§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [THIRD NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Amendment proposed to the Question [22nd March],
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.)
And which Amendment was,
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 again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Mr. Speaker, I wish, in the first instance, to thank my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lockwood) for his kindness in waiving his claim to address the House on the present occasion, and for enabling me, subject to your approval, to state what I have to say to the House on a Motion which seems to me to be of great importance. I am the more desirous to do so, because I wish to say a few words on a portion of the subject which has yet attracted but little attention. No doubt, this Motion opens important parts of the great question relating to Ireland; and the field, so far as concerns that question, has been widened by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who acquainted us with the leading particulars of a Bill which Her Majesty's Government are about to introduce with respect to land in Ireland. My first desire is to call attention to what I think I must describe as the unprecedented position of the House itself, both as it stands at the moment, and still more as it will be affected by the adoption of this Motion. The House has been sitting for two months, and for two months the independent initiative of the House of Commons has been altogether suppressed. Not a single day has been allowed to hon. Members for the purpose of bringing forward subjects in which they take an interest—not a single day even for the consideration of questions, like that touching the crofters, which concert social order in the country. We are now invited again to surrender entirely the time of the House, and that Vote, 1354 suppose, is to be carried by a majority. And Gentlemen opposite exult in the prospect of that further suppression of the independent action of the House. But such things may happen in the revolution of years as to cause hon. Members to take a somewhat different view of a question of this kind. We are now, Sir, asked to make another absolute surrender of the whole time of the House until a Bill, not yet introduced, but reported to be of an extreme and severe character, has received the attention of the House. Well, Sir, we recollect that questions of this kind have on former occasions been deemed to require protracted discussion. The Bill relating to the Habeas Corpus Act—or the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—although it was proposed in a tenfold more formidable state of things than the present, and although it consisted of, I think, only a single clause, occupied 20 nights of the time of the House. I may be told that a revolution is now to be brought about in the modes of our Procedure by the frequent application of the Closure Rule. Sir, I can conceive no greater calamity to this House than the frequent application of the Closure Rule; and the very first—perhaps the most formidable—of all the effects I should anticipate from that frequent application of the Rule would be that it would sap the foundations of that Chair which you, Sir, so worthily occupy, and the authority 'so absolutely necessary to be maintained unaffected, intact, and unimpaired. Nor is that all; because it is within the pleasure of the Government—if they think fit under the powers they have obtained—to take any day of their choice for the purpose of resuming the question of Procedure, and the very first subject they would bring under the attention of the House would be to alter fundamentally the sole remaining weapon which is now given to independent Members, not of a full initiative for Parliamentary purposes, but at any rate of raising a discussion upon a Motion for Adjournment. Such is the position in which we are placed when a demand is made which aims at obtaining for Her Majesty's Government the disposal of the entire time of the House upon a Bill which must occupy weeks, which may occupy months, if we judge from former experience from reports in 1355 circulation, and from the nature of the case. I may say, for my own part, having seen more of Parliamentary practice than anyone who hears me, that I have never known such a similar position of affairs. I think it grave; I think it menacing; I think it unprecedented. I think it an extreme use of the powers of the majority, and one which, if it is persisted in, and driven to the uttermost, will leave behind it a sense of wrong—I may say, of intolerable wrong—not favourable to the future conduct of the Business of this House. I may say that it appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman would not at all impede the progress of the measure, and would adopt a wise and salutary change, if he were to introduce some relaxation into the Motion he has made. He might do that with great facility. He might exempt some day of the week—Friday, for exanrple—from the operation of the Rule. At any rate, I think it right to utter a warning that the yoke which it is endeavoured to lay on our nocks is a yoke winch, perhaps, may not be patiently borne for an unlimited period of time. I need not, however, go into details on that subject, and I will touch the question of this Motion as it affects the great case of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) will, perhaps, allow me to pay him this compliment—that he has, I will not say acquired, because I think Nature has given it to him, the happy faculty of making extremes and astonishing propositions in the blandest and most gentle way. Had the right hon. Gentleman been discussing the clause on which we were occupied for some minutes this evening of a Private Bill he could not have done it in a manner more entirely apart from a sense of deep gravity, or from an expression of those feelings, which are usually connected with the discussion of great political subjects in this House. I am very sorry to be compelled to assail in toto—I am afraid not with equal blandness but at the same time, I hope, with temper and fairness—the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, and the ground upon which he supported it. He supported it entirely by a reference to the case of 1881, doing me the honour to quote from speeches of my own, and resting the whole justification of the Government upon what had then 1356 occurred. Now, Sir, if that case of 1881 will not stand the right hon. Gentleman in stead, I may apprehend he must look for some now justification. And how, Sir, does it stand? We have now a proposition made to the House to abandon its whole time for the purpose of a measure as to which no Parliamentary Papers have been laid. No Parliamentary Papers—as we know from an answer to the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) just made—are intended to be laid; no statement by the Government has been laid before the House which can convey to us the slightest indication of the nature and contents of the proposed measure. Now, Sir, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is he borne out in this capital respect by the proposal and proceedings of 1881? On the contrary, he must know that the case of the Government—the presumptive case of the Government—was laid with the utmost fulness before the House by the official statement of Mr. Forster before any demand whatever was made upon the House for the surrender of its time and privileges. [Cheers.] I heard cheering on the other side of the House when i stated that this was a very different state of things from what prevailed in 1881. I know not whether the hon. Gentlemen who cheered had made themselves acquainted in any way with the history of the case, but I think I am correct in saying that it is a very different state of things indeed. The first difference I shall note is this. The right hon. Gentleman—I cannot blame him for it—had not read the speech from which he quoted. He founded his ease upon my speech—he had not road that speech. Silence in this case means consent—silence means consent. I am as far as possible from blaming the right hon. Gentleman for avoiding the reading of any speech of mine, or of almost any Parliamentary speech, if he can possibly avoid it. But it imposes upon me the necessity of making another quotation from that speech. The House of Commons will recollect that there has usually been before the present practice arose of debating the Address at full length a period at the commencement of the Session—a week, a fortnight, or three weeks—-during which there has been very little Business to transact. The right hon. Gentleman—or those who 1357 informed the right hon. Gentleman—those who supplied him with the quotation from my speech—might have provided him with another quotation which he has imposed upon me the painful necessity of inflicting upon the House, in which I stated that I was emboldened to make that Motion by its being the first day of the Session when we were not already engaged in the general Business of the Empire, but that if it had been a later period I doubted whether I should have been justified in making it. The quotation is to be found in Hansard. My words were—I will, however, make this admission—that great as is the evil of the prolongation, even for a day, of this state of things in Ireland, had this proposal been made to the House at a period of the year when we were already engaged in the miscellaneous Business of the Empire, it might have been doubted whether we should have been justified in asking hon. Members to make the sacrifice which I do not doubt their acceding to such a Motion will involve."—(3 Hansard,  1318.)As to that Motion of 1881, which the right hon. Gentleman quotes as a precedent, I admit I could not have had a case for making it at all had it not been the opening of the Session. But the right hon. Gentleman makes his Motion at a moment when he has already kept us silent for two months. Well, Sir, what is the state of things which is to justify this singular and extreme method of Procedure? Is it the state of Ireland? Is it the amount of crime in Ireland? On all great occasions which I have known it has been customary before and beyond all things for the Minister to make out his case by showing the terrible prevalence of crime in Ireland—of that description of crime which threatens especially social order. Is that the case now? No, Sir; the House has already been acquainted with the fact that during the year 1880—the year immediately preceding the proposals of Mr. Forster—agrarian offences in Ireland had far exceeded the highest amount they had ever touched since the Returns of the Constabulary were instituted in 1844. They had risen by not less than 40 per cent, I think, above that highest amount; and not only so, but during the interval there had been a decrease of population from 8,000,000 to 5,000,000, so that in point of fact the amount of agrarian crime was double at the time when Mr. Forster made his 1358 statement—double not only as compared with the preceding year, but as compared with the highest year, or any year, since 1844, the first institution of the Returns. What is the answer to that? The answer is another quotation from a speech of mine, and I return my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary for making it. He could not have made a quotation more apposite for my purpose, for I pointed out, it seems, that we must consider not merely the amount, but the character, purpose, source, and object of crime. What is the character, purpose, source, and object of crime now—take it at its very worst? It is to obtain certain reductions of rent. [Cries of "No, no!"] It is what your own witnesses say. It is to obtain certain reductions of rent—it is not a movement against rent in general. I think, in saying that, I carry the assent even of that side of the House. Is it a movement against rent in general? Let me hear the man who argues that—let me see what is his knowledge, what is his experience, what is his authority. I contend this—that every fair man would admit and allege that it is an attempt to obtain reductions of rent which are beyond what equity requires. That is the allegation which will be made on that side of the House. I should like to hear the man on the Front Bench opposite who would rise and say this is a movement in Ireland against rent as a whole. You may find a speech of some individual possibly, but I speak of the evidence which is upon the Table; and upon that enormous mass of testimony you have raised, I say the fundamental distinction between this period—besides the amount of crime—and 1881 is this: that whereas now the demand of the people has been almost universally restricted to a demand for just abatements—as can be proved from the evidence you yourselves have laid before us—in 1881 there was a movement in progress which was growing to be, and a few months after the statement of Mr. Forster was avowed and declared to be, a movement against the payment of rent altogether. Therefore, the quality, as well as the quantity, of crime shows that there was no analogy upon which the right hon. Gentleman could quote the proceedings of 1881 as a justification for the present proceedings. Even these are not all the differences. There are 1359 others of the greatest gravity which are involved in this case. Unhappily, Sir, the evidence and the information derivable from the history of coercive or repressive measures in this House is but too abundant. There is one feature—there are two features which have accompanied them all along, and which have, at least, mitigated the case. The first of them was this—that from whatever cause—and into that question I will not now enter—coercive measures have never on any of those occasions been resisted by a majority of the Representatives of Ireland. Never on a single occasion—not when Mr. O'Connell opposed the fiercest of all these coercive measures—was he supported by a majority of the Irish Members; but now you know very well that the protest against this coercion is made by a majority, and by an overwhelming majority, of the Irish Members. You have to put it to yourselves—you have to face this question—whether it is your intention to invite Parliament, deliberately and systematically, under a representative system and in a free country, to govern Ireland in defiance of the sentiments of the vast majority of those whom she sends to represent her? At the time when we were painfully engaged—whether wisely or not—in the passing of that measure of 1881, I was accustomed to observe to my Colleagues—For us, at least, as a Liberal Government, it would be totally impossible, even in the teeth of the small numerical resistance we receive, to persist in and to carry through tills measure were we not supported by the practical unanimity of the other portions of the British Empire—by the whole of Great Britain.Sir, is that the case now? You know perfectly well the condition of the Liberal Party. You know how reduced in numbers are those with whom I have the honour to think, to feel, and to act; but, Sir, reduced as we are, yet still the minority which will oppose your measure is a minority which, perhaps, may amount to three-sevenths of the House of Commons, and you deliberately think that you can, as a system, make this a rule of your policy, to throw aside for a time the remedial measures upon the evidence contained in this Book—Lord Cowper's Report—as to the state of Ireland, and upon the evidence contained in those returns of crime which you are far from willing on your own responsibility to 1360 produce, and you think you can do all this in the teeth of five-sixths of the Representatives of Ireland, and in the teeth of three-sevenths of the Members of the House of Commons. Well, Sir, I think I may say that I have shown, not that your Bill is wrong; but at least that in every point your proceedings stand in glaring contradiction to the precedents which you have quoted as your sole justification, and that those who are to speak for the Government must set about to search for some other pleas to justify the astonishing proposal that is now before us—that the House should silence itself anew for weeks and probably for months. I must now say something on the other part of the subject—namely, that which concerns the actual condition of Ireland. When Parliament met in the autumn of last year we were anxious to press that the measures of the Government for handling Ireland should be produced as speedily as possible. We did not go the length of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), who, when we asked for a few weeks to prepare our measures, deliberately made a Motion to stop the Supplies, which Motion was supported by his Party. That was the idea which the head of the Legal Profession in Ireland had as to the propriety of Parliamentary proceedings. We did not go that length at all; but we requested that as soon as the Government could make up their minds, and, as we hoped, before the winter and before the season of coming evictions was faced, they should tell us what they meant to do. They sheltered themselves behind two propositions. One was that they had sent Sir Redvers Buller to restore order in the most disturbed parts of Ireland; and the other was that they had appointed a Commission to go to the root of the evils connected with the Irish land system. Sir, those pleas were very effective. It was felt, I think, very generally in the House, when once we understood that the mission of Sir Redvers Buller was a purely civil mission, that the choice made of the man to deal with the peculiar circumstances was a choice to which no exception could possibly be taken. But that gentleman had attracted to himself the utmost degree of confidence on the part of the Government, and that confidence, apparently, 1361 was afterwards renewed and heightened; for, when they had most unwisely, as I think, dismissed from the Permanent Under Secretaryship at Dublin Castle that most distinguished public servant, Sir Robert Hamilton, for no other offence than the offence committed by Lord Carnarvon—whom when he retired from Office the Government he belonged to declared themselves most anxious to retain in Office—at any rate, they did what they could to repair that error by the choice of Sir Robert Hamilton's successor, and showed their supreme confidence in Sir Redvers Buller by making him the head of the whole permanent Civil Service in Ireland. Sir Redvers Buller, as far as the executive and administrative action was concerned, was the shield of the Government. As far as legislation was concerned, the Commission was the shield of the Government. But how, Sir, do we stand now? The evidence of Sir Redvers Buller is utterly thrown over by the Government. He is their witness—he is their chosen witness—and he enjoys their confidence as much as the Attorney General for Ireland—as much, at any rate, as it is possible to exhibit in any civil servant under any circumstances whatever; but now, Sir, we are told that there is a great combination—we are told by the cheers of inarticulate Members that there is a great combination—against the payment of rent in Ireland, and we are invited, it appears, for the 87th time to pass a measure to put down agitation. There is agitation in Ireland. There is, you say, intimidation in Ireland. Within certain limits I shall admit that; but you propose to us to pass a measure to put down agitation. [An hon. MEMBER: Not at all.] I must say that your explanations have been so imperfect, and that you have so deliberately kept us in the dark, that we can only infer from your vague general announcement we have before us what you are going to do. ["Hear, hear!"] But we have before us—and you may "Hear, hear" this if you like—the main remedial propositions which you are now prepared to make. My point is this. If these remedial propositions are, from your point of view, the legitimate method of acting against Irish agitation, is it a mode of action that your own witness—Sir Redvers Buller—recommends? Does he say 1362 that agitation is to be put down; that intimidation is to be cured; that the law-abiding man is to be guaranteed, under all circumstances, the full use of his freedom of action—does he say that these aims are to be gained by repressive legislation? Short as is the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller, it is most important, and I will take, without flinching, what I believe to be the main points which it contains. Some time ago it was faintly signified—or at least it was signified not quite in the strong manner so usual on the other side of the House—that there was a general nonpayment of rent in Ireland, and a general movement against the payment of all rent in Ireland. When I stated the contrary I was saluted by a rather considerable torrent, a current of contrary assertion, in a brief and succinct form. Now, what does Sir Redvers Buller say on that subject? He is asked in Question 16,456, and at page 500 of the Report—"Therefore, in spite of the opposition of the League, they are willing to pay?" Be it remembered that is in the worst part of Ireland. My right hon. Friend has said—and his statement has not been contested—that seven-eighths of Ireland are free from disturbance or difficulty; but where difficulty exists even there this general movement against the payment of rent in Ireland does not exist. What does General Redvers Buller say in answer to the question?—I believe that the great majority through those counties—that the great majority of those who have not paid are anxious to pay.Mr. Neligan, as if to emphasize the answer, asked, "Anxious to pay?" which again called the attention of the witness, who replied—"Yes, are anxious to pay." There is not a general movement against the payment of rent. Do not suppose that I am dealing with Sir Redvers Buller's evidence as if I imagined that that would dispose of the whole case. But I am showing that he is your witness, whose evidence and whose recommendations you are going entirely to disregard; and his first point is, that his replies do not indicate a general unwillingness to pay rent, but, on the contrary, a general desire to pay rent. What does Sir Redvers Buller say is the condition of peace in Ireland? You say that the condition of peace is that we shall pass some repressive Bill 1363 of which we do not yet know the nature. Is that his opinion? No. His distinct declaration is this—I think this, and I feel it very strongly, that in this part of the country"—the worst part of the country, remember—"you will never have peace unless you create some legal equipoise, or legal equivalent, that will supply the want of freedom of contract now existing between the landlord and tenant.Those are his views as to the condition of peace; but that is not the proposition on which you are about to act. You are, on the contrary, about to favour us with a Bill directed to the increased stringency of the Criminal Law and with the very measures of procedure that Sir Redvers Buller condemns. Well, Sir, what is the state of the law now in Ireland? Is the law that which it ought to be—a fair arbiter between man and man—and is the law, as it is administered, as it has been generally administered in the opinion of Sir Redvers Bullor—a law in which the mass of the population reposes confidence, or ought to repose confidence? What does he say? Sir Redvers Buller says—You have got a very ignorant and poor people, and the law should look after them, instead of which it has only looked after the rich. That, at least, appears to me to be the case.Is there a Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite who will deny that when you have introduced, pressed, and passed your Bill the Irish people—who now believe the law to be on the side of the rich and against the poor—will still believe it, will believe it more firmly than ever, sustained as they will be by the authority of Sir Redvers Buller? Well, then, it is admitted—of course it is admitted—that we have got classes of unsatisfactory persons to deal with in Ireland. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland represented the case of Ireland with reference to rents as the same as everywhere else. "There are," he said, "rents too high and rents too low." Yes; but in Ireland the Land Court, the judicial tribunal, finds 178,000 rents too high, while the proportion of rents found to be too low is so insignificant and infinitesimal that your Land Commission in its Report does not think it worth while, or perhaps thinks that it would be injurious, to quote the cases in which rents have 1364 been increased. This new law is to be a law for pressure on the tenant class. Is there any doubt about that? Is the tenant class the class that, in the opinion of your own witness, Sir Redvers Buller, require pressure to be applied to them? Some of the tenants do require pressure, no doubt, but these things are comparative; and if you ask what pressure, in the view of Sir Redvers Buller, is required upon the tenants, you must also ask what pressure does he say is required upon the landlords. It is not upon the landlords that you are going to exercise coercion; you are going to make it easier for the landlords to enforce the rent, whether it be a good rent or a bad rent. Is this the opinion of your witness? What does Sir Redvers Buller say?—What we want is a Court that would have a certain amount of coercive power over a bad tenant, and a very strong coercive power over bad landlords.A very good recommendation—"a very strong coercive power over the bad landlord." His view is that in the case of the bad tenant something is required, a certain amount of coercive power; but his view of the bad landlord is that a very strong coercive power is required against him. But what are you doing? On your own showing you are proposing to introduce a Bill for exercising a certain power against bad tenants, but a strong coercive power against the bad landlords does not enter into your views. Unless your friends in the Press and elsewhere have totally' misrepresented you, the views of Sir Redvers Buller are diametrically opposed to yours. A complaint was made yesterday by a Member of the Government that hon. Members on this side of the House—who had quoted from Sir Redvers Buller's evidence—had refrained from quoting what he said about intimidation, and it was urged that his evidence does show that there is intimidation in Ireland. No doubt Sir Redvers Buller does say that there is intimidation in Ireland. I will not dwell on the different constructions of the term. Some of the witnesses call it the disfavour in which people are regarded who pursue a course different from that which is desired by the mass of the community. Some of them refer to Boycotting, and say that the Irish people in certain cases are rather apt to follow the example which in Ireland, and even elsewhere, 1365 is pretty constantly afforded by their betters—apt to try what they can make out of a system of exclusive dealing. But beyond that, no doubt, there are cases of intimidation proper. Well, Sir, you are going to deal with this intimidation; you are going to pursue the old system of dealing with symptoms and neglecting causes. There is much mischief in the condition of Ireland in several counties. What is the root of that mischief? You have appointed a Commission to go to the root of it. Why do you dwell simply on the surface? What is the opinion of Sir Redvers Buller as to the source of this intimidation? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say—"We know the source of it; it is these mischievous agitators; if we can only get rid of them by some dispensation of Parliament, or some dispensation of Providence, then Ireland would be happy, tranquil, and content." Yes; but that is not the opinion of your own witness—the man who pre-eminently enjoys your confidence. Sir Redvera Buller is asked—"What is the cause of the mischief that prevails?" And he answers without hesitation—"The rents are too high." He explains his meaning in this way—I think it was the pressure of a high rent which produced the agitation and consequent intimidation as to the payment of rent.Now, Sir, I ask, how is it possible we can hope for any state of things other than that which actually subsists, and how is it possible you can dream that you will do anything except aggravate that state of things, and increase it intensely, by the proposals you are about to make? I will take them in kind such as we know they are to be, so far as we know their general purport. They find that all agree, though to some extent, in the case of individuals who may wish to pay rent which is even an unjust rent, yet for their own peace and comfort they would wish to pay it. But the opinion of the community in which they live is inflexibly set against it. And that opinion may manifest itself in just or unjust methods. But what is the root of the mischief, according to your own witness? He says that it is not agitation which produced the intimidation, nor was the immediate cause of it, but that it is the high rent which produced the agitation, and which is the source and fountain-head of the whole mischief. I 1366 come now to the consideration of the subject of the National League. That League has been treated by some hon. Members opposite as if it were virtually identical with the Land League of 1881. My opinion is quite different; but I do not intend to dwell upon that point now. For the present we will assume anything you like about the National League. Now, what was the answer of Sir Redvers Buller, your witness, to a question referring to the National League? He was asked—"Is there any general sympathy with the action of the League among the people?" And he answered—"Yes; I think there is sympathy, because they think that it has been their salvation."
