict with their rulers, the chances were strongly in favour of the rectitude of the people's cause. There was such a thing as rack-renting in Ireland, and that rack-renting was legalized. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary spoke of the sacredness of contracts. Contracts ought to be sacred; but to be sacred contracts should be made by persons in equal positions and with equal rights. In Ireland those who had to submit to rack-renting were not in an equal position with the landlords who fixed them. The case of Ireland was peculiar; land there was the only means by which the people could subsist—their trade and manufactures having been purposely destroyed by England's oppressive legislation in their restraint for 200 years. The starving people competed with each other for the land, and promised to pay a rent for it which could not be produced. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman might almost be framed from a letter addressed about 15 months ago by Archbishop Walsh to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian—then Prime Minister—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone). In that letter the Archbishop made the following observation:— In point of fact, every disturbance of social order which has appeared amongst our people has arisen from a sense of wrong entertained by a large majority of the occupiers of the soil, owing to the merciless exactions of unfeeling and extravagant landlords. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) might well say—"Save me from my friends." The speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman) recalled the recollection of Irish loyalty at the close of the last century, which was thus described by Lord Cornwallis, when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland— The violence of our friends, and their folly in endeavouring to make it a religious war, added to the ferocity of our troops, who delight in murder, most powerfully counteracts all plans of conciliation. Again— The conversation of the principal persons of the country (Ireland) tends to encourage this system of blood; and the conversation even at my table, where you will suppose I do all I can to prevent it, always turns on hanging, shooting, burning, &c., &c, and if a priest has been put to death the greatest joy is expressed by the whole company. The contention of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Morley) that conciliation should be tried before coercion, is only an echo of the great argument of Mr. Burke, in his speech on "Conciliation with America," and in his "Thoughts on Present Discontents." It also reminds us very forcibly of the address of Henry Grattan, in 1797, to his constituents, on his temporary retirement from the Parliament of Ireland, when he found himself unable to stem the tide of coercion. Referring to the Irish Minister of that time, Mr. Grattan said— This churl went forth—he destroyed liberty and property; he consumed the Press; he burned houses and villages; he murdered; and he failed. 'Recall your murderer,' we said, 'and in his place despatch our messenger—try conciliation. You have declared you wish the people should rebel, to which we answer, God forbid! Rather let them weary the Royal ear with petitions, and let the dove be again sent to the King; it may bring back the olive; and as to you, thou mad Minister, who pour regiment after regiment to dragoon the Irish, because you have forfeited their affections, we beseech, we supplicate, we admonish—reconcile the people, combat revolution with reform; let blood be your last experiment.' The present Prime Minister had made many mistakes. The futile attempt to dragoon the Irish people would be his crowning error.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Colonel Hughes - Hallett,)—put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

Back to