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to read Question 503?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
If the House is willing I will read the Question, and indeed I would read the whole of it if my eyes were better, because it would evidently be conducive to the purpose I have in view. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will see that it is highly inconvenient to be interrupted unless he can show that I am reading something which destroys the effect of what I have previously said. If he can show that then I will not say that there is anything wrong in interrupting me. I see that at Question 503 the witness says that a man was murdered the other day, but I do not see what relation that has——
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not deny that there is intimidation; I do not deny that in Ireland, as in other parts of the world, there is a certain amount of crime, although I think I shall be able to show that that amount of crime is small and insignificant in comparison with other parts of the Kingdom, and in consideration of the justification. But I am now speaking of the action of the League, and not of the action of the League as it is estimated by the witness—Sir Redvers Buller—who is your chosen officer and agent; and I am showing that he begins by saying that the people have sympathy with and supported the League because they think it has been their salvation. Well, Sir, but we are told they are a poor and ignorant people in that part of Ireland. Perhaps you will say—"Oh, he 1367 does not say that their opinion is correct;" but we have got a sentence on that subject, and as the hon. and gallant; Gentleman (Colonel Saunderson) has recommended me to read Question 503, I will now recommend him to Question: 401. The Question is—"It has been; their salvation?" When I read that Question I thought I knew by whom it was put. On looking at it, I saw it was put by the inevitable Gentleman who alone could put a Question in that form—namely, Lord Milltown. The answer is—The bulk of the tenants in this part of Ireland tell of rents that have been reduced and evictions that have been stayed which are directly due to the operations of the League. They believe that, whatever truth there be in it.And after dealing with their belief he goes on to say something for himself; and what does he say for himself?—Nobody did anything for the tenants until the League was established, and when the landlords could not let their farms, then they were forced to consider the question of reduction of rent.There is your own witness; there is the opinion of the gentleman whose appointment stood you in such good stead in September last; there is the opinion of a gentleman who, before you appointed him, had earned in the service of Her Majesty the very highest reputation, and I believe has since done nothing to compromise, but much to increase and establish, his fame. Sir, I have now, I believe, read every point material to the case in the evidence of Sir Redvers Buller, who admits and asserts there is intimidation, but points to the root of that intimidation, and says the root is not in agitation but in rent. This is the testimony of your own chosen witness and your bulwark, during the first months of your existence him and his authority you utterly reject and cast aside. The other plea put before us last September for delay was the appointment of the Royal Commission; and how do you deal with that Commission? You deal with it in a manner, if possible, still less ceremonious; because the Commission has been invested by you with express authority to inquire into the whole working of the Land Act, and there is one recommendation which overshadows and absorbs all the rest—that is, the necessity, owing to the change of circumstances that has oc- 1368 curred, of re-opening the judicial rent fixed by law under the 15 3 years' contract. That is their chief recommendation. That recommendation, we know from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the Government mean to cast aside. Then their position is this. They chose men to examine deliberately on the spot the evils of Ireland connected with the land and the rents, and to go to the root of the matter. These men executed their task, and made their recommendations, and their main recommendation the Government mean to cast aside, and at the same time to ask us for a Bill to give increased stringency to the Criminal Law—whether for the purpose of agitation or not, I know not—but certainly for the purpose of putting the law in a position still more offensive to the general sense of the Irish people. What I have now to say is, I think, the most curious portion of the whole case. Why is it the recommendation of the Commissioners cannot be adopted? We have been here fully enlightened by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who rose to the great reputation of his rhetoric in two parts of his case—one when he was reproaching us, and the other when he was de-scribing the acts which the Government knew how to perform. The reason, Sir, why this recommendation cannot possibly be adopted is because it would involve a breach of contract. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly a perfectly intelligible one. He says you must not break a contract, and he warns and threatens you that if you break any one contract you never can be sure of holding any other.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I desire to correct that statement. I said that to break up a contract solemnly engaged in by Parliament would be wrong.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman has made a correction which does not, in the slightest degree, affect what I am about to say. But the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that he did say that if one contract were broken you would lose the authority by which you attempt to hold another. He does not question that?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, 1369 nor do I recollect the precise words of my speech; but my point was—my argument was—that solemn Parliamentary engagements should not be broken up.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman forgets his own speech, for he went beyond that, and he introduced into this debate, I think for the first time, the question of Local Government for Ireland, and he first said—you are perfectly mad. We have no objection to his saying that—we are much obliged to him for saying that—for much worse things than that have been said about us. That is rather a moderate method of dealing with us, all things considered. He then qualified his language by saying we were singularly unwise; and when he used these words—words almost as gentle as if they had come from the Leader of the House—he objected to Home Rule for Ireland, because, he said—Do what you will with Home Rule for Ireland, it must rest upon a kind of contract between the countries, and when you have broken the contract under the Land Act, you will not be able to maintain the contract under the Act constituting Irish Government.This is his doctrine—high doctrine which I am not disposed to criticize in a severe or hostile spirit. I think the maintenance of contract is one of the prime duties of Parliament, and rare and strange indeed must be the circumstances which would justify interference with it; but in what condition is the right hon. Gentleman who propounds this doctrine? Is he going to break no contract? He is going to break the contract of 130,000 leaseholders, every one of whom is bound to pay a rent which the right hon. Gentleman is going to allow him to get reduced if he can. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he will escape by saying that that is not the subject of a Parliamentary settlement? It was the subject of a Parliamentary settlement. There are those sitting in that quarter of the House who remember it—there are not many here who followed the details of the Land Bill of 1881, but there are men here who went through it with a patience and a skill and a perseverance that stamp them—if they had nothing else to stand upon—as men of high talent and capacity to serve their country. Sir, I admit to you that there is this difference between the 15 years' con- 1370 tract and the leaseholders' contract. The 15 years' contract sprang out of the Land Act; but the leaseholders' contract was reconsidered, modified, and sanctioned afresh by that Land Act. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. What does he know of the details of the Land Act? Am I to understand by the shaking of the head that the case of the leaseholders was not discussed and debated? Yes it was, and upon every point, as I can tell the right hon. Gentleman if he likes—for pray recollect the most effective part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech on Tuesday night was that in which he declaimed with fervid indignation about our deadness to the claims of the leaseholders, and insinuated—"There you sat a set of dummies." That was the substance, undoubtedly, of his charge. I must own that in our weakness we had considerable difficulties on that subject, and I expressed those difficulties. I am now proving that the case of the leaseholders was considered, fully debated, and adjusted by serious changes of law by the Act of 1881 just as much as the case of the 15 years' contract was. A proposal was made that the leaseholders should be permitted to enter the Courts and to obtain judicial rents. I made a speech on the part of the Government in answer to that proposal, from which I shall quote a very few words. I said—In my opinion it would he impossible to strike more directly at the very root of contract itself, as it is understood in Ireland, than to give relief in that form.That speech was the result of long and careful consideration between the then Attorney General (Mr. Gibson)—afterwards Lord Chancellor of Ireland—and myself, with the able assistance of Lord Herschell, and we determined that the Irish leases with which we were then dealing had, and must have, all the solemnity of Parliamentary contracts. This question was not only not passed over in silence; it was carefully dealt with, and we introduced most important changes in the law. We introduced a change in the law by providing that if a leaseholder could show that he had been led to accept the lease by intimidation or fraud he might get his lease quashed—compulsorily quashed in Court. That was in 1870. That was under the Act that we introduced. But we introduced 1371 a more important change than that—a much larger alteration. This change was that whereas by law in Ireland up to that date the whole interest in the lessee terminated upon the expiry of his lease, we introduced the most important provision that at the expiry of his lease he should pass into the position of a yearly tenant, with all the rights which the Act conferred upon a yearly tenant; and not only was this contract considered, but all its conditions wore readjusted; and those conditions which remained have the Parliamentary stamp upon them, just as much as the conditions of any contract. I should like to show how this change came about. At that time, when we proposed that on the expiry of the lease the man should take the position of a yearly to not, Mr. Gibson gave his opinion on the subject, He said, with regard to that amendment of the law, on the 10th July, 1881—Never was there a more distinct and flagrant violation of contract than is proposed by this Amendment, which would sot aside the most solemn covenants and the most deliberate engagements as between man and man."—[3 Hansard, (263) 1298.]The right hon. Gentleman, who said this is now a Member of the Cabinet which proposes deliberately to invade the rights of every leaseholder, and not only so, but at the same time that it does this it throws over the Report of its own Commission, and its most important recommendation because, forsooth, as they say, it would be a violation of contract. Yet these Gentlemen themselves propose, at the same time, to trample 130,000 contracts under foot. I must say that, having regard to the total inadequacy of the proposals of the Government, and to the absolute fallacy of the precedents they have quoted, and after two months of Parliamentary silence—I may almost say Parliamentary extinction—I think the proposal of the Government an absolutely unprecedented proposal. I have said enough, I think, for the present. This debate is only the introduction to other debates, an epitome—I will not say a miniature, for that might cause alarm; but undoubtedly these are subjects of the gravest character which are coming before us; and, for my part, I shall now say no more except that I heartily and fervently agree with the views of my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John 1372 Morley). "We shall record our vote in opposition to this policy and this course of procedure; and I do not see how we can forbear to continue that opposition at each step which the Government may make in the prosecution of so unhappy a policy. We can do nothing but resist it; and whether we are in a majority, or whether we are in a minority, it is very important, in my opinion, that the people of England should see that we have done our duty in a matter of so great difficulty. That duty, I trust, we shall do to the last stage of this ill-omened measure, which is now, as it were, flapping its wings over us, until the very last stage of it, when the voice of numbers shall—with full Parliamentary authority—drown what we think to be the voice of reason and of justice; when another false step, after the warnings which 86 years have given, and given in vain, shall be taken, and a further blow shall be struck, under the name of a Parliamentary Statute—a fresh blow shall have been struck—alike at the happiness, at the prosperity, and at the contentment of Ireland and at the Union of the Empire.
§ After a pause,
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
, rose. He said that owing to the extraordinary and ill-omened silence of the Government and their supporters, who desired by their numbers, if not by their arguments, to pass that Motion, and the silence of hon. Members who called themselves Liberals, the task had been thrown on the Irish Members to continue the debate. He was not surprised at the silence of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were now face to face with the Report of the Commission of their own choosing. From the evidence of hostile witnesses they had a complete justification of the Plan of Campaign. The Government had given them no information upon that subject, or upon the subject of crime in Ireland. They had been told that juries had refused to convict. Upon that point also they had declined to lay any information before the House. They had refused to convict, but where? In Belfast. Yet the Government proposed to coerce and punish, by Constitutional and lawful tribunals, the starving peasantry of Kerry and Clare, while they postponed to a later date dealing with the case of the prosperous and well-fed rioters of Belfast. 1373 The evidence of all the hostile witnesses before the Land Commission was to the effect that the people of Ireland—the poor people of the South—were willing, above all things, to live peaceably and quietly in their own country, and that the combination was due altogether to excessive rent. There were two courses open to the Government. One was to establish a despotism in Ireland, and the other was to govern in a Constitutional manner. Since Her Majesty's Government had absolutely declined to carry out a Constitutional method of government, and since they were supported in that determination by a number of hon. Members who called themselves Liberals, the alternative of despotism was the only one they could possibly adopt. It seemed to him that it had been one of the fundamental principles of Liberalism that the will of the people should govern a country, and that where the Government governed against the will of the people the Representatives of the people should take the verdict of the country upon their acts. But the Liberal Unionists had not adopted that principle. They had declared their intention of supporting the Government whether they were right or wrong, in order that they might not go to the country, and that the verdict of the country might not be pronounced upon them. Those Gentlemen were, therefore, neither Liberals nor even Constitutional Conservatives, but simply despots. He was happy to think that those Gentlemen who had gone to the country at the last Election against Homo Rule, and who had contended that Ireland could be governed Constitutionally without Home Rule, had now abandoned that position, and he believed that the next time the verdict of the country was pronounced upon them they would receive their political annihilation. He warned the Government that no paltering or partial measure of coercion could possibly succeed. The Government had better dispense with the last remnants of the British Constitution which were dangled over the heads of the Irish people, and go in for absolute despotism, and the sooner they did that the better.
§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said, he thought that the majority of people in the country would differ from the views of the hon. Member who had 1374 just sat down (Mr. Chance) with regard to the Liberal Unionists, many of whom had given up honour and profit in order to give effect to their views. They had listened that evening to a very eloquent speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), a speech well appreciated by the Nationalist Members; but, for his (Mr. Addison's) own part, he was astonished at the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman, or that it was possible, by any form of language that existed, so to misrepresent what had been going on in that House during the last two months. The right hon. Gentleman had gravely reproved the Government with the waste of time that had taken place, and had said that private Members had been given no chance. But why was that so? Simply because matters, which might have been disposed of in a night or two, had been debated at very great length by hon. Members opposite who might be considered as followers of the right hon. Gentleman, and whom he might have told to allow Business to get on quickly. He should have imagined, listening to the right hon. Gentleman, that there was no crime in that country; but, supposing that in seven-eighths of Ireland there was no crime, what harm would be done by passing the measure proposed by the Government affecting such a small proportion of the country? Hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House had as strong a desire as Nationalist Members could possibly have not to infringe on the liberties of the people of Ireland more than was necessary; but they maintained that crime must be punished whether in England, Scotland, or Ireland, and when order was restored in Ireland they were desirous of doing all that legislation could do to give happiness to the Irish people, always bearing in mind that they had no stronger claim on the consideration of Parliament than had the people of the rest of the United Kingdom. In this country they had had special legislation from time to time when any particular crime had become rife, such, for instance, as garotting, offences against the Bankruptcy Act, and, more recently, crimes against women and children, which had been dealt with by the Criminal Law Amendment Act; but it had never entered into the head of any sensible 1375 man in the country to denounce such measures as coercion, and why was Ireland to be the only country in the civilized world where those who committed crime were not to be coerced—if compelling people to obey the law was coercion? Against whom was coercion directed? It was against those who wished to commit crime. He thought that an attempt was being made to confuse the English mind between what was called coercion for Ireland and that coercion which existed in foreign countries, which was directed against the freedom of political opinion, the freedom of meetings, and matters of that kind affecting the liberty of the people. In England the passing of measures directed against crime had been going on as long as they could remember. Then the right hon. Gentleman told them that coercion had been tried for 86 years in Ireland and had done no good. Why, the result of coercion was that Ireland at least existed, and was, to some extent, a civilized country; what it would have been if no coercive measures had been passed he did not know, and it was impossible to say. But was the right hon. Gentleman so sure that there was no crime in Ireland? He (Mr. Addison) had read in The Times newspaper an address of Mr. Justice O'Brien, who he believed was a Catholic, to the Grand Jury of Kerry, no later than on the 10th of March, in which that Judge had regretted that he could not announce any improvement in the extraordinary and unsatisfactory state of affairs which existed, amounting to a state of open war, with all forms of authority and even with the necessary institutions of civilized life; the law was defeated, or rather had ceased to exist; person and life were assailed; an increased confidence in impunity existed; menace had given place to the deed; and terror and lawlessness existed everywhere. These were the words of a person speaking with authority, and weighing his words, and if such a state of things existed, surely some sort of remedy must be found. It was no satisfaction to those who sat on the Government side of the House, as hon. Members below the Gangway seemed to think, to be told that the jury system had practically broken down; but it was remarkable that, oven in the case of the PhŒnix Park murders, although the 1376 jury had been summoned partly from the county and partly from the city, it had been necessary to make 50 of them stand aside in order to get a jury who would have the courage to do their duty. Then, to secure life and liberty, it was surely necessary that the existing law should have some respect shown to it. The very foundation and meaning of passing a law was that, when it was passed, it should be treated with respect. If that were so, surely hon. Members opposite could not complain if it were desired that some amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland should be passed which should secure some kind of respect for the law there. With regard to what had been said as to evictions, no man with a heart could fail to be distressed at hearing of any poor family being turned out of their homo on to the roadside, perhaps with young children and women; but what was the meaning of those evictions, and how was it possible to avoid them? He regretted that the efforts which had been made over and over again by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in this direction had only been made the gravest subject of reproach against the Government by the National League Scenes occurred in this country in cases of eviction and of distress for rent which rivalled in wretchedness and misery anything that passed in Ireland. But they were, to a certain extent, inevitable as long as people without capital sought to draw a precarious living from the land. It had been found necessary in this country to consolidate holdings in order that the occupier should be able to pay his way. The doctrine put forward by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, if carried to its legitimate extent, would prevent any rent from being obtained in respect of small holdings, either in Ireland or in this country. He should like to see any Land Bill whatever produced by hon. Members opposite which would be consistent with the rights of property. Irish Members now said that the judicial rents could not be paid; but in that case what would have become of the security which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian proposed in his Bill of last year to offer for the advance by this country of £150,000,000? In his opinion, hon. Members opposite would do well if they accepted the Criminal Law Amendment 1377 Bill which was about to be introduced by his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was believed that its application would extend only to those districts in which crime and outrage prevailed, and, having regard to the restoration of peace and happiness among the Irish population, he considered that was the honest and just course for the Nationalist Representatives to pursue. They should turn their attention to assisting the Conservative Party to restore peace, order, and prosperity to their country.
§ MR. MENZIES (Perthshire, E.)
I shall ask the indulgence of the House, while we are on the very threshold of this important question, in order to state briefly my reasons for supporting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), and resisting the proposals of the Government. Unfortunately, Sir, demands for the urgency of coercion are so little of a novelty in this House, that the arguments both for and against them are almost as familiar to hon. Members as those of certain annual discussions on our Votes of Supply, or hereditary legislators, or any other continually recurring subject of debate. It is, therefore, quite unnecessary to go into them at any length. But, Sir, there is this amount of novelty in the present proposals of the Government—I mean as compared with other coercive proposals—they have the unfortunate distinction, as has been proved over and over again in this debate, of being the most unnecessary and inexcusable instance of coercion which Parliament has over been called upon to support—coercion with least crime to suppress, and with most to be said in favour of dealing with the difficulties which do exist by other and more humane methods. With reference to those other methods, we have been told, Sir, by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that remedial measures will not of themselves restore order. No, Sir; I dare say they will not. There is not the slightest chance, I am sorry to say, of those remedial measures which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind producing anything like such a beneficial result. But, Sir, are there no other remedial measures than those which the present Government are likely to propose? I believe that there are some— 1378 the very hope, the mere introduction of which into the last House of Commons, though defeated by a majority, exercised the most powerful tendency in favour of diminishing the amount of crime and the number of outrages throughout the whole of Ireland. We were told, Sir, in somewhat vague and inadequate language, considering the magnitude of the issue, that Ireland is in a state of disorganization, although it seems impossible to apply that remark with anything like accuracy to more than a portion of the country, containing about one-eighth of the whole population of Ireland. I would like to ask how Scotland would have stood the application of similar reasoning to her own case? Would it have entered into the wildest heads of the most uncompromising supporters of coercion on the opposite side of the House to have described Scotland as being in a state of disorganization, because the crofter counties, containing about one-ninth of the total population of Scotland, were described as being disturbed by an agrarian agitation. I would remind the House that in March last year the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland said that—He doubted whether in any part of Ireland you could exceed the lawlessness, although you might exceed the violence, which now prevailed on some portions of the Western Coast. Nothing but the most courageous exercise of the powers of the Executive Government could possibly restore those elements of social order without which prosperity could not be re-introduced.And when it was a question of remedial, and not of criminal legislation, which is far worse, was not the whole drift of argument which came from the opposite side of the House towards limiting the area to which the Bill should apply. I am aware that it may be replied that we are as yet ignorant as to how far the Government proposals are limited. But that is not the question. Hon. Members seem to forget that we are now dealing with the question of the urgency of coercion over remedial measures. The whole of Ireland—every single Irishman—is necessarily affected by precedence being given to coercion, and the delay of those remedial measures for which the whole country is calling. Because one-eighth of the population of Ireland may be said to be disturbed, all Ireland must go on in rapidly-increasing misery, and the "door of hope" be shut to 1379 every Irishman. And what, Sir, is the chief plea upon which the Government are basing their extraordinary policy? We are told that it goes hack to the simple duty of every Government, which is to maintain the law and secure the liberties of the people. What law, I ask, and what liberties? It scorns to me almost an abuse of language to make it your excuse for giving urgency to coercion over remedial measures, and preferring a policy of resistance to the Constitutional and reasonable demands of the Irish people to a policy of conciliation, that you are securing their liberties and maintaining their law. It is on this ground that I think the question is one which goes to the very root of civil liberty and the proper respect for the law. For the law which you are asking us to support by coercion, is not law which has been made sacred—or even respectable—by the fact that it has been made by the people themselves whom it affects. And, Sir, when we are asked to support, by coercion, what is called the stability of Government, let us at least be certain what that phrase really means. Let us remember, at all events, that in the eyes of the vast majority of Irishmen, this phrase—the stability of Government—means, under present circumstances, the stability of a foreign Government; and that the maintenance of law and order means in their sight, however much we may deplore it, the maintenance of landlords' law and land agents' order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle was right when he said that the real hypothesis on which the Government proposals are based is that the Irish, as a people, are incorrigible And this, Sir, seems to me to be the guiding and impelling idea in many very sincere minds, and not only on one side of the House—an unnatural, an unhappy idea, but one which has taken violent possession of many men and many newspapers, and which it may possibly be difficult to eradicate except by a process more in the nature of a miraculous illumination than an ordinary process of reasoning. Against such an argument, it seems to me to be useless to fight. But the one thing which ought to be clear to all hon. Members is the impossibility of sustaining such a policy as the Government are now entering on, even for a moderate 1380 length of time. Hon. Members should remember that they have to reckon in future. not only with Irishmen, but with the electors of England, Scotland, and Wales. How long are they going to support you? May not they very shortly become incorrigible too? Yes, Sir, coercion may be an intelligible policy; but there is one great condition of success that it ignores. There is the heart and conscience of the people of Great Britain, which you cannot force to sleep for 20 years, or guarantee against an awakening, compared with which the Liberal reaction of 1880 would seem almost a feather in the cap of the Tory Party.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND (Londonderry, N.)
I think it is desirable that some of the Ulster Members should say a few words in reply to the accusations which have been levelled against them by the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley) and other speakers who have followed him. the right hon. Gentleman quoted from the Blue Book the evidence given before the Royal Commission by Mr. Dickson, who, as hon. Members know, was at one time a Member of this House; but I should like to know what weight the statements of that gentleman can carry on this question, seeing that, although for a long time he has been very hostile to the landlords of Ulster, he was not successful, at the last Election, in inducing a single agricultural constituency in Ulster to return him as their Representative. Other hon. Members who have spoken in support of the Amendment have quoted extracts from the evidence given before the Royal Commissioners which happened to bear specially on their side of the case; but, Sir. I venture to say that I do not think this is a very proper way of putting the case fairly before the House. I have the Report of the Commission hove, and I could, myself, quote any number of statements in support of the landlords, and in exactly the opposite direction to the statements quoted by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think that the House, in studying the evidence, will be rather inclined to balance the evidence of the landlord party and those who represent the landlords as against the evidence of the farmers and those who are specially the supporters of that class; and that they will attach the greatest 1381 weight to persons who are obviously impartial in the matter, Probably, the evidence which will carry most weight with it is that of the Road Commissioners—Mr. Justice O'Hagan and Mr. Litton—and I will trouble the House with a short extract from it. Mr. Justice O'Hagan, speaking of the increased reductions which have been made in recent years, says—I think the figures of the change which we made, instead of averaging on the whole about 1 per cent above decisions of the Sub-Commissioners, came to 2 or 3 per cent below them.So that the whole effect of the recent reductions was to reduce the rents 3 per cent more than they had been reduced under the earlier operation of the inquiry. Mr. Litton, who is the other Head Commissioner, was asked this question—Does this, in your opinion tend to justify an alteration in the judicial rents.His reply was—I cannot conceive anything to justify legislative interference with the rents fixed under the authority of the Act, if there is to be any finality, or if there is to be any trust in the Legislature.Again, in respect to a produce rent, the same Commissioner said—If a produce rent is to be adopted, I would not apply it to judicial rents already fixed until the term had run out.In considering this question of the fairness or unfairness of the judicial rents, it seems to me that this is purely an economic question, and that it should therefore be tested more by reference to the statistics which bear on the subject than by the evidence of individuals who have not studied the subject. I notice that hon. Members who have spoken in the debate in support of the Amendment have kept very clear from statistics. I have not been surprised at it; but I have never yet seen any statistics which, in any way, will support them in their contention. They say that the statistics in regard to agricultural produce show a considerable fall in prices during the last two or three years; but what we complain of is that in regard to this question of agricultural prices, hon. Members, and, indeed, some of the Commissioners, have only dealt with five or six years previous to the time of inquiry. Surely, it would have been very much fairer if they had considered the average of prices during a very 1382 much longer period than that. If we compare the condition of the farmer 20 or 30 years ago with his condition at the present time, we shall find broadly that the prices at the present time are from some 20 to 40 per cent higher now than they were at that period; notwithstanding which fact the rents have been reduced 20 per cent by the operation of the Land Courts. In addition to this question of the prices of agricultural produce, there is a large amount of evidence, collected in tables and in the Report of the Commission, to show that the value of the tenant's interest in the farm has been kept up oven down to the present date. In fact, especially in Ulster, it is a well-known fact that, on the average, the interest of the tenant is at the present day fully equal in value to the interest of the landlord. I do not think that a fact like that tends to show that the existing rents are either exorbitant or rack rents. Take, again, the bank deposits; they have increased during the last 45 years from £8,000,000 to.£34,000,000, and hon. Members will admit that a large amount of these deposits is the property of the tenant farmers. Then, again, there is the case of the Bright purchasers—those who have purchased farms under the Act of 1870. I contend that their case is really a hard one, and I have already brought it under the notice of the Government. Indeed, I am sanguine enough to hope that the Government will take the case of these purchasers into their serious consideration, with a view of giving them some relief. The point I wish to make is, that these purchasers have been paying instalments which are equivalent to a rent very much higher—30, 40, and 50 per cent higher than the level of the judicial rents. I regard that as a very strong proof indeed that the general condition of the rents of Ulster is not too high. I do not think it is altogether surprising that, taking these matters into consideration, the landlords of Ulster have not been making a general reduction of the judicial rents. Another argument which has, no doubt, influenced them is this—that while the landlords in Ireland have given reductions, either from generosity, or, what I think has more often been the case, because they were too poor to fight the matter, and were obliged to take what they could get, 1383 that fact has been brought forward as an argument, that the rents were exorbitant. When a landlord reduces his rents in certain years, it is often brought against him in succeeding years that because he made the reductions the rants were exorbitant. There is one point more, and I think it has an important bearing; upon the question—namely, the position of the labourers in Ireland. I can speak specially from my own knowledge of the condition of the labourers in my own constituency, and the manner in which they regard the proposals for new land legislation. I may inform the House that the labourers do not look with any degree of satisfaction upon the proposal to confer new benefits upon the farmers. They are of opinion, and I think to a largo extent that opinion is justified, that the Legislature has already conferred a sufficient number of boons and benefits upon the farmers at the expense of the landlords. They think it is quite time that if further legislation is to be introduced in regard to the land of Ireland, it should be in their favour. What they want is to have a decent house and half-an-acre of land at a fair and reasonable rent. They know, too, that the landlords are their best friends; that they give them the best employment, and that they treat their labourers much better than the farmers. They look forward with dread to the time when the landlords will be swept out of the country, and when they will be left entirely to the tender mercy of the farmers. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that they are opposed to any sweeping transfer of property from the landlords to the tenants. I believe the other Ulster Members will bear me out in saying that they are not now in favour, nor are they likely to be in future, of any sweeping or drastic land legislation. What Ireland wants is peace and repose; that the grinding and cruel coercion of the National League should be put an end to: and when this result has been attained, when law and order are restored, when the country is in a condition to receive remedial legislation, I hope that this House and the Government will not relax their efforts, but will use British credit to encourage the industries of the country, and to provide that employment for the Irish people which is so much needed. If 1384 that be done, I believe that before many years are passed we may hope to see our country on a fair road to prosperity and contentment.
§ MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E)
said., that nothing but the most overwhelming necessity could have justified the Government in the monstrous proposition they had made for what really amounted to an appropriation of the whole time of the House for the remainder of the Session. If the Government devoted themselves to coercion in that way, Parliament would cease to be Imperial, and would become a Legislature for the transaction of Irish Business by a majority composed of English and Scotch Members. Looking to the vast amount of opposition this measure was likely to encounter—an opposition very different both in extent and character from that which any other Coercion Bill had mot with—it was certain that the matter would occupy a considerable time; indeed, he could not help thinking that possibly Whitsuntide or oven the months of July and August would still find thorn squabbling over this measure. What, then, was to be-come of the Ministerial programme? This was rather a heavy burden to lay on a now Thus of Commons in, practically, its first Session, when a large number of Members had come up from the country anxious to bring forward questions of great importance to their constituents and the country generally. It was especially hard when they remembered that the Government had asked for and obtained every minute up to the present time. The House had now sat for two months, and of that period independent Members had not obtained a single day. Not a month ago, the First Lord of the Treasury asked that priority should be given to the Rules of Procedure, on the ground that they were intended to restore the dignity and efficiency of the House. He (Mr. Osborne Morgan accepted the statement in perfect good faith, and did his best to help the Government to pass the First Rule. But within a few hours of passing the Rule, they threw the dignity and efficiency of the House to the winds, and asked hon. Members to give fresh urgency to a now measure. The right hon. Gentleman had let the cat out of the bag, and had shown that the real motive of the Government in passing the Closure 1385 Rule was not to insure the efficiency and dignity of the House of Commons, but to enable them to pass a severe Coercion Bill for Ireland, for which there was nothing but the most flimsy pretext. What was to become of the other Rules of Procedure, some of which were far more important than the one which had been adopted? What had become of the Rule relating to the Sittings of the House, and to the devolution of the Business of Parliament? What was to become of the measures promised in the Queen's Speech, if this Bill was to take up the remainder of the Session? Why, they would vanish into thin air, and become "such stuff as dreams are made of." Urgency was never before demanded upon such flimsy grounds and such inadequate information as the Government had put forward in this case. There could be no comparison between the state of things in 1881–2, when urgency was granted, and that existing at the present time. Crimes and outrages were now comparatively few and light. On the previous occasion, facts and statistics were placed before the House to justify the action it took; but now hon. Members were called upon to vote with their eyes shut. He insisted, therefore, that the Government were bound to show some more solid grounds than they had done for the demand they made. They ought to have stated some facts, data, and statistics before, and not after, making their demand for urgency. The urgency now asked was sought not to restore law and order in Ireland, but to maintain high rents; not to protect life and property, but to protect the pockets of the landlords, and to enable them collect rents which, in a great majority of case?, were higher than the tenants could possibly pay. The evidence of the Land Commission showed that the whole land system of Ireland was rotten to the core. As a proof of it, he would refer hon. Members to the account given in that day's newspapers of the evictions carried out on the Lansdowne estate, which resembled the description of a storming party in the Peninsular War. A body of 100 constables, under the command of a Resident Magistrate, were told off with scaling ladders, shields of corrugated iron, and crowbars, in order to evict 20 wretched old men, women, and 1386 children. How long, he asked, was it possible for those things to go on? The sooner they were altered the better it would be for the Government, and the peace and happiness of the long misgoverned Sister Country. A Bill, they were told, was to be introduced in "another place" to deal with the Irish Land Question. He did not like the domicile of origin of that Bill. He knew what the House of Lords had done in regard to rents in the case of previous Bills, and he had not much faith in anything that came from them on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was an able man—he was an honest man—but, however able and honest, he could not accomplish impossibilities—he could not govern Ireland in the way he had proposed. Did he expect to succeed where Lord Spencer and Mr. Forster and Sir George Trevelyan had failed? They might gag the Press, imprison priests, stop public meetings, and evict old men, women, and children from their miserable homes; they might put on the closure in the strictest form, and drag unfortunate Members out of bed to enforce it; but the weapon they had formed would break in their hands, for they would still have to deal with 85 Irishmen who had been sent to that House to ventilate the wrongs of their country, and who would, if he mistook not, continue to do so. He believed that the democracy of England were getting sick of those Coercion Bills, and longing to find out a better way to deal with Ireland, and evidence of that was furnished by the recent bye-elections, and would, he believed, be furnished by another bye-election which was going on that day. If the Government really preferred a policy of buckshot let them openly say so. As Cavour said—'' Anybody can govern by military law." That was what it would come to; but in Heaven's name let them get rid of that half-and-half policy—that sham freedom—that attempt to combine the despotism of Russia with the democratic system of England. He was not sorry the Government had shown their hand. Every day of that debate would bring them nearer and nearer to the only way of solving the Irish problem, and, possibly, before long Lord Salisbury might wake up from that nightmare which he confessed he had been suffering from, and 1387 would find out that the only true way of governing Ireland was to let Ireland govern herself.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, it was not his intention to detain the House at any considerable length, not because he did not attach immense importance to the subject under discussion, but because inevitably during the next week or two that same subject would be discussed again and again; and the great inconvenience of the debate in which the House was now engaged consisted in the fact that it was a partial debate on a question that would be completely debated in the course of a very few days. No doubt, however, hon. Members below the Gangway opposite would expect himself and his Colleagues connected with land in Ireland to say a few words in connection with the question of rent. The Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne(Mr. John Morley) was not an Amendment which simply dealt with rent, but it was a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government; and he thought he knew the constituency which he had the honour to represent too well not to know that, however tempting it might be—and undoubtedly it would be very tempting—for the tenants to have their rents reduced, they would think it a gain too dearly bought by replacing the Government now occupying the Treasury Bench by a Home Rule Government led by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The right lion. Member for Newcastle, in moving his Amendment, apparently had two tasks to fulfil. First of all, he had to try and saddle the Government with the charge of backing up Irish landlordism; and, secondly, he had to whitewash his present staunch allies the Irish National League He had taken down the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and, in speaking of the National League which it was his business to whitewash, as his remedy for Irish Bills was to commit the destinies of Ireland to that organization, the right hon. Gentleman said—You are acting against a combination to protect the tenants against rents which you yourselves will admit—will be compelled" to admit—to be excessive and exorbitant, and against which these combinations are the only existing safeguards.Now, the right hon. Gentleman was 1388 usually very calm and academic in his style; but when he attacked the Irish landlords he raised his hand and pointed across at the class which he desired to crumple up and destroy; and, happening himself to be the Irish landlord nearest him at the moment, he felt almost alarmed at the anger and fury displayed by the right hon. Gentleman in pointing to the Irish landlords as a class worthy only of abhorrence and detestation. But, a little further on in his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said—I do not wish to leave off with any particularly bad language against the Irish landlords."Well, he then thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to pull in the reins and say, at least, a few kind words of the landlords; but, however, he wont on and compared them very disadvantageously with Irish Moonlighters. The right hon. Gentleman said—Anxious as I am to do that, still I am less anxious to secure vengeance on 100 or '200 ruffians than to secure righteous and humane-treatment for thousands of poor tenants in Ireland; and that is the difference between hon. Gentlemen opposite and those who sit upon this side of the House.Well, what did that mean? He imagined it meant that the great majority of the Irish landlords, in their extortion practised on the tenants, compared unfavourably with the Moonlighters who carried out the behests of the National League in Ireland. Did the right hon. Gentleman moan what he said? the right hon. Gentleman had been Chief Secretary for Ireland, and had been in that country for three weeks, and had therefore had a considerable knowledge of the affairs. If during those three weeks he made a careful examination of the condition of the country, many instances must have occurred to him in which the National League, which he now tried to white-wash, had proved that it was the greatest tyrant that ever exercised its baneful influence over the Irish people. He could give numerous instances of how the National League had helped Irish tenants. In the County of Eos-common, about a year and a-half ago, a man named Brennan had the audacity to pay his rent after he had been ordered not to do so; he was furnished by his brother with the money to pay it, and he paid it; and that night, sitting at 1389 his bedside, he was shot dead through the window. This was an instance of; the beneficent action of the National League—the only organization that benefited the tenants of Ireland. While the right hon. Member for Newcastle was Chief Secretary, in the County of Roscommon the League Boycotted some grass lands belonging to two landlords—Lord Kingston and Mr. McDermott Roe—and issued orders that no one was to take the lands, simply because they belonged to gentlemen against whom the League had a grudge. They were, however, offered at so low a price that six farmers determined to take the risk, and took portions of the lands. Immediately there were placed upon the telegraph posts by the roadside warnings from the local League, of which the parish priest was president and his curates vice-presidents, that these tenants were to be treated as land-grabbers. This had such an effect that one tenant gave up the land and paid a forfeit of £75. the others continued to hold what they had taken, and the next day the cattle on the lands disappeared. It was afterwards discovered that the cattle had been driven to a coal-pit, and hurled over the edge, and their dead and mutilated remains were found at the bottom. They were brought to the surface and identified; and those dead and mutilated cattle identified the character and nature of the National League. [An hon. MEMBER: How about General Buller?] Oh, I will deal with General Buller presently. So far from its being the main object of the proposed Bill to subject the Irish tenants to a galling yoke, it was to set them free from a yoke that was crushing all progress and enterprise, driving capital away, and depriving the country of its life's blood. He could multiply instances in which the League had done injury to the Irish people. He had a letter from a small Irish Roman Catholic tenant, whose name he could not give, because if it were published his life would not be worth six days' purchase. This man, whose letter he held in his hand—and which he would have no objection in showing to the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley)—had committed a crime which was unpardonable in Ireland. He disobeyed the behests of a Court which suffered no contempt to go unpunished—he paid his rent, walking M miles 1390 into the town of Tipperary to do it in the hope that the League might hear nothing about it. But, somehow, the fact got wind, presumably from an official of the bank; and the next night his farm was visited, the cattle were massacred in the fields, the ploughs and agricultural implements were broken up. the tenant had to fly from his house, and he dared not return for some months for fear of being murdered. This man was perfectly willing to pay his rent. He said—I have sold my horse; I have got the money; I am ready to pay when the rest is paid; but as I was Boycotted last year, I am afraid to do it until they get leave.And he wound up with the remark—I do not know what is becoming of this country that a man won't be let do as he wants to do.This remark was entirely apposite; and the writer added—We have a quare Parliament that don't put down such work at once.Well, he (Colonel Saunderson) believed it was the intention of the House and of the Government to put this down at once. The right Hon. Members for Newcastle and Mid Lothian were prejudiced critics—they were opposed to the plan which the Government intended to pursue, because they had a cure of their own for the wrongs and woes of Ireland; and no matter what proposals the pre sent Government might bring forward, they would be opposed by those right hon. Gentlemen. They all knew that doctors, when they had proscribed for a patient, and were superseded by another medical' man, always said—"Oh, you will yet be very glad to come back to my pills." the remedy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite was to force Ireland from the control of the British Parliament. It was quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had remarked that evening, that the present state of things in Ireland was different to what it was in the year 1881. That was true; because the Party of Separation was now led by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, whereas it was formerly led by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). He (Colonel Saunderson) admitted at once that there was not much crime in Ireland; but he held that the first duty of the Government was not only to punish crime, but also to prevent the commission 1391 of crime; and Irish society was now ripe for the production of crime in its worst form. The greater part of the Island was absolutely subject to the National League. There was no need now for crime. If they went into the details of the crime of 1880, 1881, and 1882, they would find that that was mainly directed to one purpose—namely, laying the foundation of the authority of the National League everywhere, and to enable it to terrorize over the Irish people. That had been effectually done; the National League had ousted the law of the land; and it was superior to the Law Court3 in all parts of Ireland. the right hon. Member for Newcastle and his Colleagues had swallowed that state of affairs and the Plan of Campaign, and hoped the nauseous mixture would be swallowed by the Government, because they would not follow their example. But the Government, and the Unionist Party who had placed them on the Treasury Bench, showed no inclination to take the nauseous dose. There were only two policies submitted to the electors last July—surrender to the National League, and the maintenance of the law of the Crown and the unit of the Empire. The great majority of the country decided that the latter policy should prevail, and the Government intended to carry it into effect the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian quoted the evidence of General Buller. He (Colonel Saunderson) interrupted the right hon. Gentleman—he was afraid somewhat rudely—but he know the right hon. Gentleman was very averse to saying anything inaccurate in his speeches, and he asked him to read on. The right hon. Gentleman was trying to show that General Buller had stated that the National League had nothing to do with crime. the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian went on to accuse Sir Redvers Buller, and he (Colonel Saunderson) thought the right hon. Gentleman would feel obliged to him for calling attention to another question which would throw some light on the subject under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman went on to read the Answer to Question 16,503, but only read a part of it, and then thought he had snuffed him out. But the whole answer showed that, in the opinion of Sir Redvers Buller, in some parts of Ireland, at any rate, the National League 1392 was directly responsible for crime, outrage, and intimidation. The Question was whether, owing to the organization of the League, the enforcement of legal obligations had not. in that district, become impossible? And Sir Redvers Buller replied—Quite so; you cannot collect a shop debt. There was a man murdered the other day on account of a shop debt, on the other side of Tralee; and the crops of a fanner having been seized for a shop debt, a man who came to cut them was shot the same evening.That is General Buller's opinion of the action of the League in that part of Ireland. He (Colonel Saunderson) could not conceive any answer more direct, or to the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian appeared to think that Her Majesty's Government looked upon, and intended to deal with, the Irish people as if they were the most lawless and criminal population in Europe, He absolutely denied it, and believed that, if they had the chance, the Irish people would be as law-abiding as the people of England and Scotland. They would all admit that the most civilized and exemplary part of the British Islands was that part of them north of the Tweed. If they had in Ireland a law as stringent and severe as had always prevailed in Scotland, they would not want a Coercion Bill. What the great majority of the English people expected was that the Government would bring in a Bill strong enough to crush the National League and enable law-abiding Irishmen, whatever their class or creed, to go about their business as they pleased and to fulfil all the duties of citizens. They expected the Bill to be a permanent one. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Osborne Morgan) asked—"Do you expect to succeed when Forster and Spencer failed? "They failed because their measures were temporary. He hoped, therefore, that the Bill would be permanent, and not confined to isolated parts of the country, because he defied anybody to bring forward an instance where a Coercion Act, while in force, had interfered with any law-abiding man. There was not a county in Ireland which could hold up its hands against that measure When such a measure as he referred to had been passed and the supremacy of the law was established, the remedial 1393 measures Her Majesty's Government intended to bring in would have some chance of success. No Land Bill, the most generous that could be conceived—even one that would turn the landlords adrift and make a present of the land to the tenants—would succeed in pacifying Ireland so long as they were trodden under the foot of an organization which originated in crime and outrage; and whose ultimate object was to separate Ireland from England and to destroy the just rights of the Crown. For that reason he hoped the Government and the House would reject the Amendment, stand by the law and coerce, not the tenants, but the agitators who had ever been the curse of Ireland. Then Ireland might become what they had a right to expect she ought to be—a source of strength and wealth to the British Empire.
§ MR. ASQUITH (East Fife)
said, he would ask the indulgence of the House while he stated the reasons that induced him as an Englishman who represented a Scottish constituency, in the interests of Great Britain no less than in the interests of Ireland, to support the Amendment. It appeared to him that the Government were inviting them to a display of trustfulness, not to say of credulity, which might well tax the faith of the most docile and the best-disciplined majority. the Chief Secretary for Ireland had darkly hinted that when the time came for him to introduce his Bill, he would be able to unfold a terrible tale of anarchy and disorder. But up to this moment, after three nights' hot debate, not a single responsible Minister had condescended to a single specific statement in support of the proposal of the Government. the right hon. Gentleman had contented himself first with general declamation as to the condition of Ireland, and next by appealing to the precedent of 1881. Now that appeal to precedent rested on two assumptions—first, that the state of things now was similar to the state of things existing then—a hypothesis which had been effectually-demolished by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); and, secondly, that the experiment of 1881, repeated in 1882, was so well justified by experience, so brilliantly fruitful of good results, that at this distance of time—1887—they were bound to follow it as a precedent, blindly, 1394 implicitly, without question and almost without argument. He would direct the attention of the House to that assumption. A great deal had been said about the duty of the Executive Government to enforce the law. He entirely agreed with that proposition. In his judgment it was the duty of the Executive not to inquire whether the law was good or bad, just or unjust, but to enforce it in all places, and at all times, without distinction of persons, without discrimination of cases, with undeviating uniformity, and with irresistible strength. [Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Gentleman opposite) cheered that statement, but he would ask them, when, in our time, had that view of the duty of the Executive been recognized and acted upon in Ireland? Once certainly, and once only, and that was during Lord Spencer's administration. Lord Spencer's hand was heavy, but its pressure was even. Wherever he encountered lawlessness—among Catholics or Protestants, the Moonlighters of the South or the turbulent Orange rabble of the North—ho dealt with it in one fashion, firmly, impartially, and effectively. But there was not a right hon. Gentleman now sitting on the Front Bench opposite, with two exceptions—namely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, whatever might be the case now, was then a Member of the Liberal Tarty, and the Homo Secretary, who had not then come to the close of that period of hibernation which separated the two stages of his remarkable political career—with those two exceptions there was not a right hon. Gentleman of Cabinet rank who was not a party, either as principal or accessory, to the most envenomed and bitter attacks upon Lord Spencer's administration. He would quote for that statement the authority of Lord Salisbury himself, who said that under Lord Spencer's administration the Nationalist League had grown into power and spread its branches throughout the whole of the country. Next he said that the practice of Boycotting, which up to that time had been comparatively rare, had established itself throughout the country, and, as Lord Salisbury pointed out, that was a practice with which no law, however stringent, could deal and which no Administration, however zealous, could put down. He, for one, did not believe in the! plenary infallibility of Liberal Govern- 1395 ments, and he did not think the proudest period in the history of the Liberal Party had been that in which it had frittered away in Office pledges which had been given when in Opposition; and, therefore. loyal though he was to his Party and his Leader, he did not think the fact that in 1881 the Liberal Government committed what he considered a colossal and disastrous mistake was any reason whatever why, in 1887, they should, in obedience to a Conservative Ministry, repeat that blunder. It was admitted that, looking at Ireland as a whole, there had been during the last six months less serious crime, whether open or secret, than in almost any corresponding period of her troubled history. What crime there had been was confined to a comparatively limited area in a few counties in the South and West. In those counties they found another phenomenon. It was in those counties that abatements of rent had been most generally refused. It was in those counties that evictions had been most exceptionally frequent in number, and most grave and cruel in their character. It was in those counties that the standard of rents, judged by the reductions made by the Land Commissioners in the course of the last few months, had been abnormally high. As to the prevalence of crime, having regard to these admitted facts, he said deliberately that this was a manufactured crisis. They knew by experience how a case for coercion was made out. the panic-mongers of the Press—gentlemen to whom every political combination was a conspiracy, and to whom every patriot was a rebel—were the first in the field. They had been most effectively assisted on the present occasion on the other side of the Channel by the purveyors of loyal fictions and patriotic hysterics wholesale, retail, and for exportation. The truth, whatever truth there was in the stories, was deliberately distorted and exaggerated. Atrocities were fabricated to meet the requirements of the market with punctuality and despatch; and when the home supply failed, the imagination of the inventive journalist winged its flight across the Atlantic, and he set to work to piece together the stale gossip of the drinking saloons of Now York and Chicago, and eked it out with cuttings from the obscure organs of the dynamic Press. And thus it was that, after six months of comparatively little crime, we found ourselves in 1396 the presence of this artificial crisis, and confronted once again with proposals for coercion. They were told—and it was true—that there were certain grave symptoms in the existing condition of Ireland. The National League was assorting its authority throughout the country. In many quarters the practice. of Boycotting was carried on to an extent that was inconsistent with the maintenance of law and good order. There was a disposition on the part of juries not to convict persons who ought to be punished. He made. these admissions; but he asked hon. Members to consider what was the meaning of the facts. His hon. Friend the Member for the Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay) declared the other night that he was going to support the measures of the Government because they were measures, not of coercion, but of emancipation—measures to enfranchise the suffering Irish tenant from the tyranny of secret societies. What secret societies? His hon. Friend did not attempt to answer that question; but it appeared that he was referring to the National League. Well, that was no more a secret society than was the Prim-rose League. It was an open association, and reports of the proceedings of all its branches appeared every week in United Ireland. There had been in Ireland and elsewhere secret societies such as the Fenian Brotherhood, the Carbonari in Italy, the Ku-Klux-Klan in the Southern States of America, and the Nihilists in Russia; but these secret societies had been called into existence by measures such as that to be submitted to the House. They had drawn the vitality which enabled them to tyrranize over and terrorize the people by such a policy as the Government were now asking the House to adopt, and in favour of which the Government were asking the House to devote the whole of its time, to the postponement of all the real Business of the nation. Once suspend the guarantees of the Constitution, and take away from the people the privilege of free criticism and of legitimate political agitation, and the consequence was to drive them to those sinister and subterranean methods, which wore destructive of peace and prosperity in every country in which they should exist. The really grave symptoms in Ireland were the existence of Boycotting and the indisposition of juries to convict pri- 1397 soners. No coercive legislation could have the least effect in diminishing or removing either of those evils. With regard to Boycotting, he was content with the testimony of Lord Salisbury'. It was one of those impalpable things which legislation could not reach, and the only remedy for it was altering the conditions out of which it sprang. The indisposition of juries to convict depended, firstly, on the rooted antipathy and hostility of the class from which the jurors were drawn to the system of law that they were called upon to administer. In the next place, it depended on the unwillingness of men to give evidence against those whom they believed to be in sympathy with the aspirations of the masses of the community. He would illustrate this by the case of the Curtin family. He did not hesitate to say that the treatment to which that family had been exposed was a disgrace to Ireland and a scandal to humanity. But while they should lose no opportunity of denouncing the cruelty of which the Curtin family had been the victims, yet, when they came to practical legislation, they must consider the real meaning of what had occurred. What was the crime in the eyes of the people which the Curtin family were expiating by this terrible social ostracism? It was not that the head of the family shot and killed the leader of the band of marauders who invaded his house by night. It was because the sons and daughters went to Cork Assizes and gave evidence against the persons concerned in that crime. He was not defending or palliating that course of conduct, but they were sitting there as legislators, and not as moral censors. They had to consider what would he the result of their legislation. From actual violence and outrage, and even from open insult, the Curtin family had long since been protected. ["No, no!"] He was speaking of facts which he had personally investigated. Did hon. Members imagine that by the legislation which Her Majesty's Government were going to propose, they would be able to transmute the social atmosphere in which those people lived and which rendered such treatment of them possible? Suppose they enlarged the powers of the magistrates; suppose they deprived the jurors of their share in the administration of 1398 the law; suppose they made punishments more severe; did they imagine that in that way they would increase the disposition of the peasantry of Ireland to come forward and give evidence? Not oven a drum-head court-martial could convict without testimony proving the guilt of the accused. The difficulty which they had to provide for was the difficulty which arose from the fact that the great mass of the population in Ireland were alienated from the law, and had no sympathy with its administration. We were not unfamiliar in this country with the very state of things which existed in Ireland. There was nothing novel in the symptoms. They had been witnessed in every country whenever the state of the law had not been in harmony with the wishes of the people. In the early part of the present century7, in the days when it was the custom for the Attorney General to file, as a matter of course, information for seditious libel against political opponents, in vain did the Judges direct that juries had no alternative but to convict. In the teeth of the evidence, and in the face of the direction of the Judge, the jury acquitted the prisoner. It was truly an extraordinary thing that at this time of day the Government, dealing with a well-known form of social and political disease, should come to the House and repeat the catch-words of the Metternichs and Castlereaghs as if they were the latest discoveries of political science. They wore told that, after passing this Coercion Bill, the Government were going to give the Irish people a dose of remedial legislation. The procedure of the Government reminded him greatly of that enterprising speculator in the days of the South Sea Bubble who invited the public to subscribe their money in support of a scheme, the particulars of which were to be disclosed subsequently. History did not record that any dividends were ever paid on the capital so subscribed. He did not wish to impugn the good faith of the Government, and he dared say that they believed in the efficacy of the Land Bill which they were to introduce. At present, however, very little was known about that Bill. They knew that it was to provide for the extension to leaseholders of the benefits of the Land Act. That was a provision borrowed from the 1399 hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). It was further believed that the Bill would provide for the application of some of the equitable provisions of the Bank ruptey Act to the cases of a certain class of tenants. The road to prosperity for i these tenants was in some way or other to He through the portals of the Bankruptcy Court—in truth a very encouraging prospect. Then they know that this remedial legislation was in the first instance to make its appearance in "another place." That was a very significant fact. He was far from being disposed to intrust the Government with exceptional powers for the enforcement of the law on the chance, the very remote chance, that some day or other, this year or next, or on the advent of the Greek kalends, that august Assembly, which in the last 50 years had mangled and mutilated every proposal for the remedy of the grievances of Ireland, might be coerced or persuaded into acquiescing in an equitable solution of the Irish agrarian question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer not long ago, with what was then his habitual caution, declined to give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury. He thought that they might profit by the right hon. Gentleman's example; and the liberties of a nation being at stake, reasonably decline to honour this very serious draft upon their political credulity. He quite understood that there were hon. Members near him who took a very different view of the matter. Those hon. Members were compelled by the circumstances of their position to an exercise of faith which a very short time ago they would have been the first to ridicule and condemn. It was, perhaps, excusable in them, that under the stress of compromising memories—memories of the day when they were wont to declare "that force was no remedy,"—memories of the days still more recent when they denounced the wickedness of Irish landlords, and the more than Polish abominations of Castle rule—it was, perhaps, excusable in them that they should clutch at any pretext, however desperate, which might seem to reconcile their present with their past, He did not know who was the casuist of the Liberal Unionist Party. In that compact and complete organization he felt sure that a place must have been found for a director of consciences. "Whoever he was, his time must just now 1400 be pretty well occupied. But as for the poor Separatists "the intellectual scum of what was once the Liberal Party," they might be thankful that they had not to exercise their humble faculties in the attempt to explain how they could vote for a Coercion Bill in the hope that some day or other, in some way or other, remedial measures might be introduced. In the course which the Party opposite were about to take, were they not either going too far or not going nearly far enough? Let them consider what would be the position of Ireland, the condition of government in that country under the system which they were about to introduce—representative institutions upon the terms that the voice of the great majority of the Representatives of the people should be systematically ignored and overridden; the right of public meeting tempered by Viceregal proclamation; trial by jury with a doctored and manipulated panel; a free Press subject to be muzzled at the caprice of an official censorship; Judges and magistrates in theory independent of the Crown, but, in fact, by the tradition and practice of their office inextricably mixed up with the daily action of the Executive. What conceivable advantage could there be either to Ireland or Great Britain from the continuance of this grotesque caricature of the British Constitution? There was much virtue in government of the people, by the people, for the people. There was much also to be said for a powerful and well-equipped autocracy. But, between the two there was no logical or statesmanlike halting-place. For the hybrid system which the Government were about to set up—a system which pretended to be that which it was not, and was not that which it pretended to be—a system which could not he either resolutely repressive or frankly popular—for this half-hearted compromise there was reserved the inexorable sentence which history had in store for every form of political imposture.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I do not know whether the speech to which we have just listened is the maiden speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith); but, whether it be or not, I think that all who have heard him will agree with me that his speech is a favourable augury of the position which he is 1401 likely to fill in our Parliamentary con tests. I will not say more about his speech at this moment, except to congratulate my hon. Friend upon the position which he occupies, and which he regards with so much satisfaction—that of a Member of a Party which is free from all compromising memories, and which, as he says, possesses the inestimable advantage—I am not quite certain whether I understood him correctly—the inestimable advantage of having no directors or having no conscience. In what I have to say upon the question before the House, I hope that I may not have to trespass at any length upon its attention, and I hope also that I may be able to avoid wounding the legitimate susceptibilities of any of those from whom I have to differ. Although I may differ from some of their conclusions, I find myself in general agreement with most of the arguments and all the statements of fact which have been made in the course of this debate. The issue which we have to decide is, practically speaking, a very limited one. We are not discussing the terms of a Bill for amending the Criminal Law. We do not know what the proposals of the Government are to be. ['' Oh, oh!" from the Irish Members.] Well, I do not know. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may be more fortunate At present I only know that the provisions of that Bill may be so stringent that some of us may find ourselves unable to support them. On the other hand, they may be so moderate and reasonable that some of us are already pledged, by our public declarations, to give our assent to them; but that is not the question before us. The question before us is, whether, before we have heard the case of the Government—whether, before we know the nature of the proposals which they are about to make—wo are so certain that any Bill for the amendment of the Criminal Law, whether it be a great Bill or a small Bill, whether it be a stringent Bill or a moderate Hill, is unnecessary that we are resolved to refuse to the Government the facilities for its discussion for which they are asking. Now, what do they ask from the House? What they ask from the House is, that the House shall agree to give the Government control over those two nights in the week on which private Members 1402 would otherwise have a right to discuss their Motions or their Bills. Well, I do not think a proposal of that kind can fairly be described, as it is in this Amendment, as "setting aside the Business of the nation." I must say that, in my experience, I have generally found that very little indeed of the "Business of the nation" is over transacted on nights devoted to private Members. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—and it is perfectly true—that this demand is unprecedented, in the sense that it has never before been made with a prospect of its being in operation for so lengthened a period. That is quite true; but then, the circumstances are unprecedented. Who is it that has told us that "Ireland blocks the way?" I do not dispute that assertion. Ireland, or a combination of circumstances which it is not my business now to discuss, does undoubtedly block the way; and it is impossible that any practical progress should be made in any social or political reform until the business of Ireland has been disposed of, and therefore there is no question before the House as to urgency in relation to questions affecting Ireland. That must be granted by the nature of the situation. The only question is as to the order in which the various branches of the Irish Question shall be considered—whether we will give priority to the amendment of the Criminal Law, or to remedial legislation. Well, Sir, I venture to say that, in my judgment, no one can consistently vote for the Amendment before the House unless he is determined that, under no circumstances, will he at present be willing to support any amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland—[Cries of"No, no!"]—until at all events the remedial legislation which he thinks to be necessary: has been dealt with by the House. I hear some Gentlemen say "No, no!" I hope those are the voices of Gentlemen who are unable to support this Amendment; but it has been adopted by the majority of the Irish Representatives—those who call themselves Nationalist Representatives, and by many Liberal Members, on this ground—the majority of the Liberal Party, and the majority of the Irish Representatives, have come to the conclusion that, in future, they will not assent to any measure in the nature of a 1403 Coercion Bill for any amendment of the' Criminal Law in Ireland, until, at all events, the remedial legislation which they desire has been successfully passed through the House. They found this determination—which I remark, in passing, is a now determination with regard to many of them—they found that determination on two propositions; in the first place, on the proposition that coercion has always failed to secure the objects for which it has been passed; in the second place, that remedial legislation is an alternative to coercion which may be relied upon to secure those objects, and to bring back peace and order to Ireland. Now, I ask the House whether experience warrants these two assumptions? I am not going back a long time; I am going to deal only with the time which is within my own experience, and with that legislation for which I was in part responsible in the period which was covered by the Government that lasted from 1880 to 1885. We devoted a largo share of our time and the time of the House of Commons to remedial legislation. I remember well the hopc3 and the expectations and the promises which heralded the land legislation of 1881. I supported that legislation with my whole heart; and again and again, while it was under consideration in the country and in this House, I put forward my own opinion and the opinion of my Colleagues, that by this legislation we should restore peace and contentment to Ireland; that while, as regarded the landlords, we should diminish—and rightly diminish—their income, we would, at the same time, secure to thorn the remnant that was left; that, as regarded the tenants, we would give them just rents and fixity of tenure, which we believed would induce them to peaceful enterprises and industry; and that, under those circumstances, the real material grievances of Ireland would cease. Well, but, Sir, how have these prognostications, how have these sanguine anticipations, been fulfilled? Can anyone deny that the land legislation of 1881 has conspicuously failed? Has it brought peace and prosperity to Ireland? Let hon. Members below the Gangway bear witness. Has it brought security to the landlords '? Why, the landlords are in worse plight than ever. I have never been accused of much sympathy with landlords; but really 1404 they are now objects for the pitiful consideration of every Member of the House of Commons. The Royal Commission condemns them; the Opposition condemns them; and even the Government does not defend them. But what is the position of the tenants'? This Amendment we are now considering is a confession that the main object of the Land Act of 1881, or of its promoters, has not been accomplished; that we have not secured a fair rent for the tenants of Ireland; and that even now, protected as they are by that Act, they are still subject to the possibility of exactions of excessive and exorbitant rents by bad landlords. [An Irish MEMBER: That is your care.] Well, but it ought to be remembered that this Act of 1881, although passed by a British Parliament, was not an English Act; it was not English in spirit. It was an Irish Act, and such an Act as might have been passed by an Irish Parliament. ["Mr. DILLON (Mayo, E.): Certainly not.] I do not accept the contradiction of the hon. Member. I say that that Act was opposed to all the prejudices of Englishmen. I say it violated all the cherished doctrines of political economy—I am not speaking for myself—I am not a political economist; but I am speaking for the vast majority of the Members of this House. I say it was recommended to the House, and passed by the House, because it was modelled upon the demands of the Irish Members, and upon Irish sentiment. In spite of this, the Act has conspicuously failed, and now, six years after its passing, we have to consider a state of things which is as bad as, or worse than, the state of things which existed at the time the Act was passed; and we have still to take measures by the confession of every Member of the House to protect the tenants against the excessive rents which may be levied by landlords unmindful of their duties. But in the time of which I am speaking we did not confine our attention to remedial legislation. I was a party during those five years to two Coercion Acts, and I should have been a party to a third if the Government of which I was a Member had not resigned. Were these Acts of Coercion which we passed successful? I think the answer depends upon what you understand by successful; by what you expect from the Acts of Coercion. If there were any people foolish enough 1405 to suppose—and my hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) appears to believe in their continued existence—that force is a remedy for national discontent—they must have been grievously disappointed by the results of the two Acts which were passed by the Government of which I was a Member. But if force is only intended to secure the temporary suppression of disorder, and an outward respect to the law, then I say that, although in my opinion—I speak only for myself—tho first of these Acts which involved the suspension of Habeas Corpus was an entire failure; the second of these Acts, the Crimes Act, as it was administered by Lord Spencer, was a success, and justified the expectations of its promoters in this limited souse only—that it produced peace and order in the country and outward respect for the law of the land. Well, then, I say that the lesson of my experience, at all events—others may not have learnt it in the same way—has been that we ought not to be too sanguine as to our remedial legislation, although we ought not, on that account, to despair; but that we may assume that moderate amendments of the ordinary Criminal Law will enable any Government to cope successfully with active manifestations of disorder. What is the position of the supporters of this Amendment? I understand they contend, in the first place, that social disorder is not at the present time widespread in Ireland; and that they contend, in the second place, that the manifestation of disorder is not sufficient to justify any coercive legislation until, at all events, the causes of disorder have been dealt with by the Government. I believe that is a fair account of the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), and those who support his Amendment. In attempting to deal with this contention, I am prepared to make large admissions—admissions that I think will justify what I said in the opening of my remarks—namely, that I am able to agree with a great deal that has fallen from my Friends around me. I agree, to begin with, that the disorder in Ireland is partial, and confined to a limited area. But if you take that by itself, it is really a reason for restricting the operation of any Bill; but it is not a reason for allowing disorder to con- 1406 tinue unchecked, even in that limited area. As I have already pointed out, we are not now asked to approve of the Bill. By the Vote which we shall give upon this Amendment, we none of us pledge ourselves, in the slightest degree, to support the Bill when it is brought forward. All that we are asked to do is to admit that there is urgency—that the subject should be discussed and disposed of at the earliest possible moment, in order to make room for other Business, and, if necessary for another Government. I admit, in the second place, that the number of serious outrages is fortunately, much less than it was on many previous occasions when coercion was proposed; but, Sir, there is a reason for this, which does not tell in favour of inaction. I remember a meeting being hold in Ireland, which was addressed by an Irish Member who told his hearers that murder was unnecessary, because Boycotting was very much more effective, and when the machinery of intimidation is quite perfect, as it nearly is at the present time in Kerry, I have no doubt that outrages will be altogether unknown. But this involves a state of terrorism which is just as repugnant to true liberty, as the order which reigned at Warsaw under a tyrannical despotism. Then, Sir, I admit also the main facts which my right hon. Friend has sought to prove from the evidence in the Blue Book, and from the Report of the Royal Commission. I admit that combinations for resisting legal obligations have been facilitated by the action of some landlords, who have refused abatements and who have exacted rents which the fall in prices has made excessive. I admit that to the full, and I think that some remedy is necessary for the state of things herein disclosed. But if we are to accept, as conclusive against the landlords, the Report and the evidence of the Royal Commission which tolls against them, surely we should pay some attention to this evidence and this Report when it appears to tell against the organization of the National League. I should just like to quote from the Report of the Commissioners. On page 11, there is this paragraph, in which they say—In the other Provinces (that is, excluding Ulster) combinations made themselves felt before the passing of the Land Act of 1881, and 1407 have in various forms continued to the present time. Outrage was at first made use of to intimidate parties who were willing to pay rents. but. latterly, the methods of passing resolutions at National League meetings, causing their proceedings to be reported in local newspapers, naming obnoxious men, and then Boycotting those named have been adopted. Tenants who had paid even the judicial rents had been summoned to appear before self-constituted tribunals, and if they failed to do so, or, appearing, failed to satisfy those tribunals, have been fined or Boycotted. The people are more afraid of Boycotting, which depends for its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of the judgments of the Courts of Justice. This unwritten law in some districts is supreme.Then on the next page, the Commissioners further say—The evidence shows that the tenant farmers who join many of these combinations, constitute themselves the solo judges of what is an equitable rent. Landlords in many districts, no matter how moderate their rents may be, are practically unable to collect them. The tenant in arrear of rent is sometimes prohibited from selling his holding, and if the landlord ejects him for non-payment, no matter how low the rent or how large the arrears, the land must lie idle on the owner's hands, as he is neither allowed, even if he has the moans, to work it himself, the land being strictly Boycotted, nor dare anyone hire what is known as an evicted farm, and very large tracts are now in consequence waste. Thus the recovery of rent is rendered difficult, and sometimes impossible.I have preferred to quote from the conclusions of the Commissioners as showing in a short form, what passed through their minds as the effect of the evidence they had heard. I say that is the conclusion to which any impartial person would arrive on reading the whole Report, paying equal attention to all parts of it. [An hon. MEMBER: "Was Mr. Knipe impartial?] I am not in the habit of interrupting hon. Members, and I hope they will permit me to proceed without interruption. The conclusion to which I have arrived on reading the whole Report is, that a double duty is thrown upon the Executive Government of the country. On the one hand, they have to provide for the temporary suppression of disorder; but on the other, they have the still more arduous, the still more serious and important duty, that of attempting, once more, undeterred by previous failure, the solution of the great agrarian problem, which is at the root, and which is the source, of all Irish discontent. I will say, for my part, I will give no vote to any Government which does not recognize this second—this important duty, as fully, 1408 as clearly, and as completely, and does not press forward its prosecution as sincerely as it is inclined to do the other and prior claim to its exertions. Now, Sir, I cannot help glancing at one inference which I am inclined to draw from the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend. I gather from that, that it is the opinion of the Liberal Party, or the majority of the Liberal Party, that the most urgent and pressing duty of any Government is to find a solution of the Land Question. Well, I agree with that. I said so some time ago at Birmingham, and, thereupon, I was peremptorily told by the organs of the same majority, that, they would not oven enter into a discussion on the subject with anyone who was not at the same time prepared to assent to their ideas of general policy on the subject of Home Rule. I am glad that such a controversy is past, and that now, at all events, we are agreed that the most urgent duty of the Liberal Party and of this House is to deal with the Land Question in Ireland. But, Sir, what does the Government tell us on this matter? My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Sir. Asquith) has a constitutional distrust of Conservative Governments, which, I admit, I think a very proper feeling on his part, and one which I am myself inclined to share. But I should like the House to bear in mind exactly what the Government does tell us, and thon to put their own construction upon it. I would say this—even for a Conservative Government—that I think they have been unjustly accused of vagueness with regard to their agrarian programme. How could it be expected that a Government should give a first or second reading exposition of two important Bills on the Land Question on a Motion of Urgency with regard to a subject of a different nature? But they have drawn aside the curtain to some extent, and they have given us indications of their intentions which I myself regard as promises, and in that matter I am more ingenuous and loss sceptical than my hon. Friend. I find that the Government say, or I tinder-stand them to say—and they will contradict me if I am wrong—that they propose immediately to bring in a Bill to deal with a matter of the utmost importance and urgency. I understand that they intend to deal with the case of 1409 leaseholders, a class which includes no loss than 160,030 tenants in Ireland. Whose case, I am sorry to say, a Liberal Government has always refused to recognize. I am glad that the pressure of circumstances has brought home conviction to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and I have no doubt some of the same circumstances will be found also to Lave brought conviction home to my right hon. Friends around me. Well, but the Government propose to do something mach more important than that. If there is one scandal worse than another at the present time, it is the evictions for the enforcement of unjust rents. I understand that the Government propose to deal with these evictions, and to make it impossible for a landlord to evict a tenant upon an unjust rent. [Interruption, and cries of"The first time we have heard of it!"] An hon. Member says it is the first time he has heard of it. There are none so deaf as those who will net boar. I understand that the Government propose to deal with this mailer in the way I have described. I understand that they propose to allow no evictions without an appeal to a Court which will have equitable jurisdiction upon it. ["No, no!"] Let the Government contradict me if I am wrong. I understand that they propose there should be this equitable jurisdiction, and that if it is proposed to evict a tenant, in a case where the rent is shown to be excessive or unfair, or where the arrears are excessive or unfair, the Court will have power to impose a composition upon the landlord. If I have rightly described the insertions of the Government, I say that it is absurd—that there is no excuse for saying that any Bill for the amendment of the Criminal Law would be a Bill to enable unjust landlords to evict for excessive and unfair routs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in his speech to-night, said that the crime in Ireland was clue to the attempt to secure a reduction of rent. I should not has-o said that myself?. I should have said that crime in Ireland was due to the attempt to carry out the programme of the Convention of Chicago, to make the government of Ireland by a British Parliament impossible. If I am wrong, if it be as my right hon. Friend says, the I say that this Bill which, as I understand, the Government intend to introduce, will 1410 cut the ground from under the feet of the Opposition, and make? it impossible that crime should exist which is due to the attempt to secure reduction of rent where rent is excessive. But the Government propose something further than that—oh, I understand more. [Mr. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.): Read!] I find all that I understand in the text. I have found it in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I have no other authority, and I unfortunately did not hear his speech; but I can read, and I have read it again and again, and I understand from that speech that the right hon. Gentleman has given a pledge to the House that this Bill will be introduced immediately in the House of Lords. [Laughter.] I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen would have been glad of that announcement. I know that, in my experience of agrarian legislation for Ireland, our difficulty has been in the house of Lords, and if that difficulty is overcome there is very good hope that no difficulty will remain in this House. Sir, the Government have pledged themselves to introduce this Bill in the House of Lords. As soon as that has been done, we shall all be aware of its provisions. I hope that it will be pressed forward there. I hope something else—something that I have not seen in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland—I hope that when it comes down to this House it will be possible to press it here to a second reading before the Criminal Law Amendment Bill leases the House. But the Government have said something more than that. I really feel that I am working a mine for the benefit of the House. All this solid gold appears to have passed unseen. [Laughter.] Oh, but it is there From the same speech I understand that the Government propose as soon as the two Bills—the Criminal Law Amendment Bill and that dealing with leaseholders and other Amendments of the Land Act—have been passed, to introduce a Bill for what they hope may be a final settlement of the Lard Question. They do rot tell us more about it than this—that it will be a Bill for abolishing the dual ownership of land. Thereupon some of my sceptical Friends——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman is much too hasty. I assure him I did not allude to him; but some of my hon. Friends who are rather sceptical have said with regard, to this statement, that they are convinced that no Bill can be introduced for doing away with the dual ownership of laud that will not put a tremendous risk upon the British taxpayer, and that they are pledged to oppose. Well, so am I. All I can say is, that if this Bill which is promised us contains any undue or improper risk to the British taxpayer, my ton. Friends will find me in the same Lobby with them in opposition to it. But I do not believe that that is necessary, and I am confirmed in my opinion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who, in a speech which he made the other night at the house of an hon. Member, said himself that he had come to the conclusion that although his proposal, which in the opinion of some of us proposed a risk to the British taxpayer, would have been perfectly safe, yet he was inclined to believe that there was a better and more admirable way by which that risk can be avoided. I hope the Government will find it, and if that be so, then I hope my hon. Friends who now hesitate will be prepared with me to give it their heartiest support. I notice that my hon. Friends do not cheer that statement. I am afraid they are not inclined to support a Conservative Government, oven in proposals which are thoroughly approved as in accordance with Liberal principles, and in accordance with the Liberal programme? That is what I understand to be the state of the intentions of the Government as presented to us by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Now, Sir, if the discussions upon the two first Bills to which I have referred occupy only a reasonable space of time, in my opinion there ought to be no difficulty whatever in dealing with the whole of this great subject during the present Session. That is a matter which is in the hands of the House. hon. Members below the Gangway might prevent the solution of the Land Question. I am not protesting against reasonable discussion. I only say that if the discussion is lengthened unreason-ably, the responsibility will lie with those who take that course. Now, I ask the hon. Member for East Fife whether, under these circumstances—if the Govern- 1412 ment accept the description I have given of their policy—he is entitled to ask for more at this stage, oven from a Conservative Government? the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle in introducing his Amendment, based his opposition upon the precedent which he quoted as to the action of Lord John Russell in 1846. But, surely, my right hon. Friend spoke before the announcement of the Government was made. Surely he will admit that that answer is a complete acceptance of the principle that Lord John Russell sought to establish. What did Lord John Russell pro-pose? he proposed to refuse urgency to the Government, unless they would produce, at the same time, their remedial legislation. But the Government are prepared to introduce their remedial measures. I say that it is an unworthy quibble to deny that the Government are prepared not only to produce, but to carry their remedial measure at the same time as their measure for the Amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland. But I confess that I should prefer to rely upon a later precedent; which does not commit the right hon. Gentleman because he was not at the time a Member of the Government, and I do not think that he was even a Member of this House. We have hoard a great deal of the precedent of 1881; but I think myself that that of 1882 is much more applicable to our present situation. I quote that precedent, not in support of the claim for urgency, because as to that, as I have already said, urgency for Irish, affairs is conceded by all—but in regard to the priority or order of our legislation. In 1882, the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William liar-court) brought in his Bill for the Prevention of Crimes in Ireland; and, in doing so, he said that he founded it, not upon the then recent terrible events—the assassination in Phœnix Park, or the murder of Mrs. Smythe, or other similar outrages, though all these wore in the mind of the Government—but on the fact of the existence of secret societies and illegal combinations in Ireland. But the hon. Member for East Fife has asked what secret societies are now in existence in Ireland. If he knew all about those societies, they would be no longer secret. Anyone who is in communication with the Irish police will know that a great number of secret societies and of illegal 1413 combinations are still in existence. No one will deny that there are unlawful combinations in Ireland; and, therefore, the case now is the same as the case upon which ray right hon. Friends in the Government of which I was a Member founded their claim for the Bill for the Prevention of Crime. But the parallel goes much further than that. At that time the serious grievance in Ireland was the existence of large arrears which had not been dealt with by the late Government. It was admitted by the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that thousands and tens of thousands of tenants wore threatened with eviction from their holdings, and consequent destitution, unless an Arrears Bill could be passed. That was admitted; and yet the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member brought in the Prevention of Crimes Bill first. They produced the Arrears Bill while the Crimes Bill was going on. They did not introduce it in the House of Lords, for the very good reason that they had not a majority in that House. They refused again and again, in answer to repeated demands, to proceed with it pari passu with the Prevention of Crimes Bill, and they refused to interrupt the Committee stage of the latter, in order to pass the Arrears Bill. I remember the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian appealing again and again to hon. Members below the Gangway to limit the discussion upon the Prevention of Crimes Bill, on the ground that, by carrying it to great length, they were delaying the passing of the Arrears Bill. I say, therefore, that the circumstances of the case are precisely parallel—only the positions are reversed. Then we asked the Party opposite to give us an opportunity of passing our measures, and now they ask us for a similar opportunity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife and my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle were not parties to the request made. No one can accuse the right hon. Member for Newcastle of inconsistency in this matter. But if I and those who voted with me upon that occasion wore to refuse the demand of right hon. Members opposite, we should be inconsistent. In my opinion, we ought to deal out to others the same measure as was dealt out to ourselves. I have said that my right 1414 hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle is untrammelled by the proceedings of 1882; but I would like to press upon I him to consider further another portion of the Report of the Royal Commission which deals with the question of the maintenance of order, and is to be found on page 18 of the Report. It is as follows:—That, whilst recommending certain changes in the law which circumstances have rendered necessary for the present relief of the tenants, it is right that we should press, in the interests of all classes, the maintenance of law and order, which has, in several parts of the country, been grievously outraged. In the absence of that security, which ought to he enjoyed in every civilized community, capital is discouraged and enterprise and industry checked, and it is impossible that any country can thrive, or any healing measure be devised which can add to its prosperity.["Hear, hear!"] My right hon. Friend cheers the statement. I know he would agree. The conclusion I draw from it, is that no reform and no remedial measures we can propose, or this House can pass, would have a chance of success so long as the National League is supreme, so long as the unwritten law is superior to the law of the land. Just again let us see what are the lessons of experience. we tried conciliation; we tried the absence of any restrictive or exceptional measures. When we came into Office in 1880, we were pressed to renew the Peace Preservation Act; but we thought it bettor to rely on the generosity and good sense of the Irish people, and those who were leading them. We refused to renew that Act. What was the consequence? In a few short months the state of Ireland got so bad that the Government were bound to bring in a Bill infinitely more stringent than the Peace Preservation Act, and to carry it through and put it into operation. And when it came to putting it into operation, we hesitated and halted—and I think rightly—to put that Act into operation until we had passed a remedial Act—which I now admit to be a failure, but which was then heralded with great hopes, and which was looked upon by the Irish tenants as an unparalleled boon. It was not until we had passed that Act—until we found it would be a dead letter, in consequence of the action of the advisers of the Irish people—that we were forced to take stronger measures, and it would never 1415 have had a fair chance if the Land League had not been proclaimed and its leaders put in prison. That is history. I am not commenting upon it; it is within the knowledge of all those Members of the House who wore in the House at the time I am speaking of. After we had put that Act in force, no doubt the Land Act had a fair trial. But since then, two Land Purchase Acts have been passed. I do not think they are good Acts, and I am not sorry they have failed. I object to them, not because they are not favourable to the Irish tenants—for they are more favourable to the tenant than any legislation passed in this, or any other country—but they are unfavourable to the English taxpayer. They have been failures, chiefly on account of the advice given to the tenants, and especially because of the interference of the National League. They interposed between what the tenants would have wished to do if they had been free men, and what they have actually done. And that is proved by the fact that in Ulster, where I believe there is much loss readiness on the part of the landlords to sell, the number of applications to purchase on the part of the tenants has nearly equalled that from the whole of the rest of Ireland. I say, then, that I do not believe any remedial legislation which the Government can propose has a chance, unless the authority of law and order is at the same time restored. And I say, also, that I believe the Government will not fulfil its duty unless, while it protects the tenants, as it is bound to do, and as I understand it intends to do, it also takes measures to protect honest men against the tyranny of those who are dishonest. Well, Sir, I am afraid that the opinions which I have expressed are rather unpopular with the majority of the Liberal Party. I am content on this occasion to be in the minority. It is a very respectable minority, and at one time or another it has included every man who sits on the Bench beside me. I do not blame them in the least, if they think that circumstances have arisen which justify them in changing their opinions. I hope they will not blame me if I choose to stick to mine. I have said every man on this Bench—I believe without exception——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle challenges me. It would take too long—I should exhaust the patience of the House—if I endeavoured to prove my case in reference to every one of my Colleagues. However, I will accept the challenge of my right hon. Friend; but, before that, I want to deal with a still more prominent Member of the Party. I want to quote to the House a passage from a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), a passage which I take not in the least with the object of inferring any inconsistency on his part, but because I believe it states the principle upon which hitherto the Liberal Party has always acted, and to which I, at all events, still give in my allegiance. Speaking in the debate on the Prevention of Crimes Bill of 1882, and replying to an appeal made to him by the hon. Member who then sat for Sligo, but who now represents West Belfast, my right hon. Friend said—I was coming to the observations of the hon. Member for Sligo, to the effect that we ought to have only one article in our political creed, and that article should be conciliation; and he went on to speak of that article of conciliation as rather one of justice. Sir, I quite agree with the hon. Member; the article of justice satisfies me perfectly; but I must remind the hon. Member that it means justice to all and to everyone. Unfortunately, this includes the use of force for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of all who do well. If the hon. Gentleman asks me whether I place my reliance chiefly upon force, or on what he has termed conciliation, I answer him that I place my reliance undoubtedly upon the removal of the causes of discontent infinitely more than upon mere force. But, Sir, this is also a necessary part of our duty which cannot be overlooked. The hon. Gentleman says—and here again I agree with him—we must show the people that the law is their protector and helper, and trust to our showing this to bring them to the side of law. I agree; but then I must show that to all sections of the people, and among these I am bound not least to show it to those who, during the last autumn and winter especially, have suffered most cruelly for not only the exercise of their legal rights, but for the performance of their legal and personal duties.Sir, I agree with every word of that. I agree now, as I agreed then, with what my right hon. Friend said, and I rely, as he did, chiefly upon remedial legislation as a cure—as the only cure—for the discontent of Ireland. Not the less do I hold it to be the duty of any Government, as it was the duty of our Govern- 1417 ment, to protect those who stand in need of protection. Protect the tenants by all means against the rapacity of landlords and against the exaction of excessive rents; but protect also those poor men, the Curtins, the Byers, and the Murphys, protect them also against the assassination and outrage with which they are threatened by those whose unwritten law is superior to the law of the land. My light boa. Friend the Member for Newcastle has challenged mo. I have a quotation from his utterances also, and I am quite sure from the cheers—tho some what derisive cheers—with which he has occasionally greeted me during my remarks, that he will not back one iota from the declarations I am about to read. This was written in November, 1881——
MR. JOHN MORLEY
I should like to know whether this was an article actually written by me? I think that is only reasonable.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that his demand is extremely reasonable. I should not have quoted the passage, which appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette, and which from internal evidence I should myself have been inclined to identify with my right hon. Friend, if it had not already appeared in a life of the right bon. Gentleman which was published by Mr. Stead, who was his colleague and successor in the administration of The Pull Mall Gazette. I will read it, and then my right hon. Friend will know whether he will accept it. What he is reported to have said is this—On the other hand, if great social disorder has spread over a country from whatever cause, every Government, exactly because it is a Government, is bound to do its utmost to restore order temporarily, even while it is removing the more permanent causes which have made disorder natural and justifiable.[Mr. JOHN MORLEY: Hear, hear!] My right hon. Friend, I see, recognizes and owns the passage, and, as I anticipated, he does rot go back one jot from his utterances in 1831. I would like to know what is the difference between the course which be suggested to an imaginary Government in 1881 and the course which the present Government is par-suing? My right hon. Friend went on to say—and I call particular attention to these words— 1418It would be a singular confession of the impotency of Liberalism as a practical theory of politics, if it were found to forbid its professors to deal effectually with outbreaks of popular violence and opposition to the ordinary work of police.I call special attention to this passage, because I hold that if Liberalism ever becomes identified with lawlessness, it will lose its hold on the popular feeling. Since the extension of the franchise, we have been living under a system of democratic government. I think I read that my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) said the other day that no democratic Government would impose coercion on a democratic nation. I do not know what he meant by a democratic nation; but if he meant that no democratic Government would use force to vindicate the law, then I differ from him altogether. I always have held that a democratic Government in this country, as in other countries, would be a very strong Government, because it would rest on public opinion, and would not depend upon the will and the prejudices of individuals or of classes; and I believe that the masses in this country have no sympathy with anarchy, no love for disorder. They have shown in other countries, and notably in the United States, that they can repress it with a sternness which autocratic Governments might envy. So I say, in conclusion, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, that if social disorder prevails, Government is bound to do its utmost temporarily to restore the authority of the law, and if, at the same time, it produces to the country and presses forward to the utmost of its power its remedial legislation, I believe the vast majority of the people will support and approve its action.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has delivered a speech founded on what I may call the minor key, doubtless owing to the great secrets with which he is charged. A great responsibility seems to rest upon him as the mouthpiece of the Tory Government. The right hon. Gentleman does not now feel himself able to indulge, with the same freedom, in that rancour which he was formerly accustomed to indulge in.—before he became one of the choice supporters of a Conservative Adminis- 1419 tration. He has told us of some very wonderful secrets. Everyone says there is a good deal of gold in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). I have read that speech, but I have found no gold in it whatever; and I have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and I find gold there, but with a slight touch of Brummagem about it, because, having the curiosity to turn to the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, I find in it wonderful things which are amplified by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham into the extraordinary promises which he has just made. Here is an extract taken from The Times newspaper, and the passage has not been contradicted by the right hon. Gentleman—The first Bill will not alter, and does not profess to alter, profoundly the system established in 1881; but we think it will make the working of that system more smooth, more equitable, and more beneficial to all concerned in Irish agriculture. The Bill, among other things, will deal with lease, 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.That is to say, that they will bring in a Land Purchase Bill. That is the entire of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. And how is it that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who boasts that he is not in the secrets of the Irish Chief Secretary, can tell us exactly what it is the Government are going to produce? We have had a promise to-night from the right hon. Gentleman who speaks as the mouthpiece of the Government—who can easily repudiate what he says, because they are not bound to know the statements he has made by a sort of officious authority—that the Government are going to pass an Act which will be in character almost the same as the Bill proposed last year by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). The statement of the right hon. Gentleman is not repudiated by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and we do not see the eloquent and Jove-like nod of the First Lord of the Treasury [Mr. W. H. Smith) in denial—nodding being the right hon. Gentleman's most eloquent attitude. We have not had from him a single denial 1420 that these were the proposals of the Government. What are they? In the first instance, it is proposed to pass into law a provision enabling tenants to claim equitable consideration of the Court when in arrear; and, secondly, that if the Court considers the rent to be too high, they shall not be evicted. If you propose to enable men's rents to be reduced when the only remedy for the non-payment of rent is eviction—if you propose to enable the Judge to say—" The rent shall not be paid; I will give you equitable relief;" what is that but to enforce by a side wind the Act of 1881? I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that question, who interrupted with so much favour the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham used this to allure his Radical Unionist Friends across the desert of Coercion, stating, at the same time, that he relied on the precedent of the Act of 1882, and not on the Act of 1881. I will take the right hon. Gentleman at his word, and I ask hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway to press on the right hon. Gentleman adhesion to the Act of 1882. His speech to-night was a very wary and technical one. What was the principle of the Act of 1882, and what is the principle of the Government to-day? the complaint is that we refuse them the whole time of the House. Yes; because we do not know what the proposals of the Government are. Lot it be remembered that the Government ask for the time of the House before anyone knows what is the nature of their proposals. We know that, by the aid of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and others, they intend to pass a Coercion Bill for Ireland; but we do not know that they have it in their power to pass either hero or in the House of Lords any remedial legislation. What was the position in 1882? Everyone knows the dreadful and terrible event which gave such a momentum to the Government to pass the Crimes Act of that year—the unhappy murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke, in the Phœnix Park, on the 6th of May. Well, on the 11th of May the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby 1421 (Sir William Harcourt) brought in his Crimes Bill. No time of the House was asked for before that Bill was introduced. the Arrears Bill was then introduced, and the Crimes Bill having been read the first time on Thursday, the Arrears Bill was road the first time on the following Monday. And when did the Government ask for the full time of the House and urgency for their Bill? Let it be remembered that on the 11th and 15th of May the House had before them the full proposals of the Government, coercive and remedial. It was not until both Bills had been read a second time, and received the approval of the House, that the full time of the House was asked for by the Government, and they did not do that until the 23rd of May; nor did they ask then, as they are asking now, that the House should discuss coercion alone. On the 23rd of May the Government moved that urgency should be accorded to the remaining stages of the Crimes Bill and the Arrears Bill. This was a totally different state of things from that relied upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; so that when the Unionist Party was asked by the right hon. Gentleman to give their adhesion to these Government proposals on the strength of the precedent of 1882, the state of facts belonging to 1882 was carefully concealed from them. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night was extremely adroit, and, for him, of an extremely moderate character. His position was this—you must restore law and order before you attempt anything like remedial legislation; and one of his great arguments in favour of giving the Government the whole time of the House was that the great secret societies of the last few years are still in active existence. If all the great secret societies are still in existence, it is a very poor tribute to the effectiveness of the Coercion Acts which have been passed for Ireland. If it be true that, in spite of the 87 Coercion Acts passed in this country, and in spite of the stringent measure passed when Lord Spencer was in Ireland in 1882, all the great secret societies are still in existence, I ask what hope have you that, by passing another Coercion Act, you can put down crime and agitation and secret societies in. Ireland in the future? We have had 1422 put into the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the exact intentions of the Government; and all the speeches that have come from the Government side of the House to-night have dealt with crime and disorder in Ireland as the reason for granting the demand of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has said—"You cannot have peace in Ireland so long as the National League maintains uncontrolled sway in that country." So now you have it for the first time, on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, that this Bill is practically aimed at the National League. I have no objection to the suppression of the National League. I would have been delighted last autumn if the Government had suppressed it then. I would be delighted if the first thing done, if this Bill becomes law, were the suppression of the National League. Its suppression will relieve us of a great deal of responsibility. We have been obliged to strain every nerve, and make every effort to keep that extraordinary organization within the strictest limits of legality; and, although United Ireland has for months published in the fullest manner every resolution of the National League, touching the most vital matter of the lives of the peasantry—although those resolutions have been published week after week, not one of them has been challenged on the ground of illegality. Suppress the National League, and we shall no longer be responsible for what is going on in Ireland; and we shall be no longer able to keep the people themselves in check. I was really disappointed and regretful that the first step of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland was not the suppression of that body; and, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham makes his attack on the National League, and says that the Government Bill is intended to deal with that organization, I say that I rejoice to hear it. I say that I rejoice that we are to i be relieved of the responsibility of conducting the agrarian movement in Ireland; but let me tell the Government that these people will conduct it for themselves. The right hon. Gentleman does not like the National League now, as its speaks through its open and published resolutions, but he will like it still 1423 less when, after its suppression, it speaks in a very different tone, and when the uncontrolled, and perhaps uncontrollable peasants of Ireland, suffering under the smart of eviction, come face to face with the calamities in which they believe that this Bill will involve them. I say it is lamentable that this House should be legislating for a state of things in Ireland of which those who instigate this legislation are themselves in a state of unhappy and deplorable ignorance. Suppress the National League, and who will be more delighted than hon. Members on my right and left? Then, Sir, you will, for the first time, be dealing, not with politicians, bat with a very different class of persons, and those secret organizations which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham tolls us are still in force, notwithstanding Lord Spencer's Act, notwithstanding the Crimes Act and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, will be augmented in a way of which he has very little conception. The right hon. Gentleman does not know where he is going; our words and advice were unheard and unheeded in 1881 and 1882, and they will be so to-day. Why were the secret organizations which the right hon. Gentleman says are still in existence not suppressed? Because you did not deal with the roots of the disorder; they will continue to spread, and our unfortunate countrymen will be prejudiced by these miserable crimes, but they will be prejudiced when we are no longer responsible for Order in Ireland, and when the responsibility of all the blood spilt will rest on the head of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and his Colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has dwelt upon the evidence given before the Royal Commission, and he mentioned that Commission as if it were a body that had our fullest confidence. he did not even mention the name of Mr. Knipe; but he left us to understand that the Commission reported unanimously. Before I go to the character of the Royal Commission let me say that in my opinion, no more disgraceful attempt to debauch public opinion was ever made than by the appointment of that Commission. It did not possess one element of authority, so far as its Members went. It was presided over by Lord Cowper, who was associated with Mr. Forster in 1424 signing warrants for the arrest of suspects; there was Lord Milltown, one of the most malevolent and persistent rack-renters in Ireland, who spends his time in the House of Lords drafting Amendments to all the beneficial measures sent up from this House with regard to Ireland; there were Mr. Neligan, a landlord of the worst type; Sir James Caird, a Scotch gentleman of considerable authority—perhaps the most respectable element of the Commission—besides a Protestant; and Liberal Unionist, who opposed the return of Mr. Thomas Dickson when he stood for Mid Armagh. So that we had not a single friend on that Commission. Of witnesses summoned, there was not ore oat of 20 on the popular side; and if you read the evidence, you will see that every one of the questions addressed to the witnesses was that of a packed tri-banal. The evidence taken is confined to that of magistrates, policemen, and land-grabbers, whose names; are cot given, and men connected with the landlord system in Ireland—lard agents and landlords. And it is upon the evidence taken by that Commission, upon the verdict of that packed jury, which is given in favour of the Irish tenants, that the Government are proceeding. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham relies on the Re-port of the Cowper Commission, and the evidence taken before that Commission, he should be the first to insist on the Report being carried out in its entirely: and the first thing he ought to do is to insist on the reduction of the term of judicial rents from 15 years to five years. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland says he will not have that; but I wonder if he remembers what he said on the Land Act of 1881? In that year the right bon. Gentleman said that l5 years was too long; but it is not too long now. On the 20th June, as will be seen by Hansard, vol. 252, p. 190, he had an Amendment on the Paper in favour of restricting the term to 10 years; but now, even upon the recommendation of his own Commission, he will not assent to the reduction of the term to five years. The right hon. Gentleman says he is not in favour of the reduction of the term, because the real remedy lies in a system of peasant proprietorship. But what did he say about that in 1881? According to Han- 1425 sard, page 1611, he said, with regard to peasant proprietors, that, although he doubted the economic advantages of the system, he believed it we aid be politically advantageous, on the principle that if legislation was to be carried on under mob dictation in the interests of justice, it was well, in the interests of the nation, to have a mob on both sides. That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in 1881; and now he tells us that the Bill of the Government is not a Bill in favour of the landlords, but one for restoring law and order in Ireland. Sir Redvers Buller says there is very little law in Ireland, and that what there is is on the side of the rich. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham if he is prepared, under this Bill, to repay the money to the Irish tenants of which they have been robbed for many years past according to the decisions of the legal tribunals. Two of the chief supporters of the Bill are Gentlemen who waited on Lord Salisbury the other day; and it is to their intervention that we are told a great deal of the stringency of the Bill is owing. The names of these gentlemen appear in the Return of rents judicially reduced. I find on the estate of the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham) that three or four months age there were the following reductions of rent:—From £8 to £3 15s.; £7 8s. to £3 15s.; £6 12s. to £3; £17 17s. to £6 10s.; £47 10s. to £20. Will the right hon. Gentleman introduce into this Bill a provision that the hon. Member for Winchester shall give back to his unfortunate tenants the money of which he has been robbing them? Will he have the same regard for the Macintyres, the Rooneys, and others, as he has for the Murphys, the Byerses, and the Curtins? Again, one of the advisors of the Government whose name appeal's in the Return is a gentleman named King-Harman, with whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham will go into the Lobby to-morrow evening. Woeful tears have been wept by the right hon. Gentleman over the fate of Byers, Cur-tin, and Murphy, and no one condemns the atrocious crimes perpetrated in their case more than I do, but let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that these were crimes committed by ignorant peasants who have never had the advantage of 1426 listening to the speeches delivered in this House by the right hon. Gentleman; they are men who have not had a liberal education such as has been enjoyed by the two Gentlemen I have named. I know not whence these peasants got their education; they may have read something in The Times in praise of men like Stepniak, Gallenga, and Mazzini, and they may have read that the liberty of nations is to be worked out with knives and hatchets. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will shed tears over the fate of the men who have been robbed by these educated dragoons for generations. Here is another list of reductions that have been made:—Old rent, £13, judicial rent, £7 5s.; old rent, £7 10s., judicial rent, £4 4s.; old rent, £18 9s., judicial rent, £10; old rent, £30, judicial rent, £16. 10s.; old rent, £9 9s. 4d, judicial rent, £1 10s.; old rent. £12 10s. 8d., judicial rent, £6; old rent, £12 6s. 8d., judicial rent, £6 5s.; old rent, £13 14s., judicial rent, £6; old rent, £30, judicial rent, £16 10s.; and so on ad infinitum. Well, Sir, I hope that the first use these Pat Fords and others make of the reduction of their rents will not be to send a contribution to the dynamite fund. The men on whoso estates these reductions hare been made are the companions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; these are the Gentlemen with whom he will co-operate in the Lobby in promoting a Bill for the coercion of men who, Sir Redvers Buller declares, have no law on their side, while he says, at the same time, that such law as there is is altogether on the side of the rich. This Commission has made proposals which are to be acted upon. It has made proposals against Boycotting and intimidation; but its proposals on that point are not unanimous, because the only Member who can profess to have anything like a popular character, Mr. Knipe, entirely dissents from the Report. Mr. Knipe is rot a Nationalist; he is an Ulster man, he is a Presbyterian, he is a Unionist, he is a disciple of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. But Mr. Knipe is an Irishman. Mr. Knipe knows his country just as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham knows his. We do not, however, admit, 1427 that the right hon. Gentleman knows curs. Mr. Knipe declares that any Coercion Bills you may pass must fail; and he dissents from the Report of the majority of the Commission. He dissents altogether from the proposals which have been made for enforcing coercive legislation. Now, on what leg does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham stand? If he is in favour of the Cowper Report, he must be in favour of it in its entirety. Lord Milltown, a Tory Peer, is the only dissentient to the proposal with regard to the official term. I ask right hon. Gentle-men what is the use of appointing a Royal Commission if you will not act upon its recommendations? Last August, you refused to pass the Bill of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork; but, in the words of the noble lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), after immense consideration, you determined to appoint a Royal Commission. What is the good of piling up evidence and getting up Blue Books, if you will not act upon what the Commission recommends? It would appear that all you desire is to find employment for printers and shorthand writers. It is absurd for the Government to appoint a Commission in August and when it reports in the February following, to refuse to carry out what it proposes. I venture to say that the refusal of the Government to put in force the recommendations of the Royal Commission had much more to do with the resignation of the late Irish Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) than his eyes, which I hope are better. That right hon. Gentleman has had a considerable experience of Ireland, he knows the necessities of the country, he found it necessary to delay the making of the Report of the Royal Commission. The Report was delayed. It was declared in the newspapers that Lord Cowper had several interviews of a long and important character with the right hon. Gentleman. When the Commissioners made their Report, it was found that in the Cabinet there was not unanimity with respect to the proposals the Commissioners made. I am not surprised that that should be the case. There are some Gentlemen in the Cabinet and in the Government who have been already hard hit by the Land Act of 1881. There is the Abercorn family, 1428 for instance, and I certainly am not surprised that the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) should refuse to give his consent to any measure which would involve a further slice off the rents of the Abercorn property, Well, Sir. that being so, unanimity was found impossible in the Cabinet, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland resigned. Now, what is the remedy the Government suggest. They discover, for the first time, that a great want of Ireland is agrarian legislation. The Irish people have been crying in the wilderness on this subject for years and years. Ever since the Devon Commission we have been telling you this, and it appears that now, for the first time, we have succeeded in awakening your conscience. As I understand him, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham does not believe the Government can pass their coercive legislation, hut he will support them in producing it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman expressed no hope whatever that they would be able to pass their coercion. I will toll him why they will not. I think the words of the right hon. Gentleman were "in producing it," and not "in passing it." [Mr. J. CHAMBER-LAIN: No.] I may be mistaken, and, of course, I accept his correction.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As the hon. Gentleman appeals to me, perhaps I may be allowed to put him right at once. What I said was that I hoped and believed that if the discussion of these two Bills were confined within reasonable limits, the whole of the subject. including the Purchase Bill, would be successfully dealt with during the present Session.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If this Session succeeds in settling the Irish Question, it certainly will be a memorable year. Well, Sir, let me point out why I have some philosophic doubts as to the possibility of the Irish Question, or of even the Irish Purchase Question, being successfully settled in the present Session. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham is reported, in all the newspapers, to have had frequent breakfasts, dinners, and teas with the Irish Chief Secretary, 1429 and to be himself the parent of the measure. He allows it to be stated, whether truly or untruly, that the measure is one for which he is largely responsible; that the scheme is, in fact, his notion. He has to-night told us some farther particulars; because he says it must be a scheme that will not involve the Imperial credit. I should like very much to see the Irish landlords compelled to sell their lands to the tenants on any security that will not pledge the Imperial credit. I will give them my own note of hand, if they like to take it, and I am sure that the entire Party of 86 Irish Nationalists will back the Bill. But I would like to know how the right hon. Gentleman proposes to compel astute Gentlemen such as the Member of the Abercorn family, and the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Mr. Brodrick), who spoke yesterday, the son of an Irish Peer, to part with their estates upon any other terms than those involving the Imperial credit; because it must be remembered that you cannot, or, I suppose, you will not, force the Irish landlords to sell their property. I imagine that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) were forced to sell his valuable property on open security, he would call out his reserves in the Orange brigade, having threatened civil war, as I understand, on much slenderer grounds. I imagine it will require a very stringent Coercion Bill to induce the hon. and gallant Gentleman to sell his estates in Cavan upon the security, say, of the Cavan Board of Guardians—[Colonel SAUNDERSON nodded assent.]—the hon. and gallant Gentleman bears me out in that—or even of the Cavan Grand Jury. The hon. and gallant Member does not dissent to the security of the Cavan Grand Jury. He appears to have rather more faith in them; but I should like the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say whether he will take the security of the rates on the faith of the Cavan Grand Jury, for upon neither of the local bodies in existence will the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh accept security. Well, Sir, what other local institution have we in Ireland, except it be the poor-house. There are the police and the lunatic asylums, and certainly, Sir, as yet, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has never attempted to qualify for 1430 membership of the latter institution. Is it not preposterous for the Government to invite this House to pass a Coercion Bill which they know will pass current in this House, and in the House of Lords, on the faith of some paulo post futurum measure, which will be knifed in this House, and which will have no chance of passing the golden gates of "another place?" No people have a greater appreciation of the value of pounds, shillings, and pence than the Gentlemen in ermine across the Lobby. No local guarantees will do for them. They want the chink of the current coin; and, that being so, I invite hon. Gentlemen of the Unionist persuasion, who believe in the possibility of remedial legislation for Ireland, to remember that the passing of this measure is inevitable, but that the passing of any remedial legislation is of a most hazy and doubtful character. One is current coin, and the other is composed of Brummagem metal. I, therefore, think that the least we can ask of the Government under circumstances such as those is, that they should show us exactly what is in their Budget before they ask us to buy a pig in a poke. we are asked to give them the whole of the time of the House, not for the twin proposals of remedy and restriction or coercion, but for coercion alone. Is it to be wondered at that we, who are not favoured with invitations to dinners from the Irish Chief Secretary, should demur to giving the Government the time they ask until we know exactly what the intentions of the Government are? the Government of 1882, as I have pointed out over and over again, passed the second readings of both their measures—their measures for coercion and for remedy—before asking for the time of the House. the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has appealed to that precedent, and so do we. we are prepared to abide by it. It is absurd to attempt to entrap us, and get us into Chancery by the promise that, when the coercive proposals of the Government are passed, the House will be asked to proceed with remedial legislation. Now that precedents have been; cited, why is it that the Government do not choose to follow them? we are told, when we ask for particulars of the crimes that are alleged to have been committed in Ire-land, that it is not the volume of the 1431 crime, it is not the number of crimes, but it is the character of the crime that requires the passing of this legislation. If the Government had crimes of number or of magnitude we should have heard about them. The greatest crime in their Chamber of Horrors is The Curtin murder, committed in 1885, nearly two 3'ears ago, during The régime of Lord Carnarvon. How can that crime do service, or be a momentum for The passing of a Coercion Bill in 1887? Give us something new. Let us have some facts that are connected with the present state of affairs in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in one of his dramatic flourishes, quoted the case—a deplorable case, it is true—of some girl who was tarred and feathered—no, I beg pardon, whose hair was cut off and her head tarred. I heard of the outrage with horror and abomination, and I believe that if the ruffians could be caught, no punishment that could be inflicted upon them would be too great. But, having attended the Assizes all over Ireland, I have come to be sceptical upon The subject of these outrages. My experience is that, whenever these crimes are brought to the test of examination and inquiry, they shrink to very small proportions indeed. Judging from my experience in watching the trial of criminals in Ireland, short as it has boon, I do not hesitate to say that, if The facts connected with this case could be investigated, not by some penny-a-liner of The Times, who visits the district in the company of the Resident Magistrate, but by someone who earnestly desired to arrive at the truth, we should find a very different state of facts indeed. Remember this, Moonlighters do not go about with pots of tar. Do not suppose for one moment that in the wilds of Kerry there is tar at hand with which people can commit crimes of this kind. I doubt extremely whether what is alleged to have taken place did take place, and I venture to say that this outrage is altogether a-piece with that other outrage in which it was stated a girl was not tarred, but criminally outraged, and in which——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
If the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to me as having given a description of the outrage, I wish to say it is perfectly true. I did give a description of it. I 1432 took that description from an address of a priest at the altar, who denounced The outrage and described the circumstances.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I will give The hon. and learned Gentleman The name subsequently. I was not aware he would ask for it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If it was Canon Griffin, of Mill street, I can only say I would as soon believe him as Dr. Patton, of The Daily Express. And it is a sad thing to say, but it is undoubtedly The fact, that much of The crime that has arisen in Kerry and in the district of West Cork is owing to The fact that the Bishop of Kerry has entirely lost The political confidence of his people, and that Canon Griffin has set himself with the bitterest hostility against the popular movement. But let me give another reason that may account to The right hon. Gentleman for some of the savagery that exists in that district of The country. Under the régime of the late Mr. W. E. Forster—tho right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was one of his Colleagues—there was a cruel murder committed in Knocknagee; a young man named Patrick Leary was shot at his own door, and Canon Griffin prevented him from receiving the last decency of Catholic burial, under The plea that he was a Moonlighter. I heard it admitted by the informer O'Connell—who was an agent provocateur of Mr. Forster—on The witness table at Cork, that lie had shot this young man out of pare sport. O'Connell was then in Government pay, and was the Captain Moonlight of the district. Leary was the son of The President of the Knocknagee National League, and O'Connell, who was in the pay of The Government, was examined at The trial, and admitted The murder. On his evidence no less than 70 of The young men of that district—which is at this moment giving you the greatest trouble in Ireland, giving you such trouble, in fact, that you have been obliged to send a Major General down there to quiet it—were arrested, and were kept without trial for a period of 18 months. From week to week, from month to month, 1433 from Assizes to Assizes—their trial was postponed. They were kept locked up in separate cells, and were not allowed to speak to one another or communicate with one another. They were denied the newspapers, converse with their friends, and all exorcise, except for one hour out of the 24. This was done by the Cabinet of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) was such a distinguished Member. After these young men had been imprisoned for nearly 18 months, I moved the Adjournment of the House at Question time one day, and called attention to their case, and I then took the train to Cork to be present at the trial of one of them. The next day The Government ordered the release of all but one of these 70 young men, who had been in gaol for 18 months. They allowed them out on their recognizances, and they have never proceeded against them from that day. If you now have Moonlighting and outrage in Kerry, I say some of these gentlemen are on The war-path, taking revenge for The 18 months' solitary confinement you gave them, during which they were denied exercise, except for one hour a-day. This was the result of the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman gave us as part of his policy of legislating for the poor, with respect to which he has made so many speeches, both in this House and in the country. This is part of The seed of The hard work done under his auspices and by his sanction in 1881, and it is to be found in the murder of The unfortunate Murphys, Curtins, and Byerses. and in The mutilations of cattle, to which he so indignantly refers. I say you cannot arrest a whole people—you cannot arrest all The young men population of a place, keeping them for months and months in prison without trial, denying them The commonest rights of humanity and The commonest comforts which The people of England have a right to, and for the denial of which your newspapers are crying shame on you—you cannot do this without producing the inevitable consequence of reprisals. If the right hon. Gentleman The Member for West Birmingham was locked up for 18 months, and denied his exorcise and his orchids, I venture to think that at The end of that time The speeches he would make at that Table, and The deeds he would do at Birmingham, 1434 would be of a very different character from those he now does and advocates. I think they would rather resemble some of The deeds of Mr. Broadhead, who was formerly connected with that thriving and important town. [Cries of"No, no!"and"It was Sheffield!"] Sheffield? Well, I pretend to know as little of England as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham does of Ireland. Do not suppose for a moment that I am ashamed of making any mistakes about England. I know nothing about The country, and I want to know nothing about it. I do not pretend to legislate for it. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not pretend to sufficient knowledge to enable me to legislate for it—put it in that way. That being The state of things with regard to your legislation at that time, I maintain that it has directly produced The evils of which you complain at the present moment. When The Westmeath Act of 1873 was passing through The House, I remember very well reading in The papers, that Mr. Henry Herbert got up in The House and said—It is true that Westmeath is very much disturbed: but T represent the Celtic county of Kerry, and in Kerry, as in all Celtic counties, there is not at this moment a single crime, or a single disturbance.Ho declared, speaking in 1873, that they only had disturbances in counties such as Westmeath and Tipperary, where the English blood predominated; but in Celtic counties, such as Kerry, there was absolutely no crime. What made The crime in Kerry—what has produced it? Why is it that at The present time your legislation is directed to the suppression of outrage? It is because Lord Kenmare has insisted on building his great mansion there, and on having for handles to his doors The backs of Louis Quatorze watches; while in The surrounding neighbourhood are dwellings for the people as miserable as any huts human beings could possibly live in. It is because, cheek by jowl with Lord Kenmare's magnificent castle, adorned and equipped with all The luxuries and artistic embellishments that wealth can procure, are The miserable pigsties of the men Lord Kenmare and his crowd have been robbing for years. How does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham propose to remedy that state of things? 1435 Will he take from the handles of the doors of Lord Kenmare's mansion the backs of the Louis Quatorze watches? Will he put back into the pockets of the tenants around the Lakes of Killarney and on the mountains of Kerry the balance of The judicial rents of which they have been robbed? Will he do any of those things which Sir Redvers Buller, with his great experience, declares to be necessary? No, Sir; the right hon. Gentleman The Member for West Birmingham will do nothing of The sort. His only course is to vote for proposals to enable the law to be still more stringently enforced in Kerry by gentlemen of the type of Captain Plunkett, by gentlemen of the type of the present High Sheriff, Mr. George Sands, and by gentlemen of the type of the magistrate who the other day, to the horror of Sir Redvers Buller, dismissed The charge against a policeman who had made a brutal assault upon a man. The incident to which I refer was not noticed in The Times, or in the speeches which are brought under the notice of The right hon. Gentleman; at any rate, he has not alluded to it; but The fact is none The less true that a man who had his head beaten into a pulp by a policeman applied in vain to The local magistrate for redress. It was not until Sir Redvers Buller came down, like another Gordon Pasha—until The man who had been beaten went up to him and showed him his wounds, and asked him if there was to be no justice given to him—it was not until this unfortunate man told Sir Redvers Buller how The charge he had brought against the policeman who had assaulted him had been dismissed, and the policeman had been allowed to go scot-free, that a telegraphic message was sent up to Dublin for another Resident Magistrate—you can get them of all sorts and sizes on application—those who will convict and those who will not convict, who will play sharp of flat, at The will of Her Majesty's Government—it was not, I say, until these things had happened that another Resident Magistrate was sent down, and the unfortunate wan who had been wounded by The policeman had The satisfaction of seeing the magistrate who would not listen to his complaint, removed. I have said this incident was not mentioned in The Times. Lot me inform The right hon. 1436 Gentleman that The Times has just dismissed from its employment The gentleman who represented it in the South of Ireland, and who gave in its columns The account of The Glenbeigh evictions, and has appointed in his stead The gentleman who gave the account of the outrage on The virtue of a girl in Kerry which never took place. So that when the right hon. Gentleman is again referring to outrages reported in The Times perhaps he will do well to bear these facts in mind. Now, I ask the House is it a reasonable thing for the Government to ask Irishmen to give their assent to proposals such as they are now making? In the first place—as we have been told to-day in the eloquent and impressive speech of The late prime Minister—they have The bulk of The Liberal Party against them. Then, in the second place, they have five-sixths of the Irish Representatives against them—a thing that they never had before. I tell Gentlemen of The Liberal Party who are still supporting us, and who will continue to support us, according to The pledge of The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that whether they succeed in preventing the passage of this coercion measure or whether they fail, our thanks to them will be the same. I tell them, moreover, that whatever law and order may exist in Ireland in the future, after The passage of the Coercion Bill, will be law and order dependent on the knowledge of The necessity of retaining the sympathy of one of The greatest of the English Parties. The reflection that that sympathy is necessary in fighting their political battles will have an enormous effect in restraining oven the wildest and most wronged of the peasants in Ireland; and when we are told that we have against us a majority of the English people, I say I do not believe it. I say you did not go to The country on The cry of coercion. You did not carry The country on that cry. ["Yes we did!"] You did not. [An hon. MEMBER: I did.] What is The hon. Gentleman's constituency? I believe he is Secretary to a Civil Lord of the Admiralty ["No!"] Then I hope he will be so before long—he is admirably fitted for The position. I say you did not carry the country on The cry of coercion. You carried it on a totally different issue; and when you tell me that the country is in favour of coercion, I say I take leave to deny it, 1437 until the question has been put before the country and the verdict has been given. I tell the Liberal Party under the Leadership of The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, that their support will be more valuable to The cause of law and order than a score of Coercion Bills. If we have life and breath in Ireland, the action of The Liberal Party will have supplied us with a third lung. The fact that The people of Ireland know they have behind their, in the Amendment before the House, this sense of a great Party will have a greater restraining influence upon them than any "protection" The Government may give. The Government, no doubt, expect to carry their legislation with great precipitancy. Except on their own authority they have given us no declaration to justify it—they have favoured us with no facts or figures to justify their course of action. All The evidence produced is in our favour. If the Blue Book has any effect, it is an effect for us. The Government have not given effect to the evidence in The Blue Book. They should not give countenance to one portion of the Blue Book unless they give countenance to the other; but they have refused to act on that principle. I believe that their intention now is simply to throw dust in The eyes of The English electorate; to mislead English public opinion; to take up the time of the House with the pretence that their legislation for Ireland is necessary in order to facilitate the passage of local government legislation and land legislation for England. They are only anxious to fill up the time of The Session, and this Irish cry is a very good stalking-horse for you to go to the country upon. This Bill will fill up The time of the House perhaps until Whitsuntide. Their Land Bill will then occupy the attention of the House until August; and then you will be able to toll the English constituencies that The state of the Irish Question was such that they had no chance of passing other legislation. This Coercion Bill will pass, perhaps; but no Land Purchase Bill will follow. It is not possible that The landlords would accept such a Bill as would receive the approval of The right hon. Gentleman The Member for West Birmingham. Would the hon. Gentleman for South Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston) accept such a Bill, or the Financial Secretary to the 1438 Treasury (Mr. Jackson)? They would accept no guarantee of a local character that did not give them some Imperial source to draw on. That being so, I say it is disingenuous for the Government to ask this House to give assent to a measure which gives thorn a certainty of coercion alone, but denies them the hope of ever seeing the recommendations of the Cowper Commission carried into effect. I say that the speech of The right hon. Gentleman The Member for West Birmingham, while extremely in genious and technical, will not mislead any Member of his Party into giving their assent to The proposals of The Government until they have insisted upon having those proposals incorporated in full in a measure placed before the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That The Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I hope that in assenting to the Motion for The Adjournment of The Debate, it will be understood that the Government do so in The hope that The House will come to a decision on this Question to-morrow evening.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I hope we are not supposed to agree to that suggestion of The right hon. Gentleman. I must protest against the assumption of the right hon. Gentleman that the time of this House, on a debate of this character and importance, involving issues of The greatest moment to Ireland, is to be meted out as if it were so much tape.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.